Esther’s Sugar Cookies

Decorating holiday cookies is a wonderful tradition!  Esther’s Sugar Cookies are tender and soft, and the dough can be rerolled as many times as you need.  Happy baking…and decorating!

Decorating holiday cookies is an wonderful tradition!  Esther's Sugar Cookies are tender and soft, and the dough can be rerolled as many times as you need.  Happy baking...and decorating!I never knew Esther.  Esther was a local legend in the White City, Kansas area.  You see, my friend Debbie Lyons-Blythe is a farmer, rancher and blogger out in White City.  A couple months back, we got to chatting about family recipes and how these recipes make their way into our collective recipe boxes.  Debbie told me that when she got married, her friends threw her a shower where everyone wrote down a recipe and gave it to her.  The key here: each recipe was hand-written by the giver.  What a cool idea!  And Debbie noted that many of these recipes are still in her regular rotation today.

Decorating holiday cookies is an wonderful tradition!  Esther's Sugar Cookies are tender and soft, and the dough can be rerolled as many times as you need.  Happy baking...and decorating!But back to Esther and her sugar cookies.  Esther was well known in town.  She was a short lady with a feisty attitude…and she always had cookies.  In fact, her nickname around town was “Cookie Grandma.”  As I was chatting with Debbie about Esther, I could totally picture what she must have been like.  In fact, she reminds me of my grandma in many ways.  When Esther was in her late 80’s and early 90’s, she’d go around town picking up the mail for the “old people” in town.  Each year, Esther would ride through town on the Halloween parade float.  Oh, and did I mention that Esther was famous for her cookies?

Esther’s Sugar Cookies

Debbie passed the recipe for Esther’s Sugar Cookies along to me recently, and the first thing I noticed was that it called for margarine.  Not only did the recipe call for margarine, but Esther very specifically noted “do NOT use butter” for these cookies.  I feel like margarine is one of those ingredients that has largely fallen by the wayside.  It was a household staple several generations ago, but now I had to seriously hunt for a package of margarine in the store.  Maybe it’s because upstate NY is a big dairy state, but butter by far dominated margarine in the dairy section.  However, I wasn’t about to question Esther!

Decorating holiday cookies is an wonderful tradition!  Esther's Sugar Cookies are tender and soft, and the dough can be rerolled as many times as you need.  Happy baking...and decorating!Esther’s Sugar Cookies are soft cookies in the very best way possible.  And as Esther notes in her recipe, this cookie dough can be rolled out again and again without getting tough.  That makes it a good one for Christmas sugar cookies.  I decided to make a batch of these sugar cookies because, well, cookies.  And because I feel like it would make Esther proud to share her recipe out here on the world wide web.  This one’s for you, Esther!

Decorating holiday cookies is an wonderful tradition!  Esther's Sugar Cookies are tender and soft, and the dough can be rerolled as many times as you need.  Happy baking...and decorating!In addition to the traditional Christmas cookies, I decided to go one step further and make some farm-themed cookies, too.  (I found this set of farm cookie cutters on Amazon.)  I’ve been to Morris County, Kansas.  It’s not a big place.  There are far more cows than people in that part of Kansas.  According to the last official census, there were 6,000 people in the county….and 77,000 cows.  In fact, when Debbie and I were chatting back in the summer about Esther’s cookies, she sent me a snapshot of what she was doing at that very moment.  She was making hay.  Literally.  Now I’ve never been a farmer, but I must admit that this view is really nice!

Making Hay with DebbieTruth be told, I also cut out some cow-shaped cookies, but I ended up not decorating them.  I didn’t have any brown food coloring on hand – imagine that!  I googled how to use other colors to make brown, but it ended up looking like a camouflage green.  If I wanted cookies that looked like US Army cows, then that would have been fine.  But I wanted brown cows!  Of course, I could’ve used black to represent the Black Angus cows on Debbie’s farm, but I didn’t think about that until it was too late.  Next time, Debbie, next time!

Decorating holiday cookies is an wonderful tradition!  Esther's Sugar Cookies are tender and soft, and the dough can be rerolled as many times as you need.  Happy baking...and decorating!As we head into the holiday season, make sure to schedule an afternoon to make Esther’s Sugar Cookies.  If you’ve got little hands around, ask them to help out!  Decorating Christmas cookies is a wonderful tradition, and no holiday season should pass without a round (or two) of cookies.  From the Spiced house (and Esther) to your family, I hope you have a wonderful holiday season full of tasty sugar cookies!

