Sparkle Pigs (Gingerbread Shortbread Cookies With Cranberry Curd) Recipe on Food52 (2024)


by: Jesse Szewczyk



11 Ratings

  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 45 minutes
  • Makes about 2 dozen cookies

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Author Notes

I grew up in a sleepy suburb of Chicago called Algonquin. It had a Kohl’s, a Jewel-Osco, and endless miles of corn fields. If you close your eyes and imagine what a textbook Midwest suburb looks like, it’s Algonquin, complete with farms galore and overflowing pride for the local football team. But as a child, I wasn’t very interested in sports or playing outside, so I turned to my mother to keep me entertained. She was the best baker I knew, always amazing me with her skills in the kitchen. Because of her, I fell in love with baking early on and quickly followed in her footsteps. One year, I decided to show off my baking chops at the most anticipated event of the year: our local Founders’ Day.

I was no older than 12 years old at the time and spent an entire day baking linzer cookies sandwiched together with raspberry jam. It was a recipe I had seen my mother make countless times for the holidays, and I was finally ready to attempt it on my own. I cut the cookies into heart shapes, dusted the tops with powdered sugar, and packaged them up in a small cardboard box. I entered them into the annual baking competition that capped off the weekend’s festivities, and won—beating out veteran bakers who brought pies, cakes, and other treats. I flaunted my big blue ribbon for weeks and somehow ended up in the local newspaper. Turns out, I was the youngest person ever to win the bake-off (and one of the only males in the history of our small town, too).

Last year I visited my mother (who now lives in Georgia) for the holidays. She had been planning what we would bake together for weeks in advance. We only get to see each other once a year now, so we try to make the most of our time together. We spent an entire day baking linzer cookies filled with blackberry jam. She even had the newspaper clipping dug out from a pile of papers to show me—a headline that is now almost 20 years old.

This is an updated version of my “award-winning” cookie. Instead of a classic linzer dough (typically made with ground nuts), I used a shortbread base and added warm baking spices and molasses to mimic the flavor of gingerbread. I swapped the jam out for a homemade cranberry curd to keep it festive, and used a piglet-shaped cookie cutter as a reminder of my youth spent in the Midwest. The cranberry curd can be made a day before you bake the cookies and stored in the fridge. Any leftover curd can be smeared on toast, dolloped on ice cream, or served with fresh fruit. It’s a bit sweeter and less acidic than a typical curd, but the shortbread cookies are so flavorful that I didn’t want it to be overpowering.

Feel free to enter these Sparkle Pigs into your local Founders’ Day bake-off. You might end up in the newspaper. —Jesse Szewczyk

Test Kitchen Notes

Featured in: Food52's Holiday Cookie Chronicles —The Editors

  • Test Kitchen-Approved

What You'll Need

  • Cranberry curd
  • 1 (12-ounce, or 340g) package fresh cranberries
  • 3/4 cup(177ml) water
  • 3 tablespoonsfresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoonvanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, plus 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup(200g) granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons(1/2 stick or 57g) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • Gingerbread shortbread cookies
  • 2 cups(250g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup(57g) powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoonsground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoonground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoonkosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoonground cloves
  • 1 cup(2 sticks, 1/2 pound, or 227g) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
  • 1/4 cup(60ml) blackstrap molasses
  • Granulated sugar, for sprinkling
  1. Make the cranberry curd: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the cranberries, water, lemon juice, and vanilla extract and bring to a simmer. Cook until the cranberries fall apart and the mixture is thick and jammy, about 6 minutes. Press mixture through a fine mesh sieve over a large bowl to remove any cranberry pieces that didn’t fully break down. (You should end up with about 1 scant cup of cranberry puree.) Let cool for 20 minutes.
  2. Add whole eggs, egg yolks, and sugar to the cooled cranberry mixture and whisk until smooth. Transfer mixture into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly. Continue cooking until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 4 minutes. Remove pan from heat, add the butter, and whisk until smooth. Pass mixture through a fine mesh strainer to remove any lumps. Cover with plastic wrap and transfer into the fridge. Chill for at least 3 hours. (Curd will thicken as it cools.) You should end up with about 1 1/3 cups cranberry curd.
  3. Make the gingerbread shortbread cookies: Line two baking sheets with nonstick baking mats or parchment paper and preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
  4. In a large bowl, combine the flour, powdered sugar, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and salt. Add the butter and blend it in with a pastry cutter or your fingers until the butter is the size of peas. Add the molasses and gently knead the mixture with your hands until it becomes a soft dough. Dough may appear too dry at first but will eventually come together.
  5. Transfer dough onto a lightly floured work surface and roll into a 1/4-inch (6mm) thick circle. Cut 2-inch (5cm) rounds using a cookie cutter. With half of the rounds, cut a hole in the middle of each using a cookie cutter of your choice. (I like to use tiny pig cutters.) Carefully transfer the cookies onto the prepared baking sheets using an offset spatula. Lightly brush the cookies with the centers cut out (the tops) with water and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Transfer both trays into the freezer and chill for 15 minutes.
  6. Bake cookies for 9 to 11 minutes until lightly golden. Let cool on the baking sheets.
  7. Assemble the cookies: Spread 1 teaspoon of the prepared cranberry curd on the flat side of each of the solid cookies from edge to edge. Place the cut cookies on top of each bottom and sandwich them together. Serve immediately. Leftover cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.


  • Cookie
  • American
  • Cranberry
  • Bake
  • Christmas
  • Christmas Eve
  • Holiday
  • Dessert

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8 Reviews

[emailprotected] December 18, 2020

Cookies and curd are delicious! But, my curd did not thicken enough. Chilled overnight even. Might try by reducing one of the egg whites. Will have to make due with jam to sandwich. Shame because the color is beautiful.

KelseyB December 29, 2019

I made these for a cookie swap. They have great window appeal. Like others, I would happily eat the cranberry curd with a spoon.

allye93 December 24, 2019

Only made the curd and cut the sugar to 175 grams (tbh i think i could’ve done with 150) and WOW is it tasty!

Rachel L. December 15, 2019

The dough recipe calls for salt but salt is not included in the ingredient list.

judith@hudsonvalleycooking December 10, 2019

I tasted the cookies at last weeks Food 52 cookie event and thought they were fabulous. The tart creaminess of cranberry curd really made me want to make it into a dessert. I made the curd on Sunday and served it, without cookies, with lightly sweetened whipped cream and pomegranate seeds. It was beautiful and amazing. Next time I will plan ahead and make the ginger cookies to serve with it.

Christine December 8, 2019

I just made these and they are fantastic! The cookies are soft and incredible with that tart cranberry curd!

Josephine December 8, 2019

Hello. Where does one buy a small pig cookie cutter like yours? The cookies look fantastic.

Sharyn T. December 8, 2019

Wait. You only see your mother once a year? This must change. She started you on your career and needs you. Oh and BTW, the cookies look fabulous and I will try them this holiday.

Sparkle Pigs (Gingerbread Shortbread Cookies With Cranberry Curd) Recipe on Food52 (2024)
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