The Best, Ever, Cut-Out Sugar Cookies
My family has always embraced both American and Mexican traditions. During the holidays, our bi-cultural existence is most present through the food we prepare. For Christmas, our main meal is usually tamales or chicharones, but our desserts are typically American favorites, like Christmas cut-out sugar cookies.
As a child, making sugar cookies with my mother and sisters was a Christmas tradition. Once I grew up and moved away, I continued to make them, but I’ve since perfected our recipe. My sugar cookie recipe yields chewy and soft cookies that are like no others I’ve ever tasted. I normally bake 15+ dozens to send out to family and friends as Christmas gifts because they’re that good!
So if your in search of a great cut-out sugar cookie recipe, look no further! I’m sharing my top secret recipe that until now, I’ve only shared with a select few. I’ve also included my two favorite frosting recipes: one is a traditional buttercream and the other is a modern glossy frosting.
Perfect Cut-Out Sugar Cookies:
Recipe makes 2 dozen (large cookies)
4 cups of all-purpose flour–sifted (Tip: Sifted flour gives cookies a softer texture–picture of sifter in step 1)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
1 ½ cups of sugar
1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup of sour cream
1 cup of butter–softened (Tip: MUST USE REAL BUTTER. Also, leave butter out for an hours for it to soften and be room temperature)
Step 2: Combine butter, sugar, egg, vanilla, and sour cream in a bowl and mix with a blender until ingredients are well combined.
Step 3: Combine dry and wet ingredients from step 1 and 2 and knead until dough gathers into a ball.
Step 4: Separate the ball into three balls and wrap. Place the dough in the freezer for a minimum of two hours. It must be stiff to roll and cut out shapes with cookie cutters ( I typically allow my dough to sit overnight in the freezer).
Step 5: Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of flour on a flat surface. Work one ball of dough with your hands or rolling pin until it becomes flexible enough to roll. If you froze the dough overnight, allow it to defrost for an hour or two before you try to work and roll it.
Once dough is flexible, roll the dough 1 inch thick. Then, with the cookie cutter of your choice, cut out shapes and place them on a cookie sheet. Leave 1 ½ inch between cookies on sheet because they do rise and spread slightly while baking. Repeat step 5 with the other balls of dough.
Step 6: Preheat oven to 350, then place cookie sheet in the oven on the middle rack and bake for 8-10 minutes. The front of the cookie should be puffed up and you should see no raw dough: This picture is a perfect cookie:
The back of the cookie: The cookie on the left is perfect, the cookie on the right is overcooked. The browner the back of the cookie, the less chewy and soft it will be.
Step 7: Allow cookies to cool completely before frosting.
I am sharing two frosting recipes: A traditional buttercream frosting and a glossy frosting. If you plan to frost with children, you should probably use the buttercream. If you are ambitious and want to obtain that professional glossy frosting look, that you see at boutique bakeries, consider the glossy frosting recipe that I provide after the buttercream.
1 ½ cup of butter softened at room temperature (Tip: butter must be softened and at room temperature or you wont get the right consistency)
1/2 cup of shortening
5 cups of powder sugar
1 tablespoon of pure vanilla extract
1/4 tablespoon of salt (omit if you are using salted butter)
Directions: Combine all ingredients and mix until frosting takes shape. Divide into separate bowls, number depends on the number of colors you wish to make, and add food coloring. Check food coloring instructions for how much food coloring to add: I generally add until I get the color I like. Then decorate!
If you’ve visited boutique bakeries lately, you probably noticed that many of them are frosting their sugar cookies with a glossy flat frosting. The recipe below will give you the same professional clean look. Keep in mind, when making the recipe, that in step one you will create a base frosting. In step two I make you divide the base frosting into two bowls: one bowl will have the original base frosting, which you will use to form an outline/border on each cookie, and in the second bowl, you will add more water to the base frosting to create a runny frosting to fill in the outlined/border of each cookie.
If you plan to decorate the cookie with more than one color, you should set aside more than one bowl of the base frosting in step two–the amount you set aside will depend on how many colors you plan to make (with food coloring) and how much of that color you want to set aside.
Ingredients for the base frosting:
4 cups of powder sugar
5 tablespoons of merengue powder
1/2 cup of water for Step 1
5 teaspoons of water for Step 2
1 popsicle stick
2 frosting piping Bags
2 circular frosting tips–one small and one large (I use Wilton size 5 and Wilton size 10).
(If you don’t have frosting bags or tips, you could use plastic baggies and just cut a slit at the corner of each bag.)
Step 1: Combine merengue powder, powder sugar, and 1/2 cup of water and mix on low until all ingredients are well combined; this will be your thick base frosting.
Step 2: Separate 1 cup of the base frosting into a separate bowl (this is the frosting you will use to create an outline/border on your cookies). In the photo below, the 1 cup of frosting is in the smaller bowl.
Step 3: With the frosting that is left (the big bowl) add 5 more tsp. of water and mix on low until water is well absorbed and combined; this will give you a runny frosting to fill the outline/border of the cookie with.
Step 4: Add food coloring to both bowls of frosting and mix until food coloring is well combined. Then, transfer the frostings into frosting piping bags (don’t forget which one is which).
With the thick base frosting, outline cookie’s border, then fill in the border/outline with the watery frosting:
Step 5: Using a toothpick, pop any air bubbles that appear. With a popsickle stick, move the frosting to the edges that are still not filled in. Once cookies are filled in, allow the frosting to dry. If you move them, cracks may appear in the frosting. Wait until the frosting is dry and hard before packing or storing them–I allow the cookies to sit overnight before moving them.
Step 6: If you wish to decorate the cookies, decorate by using the thick base frosting ( from step 1). I used the thick green to dot the cookie, and then placed decorations over the dots.
Food coloring: If you want rich dark color, like you see on professionally baked cakes and cookies, use gel food coloring. I have yet to see gel food coloring sold at a regular grocery store. I had to buy mine at Joann’s Fabric and Craft store.
Merengue Powder: You can find it at Joann’s or a baking store. I have yet to see it at a grocery store in my area.