Home » ALL RECIPES » Dessert Recipes » Holiday Sugar Cookies

Holiday Sugar Cookies

Holiday sugar cookies – buttery, sweet and flaky – are a big tradition in our family – 25 years long.

We make them for Christmas, Chanukah, Halloween, Valentines Day and other celebrations. 

 

I’m actually not a huge fan of making cut-out sugar cookies (except for the decorating). I love the tradition part, but they require lots of time and patience. If you want to make traditional holiday sugar cookies, though, there’s no getting around the multiple steps.

My advice is to take a breath and put on some music. And make the recipe in stages (even over days) like I do. 

    1. Make the dough (just a few minutes plus chill time)
    2. Roll the dough, cut out cookies and bake. 
    3. Decorate

Nothing is difficult. Just time consuming. In case you’re on the fence about trying these cookies (the best sugar cookies in my humble opinion)…

    • The cookies are fun to decorate especially when you involve the family. We don’t aim for perfect (as you can see) and often include a few silly or rude cookies as jokes. 
    • The end results are really satisfying. A lot of TLC goes into them.
    • The cookies are delicious.
    • And they freeze beautifully. 

You can be confident this recipe for holiday sugar cookies works well. It’s an old Noreen Gilletz recipe from her food processor cookbook. We’ve been using it forever – including making 150 tulip cookies as gifts for Jenna’s wedding guests. (Her husband proposed to her in a field of hundreds of tulips in Prince Edward Island, a province in Canada. OMG, I was weepy – no, of course I wasn’t there!  Jenna is a good storyteller). 

tulip cookies lined up on table
We made these tulip sugar cookies with royal icing for Jenna’s wedding.

Tailor To Your Taste (and celebration)

  • Shapes: you can literally buy almost any shape, character or holiday decoration you can imagine. Pumpkins, Christmas trees, menorahs, Easter bunnies, hearts, and yes, tulips.
  • Flavor:
    • instead of or in addition to vanilla extract, you can use almond extract if you prefer. Even peppermint or coconut extract. 
    • try adding some lemon or orange zest. 
  • Decorating:
    • You can use a simple glaze or royal icing. Instructions for both are in the recipe. Get creative or fancy.
    • Or, just smear on some glaze, add some sprinkles and call it a day. 

Shortcuts

  • At holiday times, some bakeries sell plain sugar cookies in holiday shapes that you can decorate with the kids. So convenient! Some even sell piping bags with different colored icing/frosting.  I can assure you this was not available back in the day 🙁
  • Buy decorating gels and icings in little tubes for the finishing touches, found in most grocery stores.

Tips for Success

  • Use room temperature butter. 
  • Chill the dough for at least 30 minutes. Chill it as a log before rolling it out or roll it out first, then chill the dough before using the cookie cutters.
  • Let the icing  – both simple glaze or royal icing – dry to a hard finish before storing. The cookies can them be safely stacked (unless you use gel icing which I suggest avoiding)

Make Ahead

There are several options and I’ve tried them all. 

  1. Make the dough and refrigerate it for a few days. Or freeze it for up to 3 months. 
  2. Roll the dough, cut out the cookies and bake them. Cool the cookies completely (not iced), lay them in a freezer friendly sealed container or bag and freeze them. Or let them sit on the counter for a day or two before icing them. 
  3. The glazed sugar cookies dry to a nice hard shiny finish and can be stacked or piled on top of each other (except if you use icing gel which is sticky and does not dry). They will keep well at room temperature in a sealed container. 
  4. You can freeze cookies with Royal icing for 2 months.

