Not Martha

Trick-Or-Treat Cookies for Halloween

Trick-or-Treat Cookies, with a surprise inside.

These Trick-or-Treat cookies have a surprise inside. Each cookie either holds a treat, like mini chocolate candies, or a trick, here they are small sugar ants. Which will you get? You’ll have to break one open to find out.

How to make Trick-or-Treat cookies:

Make one or more batches of cut out cookie dough (recipe below, or use your favorite) and after chilling it take it out of the fridge to warm up so it can be rolled out. Preheat your oven to 350 and clear a shelf in your fridge or a spot in your freezer large enough to hold a cookie sheet.

Trick-or-Treat Cookies, with a surprise inside. Roll and cut first half of dough.

Roll out one half of your dough between two sheets of parchment paper to a 1/4th inch thickness. Remove the top layer of parchment and cut out your cookies, dipping the cutter in flour to keep it from sticking. We’ll be baking the cookies on this same parchment so space them about an inch apart.

Right now you are cutting two parts of each cookies (the top and the bottom) so if you have an asymmetrical cutter be sure to flip it over and cut half of them mirror image, as shown above.

Trick-or-Treat Cookies, with a surprise inside. Trim parchment paper.

Trim the parchment away from the dough so that it’s small enough to sit on your cookie sheet and slide the parchment onto the cookie sheet. Put this in the fridge or freezer to firm up so you can pull away the excess dough.

Later we’ll baking the cookies right on this sheet so trimming the parchment means they’ll bake flat. I keep the cookies on this same parchment throughout so they don’t have a chance to lose their shape.

Trick-or-Treat Cookies, with a surprise inside. Chill dough, then remove from around cut out shapes.

Once the dough has firmed up pull away the excess from around the cut out shapes. You can save the scraps for more cookies later.

Trick-or-Treat Cookies, with a surprise inside. Chill again, then bake.

Before baking chill the cookies and the cookie sheet again for about 10 minutes before putting them in the oven. (You can roll out your second layer while you’re waiting, instructions are just under the next photo.)

Bake for about 10 minutes, checking and rotating the cookie sheet half way through. After that check often and remove once the edges of the cookies are just starting to look brown and the tops look set.

Slide the parchment onto a cooling rack and let them sit for a few minutes until the cookies are cool and strong enough to slide them off the parchment and right onto the cookie rack.

Trick-or-Treat Cookies, with a surprise inside. Roll out second half of dough thicker.

Roll your second half of the dough to 1/2″ or 3/8″ thick. You’ll be cutting the middles for you cookies so only cut half as many this time, so if you cut six earlier, you only need three now. (No need to make mirror image cut outs this time.) Use smaller cutters to create a hole in the center of each shape.

Trick-or-Treat Cookies, with a surprise inside. Chill and remove outside and inside of dough.

Trim the parchment, slide onto a cookie sheet and chill the dough as you did for the first round. When it’s firm remove the excess dough from the outside as well as the inside of your shapes.

Trick-or-Treat Cookies, with a surprise inside. Chill and bake.

Again, chill these very well on the cookie sheet before baking them. Check and rotate after five minutes and keep an eye on them after that. Remove when the bottom edges begin to brown and cool carefully, as you did for the first set.

Trick-or-Treat Cookies, with a surprise inside. Arrange top and bottom cookie layers, then glue bottoms on.

While your cookie pieces are cooling mix up some glue from one cup of powdered sugar and four tablespoons of milk (as per the recipe below). Put this into a sandwich sized zip bag and clip a teeny tiny corner off.

Lay your cookies out so the bottom piece has the flattest side up, the middle and tops will have the flattest side down. When constructed the top and the bottom of your cookies will show the pretty side that was up while they were baking and they’ll look nice and tidy. If you have asymmetrical cookies here be sure all the bits will match when they are sandwiched.

Glue the middle part of your cookie to the bottom.

