After today, you and I will have very few secrets. The recipe I’m sharing this morning is nearest and dearest to my heart and is one that I’ve been savoring for years- my Mimi’s frosted sugar cookies.
Every Christmas, for as long as I can remember, my Mimi would make these frosted sugar cookies. Sometimes I’d join her at the counter to watch her roll out dough. Tediously, she’d flour her surface, then the rolling pin. I’d tinker with her copper cookie cutters while she trimmed the dough and placed the shapes on cookie sheets. While the kitchen warmed from the heat of the oven and the scent of butter and vanilla, I’d pick at remnants of dough, nibbling on whatever was stuck to the beaters and the bowl.
We’d then gather around the table, some of us eagerly and others by the hair, as racks of bare cookies were placed in front of us. Bowls of green, red, yellow, and white frosting came next, and we’d all dive in with our butter knives to begin frosting. The thirty minutes that followed is a blur of sprinkles and licked fingers, and by the time all of the cookies were frosted, the icing was gone, having been replaced with full bellies and stained hands. We’d nibble on cookies from the freezer for weeks, each one a savoring of the Christmas season and our time together.
Continuing the Traditions
Now, as an adult, I make these frosted sugar cookies for my own family. I think about the time and the effort it takes, and I remember the years when no one wanted to frost cookies because we were all so involved in our own thing. Still, every year, Mimi made cookies, and I have to believe it had less to do with her sweet tooth and more to do with a desire to create something meaningful for her family. That small act, the baking and frosting of cookies, somehow became apart of our Christmas season, and it’s all because of Mimi.
What is the sum of the small acts of love that we share with others? I wonder if, when we get to the later years of our lives, we’ll be able to look back on those tiny things and recognize the difference they made in our families. Will we recall something simple, like a recipe for frosted sugar cookies, and be able to recognize the joy it inspired in the lives around us?
“It’s the small things that culminate to a life overflowing with abundance.”
To the mothers and fathers and Mimis and neighbors who sew into the lives of the people around you, I want you to know that it makes a difference. Your effort, particularly at this time of year, means something. It has the potential to deeply impact lives when done so from a spirit of love. Small acts, like a batch of cookies and a few moments around the table, can mark someone so profoundly that, years later, they are moved to tears from the overwhelming sense of love and gratitude that those moments offered their lives. I take comfort knowing that daily acts for my own children may be filling their tanks with love. Maybe it’s the small things that culminate to a life overflowing with abundance.
You may already have a favorite Christmas cookie. If you don’t, I invite you to enjoy these frosted sugar cookies with your own family. While not perfect or the prettiest or frilliest or most impressive, these frosted sugar cookies are delicious, and will be a recipe that your people won’t be able to keep their hands off of. Promise.
Making the Cookies
To make them, we start with the dough. Butter and sugar cream together before eggs, vanilla, and the dry ingredients add in. Once the dough comes together, wrap it in plastic and chill. When you’re ready to bake the cookies, use a floured rolling pin to smooth the dough into a 1/8-1/4″ thick slab. Next, begin to cut out shapes with medium-sized cookie cutters. When your sheet pan is full, place it in the oven until the cookies are barely puffed.
This recipe for frosted sugar cookies makes a boatload- nearly 4 dozen. You’ll need friends to help you frost them, so invite all of your favorites over, okay? The frosting for these cookies is similar to a buttercream- the perfect match to the cookies. I use gel food coloring to dye the icing and work at frosting them with a simple butter knife; you can use whatever tools suit you best. Just have a blast while making them, okay?
If you like these frosted sugar cookies, be sure to check out:
Soft Frosted Sugar Cookies
These soft frosted sugar cookies are light and fluffy, perfect for cutout holiday cookies. The frosting is a creamy buttercream that can be spread and sprinkled!
- Prep Time: 60
- Cook Time: 30
- Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
- Yield: 36
For the cookies:
- 1 cup (230 gm) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 cups (400 gm) sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 5 cups (650 gm) flour
- 1–1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
- 1–1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- Pinch of salt
For the frosting:
- 6 tablespoons (85 gm) unsalted butter
- 1 pound confectioner’s sugar
- 1 large pasteurized egg
- 1–1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
To prepare the cookies:
- In the bowl of a stand mixer or a large mixing bowl, combine the butter and sugar, creaming on medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, vanilla, and milk, and stir to combine for an additional 30 seconds. Scrape the sides of the bowl.
- In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix slowly until well incorporated. Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Divide the dough into two flat rounds and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour or up to 3 days.
- When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare two pans by lining them with a sheet of parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Generously flour a work surface and roll one round of dough out to 1/8-1/4” thick using a floured rolling pin. Use medium-sized cookie cutters to cut out shapes of dough and place them 2” apart on the prepared pans. Place the whole pan in the freezer for 5 minutes (or fridge for 10) to set the shaped dough and then bake in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies are well-set. Allow to cool on the pan briefly and then remove to a cooling rack to cool completely. Repeat this process with the remaining dough. Try not to get the dough too-floured or overworked as this can change the texture of the cookies. If your dough gets too warm or sticky, place back in the fridge to chill a bit.
To prepare the frosting:
- In a large bowl, combine the butter, sugar, egg, vanilla, and salt, mixing until well combined. Add milk by the tablespoon until the frosting is thick but smooth, similar to the consistency of a thick cake buttercream. Use gel food coloring to dye the frosting and a knife to spread the frosting on the cookie. Enjoy!
- Parchment paper isn’t necessary but helps the cookies keep their shape.
- Pasteurized eggs are key for enjoying this frosting safely! Admittedly, I’ve prepared the frosting without pasteurized eggs a million times without any “trouble,” but to be food safe, you’ll want to get them anyways.
- The frosting recipe makes a modest amount. If you want to have generously frosted cookies or quite a bit of extra to play with, double to recipe to be safe.