Grandma’s Cocoa Drops are a chocolate lover’s dream cookie. The cookie itself is soft and cakey, made with cocoa and chopped pecans. The frosting is a rich fudge-like topping that takes these cookies over the top. A glass of milk on the side is a must!
Cocoa Drops are a recipe from my mom’s mom, Grandma Verie. She always had cookies hanging around, whether freshly baked on the counter, in the freezer, or in the back of Papa Sam’s pick-up truck. We always knew where to look for them, and my brother and I would make a mad dash for them when we arrived. They were usually chocolate chip, but if not, there would be a dark blue tin of Royal Dansk Danish butter cookies. The pretzel-shaped cookie with the sugar sprinkled on top was my favorite!
I can remember Grandma Verie mixing cookies by hand, standing above a bowl of cookie dough placed inside the kitchen sink. I’m not quite sure why she did that—maybe so the dough wouldn’t fly all over. Or maybe so she could get a better handle on it instead of using the high countertops.
We’ve had Cocoa Drops every Christmas for as long as I can remember. When I’m lining up recipes to make (usually the day after Thanksgiving), I make this dough first. The dough is a cross between a cookie dough and a cake batter, so it needs a few hours to firm up in the fridge.
The dough gets its “wet” consistency from the addition of buttermilk. I don’t typically keep buttermilk hanging around in the fridge, so I substitute a mixture of white vinegar and regular milk. The vinegar sours the milk (literally—you’ll see it curdle) and creates the acidity we need for the cookies to rise.
A note on these cookies: they are known for sticking to pans, even the most well-seasoned cookie sheets. I use a silicone baking mat (these are similar) when I make these. The cookies come off really easily, and I’m not left scraping the pan for little bits of cookie left behind. Parchment paper would work, too.
The frosting comes from a family heirloom: the first edition Betty Crocker cookbook. It was published in 1950, and belonged to my Grandma Verie’s mom. The cookbook holds a collection of cooking and entertaining tips, plus hundreds of recipes. They re-printed the same Betty Crocker cookbook, which you can still get on Amazon! The chocolate frosting recipe is thick and fudge-like—perfect for these cookies!
Cocoa Drops are part of a collection of Christmas cookie recipes from both of my grandmothers. You can find the rest here:
Grandma's Cocoa Drops
Yield 2 dozen cookies
For the cookies:
- ½ cup butter, softened
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 egg
- ¾ cup buttermilk (or substitute 1 tablespoon of white vinegar + almost ¾ cup regular milk)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- ½ cup cocoa
- 1¾ cup flour
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup chopped pecans
For the frosting:
- 3 oz unsweetened chocolate
- ⅓ cup (5⅓ tablespoons) butter, softened
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2–3 tablespoons milk
- Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on medium speed until fluffy, about 3–4 minutes. Turn off the mixer and add the egg. Beat until combined.
- In a medium bowl, combine the cocoa, flour, baking soda, and salt. Whisk to combine.
- With the mixer on low, add half of the buttermilk. Once it is incorporated, add half of the flour mixture. Repeat with the remaining buttermilk and flour mixture. Add the chopped pecans and mix until just combined.
- Refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours, or up to 48 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 375°. Use a spoon to scoop out one tablespoon of dough and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Repeat with the remaining dough, leaving 3 inches of space between each tablespoon of dough (the cookies will spread).
- Bake for 8–10 minutes, until the cookies no longer look wet on top. Let sit for 5 minutes on the cookie sheet. Remove the cookies and place on a cooling rack.
- Meanwhile, place the unsweetened chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 20 second increments until melted. Place the softened butter, melted chocolate, powdered sugar, vanilla, and 2 tablespoons milk in a large bowl. Use a handheld mixer to mix until it reaches frosting-like consistency and the powdered sugar is incorporated. Add an additional tablespoon of milk if the mixture looks too stiff.
- Use an offset spatula to spread approximately 2 tablespoons of frosting on each cookie. Serve with a tall glass of milk!
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