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Homemade Chessmen Cookies Recipe

Chessmen

I spent three days of my life figuring out how to make homemade Chessmen cookies so you don’t have to.

When I was done, I gave my husband a piece of one of these Chessmen cookies from the bag and a piece of one of mine – he thought he was eating the same cookie.  I did a HUGE happy dance! (View on Amazon)

Before I figured things out, I had a lot of failures.

Chessmen Fail

Chessmen Fails

I struggled with the recipe proportions, the cookie thickness, and which tool to use to make the raised images.  My biggest struggle, however, turned out to be figuring out how to get the raised images to be the perfect caramel color.  I tackled the problems one at a time.

First was cracking the Chessmen cookie recipe…

Cracking the Chessmen Cookie Recipe

Chessmen Cookies

One thing that is nice about store-bought Chessmen cookies is that the ingredients are actually things you’ve heard of.  They don’t contain artificial colors and flavors.  So, just by reading the back of the bag, I knew what should go into my copycat Chessmen cookies.  The only thing I didn’t know was the proportions.  I was able to determine the ratio of butter to sugar by looking at the nutritional information on the package and seeing how many grams of fat and sugar were in the cookies.  I just guessed at the proportions of the remaining ingredients until the dough had the consistency that I needed.  The only ingredient that I left off was cream of tartar.  I didn’t miss it.

Next, I had to get the images onto the cookies…

Getting the Images Onto the Cookies

Chessmen

At first, I thought I would need a shortbread pan to make Chessmen.  My experiments with that led to the larger, thicker cookies that you see in my fail image. (View on Amazon)

I learned that what I needed was a springerle cookie mold.  I then discovered that Gene, one of the online cookie mold sellers (cookiemold.com), lived just half an hour from my house.  I headed to his home to explore his selection of hand-carved molds.  I wanted to take them all home and I especially admired some of the display pieces that he had made and collected over the years.

Cookie Molds

I left with a mold that makes 6 cookies.  I liked it because it has images that work for spring and summer, but the trumpet, deer, and cherries could just as easily work for Christmas.

springerle mold

To use the cookie mold, lightly dust it with flour (as shown above) and then press into rolled out dough with all of your strength (I used my entire body weight).

Chessmen

After lifting the mold, use a bench scraper or a knife to cut out the cookies prior to baking.

It is really important that the dough is evenly rolled.  There’s a trick to this!  If you use this rolling pin, the rings at the end won’t let you roll any thinner than the depth of the ring so everything ends up equally thick. (View on Amazon)

I also learned through experimentation that working with room temperature dough worked best, and that freezing the stamped cookie dough prior to baking keeps the images clear.

If you want to reproduce the taste of Chessmen cookies but don’t care about the appearance, you could skip the mold entirely and just use simple cookie cutters.  But, working with cookie molds to make such pretty cookies is half of the fun.

The last challenge was getting the golden color on the Chessmen cookies’ images…

Getting Color On the Pictures

Chessmen

Figuring out how to reproduce the color on the images of the Chessmen cookies was the hardest part of my challenge.  Here are some things that we (I say “we” because Jonathan helped a ton with this – he likes a challenge too!) tried that didn’t work:

  • I was convinced that the color on the elevated part of Chessmen cookies came from sugar.  Jonathan had the idea of dipping the cookies in melted sugar so that just the picture would touch the sugar.  We thought we had it figured out.  Nope!  It was too hard to control the temperature and many of the cookies ended up looking like caramel-coated messes.
  • We tried sugar and a culinary torch.
  • We added sugar before baking.  It did nothing.
  • We added melted butter before baking – nothing.
  • Next was egg white wash before baking – nothing.
  • Then there was milk wash before baking – nothing.

As I moved to some of these later experiments, the Cupcake Project Pinterest Explorers started following along and giving me advice.  They are an amazing group!  The Cupcake Project Facebook Page also lit up with all kinds of ideas for me.  Finally I found the magic trick – an egg yolk wash prior to baking.  But, for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how to get the egg yolk to stay just on the pictures.  Lindsey from Baking Bytes had the answer.

