Holiday Butter Cookies

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Yield: 5 dozen 2" cookies

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These buttery sugar cookies roll out nicely, and have a beautifully tender/crisp texture.

Note: If you're looking for our recipe for Vanilla Sugar Cookie Cutouts, we've incorporated it into this recipe, since the two cookies are virtually identical, aside from the Cutouts being just slightly puffier. For puffier cookies with a more relaxed shape, add 3/8 teaspoon baking powder to this recipe.

Holiday Butter Cookies

star rating (109) rate this recipe »
Hands-on time:
Baking time:
Total time:
Yield: 5 dozen 2" cookies
Published: 01/01/2010




  • 2 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar or glazing sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons, or up to 2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon milk; enough to make a pourable/spreadable icing
  • food coloring, optional
  • 1 cup coarse sugar or colored sugar for decorating, optional

Tips from our bakers

  • If you use unsalted butter, increase the amount of salt in the recipe to 1 teaspoon.
  • To flavor cookies in alternate ways, try 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, or 1 teaspoon almond extract, or a combination. For extra-strong flavors (eggnog, butter rum, etc.), start with 1/8 teaspoon, and flavor to taste.
  • To top cookies with colored sugar before baking (no icing necessary), reserve the egg white form the yolk you've used in the dough. Mix the white with 1 tablespoon water. Lightly paint the cookies with the egg white/water, sprinkle with colored sugar, and bake.
  • This glaze is a little on the thick side, and it isn't perfectly smooth when you apply it, but should settle into a smooth surface within half a minute or so. Glaze one cookie and set it aside for a minute. Has the glaze settled into a smooth surface? If so, it's the right consistency. Remember, it's easier to add more liquid than to stir in more sugar, so start with a glaze that's thicker than you think it should be, then add milk little by little to adjust the consistency.


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1) To make the cookies: Combine the sugar, butter, egg yolk, salt, and flavor, beating until smooth. Add the flour, mixing until smooth. The mixture will seem dry at first, but will suddenly come together. If it doesn't, dribble in a tablespoon of water.

2) Divide the dough in half, shape each half into a flattened disk, and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for 2 hours, or overnight. When you're ready to bake, remove the dough from the refrigerator, and let it soften for about 20 to 30 minutes, until it feels soft enough to roll. It should still feel cold, but shouldn't feel rock-hard.

3) Sprinkle your rolling surface with flour, and flour your rolling pin. Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll it 1/8" to 3/16" thick. Use a cookie cutter to cut shapes. Re-roll and cut the dough scraps. Place the cookies on ungreased or parchment-lined baking sheets. They can be close together; they'll barely spread.

4) Bake the cookies in a preheated 350°F oven for 12 to 14 minutes, until they're set and barely browned around the edges.

5) Remove the cookies from the oven, and cool right on the pan. If you've used parchment, you can lift cookies and parchment off the pan, so you can continue to use the pan as the cookies cool.

6) Repeat with the remaining piece of dough, rolling, cutting, and baking cookies. When cookies are completely cool, ice and decorate.

7) Icing: Combine the sugar, milk, and corn syrup to make a soft, spreadable icing, adding more milk if necessary. Tint the icing with food color as desired.

8) Spread icing on the cookies, using a knife, a spoon, or your finger to spread it all the way to the edges. Sprinkle with colored sugar or other sugar decorations, as desired. Allow the icing to harden before storing the cookies.

Yield: about 5 dozen 2" cookies.

Nutrition information

Serving Size: 1 cookie Servings Per Batch: 60 Amount Per Serving: Calories: 80 Calories from Fat: 30 Total Fat: 3.5g Saturated Fat: 2g Trans Fat: 0g Cholesterol: 10mg Sodium: 20mg Total Carbohydrate: 12g Dietary Fiber: 0g Sugars: 7g Protein: 1g

* The nutrition information provided for this recipe is determined by the ESHA Genesis R&D software program. Substituting any ingredients may change the posted nutrition information.


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  • star rating 04/03/2015
  • Anne from Hopkinton, NH
  • Tastes great, fairly easy to roll. Icing covered the batch of cookies, though I needed much more milk ( I weigh ingredients so was a bit surprised). I usually use Royal icing but that doesn't look shiny when dry- hope this becomes a good substitute.
  • star rating 02/22/2015
  • mrmoran from KAF Community
  • Perfect butter cookies, in my estimation. The dough was very easy to roll out, and the cookies kept their shapes beautifully. Used the lazy woman's approach of just sprinkling coarse sugars on tops before the bake, but the cookies were so tasty that I'll invest more time to give them proper icing on the next go -- shamrocks for March 17.
  • star rating 02/14/2015
  • Rene M from North Carolina
  • I've tried a lot of cut-out sugar cookie recipes and this one by far is the best. I do a lot of baking and want the best always. This is it! The taste is great and it rolls out well.
  • star rating 02/02/2015
  • Jet from Fayetteville, PA
  • I have been using this recipe for several years now. These sugar cookies are without compare. The confectioner's sugar used in the dough makes them melt-in-your mouth. I have received so many comments (and requests for the recipe) throughout the time I've been using this recipe. I have only used vanilla, not the flavoring listed in the recipe.
  • star rating 01/17/2015
  • smwgoodwin from KAF Community
  • I made these following the recipe and they are delicious, the dough is easy to work with, and they make wonderful holiday cookies. They are pretty breakable, though, which is the trade-off for that tender/crispy texture.
  • star rating 01/04/2015
  • ellent124 from KAF Community
  • Just delicious! Very nice texture, easy to roll & cut. I used only vanilla to flavor. My son commented on how much he liked them. Thanks --great recipe.
  • star rating 12/28/2014
  • jencoym from KAF Community
  • Wonderful recipe! This will be my new "go-to" recipe for sugar cookies. The cookies are flaky and so tasty but they do not puff up. They are perfect for decorating. The tip about baking and cooling on parchment was great- I also decorated on parchment which protected my kitchen from sprinkle mess.
  • star rating 12/23/2014
  • Nancy Davidonis from Charleston, South Carolina
  • Cookie to die for!! Amen to all the previous positive comments. I did roll my dough out on parchment using plastic wrap on top of the dough. No stick, no fuss - just pick up the wrap and straighten it out to remove creases from the cookies. After cutting out - still on the parchment - I picked out the scraps, baked on the parchment and cool on the parchment. My cut outs never were really a success until I tried this!!
  • star rating 12/23/2014
  • Linda from Fitchburg, ma.
  • This is a wonderful recipe. The cookies are so flavorful. They were so easy to roll and cut out. My husband really enjoyed eating them Thanks, Linda
  • star rating 12/21/2014
  • Abi from Palmyra, PA
  • A perfect cut out cookie for decorating. Holds it's shape with no spreading or ballooning. Use your best quality flavoring for maximum oomph. The sidebar directions are spot on - chill the dough, but don't try rolling it out until you've allowed the dough to warm ever so slightly. If you try to roll it out and the dough cracks or splits, it's too cold. I was able to roll out wafer thin cookies, which is a true feat for me! Mine baked up a bit faster than the times stated in the recipe, but that was most likely due to the thinness of my dough and the type of oven, cookie sheets, etc. The tip about letting the cookies cool on your parchment paper was most helpful. That way, the little guys hold their shape and there's no risk of distorting or breaking them when you transfer them to racks for final cooling.
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