Growing up, one of my favorite Christmas traditions was making sugar cookies with my mom and sister. I loved deciding which shapes to cut out of the dough and mounding the cookies with frosting after they’d cooled. But, looking back, it was the quality time with my mom and sister that made this holiday ritual extra sweet.
Now, that Ayla is getting a bit older, baking with her has become one of my new favorite ways to celebrate the holiday season. Last year I asked my mom for her recipe and we’ve since enjoyed making Nana’s Christmas cookies together. It feels so special to be able to carry on these cherished family traditions with my daughter.
This year, I want to share a little piece of my matrilineal heritage with you too. The following is my momma’s recipe (with a few small tweaks).
- 1 1/2 cups panela (sub brown sugar if you can’t find panela, or use powdered sugar like my Mom does)
- 1 cup softened butter
- 1 egg
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp almond extract
- 2 1/2 cups white flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp cream of tartar
Mix the panela, butter, egg, and vanilla & almond extracts together in a bowl. Add the flour, baking soda, & cream of tartar and stir until well combined.
After making the dough, my mom would cover the bowl and refrigerate it for 2 hours. This makes the dough a little firmer and less sticky, so it is easier to roll out. We don’t have a refrigerator, so I skip this step and just give everything a little extra dusting of flour to keep the dough from sticking too much and it works well enough.
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Roll the dough out to 3/16 inch on a lightly floured board. Cut into desired shapes. Bake on a cookie sheet until the edges are lightly browned. About 7-10 minutes depending on your oven and the elevation you’re baking at.
Let the cookies cool completely, then frost with buttercream frosting, if desired.
Basic Buttercream Frosting
- 1/2 cup butter
- 2 cups panela (most recipes call for powdered sugar, but I prefer something less processed — it definitely results in a less fluffy frosting, but it still tastes quite good)
- 2 Tbsp cream
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Tiny pinch of sea salt
Stir butter til it’s a nice creamy consistency. Then slowly add in the sugar and salt, continuing to stir until it’s fully incorporated. Add in the cream and vanilla extract. Keep stirring for a couple of minutes to get the frosting nice and creamy.
When we made these cookies growing up, we always frosted them. But, the last two years I’ve made them, I have opted to leave them plain and they are still really good.
Enjoy making a batch of these yummy sugar cookies to bring to holiday gatherings, give as gifts, or to share with friends & family while watching your favorite Christmas movies.
Wishing you a wonderful holiday season full of love, meaningful rituals, and lots of delicious treats!
For another tasty holiday cookie recipe, check out my post: Orange Frosted Gingerbread Cookies