Holiday Sugar Cookies

My favorite cookie in all the world, even more than chocolate chip cookies, is a sugar cookie with icing. We have made these for years. Even before we had children, I made these cookies with other people's children and without fail, every child would sigh with satisfaction and tell me, "This has been the best day of my life!" Decorating them is messy. The creative possibilities are without limit. They taste good, too. 

I have hesitated to share the recipe here because I have shared it privately on request and found that making them can be tricky. Well, not really, but there are some things you need to know. First of all the dough needs to be the right temperature. It must be chilled until it is firm, but not too firm. I finally took its temperature so I could tell you for sure, the insides need to be 40 degrees. This will happen faster if you flatten the dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap before refrigerating. The recipe says this takes an hour, but it might take longer. I usually chill it and forget all about it for at least a day, if no one reminds me to check on it.

You will know for sure if it is the right temp when you roll it out. If the dough sticks to you, the counter, the cookie cutter, it is too warm. It should not stick at all. The cookie cutter should make a nice clean cut. 

Sometimes the cookie cutter has a little dinky part that gets stuck and falls off, like the leaf on the apple, or the head and feather of an Indian. Try gently poking it out with a spatula. If it is too frustrating to work with, you probably need to chill it some more. (I have decided that some cookie cutters just don't make the cut and tossed them. This is supposed to be fun, not work! If the cookie breaks every time with a certain cutter, it was poorly designed.)

Don't work with all the dough at the same time. Cut off about a quarter of the dough, keeping the rest in the fridge. Don't knead the dough like playdoh. This makes the cookies tough. Don't use too much flour either, just use a dusting on the counter and on the rolling pin. If you need more than that, your dough is too warm. 

Gather your scraps and chill again, while you work with another cold piece of dough. Every time you reroll the dough, the cookies get more flour into them and become tougher, so keep it to a minimum. 

You can slather the icing on with a butter knife (extra messy, but we did this for years), then adorn with sprinkles. Recently, we began putting our icing into Wilton icing bags and cutting a very small snip off the end. For little ones, I will clip a clothes pin onto the top part of the bag to prevent major icing back flow. This still needs to be monitored and re-clipped as needed. 

You can get a nice effect by putting a second color of icing right on top of the first while the first color is still wet. It sinks into the base color.

You also want to put similar sized cookies on the same cookie sheet so they will bake at the same rate. If you mix big and little cookies, the little ones will be crispy and the big ones will not be cooked all the way. 


2 C. butter, softened

1 C. sugar

2 eggs

2 Tbs. vanilla

1/2 tsp. salt

4 C. flour

icing, recipe follows

sprinkles, candies, etc.

Beat butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla and salt until fluffy. Beat in flour just until combined. Wrap and chill 1 hour or more. Roll out 1/4” thick and cut out with cookie cutters. Bake 325° for 12-15 min. or until edges just start to brown. Cool on racks, then frost and decorate.


1 lb. confectioner’s sugar blended with 1/3 C. water, 1 tsp. vanilla and food coloring

Caramel Filled Chocolate Cookies

I found this recipe in Taste of Home and it has since become one of my favorite cookies to make for Christmas. 

CARAMEL FILLED CHOCOLATE COOKIES                              4 doz.

1 C. sugar

1 C. brown sugar

1 C. butter, softened

2 tsp. vanilla

2 eggs

2 1/2 C. flour

3/4 C. cocoa

1 tsp. bkg. soda

1 C. chopped pecans

48 Rolo choc. caramel candies, unwrapped 

4 oz. vanilla candy coating

In lg. bowl, combine 1 cup sugar, brown sugar and butter; beat until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and eggs, blend well. In small bowl, combine flour, cocoa and baking soda; mix well. Add to sugar mixture; blend well. Stir in 1/2 cup of pecans. Cover and chill 30 min. Heat oven to 375°.  Put 1/2 cup remaining pecans in a small bowl, set aside.

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For each cookie, with floured hands, shape about 1 Tbs. dough around 1 caramel candy, covering completely. 

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Press one side of each ball into chopped pecans. 

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Bake 7-10 min. or until set and slightly cracked. Cool 2 min. on cookie sheet then cool completely on rack. Melt candy coating over low heat, stirring constantly. Drizzle over cooled cookies. 

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Enjoy within two days or store in freezer.

Gingerbread Cookies x2

These cookies make a regular appearance at Christmas. The lighter cookies taste cinnamon-y, somewhat like a Snickerdoodle, while the darker ones have more ginger and molasses. We can’t decide which recipe is the best, but since we only make these once a year, why not make them both? I have never met a child who of any age who did not adore decorating cookies. Unbridled artistic expression topped off with cookies for snack make a particularly memorable day.

