My family called these cookies with jam in the middle, royal icing, and a cherry on top Belgian Cookies. This made it kind of difficult for me to find a good recipe for them back when I first started doing holiday baking in 2007.
Luckily, I figured out that many people know them as Empire Cookies and found a recipe for a vegan version online. I don’t remember what was in that recipe, but they were not as good as the cookies I remembered from childhood, so a few years later I sought out a traditional (non-vegan) recipe to veganize instead.
As a result, this is one of the few cookie recipes that I use a commercial egg replacer powder like Pane Riso in because I always have and why mess with what works?
Also, unlike drop cookies and some bars that often work fine with softer margarines, Belgian (or Empire) cookies are a type of shortbread and I have only ever used Earth Balance sticks for them. I know Earth Balance is a bit more expensive, but I don’t recommend using a soft margarine (like Becel) for these cookies.
The index card that I wrote the “Belgian Cookies 2012” recipe on has been used and spilled on so many times it has almost dissolved. The most recent time I tried to use it the ingredients list was barely readable. So, I thought, why not send it off into internet permanence even if January is an odd time to be sharing a Christmas cookie recipe.
Belgian Cookies (Empire Cookies)
- 2 cups Earth Balance
- 1 1/2 cups white sugar
- 2 egg replacers see note
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp almond extract
- 6 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp cream of tartar
- seedless raspberry jam
- icing sugar
- maraschino cherries
- Cream together Earth Balance and white sugar in a stand mixer. Add egg replacers (see note), vanilla extract and almond extract and beat until combined.
- Sift together dry ingredients in a large bowl then add to mixer and mix on low-medium speed until combined, and continue mixing for about 20-30 seconds. Do not overmix.
- Divide dough into 2 equal balls, flatten slightly, and wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.
- When you are ready to begin rolling and cutting the dough, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Roll first ball out onto a lightly floured surface to 1/4" thick and cut with 2" round cookie cutter. Place cookies approximately 1" apart on parchment lined cookie sheet. Combine scraps into a new ball and roll out again. After that, set these scraps aside and cover loosely with plastic wrap to keep from drying out.
- Repeat previous with the second ball of dough.
- Combine the scraps from both balls of dough into a new ball of dough, flatten slightly, cover with plastic wrap and return to refrigerator for 15-30 minutes. (In my experience, you can use the dough this one last time without the quality deteriorating too much, but I would not recommend using it a 4th time. If you really don't want to waste what is left, ball up the remaining scraps, refrigerate and save them for when you're not planning to share the cookies with friends. They probably will still taste good, but the texture won't be perfect).
- If you are able to place your cookie sheets into the freezer for 10 minutes prior to baking I find this yields better results, but is not mandatory.
- Bake each sheet for 8-9 minutes. I prefer to bake one sheet at a time. Allow cookies to cool completely.
- Meanwhile, use a sharp knife to halve maraschino cherries and place on a dry paper towel to remove some of the liquid.
- Once cookies are cooled, scoop 1 heaping tsp of seedless raspberry jam onto half of the cookies. Place another cookie on top. Let set for a few minutes.
- To prepare icing, combine 2-3 cups of icing sugar with a dash of vanilla extract and just enough water (adding 1 tbsp at a time) to allow icing to pass through a piping bag fitted with a small, round tip.
- Fill the piping bag and pipe an outline onto about 6 cookies, which gives the first one a few moments to set a bit, then go back to the first cookie and fill in the centre and repeat for remaining cookies. Once 6 are iced, top each with a halved maraschino cherry, and repeat until all cookies are decorated.
- I recommend using Pane Riso or a similar egg replacer powder following the package instructions.
- Earth Balance sticks are my go-to for the perfect consistency. Avoid using soft margarine for this recipe.