Other [quicker] and easy cookie recipes with few ingredients

plate of christmas cookies 1

plate of christmas cookies 2

plate of Chanukah cookies

half a cookie on table showing inside of cookie

tray of heart shaped cookies for Valentines Day

heart cookies on a tray
Print Recipe Pin Save Recipe

Rate this recipe here

5 from 6 votes

Holiday Sugar Cookies

Holiday sugar cookies - buttery, sweet and flaky - are a big tradition in our family - 25 years long. We make them for Christmas, Chanukah, Halloween, Valentines Day and other celebrations. 
chill time30 mins
Course: Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: American, Vegetarian
Servings: 35 -45 cookies
Author: Cheryl, Two Kooks In The Kitchen

Equipment

  • food processor (or hand or stand mixer)

Ingredients

cookie dough

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (important) 2 sticks
  • 1 cup sugar
  • large egg.
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder

simple glaze/icing (Note 1 for royal icing)

  • 1 cup icing (confectioners) sugar
  • 1 tbsp light corn syrup optional to make icing glossy
  • 1 tbsp water
  • food coloring, various colors 5-10 drops, depending on intensity you like

Instructions

  • HEAT OVEN to 375F/190C
  • MAKE DOUGH: Blend butter and sugar until fluffy in a food processor (or mixer). Add egg and vanilla, mix until just combined. Add flour and baking powder in intervals. Dough will seem as if it doesn't have enough moisture but continue to mix in food processor until combined. Shape into a log (or two logs) and wrap in plastic wrap, then put into fridge to firm up for 30-60 minutes or up to 2 days.
  • CUT OUT COOKIES: Roll out dough between 2 sheets of waxed paper to about 1/4 inch thick. Or just using a rolling pin dusted with flour. Cut out with cookie cutters and place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper - or a silicone mat. 
  • BAKE: for 7-8 minutes or until lightly browned at the edges. Remove from oven. Let cool for a minute then transfer to a wired rack to cool completely. 
  • MAKE GLAZE/ICING: Note 2. Mix the icing sugar, water and corn syrup together in a bowl with a fork or whisk. You can omit the corn syrup, but the glaze will be less shiny. Add the food coloring, a drop at a time, until you reach the color intensity you want. Play around with the consistency of the glaze, adding more icing sugar or water as needed.
  • DECORATE: Use a small knife or back of a spoon to spread glaze on cookies. Decorate with store-bought piping icing/gels (from a tube) and sprinkles as desired. Note 2 to decorate with extra icing. If you're using sprinkles, use them as soon as you glaze the cookies as they dry fast. These cookies dry to a nice hard shiny finish and can be stacked or piled on top of each other (except if you use icing gel which is sticky and does not dry). Note 1 for Royal Icing.

Notes

  1. Royal Icing (instead of simple glaze). Here's a Royal Icing recipe and instructions on how to use it. A bit trickier, but once you get the hang of it, it looks amazing, very professional. 
  2. Simple glaze/icing tip: To make several colors of glaze icing, double the recipe, divide into small bowls and add different coloring to each bowl.
  3. To decorate with homemade icing (instead of store bought tubes): Make another batch of the icing (make it thicker adding more icing sugar or less water). Put it in a small ziploc bag with a tiny corner cut off to pipe the icing through. (If you have a piping tip, place it through the hole in the bag before you put the icing in).
  4. Make Ahead options
    1. Make the dough and refrigerate it for a few days. Or freeze it for up to 3 months. 
    2. Make and bake the cookies but don't ice them. Cool them completely, lay them in a freezer friendly sealed container or bag and freeze them up to 3 months. Or let them sit on the counter for a day or two before icing them. 
    3. The glazed sugar cookies dry to a nice hard shiny finish and can be stacked or piled on top of each other (except if you use icing gel which is sticky and does not dry). They will keep well at room temperature in a sealed container. 
    4. You can freeze cookies with Royal icing for 2 months.
 
Nutrition values are estimates and depend on size of cookies and amount of icing used.

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Holiday Sugar Cookies
Amount Per Serving
Calories 123 Calories from Fat 45
% Daily Value*
Fat 5g8%
Saturated Fat 3g19%
Trans Fat 1g
Cholesterol 14mg5%
Sodium 8mg0%
Potassium 13mg0%
Carbohydrates 18g6%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 10g11%
Protein 1g2%
Vitamin A 162IU3%
Calcium 7mg1%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Tried this recipe?We'd love you to rate it above under 'rate this recipe' or in the comment section below. Thanks!

This holiday sugar cookie recipe, originally published in 2016, has been updated with new images and tips. 

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating