Pittsburgh Thumbprint Cookies {Kaufmann’s}

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A delicious and tender thumbprint cookie rolled in jimmies then topped off with a pile of sweet buttercream frosting.

A plate with 3 thumbprint cookies that have red and green frosting in the middle.

I am a Pittsburgh girl.   I grew up in Pittsburgh and while I have moved away my entire family still lives there so I still go home several times a year.   Pittsburgh is truly one of my favorite cities in the world.

Growing up I can remember getting thumbprint cookies when we went to Giant Eagle or people carrying them to events in white bakery boxes.  They weren’t the traditional thumbprints with jam in the middle.   These thumbprints were special to the Pittsburgh area.

They were the Kaufmann’s Thumbprint Cookies.   Kaufmann’s had a huge store downtown and in that store was the Arcade Bakery.   This bakery made the now famous Pittsburgh thumbprints.

Pin Image:  A plate with 3 thumbprint cookies that have red and green frosting in the middle, text title, a cutting board with ingredients on it.


To Make the Cookies:  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl combine the sugar, shortening, salt, and butter.  Mix for 2-3 minutes or until fluffy.  Add in the eggs, vanilla extract, and almond extract and mix well.  Add in the cake flour and mix gently until just combined.  Roll the dough into 1 inch balls.   Roll into the jimmies then place on a baking sheet.  Press in your thumbprint.   Bake for 15 minutes.

These thumbprints aren’t your traditional cookies.  It’s funny, until I saw this recipe I had forgotten all about them.  Once I saw the recipe I knew I had to make them as I could remember eating these cookies after church, at potlucks, and at the grocery store.

The cookie itself is firm and not very sweet.  When you see the amount of sugar don’t be worried, it’s really only a bit.  You don’t want the cookie too sweet because the filling is super sweet.

A cookie sheet with unbaked thumbprint cookies on it.

While firm, the cookie is tender and crumbly.  They are rolled in your choice of jimmies.   Yes, make sure they are jimmies and not sprinkles.  You can find an awesome set of jimmies HERE.

I don’t have cake flour, what can I use?

Making your own cake flour is super easy!   Simply add 2 tablespoons of cornstarch to 2 cups of all purpose flour and mix well.

Do I have to use the shortening?

If you want your cookies to be firm yet tender you really need to add the shortening.  The first batch I made substituted butter for the shortening and they just weren’t the same.   I use Crisco shortening and it works so well in this recipe.

Can I use sprinkles instead of jimmies?

Ok can you use sprinkles?   Yes.   Will it be the same?   No because jimmies are what real Pittsburghers use.   I like that jimmies hold their shape and color in the oven where sprinkles can melt into the dough.  However you can use sprinkles if that’s what you have at home.

Do I need both almond and vanilla extracts?

If you want the flavor of the actual cookie and buttercream from Arcade Bakery you need to use both.   If you don’t care if the flavor is a little off you can use just one or the other.  Be careful when using almond extract as it is a very strong flavor.  Only use the tiny bit mentioned in the recipe.

I used Taylor & Colledge extract pastes in this recipe because they pack a ton of flavor without adding any extra liquid.   You can check out their flavors HERE.  Then check out the end of this post to see how you can win some of these for your own holiday baking!

A close up of a hand holding a thumbprint cookie with black frosting in the middle.

After the cookies are baked they need to cool on the rack.   Once cooled start on your buttercream frosting.   I usually make one batch of buttercream then dye it different colors. My favorite food coloring is Americolor Gel Food Coloring.

Then using a star tip simply pipe the frosting into the indentation.  They are really stunning cookies and they taste great.   My first bite took me back to being a kid and it was really cool to be able to have a treat from my childhood.

More Cookie Recipes:

A plate of thumbprint cookies with black frosting in the middle.

If you’ve tried my Pittsburgh Thumbprint Cookies or any other recipe on Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks please take a minute to rate the recipe and leave a comment letting me know how you liked it. I love hearing from you! You can FOLLOW ME on:

A plate with 3 thumbprint cookies that have red and green frosting in the middle.

Pittsburgh Thumbprint Cookies

Yield: 2 dozen
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

A delicious and tender thumbprint cookie rolled in jimmies then topped off with a pile of sweet buttercream frosting.


For the cookies:

  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 1/3 c. shortening
  • 6 Tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 c. cake flour
  • Colored jimmies

For the frosting:

  • 8 Tablespoons (1 stick) butter
  • 2 c. powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl combine the sugar, butter, shortening, and salt. Mix well for 2-3 minutes or until smooth.
  3. Add in the egg, vanilla, and almond extract and mix well.
  4. Add in the cake flour and gently mix until just combined.
  5. Roll the dough into 1 inch balls. Roll the balls in jimmies and place on a baking sheet 2 inches apart. Press your thumb into each dough ball.
  6. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 5 minutes before transferring to a wire cooling rack.
  7. Cool completely.
  8. Meanwhile place the butter in a large bowl. Beat on medium high speed until smooth. Add in the powdered sugar, vanilla, and almond extract and mix until a frosting forms.
  9. Dye the frosting desired colors. Put in a piping bag with a star tip and pipe into the center of each cookie.


Recipe from Heritage Cookies





  1. Im wondering if there is an error on the method to sub regular flour for cake flour. I measure one cup of regular flour and take out two tablespoons and add two tablespoons cornstarch and then sift that mixture three or four times.

    1. You are correct that is the way you normally substitute cake flour for regular flour. In this recipe I don’t know why it works to just add the cornstarch but I did the take 2 tablespoons away and add 2 tablespoons cornstarch then I did just adding the cornstarch and I liked the texture better on the ones where I just added 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. However, the ones where I removed 2 tablespoons flour and then added 2 tablespoons of cornstarch turned out fine and tasty, I just liked the other way better. Hope that helps!

  2. I love the idea of these extracts. I would use the vanilla in some rum cookies I usually make after the holiday season with left over soaked fruits I have. This would help to intensify the flavors for sure.

  3. These cookies would be fun on my cookie tray and I’m sure they are delicious too.

    I love the lavender extract, but considering it is the holiday season the almond would probably get used first. And probably to make these for my sprinkle loving kid.

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