My family loves Christmas traditions and one of our most longstanding annual treats is baking and decorating cinnamon sugar cookies. My mom found a recipe like 30 years ago and we’ve been using it every year since. To me, it’s not the holiday season until the baking begins and these festive cookies are always a huge hit. They are the perfect snack with coffee in the morning and the best way to wrap up a Christmas dinner. And because these cookies are so pretty and travel well, they are some of my favorite sweets to give away to friends and family in December. Read on the full recipe. Happy baking!

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Dough ingredients:

  • 1⁄2 cup salted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1⁄4 cup milk
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2-1⁄4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Makes about 4 1⁄2 dozen thin cookies or about 2 1⁄2 dozen thick cookies.

Prepping the dough:

  1. Soften the butter or margarine either by letting it stand at room temperature for a short time or by beating it in a mixer until creamy. Do not let the butter become too soft or melt.
  2. In a mixer bowl cream together the softened butter and sugar until it is fluffy.
  3. Add the egg and mix.
  4. Add the milk and vanilla, beat mixture very well.
  5. In a separate bowl stir together the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. (If desired, omit the cinnamon and substitute ground nutmeg.) Thoroughly combine the dry ingredients.
  6. Add dry ingredients to the creamed mixture and beat until blended. If you’re using a Kitchen-Aid (which I do), the dough might start getting too thick for the mixer. If this happens, just finish mixing with a wooden spoon.
  7. Divide the dough in half and wrap each half in clear plastic wrap. Place in refrigerator for a minimum of one hour to firm the dough and make it easier to roll. Since we’re usually pretty busy, we’ll make a triple batch of dough and let it chill overnight.

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Baking the cookies:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees
  2. After the dough has chilled, roll each half on a lightly floured surface to desired thickness, approximately 1/8 inch.
  3. Roll out dough from center to edges with a rolling pin that has been slightly floured as well.
  4. Cut dough into desired shapes using floured cookie cutters. If you’re in the market for new cookie cutters, stick to thin metal ones. I tend to have a harder time separating the dough from the cookie cutter with plastic ones. I love these festive cookie cutters from Sur La Table and Target.
  5. Place cutouts as close together as possible so very little dough will need to be re-rolled. Too much rolling produces cookies that tend to be dry and tough. If dough becomes too soft, chill again. Keep the other half of the dough chilled until needed. Re-roll any extra dough to cut more cookies and if needed re-chill again before cutting.
  6. Place the cut cookies on an un-greased cookie sheet. My mom swears by AirBake cookie sheets, we each have two.
  7. Bake thin cookies for about 6-8 minutes and thick cookies about 10-12 minutes. When done, cookies will be ever so lightly browned around the edges.
  8. Remove cookies from baking sheet immediately and cool cookies on a wire rack. Don’t stack them until they are thoroughly cooled or they will stick together.

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We use a buttercream frosting because we prefer the taste compared to royal icing. Also, when we were kids, it was easy to help out with the cookie decoration using just a butterknife. Now since we always bake in bulk, the frosting recipe below will provide enough frosting for three batches of this cookie recipe.

Frosting ingredients:

  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla

Mixing the frosting:

  1. Beat butter in a mixing bowl until very smooth, but not melted
  2. Gradually add some of the powdered sugar to the butter and keep mixing.
  3. Add the milk and vanilla
  4. Keep adding powdered sugar until reaching desired consistency.

Getting the perfect frosting consistency for cookie decoration can be tricky. It needs to be thicker than traditional cake frosting to make sure it will harden sufficiently enough to be able to stack the cookies for storage. A good way to tell if the frosting is ready is if it no longer falls from the mixing attachment. It should pretty solidly stay put. If you plan to use food coloring in the frosting, adding that extra liquid could throw off the consistency as well. Depending on how much food coloring goes in, you might have to mix in a dash more powdered sugar.

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Then, just decorate and enjoy! For more from our Holiday Baking Series, check out these delish recipes for Pistachio Cookies and Lemon Squares.


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