Chessmen

She suggested using a thick foam brush.  I had the one above on-hand from a pack I had bought for art projects with my son.  It turned out to be SO much easier to work with than the paintbrush I had been using.  With a regular paintbrush, the bristles kept dropping into other parts of the cookie.  I had so much more control with the foam brush.

A makeup sponge would also be perfect for this. (View on Amazon)

HUGE thanks to Lindsey!  (Random side note: Go check out her peanut butter fudge ripple ice cream!)

And now, the recipe…

Homemade Chessmen Cookies Recipe

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Chessmen
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3.9 from 80 votes

Homemade Chessmen Cookies

I went through many failures to perfect this recipe so you wouldn't have to. My husband couldn't tell these apart from regular storebought - meaning I nailed the flavor and texture.
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword butter cookie recipe, butter cookies, chessmen cookies
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 32 cookies
Calories 96kcal
Author Stef

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter room temperature
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 or 3 egg yolks whipped

Instructions

  • In a medium-sized mixing bowl, mix butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  • Mix in egg.
  • Mix in milk.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together cornstarch, flour, and salt.
  • Add dry ingredients to butter mixture a little bit at a time until it is all added. Keep mixing until the dough comes together and stops looking crumbly.
  • Roll out dough to 1/4" thick.
  • Use a springerle cookie mold lightly dusted with flour to stamp the cookies with a pattern.
  • Cut the cookies out with a knife or a bench scraper and place onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
  • Repeat until all the dough is used.
  • Place the cookie sheet in the freezer for at least an hour.
  • Preheat oven to 375 F.
  • Remove the cookie sheet and use a thick foam brush or simply a thick foam sponge (like you'd get at a makeup supply store) to paint egg yolk onto each cookie's image.
  • Bake for 9 minutes or until the egg-washed portions of the cookies are a light caramel color.
  • Set cookies out on a cooling rack to cool.

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Homemade Chessmen Cookies
Amount Per Serving
Calories 96 Calories from Fat 36
% Daily Value*
Fat 4g6%
Saturated Fat 2g10%
Cholesterol 28mg9%
Sodium 21mg1%
Potassium 12mg0%
Carbohydrates 12g4%
Sugar 4g4%
Protein 1g2%
Vitamin A 155IU3%
Calcium 5mg1%
Iron 0.4mg2%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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Homemade Chessmen Cookies Recipe
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41 comments on “Homemade Chessmen Cookies Recipe”

  1. Yum! They turned out awesome! I know what I’m trying after National Ice Cream Month is over…

    And thanks for the shout out!

  2. I’ve always wanted to make these! Thanks so much for posting, Stephanie! They look AMAZING!

  3. Kittishsays:

    Half a cup of cornstarch in the dough? Wow, that’s a lot of cornstarch.That said, I do like chessmen, so I’ll be trying this recipe out in the not too distant future.

  4. This sounds like such a fun challenge and what perfect cookies you came up with. Congrats on your copy cake Chessmen cookies.

  5. Thanks for this charming recipe and for the secret of how to get the images to stand out properly. ( I’ve used a foam brush in the kitchen occasionally too!)

  6. Mary Annesays:

    Hi, I’m wondering if you tried it with the cream of tartar and baking soda. I’m convinced the reason i like them is because of that slight bit of cream of tartar. Did you try the recipe with those ingredients (they are both listed as ingredients on the actual cookies)? If not, what proportion would you recommend?

    • Stefsays:

      I didn’t try that. You’d have to experiment and see what worked. Maybe try it as I’ve written it first though just to see if you notice a difference.

  7. Johnpatrick Marrsays:

    Thanks for doing all this bakework and research! Have you tried making any with chocolate flavor? I’ve always wanted to have white vs black chessmen. What would you back off on ingredient-wise to make room for cocoa powder or the like in this recipe? Appreciate your help!

