If you’re feeling ambitious and want to bake some festive (and mailable!) cookies, these cookies are time-consuming but VERY worth it! I don’t know where my family got the recipe, but we’ve been making them at this time of year for as long as I can remember.
And if you have a variety of cookie cutters, you can also use them for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Easter, Valentine’s Day, and just about anything else you can think of.
Holiday Iced Sugar Cookies
From Mom and Grandma
1 C shortening
1 C sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 t vanilla
1 C buttermilk
5 C flour
2 t baking powder
1.5 t salt
1 t baking soda
- Cream the shortening and sugar in a large bowl until smooth.
- In a separate small bowl, add the eggs and vanilla to the buttermilk.
- In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda and mix well.
- Alternate gradually adding the wet and dry mixtures from steps 2 and 3 to the shortening and sugar mixture.
- Mix well until you have a dough, then separate the dough into two or three parts, wrap the parts in plastic wrap, ad chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
- Sprinkle flour over a large flat surface for rolling the cookies, then place one unwrapped package of dough on the floured surface, sprinkle a little more flour over it, and use a floured rolling pin to roll it about 1/4-1/2″ thick. The cookie dough will rise a little in the oven. Rolling the dough thinner makes thinner cookies, but thinner cookies also tend to be more fragile and retain less moisture.
- Use cookie cutters to cut shapes out of the dough and transfer them to an oiled or nonstick cookie sheet.
- Re-roll the scraps of dough and cut more cookies, reapplying flour as needed. When you don’t have enough scraps to re-roll, combine them with the next package of dough and continue until you’ve used all of the dough.
- Bake the cookies at 375 °F for 15 minutes or until the cookies lightly brown (they should still be an overall creamy color, though, as very brown indicates they’re burning).
- Let the cookies cool completely before icing them. I usually let them cool, put them away, and ice them the next day since by this point I’m near the end of my attention span for baking for the day.
TIP: I recommend getting an oven thermometer to keep in your oven (you can find some pretty inexpensive ones that work well). Many older ovens don’t heat to the temperature that you set them to, resulting in their taking longer to bake and drying out the cookies before you see any signs of browning.
2 C powdered sugar
1/4 C butter or margarine
1 can evaporated milk
sprinkles, colored beads, etc.
- Cream the butter in a medium-sized bowl.
- Gradually alternate adding sifted sugar and evaporated milk, beginning with as much sugar as you can mix in and following with a little evaporated milk each time, until you have icing of a slightly thicker consistency than you prefer for icing cookies (coloring the icing will water it down a little). You will use all of the sugar but only a little of the evaporated milk.
- Divide the icing into bowls for as many colors as you’d like, then use food coloring to color the icing. If after coloring the icing it’s still thicker than you want it (it should be soft and spreadable), mix in a little more cream. If it’s too thin, mix in a little more powdered sugar. NOTE: Making bright red and bright green icing requires a lot of food coloring. Also, the icing hardens a little over time, so if you spend a while icing cookies, you might need to add a little cream to resoften the icing if it gets difficult to spread.
- Use a butter knife and/or a pastry bag with decorating tips to ice the cookies and let the cookies sit for a few hours (overnight for thicker icing) before touching them so that the icing will set. If the icing is still a little soft when you need to put them away, layer them between wax paper in the container so that they don’t stick to each other.
Tips for Icing Cookies:
- Make the icing a little thinner (but not runny) if you use a pastry bag so that it doesn’t clog the opening.
- If you don’t have a pastry bag and decorating tips, cut the tip off of a sturdy baggie and fill it with icing. Make sure to twist the end so that icing doesn’t come out of the backside when you squeeze it.
- When you get tired of icing cookies, use the pastry bag or baggie method to draw outlines or squiggles on the rest of the cookies to speed up the rest of the icing. If you’re mailing cookies, keep in mind that the icing is a little more fragile this way since it has less surface area touching the cookie and flour leftover from rolling the dough make it more difficult for the icing to stick. Another option: leave some of the cookies icing-free (they taste wonderful that way!).
- If you want to ice red and white next to each other on a cookie, ice the red part of the cookie first, then let it set a little and ice some other cookies before coming back to add the white icing. This way the red will be less likely to bleed into the white. Also, thicker icing reduces this risk, as well.
- If you want to coat part of a cookie in sprinkles or sugar, ice that part of the cookie, dip it into the sprinkles, and then ice the other part after shaking off any excess sprinkles.
- Thinner icing results in a smoother finish on the cookie, while thicker icing is easier to control (when icing with a butter knife) and gives a more textured finish on the cookie.
- When icing with a butter knife, you can get smooth edges to the icing if you push the icing outward from the center of the cookie with the knife and stop a little bit before you reach the edge of the cookie.
- If you think icing cookies looks like a lot of work, enlist help! Make it an excuse to get together with friends and drink some wine. :)