These quick and easy Holiday Sugar Cookies are such fun to decorate, and a joy to give out to friends and family. I show you how to make your own diy colored sugar, too, so you can get as creative as you want.
My roll out sugar cookie dough is foolproof!
If you’re tempted to reach for the refrigerated slice and bake cookie dough this time of year, I have to say I’m right there with you, and I bet I know exactly what’s going through your mind, too…does anybody really notice the difference anyway?…isn’t it the thought that counts? etc. etc. I totally get it, and I know that you have, like, zero free time these days, but just hear me out. These sugar cookies are completely doable…I’ve divided them up into three easy steps, so you can even stretch it out over a few days if you want to. Got sugar? Of course you do. Got food coloring? Check. How about meringue powder? Get it right in the supermarket baking section. Ok maybe you have no idea where your cookies cutters are, but once you find them…you got this!
classic cut out sugar cookies are a once a year tradition
When you break it up into manageable chunks, like I’ve done here, there’s no reason to miss out on the fun. The cookie itself is a basic vanilla/almond flavored sugar cookie, firm, but also soft to bite into. The royal icing is so simple to make, I don’t know why I avoided it for so long. It forms a blank canvas for you to get a little wild and crazy with the sprinkles and the sugar.
Make your own colored decorating sugar in any color of the rainbow!
You can save money and make custom colors that you could never find in the stores. I was decorating a forest of tree cookies, so I wanted lots of interesting greens and icy blues. You can get all kinds of different results using different sugars and types of colorings. Get creative and mix the colors for unusual shades.
How to make your own colored sugar
- Measure out 1/4 cup of your sugar in a small bowl or jar. I like to use raw sugar, or any larger crystal sugar because it sparkles better.
- Next, take a drop or two of food coloring and stir it right into the sugar. I like to use gel food coloring for this because they give the most vibrant color. If the gel is too thick, thin it with a tiny bit of water before adding it to the sugar. The more coloring you use, the deeper the color will be.
- The sugar will be slightly damp afterwards, so I spread it out on a paper towel to dry.
- When it’s dry, just break up any clumps with the back of a spoon, and pour it into a little jar. It will last indefinitely.
Classic sugar cookie dough is very simple, and comes together quickly.
Form it into a disk and refrigerate until you are ready to roll, cut, and bake. I like this sugar cookie dough because it is supple, and reforms well after the first round of cuts have been made. Most importantly, it tastes good ~ so good that I liked the cookie all on its own.
The sugar cookies take about 7-8 minutes in a 350F oven, and because they are thin, they cool quickly. You can make them ahead, and frost the next day if you like. I used tree cookie cutters that were in the 3-4 inch range. You can find tree cutters at cooking or home stores, craft stores, on Etsy, or Amazon.
I used royal icing to frost my sugar cookies
Royal icing dries up super hard, so the cookies can be packed and given as gifts, or piled on a plate for serving.
Tips for using royal icing
- Royal icing is made with confectioner’s sugar and either egg white or meringue powder. I use meringue powder because it keeps forever so I always have it on hand, and there’s no worry about raw eggs.
- It whips up super easily, and then I spoon it into a zip lock baggie, take a small snip off the tip, and keep the whole thing, tip down, in a wet paper towel lined glass so it keeps moist and fresh.
- I use the baggie to outline each tree and then fill in at the same time.
- You can spread the frosting around with a small paintbrush. You can see this is fuss free cookie decorating; once the icing goes on, go to town with the sprinkles and sugar.
- Yes you can freeze royal iced cookies, just make sure each one is protected either in its own plastic bag or separated with a sheet of waxed paper so they don’t stick.
Let the holiday cookie baking begin!
- Soft Glazed Gingerbread Cookies
- Traditional Swedish Pepparkakor Recipe
- Favorite Chewy Ginger Cookies
- Guide to Freezing Holiday Cookies
- Sprinkle Sugar Cookies
- Easy Gingerbread Cookies with Royal Icing
Holiday Sugar Cookies and DIY Colored Sugar
- 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp almond extract
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/8 cup meringue powder
- 2 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
- raw or granulated sugar
- gel or paste food coloring
- To make the colored sugar, measure out 1/4 cup sugar into a small bowl and add a drop or two of gel coloring to it. Stir to combine completely. Spread the sugar out on a paper towel to dry, and then break up any lumps with the back of a spoon before storing the sugar in a small jar.
- To make the cookies, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and extracts.
- Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together to blend. Mix it into the butter and sugar mixture until the dough comes together.
- Turn out on to a floured surface and bring together into a ball. Divide the ball in half and flatten each half into a disk. Wrap the disks in plastic and refrigerate for an hour. (Or overnight)
- Preheat the oven to 350F while the dough is chilling.
- Roll out the dough to about 1/8-1/4 inch thick and cut out the shapes. Put them on a baking sheet lined with silocone or parchment paper and bake for about 7-9 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet before removing them to a cooling rack.
- Frost the cookies when completely cool.
- To make the frosting, beat together the water and meringue powder until combined. Beat in the sugar and continue beating until it is glossy and smooth. If the frosting seems too thin, add a little more sugar.
- Spoon the frosting into a large zip lock baggie and zip closed.
- When ready to use, cut a very small snip off one corner. Work with one cookie at a time, and pipe a line of frosting along the outer edge, then pipe more into the inside of the cookie. Take a small paintbrush to gently ease the frosting into corners. Sprinkle on your decorations while the cookie is wet. then set to dry while you work on the other cookies.
Questions and Reviews
These are adorable, love the sugar tutorial!!!
One word … beautiful!!
Thanks so much! I love these cookies and it’s been too long since I’ve made them.
As always, the sugar cookies look so festive! I do have 1 question about the raw sugar, is it also known as sanding sugar?
That’s a great question — sanding sugar is perfect for this project, as it has larger, coarser grains that sparkle and don’t dissolve into the icing. Raw sugar is similar, but it has not been so refined, so it retains a light brown color. Both kinds can be used, but with the raw sugar the colors will be altered a bit because of the base light brown tone. I actually like to use both so that I get a nice variety of sugar colors.
I miss decorating cookies with my kids. They all grow up don’t they? I enjoy making my own colored sugar – and you make it all so easy with the step by step. This is one of the things I love about these cookies, make the dough one day, cut and bake another and decorate on the 3rd! You are awesome and your cookies are gorgeous 🙂 Love that leaning tree cookie cutter!
That means a lot coming from you…I am not a precise baker, or cookie decorator, so these are right up my alley!
These are so beautiful Sue, love the colors that you chose and the colored sugar adds a nice touch.
Thanks Cheri, I love color, and this project was fun for me.
So pretty Sue! Love all the different colours and great idea to DIY coloured sugar.
These looks beautiful.
I never can make good sugar cookies. I will give this recipe a try.
I avoided cut out cookies for years, partly because I didn’t want to bother with rolling out dough, but also because I didn’t think the cookies tasted all that great. These cookies are good all on their own. They have flavor, thanks to a good dose of extracts, and they aren’t dry like cardboard. Hope you give them a try, I think you’ll be pleased.
Super cute..and great idea to get the sprinkles of your dreams:)