  8. mamaqueensays:

    These are better than Chessman butter cookies!! I skipped all of the fancy work though. I just rolled them out and used a knife to cut them into rectangles the size of the chessman’s. P.S. I did not use egg to brush them! Any way you slice it( no pun ) they are fantastic!

  9. Marylovecatsays:

    Are you using all purpose flour in your receipt? Is that putting egg (step 2) & milk ( step3) in mixing bowl (step 1) and mix all together? Thanks

  10. Renaesays:

    Hi. I’m so excited to taste these! I got to step #6 and was trying to roll the dough but it wasn’t working. It’s so gooey and keeps sticking to the pin and all. I followed every step. Not sure what happened.

  11. Brianna Buddsays:

    These are so delicious. So happy with the cookies and they keep their shape so well. Favorite cookie recipe for this year. They were the perfect amount of flakiness. I didn’t have the special cut out things so I used cookies cutters and decorated them with stripes and dots of the yolk. Thanks for the recipe.

  12. Carol Msays:

    What is the recipe the Chessman cookies

  13. Eylbiesays:

    I adore this recipe! I’ve tried it over and over again and it always pulls through. Chessmen are my Hubby’s favorite! Thanks Stef!

  14. Julie Wadlingersays:

    Can’t wait to try this! I only recently found Chessman cookies and fell in love.

  15. Terriesays:

    Do you think the cookie will taste the same using a gluten-free flour? I have been gluten-free free for 3 years. This was one of my favorite cookie along with nilla wafers. I really miss eating both of these treasuredays cookies! Please come up with a gluten-free version of both of this delightful treats.

  16. Dear Stef
    Thanks for doing all this bakework and research. i want to make chess men cookies too but i don’t have a springerle cookie mold. Can you show me how to order one? (i mean i don’t know the size, the item …). can you share the order form for me? thanks!

  17. Ruthie Selchsays:

    WHERE is the recipe??

    • Stefsays:

      The article is really long so I broke it into pages. The recipe is on the last page. You should see the list of pages numbers at the bottom of the post.

  18. Emilysays:

    Thank you so much for sound all the leg work!! I have a batch in the oven right now!

  19. Ookamisays:

    I strictly stick to the incredients but I used low gluten flour instead. When I put the cokkies in the preheated oven, it all melt down and doesn’t sustain the shape。
    where did I do wrong?
    The cookie is delicious but not as hard as the genine Chessmen, is there anything I did wrong?
    Looking forward to your reply and many thanks to the recipe.

  20. do they bake in a thin cookie sheet of do I need a thick one?

  21. Laurelsays:

    Hi Stef,

    I bought these JUST for this recipe! I plan to roll out the dough, press the stamps, cut them with a round cookie cutter, then put them in the freezer. Hope it works.

    https://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/alphabet-cookie-stamp-set/?cm_src=AutoRel

    THANK YOU for spending the time to figure out this recipe AND for sharing it with the world!

  22. Sreejita Bhowmiksays:

    5 stars
    I know its super late but I was addicted to these when I lived in the US and am trying to reproduce them at home , the only drawback is I have a microwave oven (with oven settings) but do you think it would work the same way . They look so yum and topping i always thought it was egg wash but nvr realised it was just egg yolk! Thk you so much!

  23. Jsays:

    These sound amazing. Would you be able to tell me how many cookies you were able to make out of a batch? Or how much the dough weighs?

  24. Jessicasays:

    has anyone tried to use these homemade cookies in bana pudding?

  25. 5 stars
    Thank you!!!! Awesome directions

  26. Linda P.says:

    Thanks for going through the effort of experimenting & making a homemade version of the chessmen cookies. I am a fan of them & would like to make them @ home. Now, I can. All thanks to your efforts.

  27. Debbirsays:

    5 stars
    Thank you for sharing your recipe! Originally I was going to try the simple press in the pan version but I share your thoughts about the fun! I decided to shop for the mold today and bake tomorrow. Thanks again!

  28. Catsays:

    I may have overlooked the mould or springerle you purchase from Gene of cookiemold.com or perhaps it was custom made,however, are you able to provide the model # for the one you used?

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