Black Walnut Cluster Kisses for the Holidays

The holiday season is a great time to bake cookies. Do you know of anyone who can object to receiving a plate of homemade cookies? I love to bake during the holiday’s, but don’t need to eat many of the rich cookies and desserts. So, let’s bake cookies and give them away (well, most of them)! This season I am making a tried and true cookie recipe, “Black Walnut Clusters,” and I am adding a Hershey’s Kiss in the center of each cookie for an extra “pop” of chocolate and a festive appearance. This cookie recipe is a favorite with the flavors of chocolate and black walnuts in a rich vanilla cookie. It is simple and quick to mix up.

Black Walnuts are the “Star” of this cookie

Black walnuts are the “star” of this cookie. They have an aromatic flavor that permeates the cookie and makes this recipe an absolutely delicious cookie. So, don’t substitute another type of nut in this recipe. Go for it. I discovered these walnuts at Walmart, believe it or not. They were not inexpensive, but they are worth it.

The cookie is a rich sugar cookie which is related to “thumbprint” cookies. Thumbprint cookies are sugar cookies which are shaped into a ball which includes an indentation made by pressing your thumb in the center of the dough prior to baking. After baking, a bit of jelly is placed in the center of the cookie. Over the years, endless variations on this cookie idea have been concocted. I added a Hershey’s Chocolate Kiss in the center of each cookie after baking rather than jelly.


When it comes to baking cookies, easy is better. Who doesn’t like an easy recipe to make that actually comes out correctly every time you made it. It took me two attempts, but now I have this recipe down “pat.” This is a one-bowl cookie recipe and can be mixed up in a few minutes. It does, however, benefit from being chilled for several hours. I made two variations: one with chocolate in the dough (which the original recipe called for) and one which was a plain sugar cookie.

Butter or margarine? I tried using butter in one recipe and soft tub margarine in the other. Soft tub margarine definitely made a very soft dough which couldn’t be handled with your hands. This recipe is from a vintage cookbook and I’m sure that 50 years ago that the margarine was very hard. So, in cookie recipes now, I use either butter, Crisco baking sticks or solid margarine sticks. I avoid soft tub margarine as it just doesn’t substitute well in cookie recipes as shown by this batch of cookies. However, the flavor of the cookies made with soft tub margarine was great — and the dough definitely needed to be chilled.

To mix up the cookies, beat the margarine (or butter) and sugar using an electric mixer. Add the egg, then the flour, baking soda and salt. Blend in the walnuts.

In my first attempt, I did not chill the plain sugar cookie dough.. I rolled small pieces of dough into circles and placed on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and baked. Woops, I placed these too close together and they spread out too much.

I learned my lesson and chilled the chocolate cookie dough, spacing them further apart on the cookie sheet. They turned out better.

While still warm, place a Hershey’s Kiss in the center of each cookie. I used Special Dark Chocolate Kisses, but you could substitute many other flavors of kisses.

Here’s a plate of the finished cookies. The recipes makes approximately 24 small cookies. Lots to share with family, friends and neighbors. I love the walnut flavor and texture of this cookie. It’s a great recipe. Enjoy!

Black Walnut Cluster Kisses

  • Servings: 24 small cookies
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 24 Hershey Special Dark Chocolate Kisses
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened at room temperature (but not melted) or stick margarine, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder (or substitute 1-1/2 squares unsweetened chocolate, melted)*
  • 1-1/4 cup black walnuts, chopped

Instructions and Steps:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees (when ready to bake cookies). Line a large non-glare baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Remove the wrappers from the Hershey’s Kisses and set aside.
  3. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt.
  4. In medium-sized bowl of electric mixer, mix together softened butter (or margarine) and sugar until creamy.
  5. Add egg and vanilla; mix well.
  6. Mix in cocoa powder (or melted unsweetened chocolate) if using, then flour mixture.
  7. Fold in walnuts.
  8. Chill dough for several hours.
  9. Drop by teaspoonfuls, 1-1/2″ apart, onto cookie sheet. Bake in two batches, if necessary.**
  10. Bake 8 minutes — absolutely no longer than 10 minutes.
  11. Remove from oven, and place a Hershey’s Kiss in center of each cookie pressing down slightly.
  12. Remove cookies to wire rack and cool completely. The soft cookies will firm up.

*NOTE: Cookies can be made omitting the cocoa or melted chocolate.

**VARIATON: After chilling, roll small pieces of dough into circles and place on baking sheep. Place thumbprint in center of each cookie prior to baking.

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