My love for decorated cut-out cookies goes all the way back to childhood when my mom use to manage fancy hotels. Her guests loved her, and frequently her “regulars” would bring her gifts from their adventures around the world. Handmade, blow grass perfume bottles from Egypt, pashminas from Kashmir — she had it all. But there was one guest, who I had a soft spot for, an older woman. Every time she passed through on her way to somewhere dreamy, she’d order my mom a bouquet of cookies from Cookies By Design and say, “make sure your sweet girl gets one”. Food was all it took to win me over.
That’s when I first fell in love with decorated cut-out cookies. I was seven.
I spent the better part of the next 20 years experimenting, trying to get as close to their recipe as possible. Eventually, I did develop one that was pretty close, but it required constant trips to the fridge during the rolling out and cutting stages — and if you know me you know that I prefer to keep things as simple as possible. So, when I started getting requests to make these cookies in bulk, I went back to the drawing board and to create an easy, no-spread, no-chill cookie that was similar to Cookies By Design’s shortbread.
The recipe below is what I came up with.
These are buttery, have a perfect texture, and bake with clean edges — plus this recipe doubles well! I’m not a fan of traditional sugar cookies because they’re usually super sweet and taste like vanilla and as a general rule, I prefer to keep vanilla out of my baked goods.
If you’ve been looking for a killer cut-out cookie recipe, look no further. Pull out your favorite cookie cutters, and whip up a batch of royal icing, and get those creative juices flowing.
I only ever use two recipes for cut-out cookies, and this one is my absolute favorite. It took me a full year to perfect this recipe, and I was going to take it to my grave — but it was too good to keep to myself!
- 1 Cup salted butter, softened
- 1 Cup confectioner's sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoon almond emulsion
- 1 egg
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Cream together softened butter and confectioner’s sugar. In a separate bowl, crack the egg and add the almond emulsion. Add to butter and sugar mixture then mix until the egg is thoroughly incorporated.
- In a separate bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder then add little at a time to the creamed mixture.
- Roll dough out on parchment to about 1/2 an inch thick, use flour for dusting as necessary. Then, cut with your favorite cookie cutters and bake for 8-9 minutes.
- Let cool completely, then decorate with royal icing.
- This cookie won't spread, and the flavor is a bit more elevated than a vanilla sugar cookie.
- You can add any flavor you like, in place of the almond emulsion. I use and prefer emulsions because the flavor shines through better than extract in the finished product, you can use extracts interchangeably. I also prefer the flavor or almond over vanilla in most cookie and cake recipes.
- You'll be able to tell the dough is ready, when it no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl. When you touch it, it should give a little, but it should not stick to your fingers.
- This recipe doubles well.
- You can add any flavor you like, in place of the almond emulsion.
- Call me an old southern soul, but salted butter is the only kind I use —and please, NEVER substitute margarine for butter.