Classic Holiday Cookies

Classic Christmas Cookies: Thin butter cookie topped with icing and festive decorationsMaking Christmas cookies is one of my favorite holiday traditions.  I don’t know what it is, but I feel like the holidays haven’t fully begun until that first batch of Christmas cookies comes out of the oven.  I’ve been baking my fair share of desserts lately, like a Triple Chocolate Cheesecake, a Cappuccino Cheesecake, and even these Gingerbread Cookies…all of which rank pretty high on my list of favorite sweet treats.  But there’s something about the Classic Holiday Cookie.  You know the kind I mean.  Thin butter cookies cut into fun holiday shapes and then decorated with festive colors.  With Christmas just about a week away now, I think it’s finally time to break out the first batch of these Classic Holiday Cookies!  (And I highly suspect that this won’t be the only batch coming out of my kitchen this year…)

Classic Christmas Cookies: Thin butter cookie topped with icing and festive decorationsThese Classic Holiday Cookies are surprisingly addictive.  I find that the thin butter cookie base is the perfect contrast to the sweet icing on top.  Plus, these cookies are hand-decorated…which always makes them taste better!  Just because I say hand-decorated doesn’t mean they are hard to make, either.  Just take a look at some of the examples in the pictures.  You could top these with a simple icing and a sprinkle of colored, decorative sugar.  Heck, you could just sprinkle these with decorative sugar before they go into the oven and be done with it!  Of course, if decorating is your thing, then by all means have fun here.  Pipe fancy decorations on that Christmas tree cookie or festive ribbons on the holiday gift cookie!  The best part here is that the cookies will taste delicious no matter how you decorate them.  (Even if they look like Franken-cookies, they’ll still taste great!)

Classic Christmas CookiesDecorating holiday cookies is a great way to include the kids in the holiday festivities, too.  You can bake up a tray or two of these butter cookies and then invite the kids in to have a decorating party.  Just make sure to have a fun assortment of colored icings and festive decorations on hand!  In fact, start a new tradition in your house and have everyone decorate a bunch of these Classic Holiday Cookies.  Then everyone picks out their favorite one to leave for Santa on Christmas Eve.  Everyone wins with that game: the kids get to have fun making cookies for Santa…and Santa gets to have fun eating the cookies!  So get those cookie decorations out of the back of the pantry and have fun getting into the Christmas spirit!

Classic Christmas Cookies

Classic Holiday Cookies


    For the Cookies
  • 6 oz. (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 1 3/4 cups + 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • For the Royal Icing
  • 1 Tbsp meringue powder
  • 1.5 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 Tbsp water
  • For the Spreadable Icing
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbsp light corn syrup
  • 3 Tbsp milk
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • food coloring, as desired
  • For the Decorations
  • various colored sanding sugars and other holiday cookie decorations


    For the Cookies
  1. In the bowl of a countertop mixer with the paddle attached, cream together the butter and powdered sugar until well combined.
  2. Add the extracts and then sift the flour and salt into the bowl; mix until a smooth dough forms. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  3. Place about half of the dough on a well-floured counter and roll out to about 1/4" thick. (See below for a couple of tips on rolling the dough.)
  4. Cut the dough into desired shapes using cookie cutters. Reroll the scraps and continue cutting until all dough has been used.
  5. Bake on a parchment-lined sheet pan at 350°F until cookies turn light brown on the edges (~10-12 minutes). Allow cookies to cool fully before decorating.
  6. For the Royal Icing
  7. Whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl until a smooth icing forms. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.
  8. For the Spreadable Icing
  9. Whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl until a smooth icing forms. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.
  10. To Decorate
  11. Using a pastry bag with a small tip (or a sandwich bag with a very small corner snipped off), outline the edges of the cookies with the Royal Icing.
  12. If desired, sprinkle a generous amount of sanding sugar on top of the wet Royal Icing. (optional)
  13. Set aside and allow Royal Icing to dry (1-2 hours).
  14. Once the Royal Icing has dried, fill the centers of the cookies with the Spreadable Icing. Use a toothpick to pull the Spreadable Icing to the edges of the Royal Icing lines.
  15. Decorate with additional colored sanding sugars or other decorations. (optional).
  16. Allow cookies to fully dry before stacking or transporting them (4-5 hours).


Tip: If the dough seems too stiff to roll at first, then just let it rest at room temperature for a few minutes.

Tip: Place a piece of wax paper on top of the dough before you begin rolling it out. The wax paper will help prevent the dough from sticking to the rolling pin.


  1. Love cut out cookies! Thanks for sharing :)

    • Anytime! Thanks for stopping by, Laura! (Now I need to go make another batch of these cookies…the first batch, uh, mysteriously disappeared.

  2. Yay!! SO festive. Making Christmas cookies is my favorite tradition this time of the year. I always have a decoration party with my friends. Love just how it brings everyone together. Of course the sugar high is great too :)

    • I know!! You can’t help but be in a good mood when the Christmas cookies come out! (And the sugar high is the best part. I’ve actually found I like them more the next day, too!)

  3. “Royal icing” just sounds so freakin’ fancy, doesn’t it? I really need to try it, just to feel all fancy. Cute cookies, David!

    • It does sound all fancy pants…but it’s so flippin’ easy! It sets up all nice and hard so it’s perfect to use as the border on cookies. There are a bunch of versions of royal icing out there that call for egg whites, but I dunno…I prefer grabbing meringue powder from Michael’s and not messing with raw eggs. (Kinda like you and the ‘nog!)

  4. I love how you decorated these cookies. Pretty and prefect for the holidays! Baking cookies is one of my holiday traditions too. :)

  5. These cookies are so cute and festive David. Makes such a wonderful homemade holiday gift. Pinned. Have a stellar weekend!

  6. How many cookies does this recipe make??

    • Hey Sarah! I didn’t put a number of cookies because it depends on the size(s) of your cutters. I typically make a mix of “medium-sized” stars, candy canes, and larger trees, and I get about 2.5-3 dozen cookies from a batch. Sorry I can’t be more specific here…but I hope you enjoy them! These cookies are my favorite holiday cookies!!

  7. I just finished and they are great! I ended up with about 27 cookies! Getting ready to decorate them now! Thanks they are delicious and I will be adding them to my christmas traditions!

    • Thanks for coming back and letting me know, Sarah! The decorating does take a bit of time since it ideally needs to dry in between rounds…but it’s SO worth the effort! I’m so glad you enjoyed them! Happy Holidays!!

  8. Hello , may i ask if this recipe is usable for the cookie press. Is the recipe too thick to work for the cookie press??? >.< thank you.

    • Hey Shannon! I’ve never tried this recipe with a cookie press so I really have no idea what would happen. It’s not too hard to roll out (especially if you don’t chill the dough) but I’m afraid it may be a bit sticky for a press. If you do try the press, let me know if it works!! Sorry…I wish I could be more help here!

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