Vanilla Sugar Cookies for Christmas Cutouts

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Scrumptious and yet not-too-sweet rolled sugar cookies appropriate for decorating with icing and other embellishments any time of year. The Citrus and Eggnog variations are especially wonderful at Christmastime. This recipe is based on Rose Levy Beranbaum’s inimitable sugar cookies and was printed on recipe cards as part of my copper cookie cutter set for Nutcracker Sweets I: The Mouse King & Toy Soldier, back in 2000.

What makes our recipe for Vanilla Holiday Sugar Cookies for Christmas Cutouts wicked good?

These classic vanilla sugar cookies come with two twists, a lemon and orange citrus twist and an eggnog twist—perfectly fitting for the Christmas holidays. Simply follow the directions in the recipe variations for adding grated lemon or orange zest or nutmeg and rum to create real standout and tasty Christmas holiday cookies.

Also, our preparation instructions provide for proper chilling of this buttery dough. We have found that by rolling the dough out between sheets of plastic wrap makes it easy to pop the dough back into the fridge on a cookie sheet for a quick chill. This way, when you are ready to cut into the dough with your favorite cookie cutters, the dough will not stick to your work surface and the cutouts will maintain their shape after baking. Our method prevents a messy work surface for stress-free holiday cookie baking!

Vanilla Sugar Cookies for Christmas Cutouts

Yield: Makes over 1 dozen oversized cookies.

Vanilla Sugar Cookies for Christmas Cutouts

These classic vanilla sugar cookies come with two twists, a lemon and orange citrus twist and an eggnog twist—perfectly fitting for the Christmas holidays. Simply follow the directions in the recipe variations for adding grated lemon or orange zest or nutmeg and rum to create real standout and tasty Christmas holiday cookies.


  • 4½ cups bleached all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar
  • 2½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs


In a large bowl, whisk together flour and salt. Set aside. Using an electric mixer, cream together butter, sugar and vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until well blended and fluffy. Reduce mixer speed to low. Gradually beat in flour mixture, scraping down side of bowl as necessary, until fully incorporated. Divide dough into thirds. Scrape each mound of dough onto a separate sheet of plastic wrap. Pat dough out to a ½-inch thick disk. Wrap tightly and refrigerate until dough is well chilled and firm enough to roll, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Position oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat to 350ºF. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Working with one disk of dough at a time, remove dough from refrigerator. Dampen work surface with a moist kitchen cloth and place a sheet of plastic wrap on top. (This will prevent the plastic wrap from slipping while rolling dough.) Lightly flour sheet of plastic wrap. Unwrap dough and place in center of prepared plastic wrap. Place another sheet of lightly floured plastic wrap, flour-side down, on top of dough. Roll to a thickness of ¼-inch or just over. Transfer rolled dough, with wrap, to a large baking sheet and refrigerate until very firm, about 10 minutes. Well chilled dough will yield cookie shapes with well-defined edges.

Working with one piece of rolled dough at a time, remove dough from refrigerator. Gently lift top sheet of plastic wrap. With lightly floured cookie cutters, cut dough into desired shapes. Very carefully, lift sections of plastic wrap and invert to release each cutout. Place cutouts at least 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheets. Refrigerate unbaked cookies until firm, about 8 minutes. (Additional chilling time will prevent cookies from spreading and keep the integrity of their shapes during baking.) With a pastry brush, dust excess flour off dough scraps. Gently knead dough into a ball and flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill before rolling and cutting more shapes.

Bake cookies until the edges are golden brown, about 12 to 16 minutes depending on their size and thickness. Halfway through baking time, to ensure even browning, rotate baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back.

Allow cookies to cool on baking sheets for 3 to 5 minutes. Using a metal cookie spatula, transfer cookies to wire racks to cool completely. Cookies are ready to decorate when completely cooled. If necessary, store cookies in an airtight container until ready to decorate.

Recipe Notes

Variations: For Citrus Holiday Sugar Cookies, reduce vanilla to 2 teaspoons and add 2 tablespoons finely grated lemon or orange zest to creamed butter and sugar mixture. For Eggnog Holiday Sugar Cookies, add 1½ teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg to flour mixture. Reduce vanilla to 2 teaspoons and add 3 tablespoons light or dark rum to creamed butter and sugar mixture.

