The Best Holiday Shortbread Sugar Cookies, Ever

Shortbread Sugar Cookies; Holiday Cookies
Shortbread Sugar Cookies; Holiday Cookies

I don’t know about you, but nothing reminds me of my childhood more than iced sugar cookies! One day I came home after school from 3rd Grade and my mom had made heart-shaped sugar cookies with pink icing. I must’ve devoured half the cookies on the spot, and my sweet tooth was very satisfied. I was happy and my mom was happy, because she loves when we ask her for food. It’s a mom thing, wanting your kids to have healthy (and sometimes not-so-healthy) appetites.

The sugar cookies my mom made were from a Betty Crocker cookbook that our American neighbor had gifted her, after I kept asking my mom for all desserts American. Growing up in an American compound in Saudi Arabia means that my love for the sweetest of American sweets is well-developed. I’m talking about sugar cookies, chocolate chip cookies, fudge, toffee, caramel anything, pralines, pecan pie with ice cream, etc.

Shortbread Sugar Cookies With Icing
Shortbread Sugar Cookies With Icing

I can’t remember where I first saw this recipe for these shortbread sugar cookies, but they have been on my holiday baking list for many years now. I love them because they are a cross between shortbread and sugar cookies. BTW, I’ve made them for Canada Day as well, but I wanted to write another post to highlight how beautiful they are for the holidays! They’re sturdy enough to ice and they’re as smooth as can be because of the powdered sugar content. They contain no eggs and no granulated sugar.

Icing The Cookies is Key

What makes these cookies is the icing. It’s a mix of powdered sugar and milk and vanilla. You can apply it with a knife and within minutes, the icing has a smooth surface – no piping or flooding required. My husband and daughters love them and they stand out on my holiday dessert table.

Shortbread Sugar Cookies With Icing
Shortbread Sugar Cookies With Icing

Because I’m a fan of color (just check out my Instagram account to see what I’m talking about), I like to use vibrant colors and decorations on my cookies. After icing them with the base color, I use store-bought icing in the tubes to add any details to the cookies, and I use seasonal sprinkles. There’s lots of room to be creative. It takes quite a while to make these cookies and the kitchen is a mess, but it’s totally worth it: the results are spectacular and professional-looking.

Shortbread Sugar Cookies
Shortbread Sugar Cookies

My Tips For Icing Shortbread Sugar Cookies: 

  • Make the icing and split it up into a few colors. It makes the batch of cookies colorful and versatile and helps you to be more creative
  • Move fast when icing the cookies with the background color because the  icing will start to harden, especially with the starch content of the icing sugar
  • Ice the cookies with the plain color and add sprinkles right away before the icing sets, if using
  • Ice all the cookies with the plain color and then go back to decorate with store- bought icing tubes (it’s not worth it to make your own icing for the details; it’s too time-consuming and the quality of store-bought icing is fantastic. I use Cake Mate products)
  • Let the cookies dry completely. You can even leave them out overnight to dry
  • Store in the freezer, using wax paper between layers, and take out the cookies you want to eat; if you leave them out, they will soften

Shortbread Sugar Cookies With Icing
(recipe directly from Genius Kitchen)

Ingredients for the Cookies
    • 2 c unsalted butter, room temperature
    • 1 1/2 c powdered sugar
    • 2 T vanilla extract
    • 4 c flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
Ingredients for the Icing
    • 2 c powdered sugar
    • 1/4 c milk
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • food coloring, if desired


  1. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or generously spray with non stick spray.
  2. Using a hand mixer or stand mixer, mix butter and sugar until fluffy. Add vanilla and beat until combined.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine flour and baking powder. Add slowly to butter mixture on low speed. Do not overbeat! Only mix until flour is incorporated.
  4. Form dough into big ball and place in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  5. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Roll out chilled dough to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut with cookie cutter or you can use a pizza cutter and make squares or rectangles. Another option is to roll into a log and cut 1/4 inch thick slices.
  6. Using a spatula, transfer to cookie sheets leaving about 1/2 inch between cookies.
  7. Bake 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges. Cool 10 minutes on cookie sheet and then transfer to cooling rack.
  8. When cookies are cool, whisk together the icing ingredients and either dip the cookies or spread on cookies. You can smooth the icing with the back of a spoon.
  9. These are so good — you should really double the recipe!
Shortbread Sugar Cookies With Icing
Shortbread Sugar Cookies With Icing

If you’re looking for a shortbread cookie that is a little bit less sweet, you can try these linzer cookies that I made last year at this time.

Do you have a favorite sugar cookie recipe? How do you decorate your cookies?


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2 thoughts on “The Best Holiday Shortbread Sugar Cookies, Ever

  1. Your icing decorations are amazing. You should do a post on how to make those designs. I am particularly impressed with the dreidel and the boot.

    Also, I am not sure if Betty Crocker is southern, but your dessert tastes tend towards the southeastern part of the US! (Pralines, pecan pie).

    1. Thanks, JJ! One day I will do a video. Betty Crocker is not an actual person, but a cookbook that is an American classic. You’re right, my tastes are southeastern and southwestern US-based! Mary

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