Root Beer Float Cookies with Ice Cream Buttercream
January 27, 2022
Perfectly chewy-in-the-center-crisp-outside cookies get the soda-shop treatment with a root beer flavor base and a fun spread of vanilla ice cream buttercream on top. Root beer float cookies are a modern twist on a throwback treat.
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A root beer float is like the ultimate nostalgic treat. When I think about the flavors, I am instantly transported to a world of jukeboxes and soda fountains, squeaky booth seating and tiled floors. I’m not sure this is a real memory, or just something my mind created, but root beer floats bring me to this place.
But in the winter, I’m not exactly lining up for a cold drink most days. Instead, give me the feeling of that soda-shop moment in the form of extra chewy cookies smothered in frosting. I loved mirroring the float concept by using real vanilla ice cream in the buttercream, and real root beer syrup to flavor the cookies.
What You Need to Get Started
You can easily find all of the ingredients for these root beer float cookies at your grocery store:
- Pantry: Sugar, Root beer syrup, Brown sugar, Flour, Cornstarch, Baking soda, Baking powder, Salt, Vanilla bean paste, Powdered sugar
- Fridge & Freezer: Butter, Eggs, Vanilla ice cream
- Equipment: Stand mixer or hand mixer, Cookie scoop, Baking sheets, Parchment paper, Cooling rack, Offset spatula or piping bag and large round tip.
Let’s Make Root Beer Float Cookies
These cookies are fun, and a little something different than your standard chocolate chip or oatmeal raisin. Plus, they aren’t too difficult to make. They only require limited chilling, and nearly everything can be done in your stand mixer. So let’s get started.
The root beer flavor in the cookies themselves comes from root beer syrup, the kind you mix with carbonated water to actually make soda. I used the Soda Stream brand, because it’s what I had on hand, but there are plenty of other varieties you can try. Each root beer has its own unique formula and flavors.
To get started, combine your root beer syrup of choice with some granulated sugar. Essentially, we are treating the syrup similar to molasses because of the viscosity. When you combine it with sugar, you will get a mixture with a texture like brown sugar, but that’s clearly root beer flavored.
Once you have that root beer flavor all mixed into the sugar, the rest of this cookie recipe is pretty standard.
Fit your stand mixer with the paddle attachment, and add the butter, your freshly mixed up root beer sugar, and a little bit of brown sugar into the bowl. Your butter should be room temperature, but not so soft that it’s melty or liquidy.
Mix using a medium speed for a few minutes until the butter is fluffy and the sugar is incorporated into it. This step, creaming together the butter and sugar, is important for making any cookies. It allows the sugar to create tiny air pockets in the butter, making for chewy, not dense, cookies.
Next, add in the eggs and continue mixing for another minute. I usually use cold eggs for cookies, since the cooler temperature will help keep the mixing butter from getting too warm and collapsing all those little air pockets.
As needed while creaming and after adding the eggs, be sure to scrape down the sides of your bowl with a flexible spatula. Even if you use the flex-edge beater, you’ll still want to scrape to assure everything is getting fully incorporated.
Meanwhile, you can get your dry ingredients ready. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, baking powder, and salt until they are all combined. Cornstarch is my cookie secret weapon, always giving them a lovely chewy texture.
Now let’s put it all together. Add your dry ingredients into the mixer bowl all at once. Mix on low speed until everything is just combined. You don’t want to overmix at this point, so be sure to keep a close eye and stop the mixer once there are no large streaks of flour.
Cover and chill the dough in the fridge for half an hour, or up to overnight. If you want to prepare these even further in advance, you can also shape individual cookie dough balls and freeze them to use later. You can even bake them right from frozen for a quick treat, but it may take an extra minute or two.
When the dough is close to done with its chilling, it’s a good time to preheat your oven. You will also want to double check that you have a rack in the center. I always forget to check and then end up having to move hot racks.
You’ll also want to line your baking sheets with parchment paper. For the most uniform cookies, I always recommend using a cookie scoop. You could also weigh the individual balls of dough. Place them onto the lined baking sheet, giving them a couple inches to expand.
Bake each sheet of cookies for right around eight minutes. When these are done, they won’t look it. Instead, they will appear puffy and underbaked. The edges will just be beginning to show signs of getting browned and crispy.
Allow the cookies to rest on the pan outside of the oven for at least five minutes. This allows them some time to flatten out and begin to form a solid structure. If you move them too soon, they may break apart. However, after those few minutes, you do want to move them to a cooling rack to cool completely.
When making cookies, I like to work with two baking sheets, alternating what I’m doing with each. While one is in the oven, you can scoop the cookies for the next batch. Then, while the first pan is resting, begin baking the second. You’ll also want to chill any remaining dough between batches for the best results.
How to Make Ice Cream Buttercream
We have cookies, but what’s a root beer float without the ice cream? It’s just a glass of soda. So we are making a buttercream frosting for these cookies that not only tastes like vanilla ice cream, but includes it as an ingredient.
You’ll want to make sure that your butter and ice cream are close to the same temperature. Letting both sit out at room temperature for a bit before combining them helps. Use a clean bowl for your stand mixer and a clean paddle attachment. Combine the ice cream, butter, and vanilla bean paste.
Mix everything together on medium speed until light and very fluffy, about five minutes. The ice cream is essentially a custard at this point, made of eggs and cream. So this is kind of a shortcut to a richer and less cloying frosting, more similar to a French meringue buttercream.