Professional Food Photography on isolated white backgrounds by Teri Studios, Cincinnati, OH.



Cookies & Crafts for Sandy Hook Tribute

Today I am joining other bloggers by posting a holiday sugar cookie recipe as part of the Cookies & Crafts for Sandy Hook tribute. Our hearts go out to the heroes of last Friday in Newtown, CT.

Remembering the Sandy Hook Elementary victims, all angels now…

Charlotte Bacon, 6

Charlotte was sweet, outgoing and full of energy. She loved school and dresses. Her hair was a mass of beautiful red curls.

Daniel Barden, 7

Taking after his musician dad, Daniel and his siblings–brother James and sister Natalie–formed a band, in which he played drums. His “fearless” pursuit of happiness and life also earned him ripped jeans.

Rachel D’Avino, 29

She likely didn’t know it when she died, but her best friend was about to propose. He had recently asked Rachel’s parents for permission, and he was planning to ask for her hand in marriage on Christmas Eve.

Olivia Engel, 6

Olivia took art and dance lessons, played tennis, soccer and swam. She was involved in Girl Scouts and musical theater. She loved school and did well in math and reading. Her favorite stuffed animal was a lamb; pink and purple were her favorite colors.

Josephine Gay, 7

Josephine had just celebrated her seventh birthday Tuesday. There’s a picture of her on the Web, published in various news stories, that shows her smiling with glasses on the tip of her nose. She liked to ride her bike and sell lemonade in her neighborhood in the summer and loved the color purple.

Dylan Hockley, 6

Dylan’s family said he loved to cuddle and play tag with neighbors at the bus stop every morning. “He was learning to read and was so proud when he read us a new book every day,” the family said. “He adored his big brother Jake, his best friend and role model.”

Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung, 47

Hochsprung, who became Sandy Hook Elementary School’s principal two years ago, was “really nice and very fun, but she was also very much a tough lady in the right sort of sense,” friend Tom Prunty said. And the students loved her. “Even little kids know when someone cares about them, and that was her,” Prunty said. “I never saw her without a smile,” said Aimee Seaver, mother of a first-grader.

Madeleine F. Hsu, 6

Sweet. Unique. Bright. Determined. Sparkling. Those are words Madeleine’s family used to describe their little girl. “She was an avid reader who loved running and dancing,” they said. “She was a born leader.”

Catherine V. Hubbard, 6

The little girl with bright red hair will be remembered for her smile and her love of animals.

Chase Kowalski, 7

At 6, Chase completed his first triathlon, but that was just one of his pursuits. He loved baseball. He was in the Cub Scouts. He looked forward to the kids’ workshop at the local Home Depot.

Nancy Lanza, 52

Nancy was a personable neighbor who lived on a block of spacious houses on a crest overlooking gentle hills. She and her family moved to the Sandy Hook neighborhood about 1998. She was not a teacher or part-time employee of Sandy Hook Elementary, as some media reports stated.

Jesse Lewis, 6

Jesse loved math, riding horses and playing at his mom’s farm, his father told the New York Post. “He was just a happy boy.” “Everybody knew Jesse.”

Ana Marquez-Greene, 6

Her father, Jimmy Greene, is a jazz musician. His representative released a statement on Ana’s death, describing the little girl as “beautiful and vibrant.” The girl in pigtails stands in front of a piano as her brother plays. Her voice is clear, bigger than her size. Ana smiles and waves. “One, two, three, ready and go,” Ana counts down in a homemade video.

James Mattioli, 6

As he was quick to remind everyone, James was 6 and 3/4. “He loved to wear shorts and T-shirts in any weather and grab the gel to spike his hair,” his family said in a loving obituary. “He would often sing at the top of his lungs, and once asked, ‘How old do I have to be to sing on a stage?'”

Grace McDonnell, 7

Grace was the “light and love of our family,” her mother said. She loved her brother, school, the beach and wanted to be a painter. For her 7th birthday in November, Grace requested a purple cake with a turquoise peace sign and polka dots. And that’s exactly what she got.

