Christmas Traditions - Sugar Cookies

I am all for sugar cookies.

Any time of the year, give me a sweet, soft cookie with a colourfully decorated top and I’m happy.

However, during Christmas, I’m not only happy to make sugar cookies, but grateful as well, because we’ve managed to turn it into a tradition with my mom’s side of the family. It gives us all a chance to spend time together and do something Christmassy as well.

I don’t remember a time when we didn’t make sugar cookies at my parents house. The tradition has evolved and grown a bit through the years, and now encompasses my mom’s entire side of the family. Typically, we all sit around the table decorating together, and engage in a friendly competition to see who decorated the nicest cookie (Hint: I usually win).

The last couple years, my dad has made a big dinner that we all sit down to after the cookies are done. It’s usually boeuf bourguignon, which is quite possibly one of the most delicious and comforting meals on the planet. Super essential after a hard days work decorating cookies.

My twin cousins have been decorating cookies with us since they were quite young, so we used to have to take some child-proofing precautions for a while. My mom bought a special table cloth for when we did cookies, because there would just be icing EVERYWHERE. Just mounds of it on the table, on the cookies, on hands, and one year, even on the ceiling.

Last year, I kept seeing these Christmas sweater cookies that were just so cute, that myself, my mom, and my Aunts were on the hunt for a sweater cookie cutter. We didn’t end up finding one, so we had Nick manipulate and angel cookie cutter and turn it into a sweater. It actually came out pretty well, except for the fact that it was a huge cookie. No complaints here, but my mom doesn’t like that they take up so much of the dough. This year, my Aunt was able to find a regular sized sweater, so we used that instead!

Christmas Sugar Cookies

Made by my Aunt Carrie. Interpret the eyes how you wish 😛

We usually have about 8 colours of icing for the cookies. We have the basic red, pink, orange, green, yellow, blue, white and purple colours, but I like to try and sneak in some teal, along with crimson or a magenta. Teal usually makes it, but that tends to be where my mom draws the line. One year, my aunt did bring these gel icings in tubes that made it easy to draw lines and details with, which was nice.

We also have an every changing variety of sprinkles in multiple shapes and sizes. In the last couple years, blue and white snow flakes have been very popular at our table, along with mini candy cane sprinkles. We always have the classic sugar sprinkles, along with small multicoloured discs and stars that serve as ornaments for the Christmas tree cookies. Also a lot of the longer kind of small cylinder shaped ones that I tend to use as a garland on my Christmas tree cookies or for outlining shapes.

There are however, four things that have remained constant through the entirety of our Christmas cookie-decorating:

  1. The recipe. My mom uses my Nanny’s recipe, which is perfect, and delicious, and everything that you could ever want from a sugar cookie. (P.S, I’ll share later!)
  2. We do not eat cookies during decorating. However, if a cookie breaks during the decorating, you may indulge. Don’t think that means that you can go around breaking cookies on purpose.
  3. If you do not wish to ice a cookie, or it has very little icing on it, said cookie is referred to as a “Papa Cookie”. My grandfather has diabetes, so he can’t have that much sugar. Thus, cookies without icing have become known as Papa Cookies.
  4. The green icing with be flavoured with peppermint extract. This is not up for debate.

The recipe was my Nanny’s, and my mom has it hand written in this recipe box with matching cards that have a pale blue border. The sugar cookie recipe is the only recipe that I know from that box. Really takes me back to my childhood. Come to think of it, that recipe box might be older than me.

For the icing, we just keep it simple and mix icing sugar, milk and food colouring until it is a spreadable, but not too runny consistency. Oh, and peppermint extract for the green icing. We spread it onto the cookie with a spoon, and sometimes use toothpicks to smooth the edges or spread the icing.

We usually have about 15 dozen cookies to decorate between 13 people, so it means that we’re in for a good few hours of decorating. But before we get to all that, here’s the recipe for my Nanny’s sugar cookies:

Nanny’s Sugar Cookies

Yield: approx. 3 -4 dozen, depending on how big your cookies are
Time: approx 30 min including cutting out the cookies

1 cup butter (softened)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
3 tbsp milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda


  1. Cream butter and sugars together until light and fluffy
  2. Add egg, milk and vanilla and mix just until combined
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, salt and baking soda
  4. Add flour mixture to egg/sugar mixture until the dough comes together
  5. Chill the dough for 30 minutes before rolling
  6. Roll dough to just under 1/4″ thickness and cut out your cookies!
  7. Bake at 350 °F for 7 minutes.
  8. Cool, ice & enjoy 🙂

Here’s a look at our cookie decorating process and some of the nice cookies that we came up with.

Christmas Sugar Cookies Christmas Sugar Cookies Christmas Sugar Cookies Christmas Sugar CookiesThere were 15 of us decorating cookies this year, so it was a bigger event than usual! We were able to sneak in a couple new colours and had a ton of sprinkles and decorations to choose from. There did appear to be a lot of “broken” cookies this year, as everyone seemed to get caught stuffing a cookie in their mouth at some point. It’s possible that Nick ate more cookies than he decorated 😉

Mine and Nick’s cookies!

Christmas Sugar Cookies
They’re not necessarily the most beautifully decorated cookies that you would feel bad eating, but we have fun doing it!

Let me know how / if you decorate sugar cookies for Christmas!

xo, tess.

12 responses to “Christmas Traditions - Sugar Cookies”

  1. I like to decorate cookies with my children, it’s fun! Yours are so nice!

  2. Alicia Owen says:

    We usually do sugar cookies too. We don’t get nearly as fancy as you guys, though. 😉

  3. Kara says:

    Looks delicious! How do you guys make your icing? I have been experimenting with a few different ways but not sure I have found the perfect way to do it yet

  4. Your cookies are so beautiful! I love that mitt one with the blue and white icing!

  5. Sheena says:

    Okay, so every time I try to do this all of my sugar cookies are blobs. They could be the goodyear blimp, or a cloud or Slimer from ghost busters, but that’s about it. How do you keep them from losing their shape when they bake?

    • Hi Sheena! I know when my mom makes the cookies, she doesn’t cream the butter and the sugar for very long. The less you cream them, the less air you’ll incorporate into the cookie, thus they will spread less. The chilling of the dough also helps!

  6. Brittany says:

    These are so gorgeous! Do you have a recipe for the icing as well?

    • tessciarl[email protected] says:

      Thank you Brittany! For the icing it’s about 1/2 cup icing sugar with 2-3 tablespoons of milk and however many drops of food colouring until you reach your desired colour. For the peppermint icing, just start with a tiny drop of peppermint extract until you reach your desired strength of flavour. You want the icing to be spreadable, but not so thin that it runs right off the cookie. Hope that helps!!

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