Caramel Pumpkin Pie Thumbprint Cookies

I keep telling myself not to make any new recipes and post all of the drafts I have (which I have been trying to do)  but I could not resist these cookies by Joy The Baker.  Especially, since this is the holiday season and people want to see yummy desserts.  This delicious recipe appeared in an email as I am a follower of Joys since I returned from New Orleans this past summer.  She has quite a site and a collection of great recipes and stories from  New Orleans where she has been living for the past year.  Also, she has published two cookbooks!  What an exciting city for anyone to live in and especially a cook/baker. The food in this city is fantastic!

I had a large can of  pumpkin puree which I used for Pumpkin Pie Shots, pumpkin pies and had enough left to make these cookies.  I did make this recipe twice as the caramel was not good on the first try as it was too thin.   So, we cheated and used Sanders caramel topping which was delicious but it too was too thin and ran down the side of the cookies.   You need a topping that stays put.

In the past  caramel of any kind has not turned out for me, either I undercooked it or I overcooked it.  A disaster when I was much younger turned me away from trying to make this again.  But I was determined this time and on the second try it was perfect. Actually, I would not call this caramel but pumpkin pie filling as that is what it tastes like.    If you just want a taste of pumpkin pie make these for your guests.  You could also top them off with a dab of whipping cream instead of powdered sugar  or  sea salt.

Just what I wanted and maybe I am over my fear of making caramel – at my age, come on 🙂

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This is my preferred way to eat these very tasty pumpkin treats!  I hope Joy does not mind that I changed her cookies just a little bit!


Sprinkle some powdered sugar or sea salt on top.

I am bringing these sweet caramel pumpkin cookies to Fiesta Friday #45 where Angie @The Novice Gardener and her 2 co-hosts, Michelle @ Giraffes Can Bake and MB @ Bourbon & Brown Sugar.

The following recipe is adapted from Joy’s “Pumpkin Salted Caramel Thumbprint Cookies”.   I have also provided more detailed instructions and some”hints”.

Pumpkin Caramel Thumbprint Cookies

  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print


  • 2/3 cup unsalted butter, softened (I took my butter out of the refrigerator the night before)
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 large egg, beaten lightly (I also took my egg out the night before)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1-1/2 cups flour

Using your electric stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the softened butter on medium for 30 seconds.  Add the brown sugar and salt and beat until combined and it is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until incorporated, about 1 minute.  Stop the mixer again and add all of the flour and beat until just combined.  The dough will be soft and might be sticky.  Wrap in saran wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.  The butter needs to rechill before baking.

Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 375°F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Scoop 1-inch balls with a 1-inch stainless steel scoop (if you have one) and with your hands roll each ball until smooth.  Place on parchment paper about 2 inches apart.  Press your thumb gently into the center of each cookie.  Bake for 8-11 minutes or until the bottoms are just lightly browned. If the center puffs up press down again with  something that fits inside the thumbprint; I used the end of my meat pounder.

Allow to cool for a few  minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.  Set the cookies aside while you make the caramel.  Here are some hints before you start.

1) Measure carefully and have all of the ingredients ready

2) Do not be in a hurry or make this when you are tired

3) Use a good, heavy medium size saucepan (I used my 1-1/2 quart All-Clad – copper would be great to use too)

4) Make sure your burner is ready; I have a gas stove and I made sure the flame was coming out evenly all around

5) Do not stir the sugar, water and light corn syrup (Karo); swirl the pan to mix the ingredients

6) Cooking time will vary depending on when you start counting; I started at a full boil and it took about 10 minutes, not 5 as Joy suggested.  Watch carefully as when it turns a medium amber color remove from the heat and stir in cream and butter

7) Do not walk away – keep an eye on the caramel because towards the end of the cooking time it will quickly turn color and could burn

Pumpkin Caramel:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp. water
  • 2 tbsp. light corn syrup (Karo)
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • whipping cream and dash of cinnamon for garnish

Bring the sugar, water and corn syrup to a full, rolling boil over medium heat.  Only swirl the pan to stir, do not stir with a spoon!

Boil gently, uncovered, until the mixture reaches a medium amber color.  For Joy it took her 5 minutes, but for me it took 10 minutes to reach that amber color.  There are a number of reasons; when I started counting, how hot my burner was, the pan itself and so on.  Once browned immediately remove and add the whipping cream and butter and stir as it foams up.

Stir in the pumpkin puree and spice until combined.  The caramel might seem a little thin but it will thicken as it cools if you cooked it enough. The first time I did not cook it enough and it was too thin.  The second time was perfect…  Cover and chill for at least 4 hours.

When ready to serve, top with a dollop of caramel pumpkin.  Either dust with  powdered sugar, sprinkle with sea salt or do what I prefer and top each cookie with a little whipping cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Recipe by

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39 thoughts on “Caramel Pumpkin Pie Thumbprint Cookies

  1. Pingback: Fiesta Friday #45 | The Novice Gardener

    • Thanks Julie – The bad experience was taking the pan off the stove and running outside with it – overcooked! I was much younger though – good excuse, right 🙂 I will get better at cooking caramel. I am a good pie crust maker – probably because I have made them so often.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I know what you mean about trying not to try new recipes before you’ve shared some of your backlog, but I’m so glad you gave in for these! They look amazing, I mean what’s not to love?!
    So festive too, they’d be great for a cookie exchange or to give as gifts! Although I’m not sure I could part with them!
    I always have such problems with caramel too anytime I made it the “traditional” way, so I usually stick to my less traditional but still yummy recipe which is just butter, golden syrup (or corn syrup) and condensed milk!

    Thanks so much for bringing these along to Fiesta Friday, I’m probably going to try and sneak more than my fair share of these! Have a great weekend 🙂


  3. I made homemade caramel for the first time in my life just 2 weeks ago. Looks like I might be ready to give these cookies a go (I’m currently rubbing my hands together in anticipation of the first bite!). 🙂 Love your twist on traditional caramel with the addition of pumpkin…so seasonally appropriate! Beautiful and tempting photos, Judi!


    • Thanks so much Nancy. I should not have waited so long to try and make caramel again, but I ruined a pan on my first try. Why did you wait to try and make it? Of course I was just starting to cook back then. Pumpkin caramel is very good and different 🙂


      • I believe it was horror stories or ruined pans that held me back, Lol! I’ve made it twice now, and ironically, it turned out better the first time. My second batch was a little pale. :-/ The “art of patience” definitely comes into play to achieve perfection!


  4. These look so amazing, and just in time for the holiday season too. Love caramel, and I can only imagine the combination of pumpkin and caramel. I’ll be sure to bookmark these Judi and give them a whirl.


  5. Love this idea! I was going to make a batch of thumbprint cookies to use up some jams I canned in the summer, but I think I will make a second batch and try your recipe…I have some pumpkin puree in the pantry.


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