Christmas Sugar Cookies

Mary Anne here. For me, Christmas is undoubtedly the most sentimental time of year. I close my eyes and can feel the warmth of a glowing fire; smell the burning wood as I’m lulled by its gentle snaps and crackles. In my mind, the scent of nutmeg and cinnamon curls and wafts into the air from cups of steaming cocoa topped with icy whipped cream that my adored “Granny” prepared for me.

But there is no image stronger than the buttery little “cut out” cookies that have been present in all of my Christmases past. I remember as a child, teetering on a vinyl chair in my mother’s kitchen, too small to reach the table to cut out cookies from the dough she had so expertly rolled out. The kitchen was covered in sprinkles and little silver balls as my five siblings and I frosted and decorated these treats – our solemn offering to Santa and his reindeer in thanks for their hard work and generosity.

Every Christmas Eve, my siblings and I placed a small mug of milk alongside a plate laden with our cookies – each of us fighting for our own decorated offering to take center stage by the mantle. Upon rising in the morning, the milk was gone and only a crumb or two on the plate remained. Our forensic evidence that yes indeed, there is a Santa Claus!

I continued the beloved tradition with my own brood and now that they are grown and living on their own, they still look for these cookies every year when they come home for Christmas. Mariel actually made a special trip to Westchester just to help me decorate these traditional treasures! We always try to get really creative, but our favorite cookies are inevitably the messiest, gaudiest creations. This year was no exception…

They’re so simple to prepare and they’re definitely kid-friendly. Hope you have a merry little time making these special cookies with your own children or grown-up friends!

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Christmas Sugar Cookies
Makes About 30 Large Cookies

Notes: You will need your largest cookie sheets and a Cookie Cutter Set . Undecorated, baked cookies can be frozen for up to a month in an airtight container or plastic zip-lock storage bag.

Unbaked dough can also be stored in the freezer for up to a month and isn’t a bad idea to have on hand for snowy days when you are frantically searching for ways to entertain rowdy children. I have a lot of cookie cutters for each of the holidays, including President’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, and Easter and my pantry is well-stocked with assorted sprinkles year-round. Old habits die hard, I guess.

1 cup (2 sticks) sweet butter, softened – stock
½ cup sugar – stock
1 egg, unbeaten – stock
2 teaspoons vanilla extract – stock
3 cups flour – stock
½ teaspoon baking powder – stock
¼ teaspoon salt – stock

½ lb. Confectioner’s sugar – stock
2 Tablespoons sweet butter, softened – stock
dash of salt – stock
1/8 cup of milk to thin to desired consistency – stock
½ teaspoon vanilla – stock
Assorted sprinkles – $1.29/1.75 ounce container
Grand Total Assuming Well-Stocked Pantry and 3 New Containers of Sprinkles: $3.87
Total Per Cookie: $0.13

1. Prepare the dough. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and set aside.

2. In a medium size mixing bowl, cream the butter with the granulated sugar. Add the egg and vanilla, beating until well incorporated.

3. Gradually add the flour mixture, beating on the lowest speed. The mixture will resemble coarse meal. It will not look anything like dough at this point.

4. Gather the mixture together in your hands and knead the dough into 2 balls. As you knead the mixture, it quickly becomes recognizable dough.

5. Flatten each ball into a disc. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours. Note: I generally make the dough the day before and then set it out on the counter for about an hour before rolling it out.

6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll out the dough to about 1/8 inch thickness. Cut out the cookies and transfer them to an un-greased cookie sheet. Gather up the scraps and form them into another small ball. Continue rolling out the dough and cutting out cookies until the dough is all used up.

7. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until the edges are just turning a golden brown. The tops should be a pale ivory. Adjust the cooking time if your cookies are thinner or thicker than the recipe instructs.

8. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack and allow to them cool.

9. Meanwhile, prepare the icing. In a small to medium size mixing bowl, cream the butter. Gradually add the Confectioner’s sugar and milk alternating each addition. Add the vanilla and beat until icing is smooth and creamy.

10. Spread the icing across the tops of the cookies and decorate away with the sprinkles!


  1. says

    Mary Anne – your cookies are beautiful! I’m going to give your family recipe a whirl – thank you for sharing it. What is so funny to me is that we have the identical santa mug that you show in your photo – I will be posting our set this weekend! They must have been popular in the area – perhaps purchased at Lucky’s or Wallace’s. Remember?

  2. says

    The mugs are actually from the 1950’s and my mom probably bought them on Long Island, where we lived until 1964. I can’t believe you have the identical ones! BTW, my mom is working on finding you the Vassar Temple Sisterhood Cookbook. I’ll keep you posted! Have fun baking.

  3. TDG says

    Hi Ladies… Can’t wait to try these! The cookies – plus the ICING – sounds like perfection! Thanks for all the great recipes!


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