Let me just get this out there:
How can I be so confident? Well, I've been making these sugar cookies for every special occasion since 1984. Kids love them, adults love them; they are simply loved by all. I can't take credit for the actual recipe. It was shared with me by my sister-in-law Rita, and it was shared with her by a friend. Who knows how far back it goes from there. Rita and her sister Jeanne make dozens and dozens of these cookies every year during the holiday season. I've been making them in a variety of shapes throughout the years for holidays, school parties, birthday parties, weddings, baby showers, graduations, super bowl parties, and any other special occasion you can think of. Like my toffee, these sugar cookies are expected when I have or attend a party. That's what makes them a signature recipe.
Below is a collection of some of my cookies through the years. (Forgive the poor photo quality--most of these were taken long before I had a decent camera.) That's me in the upper right photo in 1987 with my boys Bracken (now 30) and Tyler (aka T-Man, techie guy for The Yummy Life, now 27). We've rolled a lot of cookie dough through the years.
Baseball cookies. I made these for friend and Cardinal's fan Becca when we celebrated her 30th birthday at a St. Louis Cardinal's baseball game.
Get creative with shapes. If you can't find a cookie cutter for a specific occasion, chances are you can create what you need from existing shapes. My sons, Tyler and Bracken, have a software company called Less Annoying CRM. Below are cookies I made for their company. The cookies on the left replicate their company logo; I used a square cookie cutter on the bottom with a reversed capital "L" on top to mimic a check mark. The St. Louis Arch cookies on the right are made in their company colors using a modified capital "U" cookie cutter (simply spreading the 2 ends apart)--a fun treat to celebrate when their company was awarded an Arch Grant. So, you don't have to be limited by available cookie cutter shapes; get creative, and you may be surprised what you can come up with.
Cut-out cookies are festive and fun for every occasion. A plate of football-shaped cookies for a super bowl party frosted in the team colors, bunny & egg shapes for Easter, hearts for Valentines Day-- you name it. One recipe in different shapes suits every celebration. A plate of cut-out cookies can define a party theme or holiday. They simply belong at every celebration. So, for me, mastering this recipe has been a big part of my family's cooking, eating, and celebrating.
This is a soft sugar cookie. It's all about the soft texture that falls apart in your mouth. If you bake them too long, they get crispy. Don't do that--they are so much better soft.
Nutritional information (per cookie): 125 calories, 4.5g fat, 70mg sodium, 19.6g carbs, 10.7g sugars, 1.5g protein, 0g fiber; Weight Watchers PointsPlus: 3
Step 1. Assemble the ingredients:
view on Amazon: organic unbleached white flour (I use this as my go-to all-purpose flour.)
Step 2. Whisk flour, baking soda, & salt together & set aside.
Step 3. With an electric mixer, cream the butter and sour cream at low speed; add the sugar, eggs, and vanilla & mix until combined. It's okay if it's a little lumpy as long as no butter chunks are visible.
Step 4. Gradually add the flour mixture to the sour cream mixture, mixing until well combined. Dough will be sticky. If cookie dough is too thick for your mixer to handle, you can stir it by hand with a wooden spoon.
Step 5. Divide dough onto two pieces of plastic wrap; flatten dough, wrap tightly, and refrigerate until chilled, 1-2 hours.
About rolling the cookie dough,
there's one more thing I need to get out there:
You also need a cookie cutter or two or more, for whatever the occasion. I'm making cookies for Christmas cookie platters, so I'm making mittens.
Step 6. Heavily flour your work surface. The chilled dough is still sticky, so a generous amount of flour is needed to keep the rolled dough from sticking to the counter. Rub flour on the rolling pin, too. Put one of the pieces of dough on top of the floured surface and sprinkle the top of the dough with more flour. Starting at the center, roll the dough out to one edge; return to the center and roll to the opposite edge. Continue rolling from the center outward until the dough is an even 1/4" thick all over. Because my rolling pin has thickness guides on the ends, I roll my dough out long and narrow so the ends of the rolling pin don't touch the dough.
Step 7. Dip the cookie cutter in flour and cut out the dough. First cut shapes around the perimeter, and then work in towards the center--this way you can cut the most shapes from one piece.
Step 8. Transfer dough shapes to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. (You don't have to use parchment paper, but I'm a big believer in it.)
Step 9. Take the remaining fragments of dough, and pack them into a smooth ball. Flatten the ball, and roll and cut shapes as before.
Step 10. Bake at 350 degrees, 2 sheets at a time, rotating and switching pans half way through cooking time. Bake them just until they are baked all the way through but haven't started browning on the bottom. For a soft textured cookie, it's very important not to over bake them.
Step 11. Transfer hot cookies to a rack to cool completely.
Simple frosting & decorating. I frost these with a simple, tasty frosting. I don't use Royal Icing, even though it's very popular. Royal Icing has the advantage of drying very hard, making it easier to frost in multiple colors with lots of detail. But I personally don't think it tastes very good. My frosting is soft like the cookies, tastes good, and is quick and easy to apply. Let's face it, sugar cookies are labor intensive: mixing the dough, chilling the dough, rolling the dough, cutting the dough, baking the cookies. By the time I've done all that, I don't want to spend hours elaborately decorating the cookies. So, I keep that part simple. Frosting that tastes good and colored sprinkles. That's it. Here's how I make frosting:
Step 1. Combine powdered sugar, vanilla, softened butter, and half of the evaporated milk in a large bowl.
view on Amazon: 8-cup mixing/measuring bowl with lid (my go-to mixing bowl)
Step 2. Use an electric mixer to combine ingredients on a low speed until it's a thick paste consistency and all of the lumps are gone. It's much easier to remove the lumps when the frosting is thick. That's why I only add half of the milk in the beginning.
Step 3. Gradually add the remaining milk and continue mixing until frosting is a smooth, silky, spreadable consistency. If it's still thicker than you want, add more milk 1/2 teaspoon at a time until it's how you like it.
You can add food coloring to the frosting, if you like. I left mine uncolored for these mitten cookies, and relied on a variety of red and green sprinkles to make them colorful and festive.
view on Amazon: decorating sprinkles
Let the frosted cookies dry for a few hours before moving them to an air tight container. The frosting gets dry but not hard. I put waxed paper between layers of cookies to keep them from sticking and store them inside a large Rubbermaid container. They are good for several days this way.
view on Amazon: large Rubbermaid storage container
Below are the autumn leaf cookies I make every year--always a hit!
Easy time-saver slab cookies. No time for cut-outs? Try this easy adjustment to the recipe. Easy peasy and every bit as delicious.
Below are some I made for the 4th of July when I was short on time and didn't have time to cut and frost individual cookies. I cut my two sheets into a total of 48 squares.
Whether you make cut-outs or slab cookies, these are always a festive crowd pleaser.
Make it a Yummy day!
For more ideas using this cookie recipe,
check out this post:
ABC/123 Cookies for Every Occasion
This post was updated July 2014.