Did you make a batch of Esther’s Sugar Cookies at home?  Leave a comment.  Or snap a photo and tag me on Instagram (@Spicedblog).  Happy baking!

Decorating holiday cookies is an wonderful tradition!  Esther's Sugar Cookies are tender and soft, and the dough can be rerolled as many times as you need.  Happy baking...and decorating!

Esther's Sugar Cookies

Decorating holiday cookies is an wonderful tradition!  Esther's Sugar Cookies are tender and soft, and the dough can be rerolled as many times as you need.  Happy baking...and decorating!
5 from 10 votes
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Decorating Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 20 minutes
Servings: 24 servings (variable based on cookie sizes)
Calories: 231kcal

Ingredients

Esther’s Sugar Cookies

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup margarine Note: Do not use butter for this recipe
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt

Sugar Cookie Frosting

  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 3-4 Tbsp milk
  • 2 Tbsp light corn syrup
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • food coloring optional
  • sprinkles optional

Instructions

For the Cookies

  • Using an electric mixer, add sugar, margarine, eggs and vanilla; beat on medium speed until well combined.
  • In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt together. Add dry ingredients to the mixing bowl in several additions, beating after each addition.
  • Cover and refrigerate dough for several hours or overnight.
  • Preheat oven to 375°F.
  • Working on a floured surface, roll dough to about 1/8” thick. Cut cookies into desired shapes. (Note: This dough can be rolled out again and again without getting tough.)
  • Bake cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet for 8-10 minutes or until the edges begin to turn light brown.
  • Sprinkle cookies generously with sugar or decorate as desired.

For the Frosting

  • Using a medium mixing bowl, add powdered sugar, milk, corn syrup and vanilla extract; stir until well combined.
  • If coloring the frosting, divide frosting into bowls and color at this point.
  • Transfer frosting into piping bags fitted with a piping tip or ziptop bags with the corners snipped off.
  • Pipe frosting onto cookies and decorate with sprinkles (optional).
  • Let cookies stand at room temperature for several hours, or until frosting has hardened.

Decorating holiday cookies is an wonderful tradition!  Esther's Sugar Cookies are tender and soft, and the dough can be rerolled as many times as you need.  Happy baking...and decorating!

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33 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    ‘Do not use butter for this recipe’, lol. That’s some serious words! Ester must know her stuff! These look super cute, David, and I’d have just as much fun decorating them as eating them 🙂 Also, love the idea of hand written family recipes. So sweet. All my Friday needs now is a big stack of these and a tall glass of milk….and maybe a coffee…after all, it is early 😉 Happy weekend, my friend!

    1. Hah! Tell me about it, Dawn. I use butter like it’s going out of style in this house…but margarine? I had to seriously hunt for it! But Esther was right. This dough is soft and rollable, and you can just keep rolling up the scraps without them getting tough. Perfect Christmas cookie material right there! 🙂

  2. 5 stars
    Interesting thought, David. My mom as many other bakers used to use only margarine for baking all the time (It was hard to buy butter in Russia 30+ years ago, so it was a precious ingredient), and I believe many people all over the world would use it too…And I am fine. I think margarine (as some other ingredients) has been unfairly ostracized lately. It doesn’t mean you need to start using margarine in every single recipe (I am still sceptical about its benefits. Besides, good butter is just so much more delicious!), but I don’t think using it once in a while will hurt.
    Also, these cookies are beautiful. Love the farm-themed once – it’s like if Santa lived on a farm 🙂 You should have decorated the cows with red & green and pretend they’re Santa’s reindeers living on a farm, too 🙂

    1. Yeah, margarine really has been pushed to the wayside. I’m guilty of it myself. We only use butter around here. In fact, I had to hunt down on the bottom shelf at the grocery store to find the margarine for these cookies. (I had to use margarine…I’m not about to argue with ‘Cookie Grandma’!)

      Oooo…man, I missed my opportunity with the red and green cow-reindeers! I’ll have to do that on the next batch. 🙂

  3. 5 stars
    I still use margarine in quite a few of my recipes. Especially the ones handed down from my mother to me. I think its because her recipes were from her mum and after WW2 when butter was in short supply still so margarine was the substitute. But yes it has become less obvious on the supermarket shelves. Although I do notice a lot of vegan spreads that are suitable for baking now. Your cookies look really cute. I’m sure Robbie enjoyed eating them too! Have a good weekend!

