My favorite Christmas tradition growing up was baking and decorating sugar cookies with my mom. We’d spend an entire night as a family frosting cookies and putting sprinkles on them. Some years my mom made jumbo Christmas tree sugar cookies, the size of a plate, and each of us kids would spend a long time decorating ours just right. It’s a tradition that I’ve always looked forward to continuing with my own family.
Each year I tell myself that I’m going to let the kids decorate cookies with us, and each year I chicken out. It’s hard to control whether toddlers will put their fingers in their mouth and then continue to decorate cookies. They each get a small plate of cookies, some frosting, a plastic knife and a few random candies. I let them go to town for an hour and live with the sugar high afterward. Most of the frosting goes in their mouth and the cookies are eaten plain, as is the candy. I guess they prefer their sugar cookies deconstructed.
Rather than having my own sugar cookie decorating party to get gifts ready for neighbors and our contribution ready for parties, I invite Joe to join me and we make a date of it. Some times he helps me frost, but most times he’s the taste tester every step of the way. We turn on Christmas music or bring the small TV up and watch a Christmas movie while we decorate. Sometimes we’ll get all of the decorating done while the kids are decorating their cookies at the kitchen table, but a lot of times I opt to wait until they have gone to bed or are taking their naps.
The sugar cookie recipe that my mom uses is the best I’ve ever tasted! The cookies aren’t too sweet and they melt in your mouth. Homemade buttercream frosting pairs perfectly with the cookies and can be dyed a variety of colors. I love to top my cookies with sugar sprinkles for a minimal look or add small candies for decoration. Mini colored chocolate candies make great ornaments for Christmas trees!
The Best Sugar Cookie Recipe
Makes 3-4 dozen cookies
1 cup sugar
1 cup margarine or butter
1/8 tsp lemon extract (optional)
2 tsp vanilla
3 1/2 cups flower
3 tsp baking powder
Cream butter and sugar and blend in eggs. Add lemon and vanilla extract. Mix flour and baking powder together in a separate bowl, then add to creamed mixture. Mix well. Put dough in tightly covered container in fridge or freezer. (Will keep 1-2 weeks in fridge.) Roll dough out to 1/4” thick and cut with cookie cutters. Back at 350° F for 7-9 minutes.
My favorite thing about these sugar cookies are how quickly they come together and how long you can store the dough in the fridge or the baked and/or decorated cookies in the freezer and still have them taste fresh. The dough will keep for one to two weeks in the fridge, which means you can bake it as you need it in smaller batches without having to pull out the mixer and make a mess of ingredients every time. I also love that you can split your cookie baking and decorating up into smaller time frames on different days. Mix the dough one day, bake the cookies a few days later, decorate and deliver the cookies a day or two later.
We’ve found that the baked cookies freeze really well in an airtight tupperware and if you frost and decorate your cookies, then let the frosting harden, you can freeze them all ready to go as well. This helps eliminate a big baking day so close to the holidays when your schedule is already packed with parties and traditions. Instead, have a fun sugar cookie day earlier in the month, freeze those cookies, and pull them out when you need them for parties or to take to neighbors.
If you’re feeling extra adventurous, you could take your date night to the bulk candy section or down the candy aisle of your local grocery store and pick the most creative treats you can find to decorate your cookies. Post pictures of each of your plates of cookies to social media and have friends and family vote on their favorite decorations. You could also have your kids be the judge of whose candy combinations look and taste the best after your date night is over.
What’s your favorite way to decorate a sugar cookie?