The days leading up to Christmas in our home include shopping, spending extra time with family, and of course, baking several batches of cutout sugar cookies!
Since Bea had the coveted snack leader duty on Monday, our Sunday was devoted to making the best tasting and textured rolled sugar cookies out there. Grant even got in on the action by free cutting Santa and his reindeer. The girls gleefully begged for Mickey and Minnie, which they received then ate before we could frost or photograph them! Bea and I stuck to our pre-made cookie cutters. In all, we had a huge variety of sugar cookies. We even made two different icings, a traditional buttercream and a royal icing. I will give you recipes for both royal and buttercream near the end of this post and let you know the big differences for each.
When making cutout sugar cookies you will need to plan ahead as there are periods of waiting between steps. You will need to chill your dough for at least 3 hours before rolling and cutting. Then, you need to let your cookies cool completely before icing. Furthermore, if you use royal icing, you will need to let them dry for several hours or overnight. Just keep that in mind so you time everything accordingly.
Sugar cookies are the perfect treat to have your little bakers attempt. They are simple and so much fun! Plus, with all the waiting between steps, your kids get a break from focus here and there, which makes for some incredible Christmas dance parties! Bea took the lead on this recipe and we had a blast!
In your stand mixer use the paddle attachment to cream your butter and sugar. We always start by giving that room temperature butter about 45 seconds on its own before adding in the sugar.
Then let this cream for a good 3 minutes before adding in your egg mixture. Our egg mixture included one whole egg, an egg yolk, along with both vanilla and almond extracts. Bea used a fork to beat it before adding it.
After this mixes for a few minutes you will have a creamy and fluffy mixture.
This is where Bea got her camera to get her own blog-worthy pics!
In a separate bowl you will whisk your dry ingredients. This flour mixture will be made up of your flour, baking powder and baking soda, and fine sea salt. Then you will turn your mixture to “stir” to slowly incorporate your dry ingredients.
Once it is incorporated you will have a very thick dough.
It will smell of sugar, butter, and of course, those wonderful extracts! It will smell good enough to eat! I remember the days when my Mom made cookies or cake and I got one spatula or mixing wand to enjoy. My sister and I always fought over the one with the most batter. In present day you shouldn’t do that, however, my girls always sneak a taste, no matter how quickly I try to remove it all!
You will make a big disc and wrap it up to refrigerate. I always wrap it in parchment paper and then slide it right into a plastic bag. You may also wrap in plastic wrap.
Rolling and Cutting out the Sugar Cookies
3 hours later…
Now the real fun begins! On a well floured surface you will begin rolling your dough.
I always take half of the batch out to roll and keep the other half refrigerated since it takes a while to get everything rolled and cut out.
Another fun aspect about rolled out cookies is that you can make them any shape, roll them out to be any thickness, and all of the ways you try will turn out slightly different but always super tasty. For rolled cookies it’s up to you if you want thin and crispy or thicker and softer. In our home we love softer cookies, so we rolled ours to the range of 1/4 to about 1/2 inch thick.
We had cookie sheets lined with paper and ready to be covered with the cutouts. These don’t expand much at all, so you can fit more on a sheet than when baking other kinds of cookies.
Grant was in the super talented zone making his own spectacular and artistically perfect shapes!
Quick tip- Make sure to keep cookies of similar size on the same sheet to ensure even baking. Grant’s cookies were thicker and much larger than ours, so his went on separate sheets since they needed longer baking time.
These cookies need to cool completely before frosting. I left them on racks and ran errands so I wasn’t tempted to eat or frost them too early!
Decorating the Sugar Cookies
Hours later… It’s time to make a decision! Do you want glossy royally iced cookies, or fluffy buttercream frosted ones? This is totally up to you. Both take time to dry, and the buttercream will dry well, but won’t be completely hard and smudge-proof like Royal icing. Royal icing is also the go-to if you want intricate details and a very glossy finish. I prefer the taste and texture of buttercream. I did make both in order to give you a variety and choice.
My favorite buttercream frosting is my own, and you can find it here – The Ultimate Vanilla Buttercream Frosting. If you choose to make this one, feel free to change out the buttermilk for milk.
To frost your cookies you can use a piping bag or a knife to spread it on any way you would like. Bea felt Santa needed a red nose this year to match Rudolph! We used every method to frost our cookies, and sprinkles galore!
You may eat these immediately! Or you can let these dry and they will harden. When I packed these for Bea’s class, I separated the layers of cookies in an airtight container with parchment paper so they wouldn’t smash each other. They did not smudge and were so cute!
If you would like that glossy and perfected, hard finish, then Royal Icing will be your choice. You can make Royal icing a few different ways. You can use egg whites or meringue powder, which is dried egg whites. When I do make Royal icing I make mine with egg whites since I think it tastes better. If you are worried about pasteurization, you can actually heat your egg whites. A great link for that is Egg White Royal Icing Recipe & Egg Safety.
For a recipe that uses meringue powder, I use, Joy of Baking Royal Icing Recipe.
When icing with royal icing it is best to use a piping bag and a small tip. Toothpicks are a wonderful tool for spreading and making visual effects. Note- royal icing dries quickly after making it, so immediately put into your piping bags or an airtight container.
Then after icing, drying time is essential. It needs several hours or overnight. It’s strange how the drying time is so vastly different when the icing is standing alone vs. on a cookie!
Rolled Sugar Cookie Recipe
- 2 sticks of salted butter, softened
- 1 cup of granulated sugar
- 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- In your stand mixer, with the paddle attachment, beat butter for 45 seconds then add sugar and cream for 3 minutes. In a small bowl, lightly beat egg, egg yolk, and extracts. Then add to mixer and let mix for another 3 minutes until fluffy. In a separate bowl mix all of your dry ingredients from flour on to sea salt. Then turn your mixer to “stir”. Add in flour mixture and mix until well incorporated. Make a dough disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for at least 3 hours.
- After dough has chilled cut in half. Keep half refrigerated while you roll out and cut the other half.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees
- On a well floured surface roll out dough. Remember that if you want crispy cookies then go thinner. If you want softer ones then roll thicker. You will also need to adjust your baking times.
- Cut out cookies and place onto parchment lined cookie sheet.
- Bake – 4-5 minutes for thin cookies/ 7-9 minutes for thicker. Our Santa, Mickey, and Minnie cookies that were larger took 11 minutes.
- Let cool completely! They will smell inviting, but resist the urge to eat them and let them cool!
- After they have cooled frost with either buttercream or Royal icing. Remember that if you use Royal icing to let them cool for several hours or overnight.
Please Note: These cookies are perfect for any occasion all year round! Just change them up using cookie cutters of your choosing.
Interested in what I used for this post?
Many of the items are similar to what I used in my Gingerbread Cookies. The only change was the food coloring I used. I used gel this time to limit the mess and staining.