Trick-or-Treat Cookies, with a surprise inside. Fill cookies with treat or trick, here mini M&Ms or sugar ants.

Fill the cookies with your trick or your treat. Be random, no cheating! Don’t overfill them and check to make sure the top of your cookie will fit on with no trouble. It’s much easier to do this not before more sugar glue is introduced.

Trick-or-Treat Cookies, with a surprise inside. Filling different shapes of cookies.

I made four different shapes: pumpkins, ghosts, tombstones and coffins (my favorite).

Trick-or-Treat Cookies, with a surprise inside. Detail.

A detail shot to show the middle layer of cookie is a bit thicker than the top and bottom layers.

Glue the top on, decorate if you’d like, and you’re done! Now, serve these and see how much fun people have breaking them open.


Important: Make sure anything you might put inside these cookies is edible, you don’t want somebody accidentally swallowing something like a plastic spider (which I really, really wanted to hide inside these).

These cookies were inspired by the Pinata Cookies made over at She Knows, which are genius. Since I didn’t need mine to be striped I used a cut out sugar cookie recipe instead and created a thicker middle layer. I did try to cut the cookies out when the dough comes out of the oven and is still warm, the technique that is in the She Knows recipe, but found it created an edge that was too crumbly.

I used a set of seven Halloween cookie cutters made by Wilton for the cookies you see here. I cannot seem to find the same set online, it came packaged in a coffin shaped box and it’s probably already 50% off at Joann. The middles of my cookies were cut out using my Ateco 12-piece round cutters, which I love and find myself using often.

I find rolling dough to be tedious so I invested in a Roll-Pat (that page shows it as Roul-Pat but mine says Roll-Pat on it). It’s similar to a Silpat but oversized and the bottom layer grips your counter top. This is lovely because I prefer to roll dough between two layers of parchment and this keeps the parchment from slipping on my counter top. Love it, especially as what I think of as gingerbread construction season arrives.

There are so many options for what tricks you can hide inside, here I used some black cake decorations made by Wilton, they are complete edible but don’t taste like much. I also considered some small flat sour gummy candies, salted licorice coins, various cake decorations (skull and crossbones!) and Pop Rocks. For the treats the only things could find that are small enough are mini M&Ms or (my favorite) Valrhona Perles Craquant. Sadly I found that Reeses Pieces or candy corn wouldn’t fit inside, I tried. A friend mentioned that mini-candy corn might exist in the world and if I’d managed to find some I definitely would have used that as well.

I’m also considering seeing if I can make the coffin cookies tall enough to fill with some sugar skeleton pieces I found. I’d also include the Valrhona Perles Craquant as graveyard dirt. And small gummi worms if I can find some.

Trick-or-Treat Cookies, with a surprise inside.

Click more for the recipe.

Trick-or-Treat Cookies Recipe

  • 12.0 ounces (2.5 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I love the vanilla paste made by Nielsen-Massey)
  • gel food coloring (optional)
    for the glue:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 4 teaspoons milk
    to go inside:

  • mini M&Ms or other small treat candy
  • cake decorations or other small trick candy


Mix together your dry ingredients (flour, baking soda and salt).

Beat the butter and sugar in an electric mixer until smooth. Add the egg and vanilla and beat for a minute more. If you’re adding food coloring put a few drops in now, it’ll be easier to see how much you need to add later and speed the process up.

With your mixer on a low speed gradually add half your flour. Take a moment to add more food coloring here if you’re using it and think you need it. Mix everything on low for a minute here, we need these cookies to be strong over tender so developing a little gluten won’t hurt. Add the rest of the flour and mix until everything all comes together.

Divide the dough into two balls. Flatten each a little and wrap individually in plastic wrap. Chill in the fridge until firm, four hours or overnight.

Each amount of dough will make six to eight Trick-or-Treat Cookies.

