You always end up with a package or two this time of year.
Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
Key Lime-Shortbread Icebox Cake image
Key Lime-Shortbread Icebox Cake image
| Credit: Caitlin Bensel; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis; Food Styling: Blakeslee Giles

I have this problem. Whenever I see an image of a cookie (which happens quite frequently in my line of work), I’m immediately overtaken by this desperate sensation of needing a cookie. Rationally, I know I don’t need a cookie, but just try to explain rational thinking to a craving. Generally, not having access to the cookie I so desire is what keeps me from consuming 800+ chocolate chip cookies each week.

I experienced a wave of what I’m officially deeming Cookie Monster Syndrome yesterday after lunch, and as soon as the thought formed in my mind, I was writing it out in a message to my colleague, in hopes that she, against all odds, might happen to have (or know which staffer in the test kitchen might have) a fix…

“I need a cookie.”

Because our office is oftentimes a bizarre place to work, this editor offered me the giant cut-out cookie iced in Mariah Carey’s likeness (don’t ask) that she made over the weekend. I considered the the offer, but it was at this moment I noticed, among the vast array of product samples and items that never quite made it back to my home kitchen, I have 4 boxes of Trefoils shortbread cookies leftover from Girl Scout season under my desk. Why I ordered 4 boxes of the most generic cookie the Scouts have to offer is beyond me, but you best believe my cookie-hungry a$$ tore into one of them yesterday—at which point I realized, I have a new problem.

I’m now fully aware that I have access to 4 boxes of cookies, literally within my grasp. This does not spell well for someone with Cookie Monster Syndrome. Packaged shortbread cookies are fine to scratch a desperate itch, but at the end of the day, my rational brain knows that they’re not worth demolishing at the expense of my general health in the way that a warm, homemade salted chocolate chunk cookie is. But again, just try to explain rationality to a CMS-level sweet tooth. Point being, I need to get these cookies out of my line of vision/reach to avoid senselessly devouring them. STAT. Like yesterday.

And since packaged shortbread cookies are one of those items that many of us end up unenthusiastically having in our possession during the holiday season—because you know people who truly believe they make a great gift, or they were on sale and you figured they might come in handy, or you made misguided decisions earlier this year during Girl Scout Cookie season, etc.—I figured I wouldn’t be alone in my journey to make better use of them. And once I really started to think about it, I realized there are actually quite a few ways to transform the box of mundane cookies you settle for into a dazzling holiday dessert you’ll swoon for. Here are a few:

Layer Them Into an Icebox Cake

Wanna know a secret? Icebox cake is one of the easiest, most delightful desserts you can possibly whip up. In other words, if you don’t fancy yourself a baker, this is the route for you. Alternately layered with key lime curd and a sweet cream cheese filling, store-bought shortbread cookies are the perfectly hearty element to give this stunning key lime pie-inspired icebox cake structure. (P.S. If you want to shortcut this recipe while giving it your own custom spin, you can use store-bought, jarred curd in whatever flavor you like.) Your shortbread cookies would work equally well for this eye-catching Pink Lemonade Icebox Cake.

Make a Crumb Crust

A crumb crust is a mighty fine thing, especially during the holidays when time is scarce and the last thing you feel like doing is flouring up your countertops to roll out homemade pie dough. Toss your cookies into the food processor to pulse them into coarse crumbs, stir in a little sugar, a pinch of salt, and some melted butter and you’re right on track for a deliciously crisp crust, perfect for custard-filled pies and cheesecakes.

Crumble Them Over Ice Cream

Whether you make the ice cream or go with store-bought is up to you, but a few crumbled shortbread cookies make for the perfect finishing touch to a dish of eggnog ice cream (or whatever your holiday flavor of choice may be). Bonus points to anyone who goes the extra mile and toasts their cookie crumbs in a bit of butter, maybe even with a handful of chopped pecans or walnuts tossed in, before sprinkling them over your frozen dairy goodness.

Use Them in a Trifle or Parfait

You know what they say, It ain’t a par-tay until you break out the parfait! (No one actually says this, but as of the last 4 seconds, I believe that maybe we should.) But really, few desserts scream “holiday fun” like pudding, cookies, and other fine dessert elements layered into a large, glass fishbowl. You can really use whatever flavors/elements you like best to build a layered masterpiece to your liking, but here are a few of our favorite trifle recipes for inspiration. Get to it, ya party animals.

Roll Truffles in Them

Have leftover cookie crumbs from making that pie crust? They make a perfect finishing coat for classic chocolate truffles. Or really, any treat you may feel compelled to dip in melted chocolate—such as homemade marshmallows, fruit, or pretzel rods.

Fill Them to Make Sandwich Cookies

And if all else fails, turn your store-bought cookies into better cookies—sandwich cookies! Sandwich leftover cream cheese frosting, nut butter sweetened with a little powdered sugar, or even ice cream between a couple of shortbread cookies for an easy upgrade. And as always, giving your cookies a thin coating of melted chocolate is only going to improve the situation.

By Darcy Lenz and Darcy Lenz