One cup at a time, add in the powdered sugar to the mixer bowl. Using a low speed, fully incorporate each cup of sugar into the butter before adding in the next. Depending on temperature and humidity, the amount of sugar isn’t always exact.
You will know that the frosting is done when it holds its own shape and is not liquidy or dripping at all. You want it to have good structure, especially if you are piping it. If you’d prefer to spread it onto the cookies, it can be a bit thinner.
Fit your piping bag, if using one, with a large, round tip to create these simple spirals, or feel free to use something fancier and make your own fun designs. If you’d like a nice flat coating of frosting, layer them on top of one another with pieces of parchment in between and chill. The parchment will easily peel off the cold cookies, leaving a smooth surface.
If you want to store these, frosted or unfrosted cookies can be kept chilled in the fridge for a few days. Enjoy them chilled or let them sit out to warm to room temperature. You can also freeze these root beer float cookies for a couple months, wrapped tightly. Thaw frozen cookies in the fridge before eating them.
For a modern twist on a nostalgic treat, root beer float cookies are here for you. And they are even topped with vanilla ice cream buttercream!
How to Serve Root Beer Float Cookies
If you’re hosting any sort of throwback, nostalgia-focused event, these cookies will make an excellent addition to a dessert table. Try pairing them with some other treats that evoke that same feeling, like a classic apple tart or cherry cobbler and some newton-style plum jam cookie bars.
But you’re not limited to eating these at parties. They store so wonderfully in the fridge that you can keep them on hand for an afternoon snack. Make it a full cozy evening dessert with a warm mug of chai white hot chocolate or a chocolate old fashioned.
Or go all out with frosting these in pretty spirals and make them the centerpiece of your next cookie spread. Lemon curd sandwich cookies, chocolate peanut butter cookie cups, and bourbon brown sugar cut-outs all make great accompaniments to these root beer float cookies.
More Hybrid Treats
I love combining two delicious favorites into one fantastic treat, like I did with these root beer float cookies. Here’s a few other new matches to try:
- Blueberry Muffin Pancakes with Bourbon Streusel
- Cinnamon Roll Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
- Blueberry Cheesecake Cookies
- Rocky Road Black Bean Brownies
- Birthday Cake Martini with Sprinkles
- Bananas Foster Stuffed French Toast
- Caramel Corn Fresh Peach Crisp
- Peach Cobbler Biscuit Sticky Buns
- Cannoli Cream Crepes
- White Russian Hot Cocoa
Root Beer Float Cookies with Ice Cream Buttercream
Root Beer Cookies
- 1 Cup Sugar
- 2 Tbsp Root Beer Syrup
- 1 Cup Butter
- ¼ Cup Brown Sugar
- 2 Eggs
- 2 ½ Cups All-purpose flour
- ½ Cup Cornstarch
- ½ tsp Baking Soda
- 1 tsp Baking Powder
- ½ tsp Salt
Ice Cream Buttercream
- ¾ Cup Vanilla Ice Cream melted to room temperature
- ¾ Cup Butter room temperature
- ¾ tsp Vanilla Bean Paste
- 5 Cups Powdered Sugar
Root Beer Cookies
- In a small bowl, combine the root beer syrup and granulated sugar. Mix to incorporate the liquid into the sugar, and you should end up with a consistency similar to brown sugar.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter with both the brown sugar and the root beer sugar on medium speed until fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Add in the eggs and continue mixing to fully incorporate. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, baking powder, and salt until combined. Add the dry ingredients into the mixer bowl all at once and mix on low speed until just combined.
- Cover and chill the dough in the fridge for half an hour, or up to overnight. Preheat the oven to 375°F with a rack in the center. Line 1-2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Use a 1.5-inch cookie scoop place balls of chilled dough on the prepared baking sheet(s) at least 2 inches apart. Chill any remaining dough between batches, see note.
- Bake cookies for 7-9 minutes. They will appear puffy and underdone, with the edges just beginning to crisp. Allow the cookies to rest on the pan for at least 5 minutes, then move them to a cooling rack to cool completely.
Ice Cream Buttercream
- While the cookies are cooling, in a clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the ice cream, butter, and vanilla bean paste. Mix on medium speed until light and very fluffy, about 5 minutes.
- Add the powdered sugar into the mixer bowl 1 cup at a time, and fully incorporate each cup before adding in the next, until the frosting is thickened and holds its shape.
- If desired, fit a piping bag with a large round tip. Pipe or spread the frosting onto the fully cooled cookies. Chill in the fridge or enjoy immediately.
- Baking cookies in batches: When making cookies, I like to work with 2 baking sheets. While one is in the oven, you can scoop the cookies for the next batch. Then, while the first pan is resting, begin baking the second.
- Make ahead tips:
- The cookie dough can be made in advance and stored covered in the fridge overnight. You can also shape individual cookie dough balls and freeze them to use later. Baking cookies from frozen may take slightly more time.
- Frosted or unfrosted cookies can be stored in the fridge in a sealed container for 4-5 days, or frozen for up to 2 months. Thaw frozen cookies in the fridge. Enjoy them chilled or warmed to room temperature.
- Stand mixer or hand mixer
- Cookie scoop
- Baking sheets
- Parchment paper
- Cooling rack
- Offset spatula or piping bag and large round tip.