Note: I tried a number of cut out cookie recipes that spread too much for me and settled on a recipe from Real Simple that @seventenclark on Twitter pointed me towards and for which I ended up making a few changes. If you have a cut out cookie recipe you like go ahead and use it. I didn’t get to test the following recipes but they were also recommended on Twitter: Inchmark, Joy of Cooking, Dorie Greenspan, Annie’s Eats, and Jamie’s grandmother’s recipe. Thanks everybody!

Happy Halloween!

· comments [100] · 10-18-2012 · categories:food · halloween ·

100 responses so far ↓

  • 1 megan // Oct 29, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    Karen – I tried about six sugar cookie recipes to find one that didn’t spread too far, and I chilled the dough really cold on the baking sheet (so the baking sheet is cold too) before putting in the oven. Someone on Twitter mentioned using a non-aluminum cookie sheet might also help.

    In general I found that the cookie recipes that used less butter spread less. I hope that helps!

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  • 7 Tia // Oct 30, 2012 at 10:46 pm

    Love these! What’s the best way to color the dough? Also, they sell mini Reeses Pieces in the baking aisle. :)

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  • 10 megan // Oct 31, 2012 at 11:40 am

    Tia – I use coloring paste, it’s really intense and doesn’t add too much water. I didn’t know about the mini reeses! I will go seek those out!

  • 11 Amanda // Oct 31, 2012 at 12:43 pm

    Love these! There is a candy called Bonz, i think there are supposed to be dog bones but they would work in the coffin as regular bones.

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  • 14 Lyna // Nov 6, 2012 at 11:52 am

    Where did you buy your sugar ants? I’ve been trying to find them and nothing comes close : /

  • 15 megan // Nov 6, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    Lyna – They were cake decorating sprinkles produced by Wilton, I found these at Michael’s Craft store. They are most likely seasonal and not available anymore, but check on the Wilton site, maybe they have off-season things for sale. Good luck!

  • 16 Heather - Dollar Store Crafts // Nov 9, 2012 at 10:49 am

    My very favorite thing about this has to be the candy ants!!

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  • 19 ebony // Aug 17, 2013 at 6:38 am

    I love these… I am going to use these recipes, but I am making a lot of them. Have you ever made the dough one day and froze it, then cut them and cooked them on another day, and then put them together on another day? What would you suggest? Thanks!!! Also is there a gold gel food coloring or gold coloring paste? Where could I find that? Thanks!!

  • 20 ebony // Aug 17, 2013 at 6:40 am

    Also how much thicker did you make the middle compared to the outside? Thanks.

  • 21 rachel // Sep 11, 2013 at 5:01 am

    These are fantastic. I also love your other Halloween-themed ideas. I’m glad I found your blog. I love baking.

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  • 27 Courtazon // Sep 30, 2013 at 10:50 pm

    Super Cute Idea for Little ones, and big ones!

  • 28 Charlotte // Oct 1, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    what size cup did you use for weighing?
    Brilliant idea by the way!

  • 29 megan // Oct 1, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    Charlotte – I do not remember, it would have been a medium sized mixing bowl most likely.

  • 30 Linda // Oct 2, 2013 at 5:56 am

    Love this idea

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  • 36 sandy // Oct 25, 2013 at 3:13 am

    great job! maybe instaid of sugar ants you yould put little snakes or something

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  • 41 Kayla // Oct 29, 2013 at 8:22 am

    How many cookies were you able to make with the recipe you provided? I am going to attempt to make these for a Halloween office party we are having. Thank you!

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  • 44 Jess // Oct 31, 2013 at 2:13 am

    Hi there, I tried to make these last night and it all went well until the cookies went into the oven… they just completely melted and lost their shape :( Any suggestions as to how to stop this? I followed the recipe exactly as you said but they just came out misshapen and massive! I don’t have time to do them for Halloween now but might try a Christmas version… :)

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  • 50 Missy // Sep 29, 2014 at 9:53 am

    Has anyone tried making and freezing these ahead of time? How did it work out?

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