Servings: Makes about 30 (large batch: 90)
Active time: 1 hour
Total time: 3 hours
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves, and salt; set aside. In a second large bowl, beat 12 tablespoons butter and 3/4 cup granulated sugar with an electric mixer on low speed until pale and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Add egg, vanilla, and molasses, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture and beat until smooth. Divide dough between 2 large sheets of parchment paper and roll up snugly, twisting the ends like a candy wrapper, to make two 8-inch logs. Refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 350°. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. Place remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar in a shallow dish. Cut dough logs into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Dip the top of each in sugar and transfer to prepared baking sheets, spacing about 1 inch apart. Bake until just firm around the edges, about 10 minutes; let cool completely on a rack.
In a large bowl, beat remaining 6 tablespoons butter, confectioners' sugar, lemon juice and zest, and food coloring (if using) with an electric mixer until fluffy, about 2 minutes. To assemble sandwiches, spread frosting onto half the cookies, then top with remaining cookies.
Note: Make the dough a day or two ahead when it suits your schedule, then cut and bake the cookies later when you have a free moment.
From the December 2010 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
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