GINGERBREAD MEN (the lighter cookie)

1 C. butter, softened    

1 1/2 C. sugar   

1 egg    

1 Tbs. molasses   

1 1/2 C. cake flour   

1 1/2 c. all purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. ginger

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. cloves

Cream butter and sugar, add egg and molasses. Sift dry ingredients into a separate bowl. Mix dry ingredients into butter and blend together well. Chill 1 hour. Roll out and cut into gingerbread men. Bake at 375° approximately 8-10 min. depending on size. They should just begin to brown around the edges. Cool on cookie sheet 2 minutes before removing to the rack.

GINGERBREAD BABY (the darker cookie)

In large bowl, sift together:   

 3 C. Flour    

1/4 tsp. Salt   

1 Tbs. baking soda   

1 Tbs. Ginger    

1  tsp. Cinnamon    

1/4 tsp. ground cloves   

1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg   

Cream together:

1 1/2 sticks butter

3/4 C. brown sugar

1 egg

Stir dry ingredients into creamed mixture. Then add:

1/2 C. molasses

1 Tbs. vanilla

Chill dough 2 hours. Roll 1/4” thick and cut out. Bake at 375° for 7-10 min.

I found the second recipe on Jann Brett’s website and highly recommend you check that out. There is a book that goes along with it, which I am sure you can find at the library, as well as many other activities for children. This is the book where the boy opens the oven to peek at the gingerbread baby and it jumps out and runs away. You do have to keep a close eye on these kinds of cookies.  (In picture below: Grace, David, Paul 2002)           

Now you need to decorate with royal icing and the candies and dried fruits of your choice. We usually have red hots, small candy canes, broken candy cane “crumbs”, currants or raisins, chocolate chips, vanilla chips, Christmas sprinkles, and whatever else seems like a good idea. 

You can find the Meringue Powder on the cake decorating aisle in stores such as Wal-mart, Jo-Ann’s, Michael’s, and Hobby Lobby. I divide all the icing into the plastic icing sleeves you can get from the same place you got the Meringue Powder. Don’t bother using a tip, just cut a small hole in the end of the bag so when you are finished you can throw it all away and not have to dig the tip out of the icing. To prevent icing from being squeezed out the top of the bag while little decorators are concentrating on the other end, I twist the top and secure it with a clothespin. I find that a muffin tin makes a handy container for all the decorations and keeps sticky hands out of the original containers. 


makes 3 cups which will be just enough if you are doing this with children. 

3 level teaspoons of Meringue Powder

1 lb. powdered sugar, no need to sift

5-6 Tbs. lukewarm water

1 tsp. flavoring (optional) We used peppermint extract.

Make sure bowl and all utensils are grease free. Mix sugar and meringue powder at low speed to blend. Add water and mix at low-medium speed 7-10 minutes, until icing loses its sheen. The texture should be just like toothpaste. To prevent drying, which happens quickly, keep bowl covered with a damp cloth while working. Also, cover tips of icing bags with damp cloth when not in use. Store in airtight container up to 2 weeks. To be really safe, cover with saran wrap first, then a lid. Put the saran wrap directly on top of leftover icing to keep air off. DO NOT REFRIGERATE. To reuse, beat on low to restore original texture. 

Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies

This is gingerbread for big girls. I like to bake just one dozen at a time (so I don’t get to be too big of a girl) and freeze the rest of the dough, to bake as needed. These cookies are extra special because they have fresh ginger AND chocolate chips. 


1 C. butter

2 Tbs. grated ginger root

1 C. dark brown sugar

1 C. molasses

2 tsp. baking soda  

3 C. + 2 Tbs. flour   

2 1/2 tsp. ginger   

2 tsp. cinnamon   

1/2 tsp. cloves   

1/2 tsp. nutmeg    

2 tsp. cocoa

2 C. chocolate chips

1/2 C. sugar (to roll in)

Cream butter, ginger root and brown sugar. Beat in molasses. Dissolve soda in 3 tsp. boiling water. Combine flour and spices then alternate adding flour with baking soda mixture to butter mixture. Stir in chocolate. Chill 2 hours. Roll into 1 1/2” balls, roll in sugar. Bake at 325° 10-12 min. until surface cracks slightly.  Do not over bake. You want to keep the chewiness. Cool 5 min. before transferring to rack. 

I have a very nifty mini-scoop that is just right for cookie dough. This dough is sticky even after chilling, so I make sure to coat the inside of the scoop in sugar before I use it each time. 

Here you see the dozen I baked and shared, and the rest of the dough I froze on waxed paper, then bagged up. 

© Being Fruitful, 2012