Holiday Sugar Cookies

Makes 25 cookies

During the holidays, the best sugar cookies are not only sweet, chewy and soft but also firm enough to be cut out and decorated. Enjoy these old-fashioned sugar cookies – they’re delicious plain or all dressed up.

1 1/2 cups butter, softened
2 cups white sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Mix in eggs and vanilla. Add flour, baking powder and salt. Cover, and chill dough for at least one hour (or overnight). Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out dough on floured surface 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Cut into shapes with any cookie cutter. Place cookies 1 inch apart on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake 6 to 8 minutes. Cool completely before decorating.

*For icing, mix together confectioners’ sugar and enough milk to make it thin but not runny. Or try the Sugar Cookie Icing recipe below.

Sugar Cookie Icing

Makes enough icing for 12-24 cookies

1 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons milk
2 teaspoons light corn syrup
1⁄4 teaspoon vanilla extract
food coloring

Stir the powdered sugar and the milk until smooth. Mix in corn syrup and vanilla until icing is smooth and glossy. If consistency is too thick, add more corn syrup or milk. Divide icing into separate bowls and stir in food coloring as desired. Spread icing on cookies with a knife, back of a spoon or frosting bag or bottle. Or “paint” the icing on with a paint brush.

Host a Cookie Decorating Party for Kids

It may just be a universal truth: Kids love decorating cookies. So why not set up a fun cookie decorating party and let the cookie creations begin! Worried about the stress and mess of it all? Here are some tips to help you lead a cookie decorating activity with minimal chaos and only a few flying sprinkles.

Have the cookies ready before bringing the kids into the kitchen. That means, the cookies are baked, icing is made and tinted, and all supplies are out and available.

Up to three days in advance:
Prepare cookie dough and bake whatever shape cookies you like. Seal the cookies in plastic containers until the day of the event.

Prepare the sugar cooking icing, divide it, and mix your colors. (If you think your kids will like to color the icing themselves, tint most of it, then save a bowl or two for them to color.) Fill disposable decorating bags with about ½ cup of icing and close tightly with rubber bands. Make sure not to prepare the icing too thick for the kids to squeeze and not so thin that the icing runs all over the cookie. (Prepare enough individual sets of icing bags or bottles for the most-needed colors so each decorator can have their own set.) Before the decorating begins, bring icing to room temperature.

Along with the cookies and icing, you will need freezer or parchment paper to line the tables, scissors to snip the tips of the icing bags, sanitizing wipes, and plenty of paper towels. It’s also great to include paper plates marked with each child’s name. The child can decorate the cookies right on the plate and then move them aside to dry. Or, use a rimmed baking sheet. (A rimmed sheet is also good for catching all those sprinkles before they hit the floor.)

You may also want to provide smocks, as colored icing can stain clothing. Include a few containers of decorative sprinkles and sanding sugars. You may want to avoid those tiny nonpareils, as they roll around everywhere, especially off the table and on to the floor. Also, you might not want frosting-covered hands grabbing for the sprinkle containers, so small bowls and ramekins with spoons work great. (Note: Placing the full sprinkle bottles on the table often leads to at least one child pouring the entire contents all on their cookie.)

After the masterpieces are done, set the cookies aside to dry. Cookies will dry enough to handle and stack if left at room temperature overnight, however in just an hour or two the cookies will set enough so kids can carry the cookies home on the plate.