Anne Marie Murphy, 52

A hero. That’s how a first responder reportedly described Murphy to her father. Her body was found in a classroom, covering young children killed in the shooting in an apparent attempt to shield them. A married mother of four, Murphy was artistic and hardworking.

Emilie Parker, 6

Emilie “was the type of person who could light up a room,” her father said. His oldest daughter was “bright, creative and very loving,” and “always willing to try new things other than food.” Emilie was a mentor to her two younger sisters–ages 3 and 4–and “they looked to her when they needed comfort,” her father said.

Jack Pinto, 6

Jack was a first-grader, and his interests ran the gamut–baseball, basketball, wrestling, snow skiing. But his first love was football, and his idol was New York Giants star receiver Victor Cruz.

Noah Pozner, 6

“He had a huge heart and he was so much fun, a little bit rambunctious, lots of spirit,” Noah’s aunt said. “He was really the light of the room.” He loved playing with his cousins and siblings, especially his twin sister.

Caroline Previdi, 6

“You were a sweet little girl and you will be missed.” That’s the message that Caroline’s aunt reportedly tweeted, saying goodbye to her niece.

Jessica Rekos, 6

Jessica loved everything about horses — horse movies, horse books, drawing horses and writing stories about them. She asked Santa this year for new cowgirl boots and a cowgirl hat. Her family had promised she could get her own horse when she turned 10.

Avielle Richman, 6

Avielle was happiest when she was on a horse. Her trainer, Annette Sullivan, said that Avielle would “giggle when she trotted.”

Lauren Rousseau, 30

She grew up in Danbury, Connecticut, and earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Connecticut and a master’s degree in elementary education from the University of Bridgeport. Rousseau was a permanent substitute teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary. She “wanted to be a teacher from before she even went to kindergarten,” her mother said in a written statement Saturday. “We will miss her terribly and will take comfort knowing that she had achieved that dream,” her mother said.

Mary Sherlach, 56

Sherlach earned her undergraduate degree in psychology at SUNY Cortland and a master’s degree at Southern Connecticut State University. She worked as a rehabilitation assistant at a group home for disabled adults and as a community mental health placement specialist before becoming a school psychologist. She worked in three Connecticut school systems before moving to Sandy Hook Elementary in 1994.

Victoria Soto, 27

Soto had wanted to be a teacher since she was 3 and talked about her students with “such fondness and caring,” her mother said. Soto, a first-grade teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary, moved her students away from the classroom door when she heard gunfire.

Benjamin Wheeler, 6

Ben loved The Beatles, lighthouses and the No. 7 train to Sunnyside, Queens, his family said in a statement. He and his older brother Nate “filled the house with the noise of four children.”

Allison N. Wyatt, 6

Once, Allison offered her snacks to a complete stranger on plane. That’s just the type of person she was. Allison was a “sweet, creative, funny, intelligent little girl who had an amazing life ahead of her,” her parents said. They described their daughter as kind-hearted. She loved to draw and wanted to be an artist.

Source: Excerpts from CNN.

About Stacy

Stacy Bryce is a recipe developer and member of the IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals). Her passion is developing original conventional baking recipes as well as special diet recipes to include dairy-free, gluten-free and grain-free. You can follow Stacy at Pinterest.


  1. So, so sad…it’s lovely that you posted this. I’ve really been in a state since this happened. What an utter tragedy.

    • Thank you for reading the tribute, Ali. It was important for me to list their names and ages as well as brief character traits, etc. to remember them as people not just nameless victims. I appreciate you stopping by and sharing your thoughts. I am with you…the events of last Friday were unfathomable. I was so heartbroken, I couldn’t even tweet about it. I, too, have been in a funk over it.

  2. Hi Stacy,
    Can you tell me where you got your mouse king and nutcracker cookie cutters? I haven’t been able to find anything online that’s this cute!

    • Hi there, Kelly! Thank you for writing. To answer your question… I designed several sets of copper cookie cutters many moons ago (crica 2000) and they were handcrafted by “America’s Coppersmith” back in the day. I hope that I have answered your question thoroughly and completely. Meanwhile, happy holiday baking!

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