    1. I think you’re totally right about WW2 and butter vs. margarine, Neil. I know older recipes use margarine all the time. I rarely use margarine now. In fact, I’ve gone through and updated old recipes to use butter instead. However, I wasn’t about to argue with Cookie Grandma on this one! Her cookies turned out mighty tasty, too…so margarine it is for this recipe. 🙂

    1. I would be interested in trying a blind taste test. I know you have to adjust the water (liquid) content of recipes when you use margarine. I think the result is cookies with margarine are softer. Butter tends to make things crispy. Either way, I still think a test is in order. Drop by around 6pm tonight? 🙂

    1. I totally agree with you about recipes that have been handed down through the generations. There’s a reason they are ‘tried and true!’ Cookie Grandma certainly knew her stuff, and it was a real honor to make and share her recipe here. 🙂 Thanks, Kathy!

    1. Oh man, I had so much fun decorating these cookies that afternoon, Valentina! And then I had so much fun eating them, too. 🙂 Thank you so much, my friend!

  4. 5 stars
    Well, Mr. David, that’s some fine cookie decorating, by the way, I’d like to of seen the camo cows. Old aunt Ester did know here stuff as that’s a fine cookie recipe.
    Over here we use margarine for many a baking recipe. It comes in big 500 gram (just over a pound) blocks and almost every cookie recipe I’ve made here in Sweden used margarine. I recently tried making a caramel cookie using butter instead of the called out margarine and the were too rich. Bet you didn’t think you’d ever hear me say that.
    I’m not a baker and haven’t a clue why margarine works better than butter in some recipes, but like Jeff, I would like to know why as well.

    1. Oh, you didn’t want to see those camo cows, Ron. The real Army cows would’ve been so disappointed if I had shown that photo. 🙂

      So I think margarine makes cookies softer. Margarine also has higher liquid content, so you have to add more liquid to a recipe when you switch from margarine to butter. (That could’ve been the problem with the caramel cookie?) I normally use butter for everything (I buy it in huge 4-pound packs!) but I wasn’t about to argue with Cookie Grandma here! Plus, these cookies turned out amazingly well. Thanks, Ron!

  5. 5 stars
    Awww Esther sounds adorable! I haven’t thought about margarine in years (I grew up eating it and vividly remember the first time I had real butter). While I’m not a margarine fan, if Esther says it’s necessary for her cookies then I’ll trust her; they look delicious!

    1. I’m right there with ya, Kelsie! I use butter for everything, and I seriously had to hunt to even find margarine in the store. But I’m not about to argue with Cookie Grandma. She knew her stuff for sure as these cookies are amazing! 🙂

    1. I totally agree with you about the handwritten recipes! What a fun idea…and so cool that Debbie still uses many of those recipes today. Each one has a story behind it! 🙂

  6. This was such a fun read! Esther was my great aunt, her and my grandma were sisters.
    And yes, Esther was indeed a spitfire!

    1. Hey Lacie! Wow, that an honor that this post made it’s way to you. I never met Esther, but I’d heard all about her from Debbie. She reminds me of my own grandma in so many ways. 🙂 Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting. It truly means the world to me that I was able to share Esther’s story and recipe here!!

  7. It is THAT time of year again, David!! Planning to roll out a double batch of Esther’s sugar cookies this weekend. Now to find the margarine…

    1. Haha! I think the only time I buy margarine is to make these cookies. 🙂 Happy Holidays to you and your family – I miss seeing you at random events around the country!!

    1. Hey Jess! This is indeed a very soft dough – that’s what allows you to reroll the scraps again and again (and again) without the dough becoming tough. I agree that it seems a bit strange, but stick with it! Just make sure to use a generous amount of flour dusted on the countertop when you roll out the dough. Happy baking!

      1. I think 2 eggs are too much. The mix was way too sticky and wet even with a generous amount of flour, and the addition of baking soda and baking powder caused them to rise unevenly, even with being chilled. Thank you for your feedback, but for me this recipe didn’t work at all.

        1. I’m sorry to hear that this recipe didn’t work for you, Jess. I’m not sure what went wrong! I make this recipe at least once (sometimes twice) every holiday season, and I’ve never had it fail. Best of luck in your future baking adventures, though!

        2. I noticed that you are located in New Zealand, Jess. I wonder if margarine there is different from margarine here in the US. For us, margarine comes in 2 forms: a spreadable version and a stick version. The stick version is what is used for baking recipes like this one. I’m not sure if that’s the culprit here, but I suspect it might be. Either way, I’m sorry this recipe didn’t work out for you.

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