Not Just a Sugar Cookie, a Tradition
We all have our holiday traditions, many of which are centered around food, right? Our family is no different. Every Christmas season we would gather around the table and decorate Christmas cookies of all shapes and sizes. My mom would bake all day while we were at school. We’d come home to stacks and stacks of cookies. I don’t think we ate dinner faster than those Christmas cookie decorating days. Dinner would finish and mom would make all the frostings while we quickly did the dishes.
Blue frosting, red frosting, green frosting, brown frosting! Frostings of all colors. Sprinkles, jimmies, colored sugars, cinnamon candies, and those little silver balls! Oh! It was an exciting time! We gathered around the table and decorated while Christmas music, probably Mario Lanza knowing mom, played in the background. We three tried to out decorate each other. Designs got more and more complicated as we got older.
Meanwhile, I always wondered why dad would grab a stack of cookies, frost them all the same color quickly and sprinkle them all the same. Why wasn’t he making his all fancy like us?
Years went by and we always decorated the cookies. Even when we were teenagers and grumbled. Because the rule was…you don’t decorate cookies you don’t eat those cookies and there was no way that was going to happen!
More years went by, I married and had a home of my own. It was my turn to be the one making and decorating the cookies. Before the boys were born, I shared our cookies with friends.
Then it happened, one year I didn’t make the sugar cookies. I know, it’s tradition, but I thought “it’s ok to skip one year, you just gave birth to twins!” You see, our sons were born November 13th, six weeks before Christmas. We had our hands full. In the end, it just wasn’t Christmas without the sugar cookies.
Every year since, I have made sugar cookies. Our sons have sat around the table and decorated absolute masterpieces while I sat at the end speed decorating. Yeah, are you realizing why my dad was doing that same thing years before? I totally learned that when I was the parent and my sons were taking foreverrrrrr! I wanted those darn cookies done!
I have one special time that it wasn’t Christmas, but a couple months later, that I made sugar cookies and decorated them. You see, my father had cancer. He had lost his appetite. The boys and I were traveling from Oklahoma to California to visit my family before we moved to Iowa. The boys and I made his favorite sugar cookies with frosting. We packaged them well and brought them on the plane. It was the first thing I gave to my dad after we got off the plane and darn it, I will never forget looking up from baggage claim as he opened that container and handed one to each of his grandsons and took one for himself on his way down the escalator. My mom and I had to quickly dry our eyes before they reached us. These were magical that day.
This year I have already made my first batch of cookies. They went out in the mail yesterday. Unfrosted, but with all the fixings inside.
You see, this year one of our twins will not be home for our evening of decorating. He’s a busy guy working on the East Coast. But mama’s got his back. The tradition will continue. He just will do it with his friends.
Next week, I will make a batch for home, because it just isn’t Christmas without Sugar Cookies!
Grandma’s Sugar Cookies
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup butter
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cup flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1# powdered sugar
- 1/3 cup butter, softened
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 egg*
- In medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
- Cream butter and sugar together in large bowl.
- Add vanilla and egg and beat until smooth.
- Slowly fold and blend in flour mixture.
- Cover and chill dough for a minimum of 3 hours.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Remove dough from refrigerator and spoon out enough for a small ball about 3″ in diameter.
- Roll out dough on flour covered surface until 1/8″ thick. Use cookie cutters for your fantastic shapes.
- Bake on untreated cookie sheet 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Repeat until dough is finished. Makes 2-3 dozen cookies depending on size and shape of your cookie cutters.
Frosting Your Cookies
- Blend together all frosting ingredients except milk. Add the milk slowly until you have the right consistency. You don’t want your frosting too stiff or too runny.
- Frost cookies on the bottom flat side. It creates a nice crisp edge and your frosting won’t drip off (unless made by your two year old and then it’s ok).
- Decorate as you wish. Store in an airtight container in refrigerator until consumed.
- I usually make 2-4 batches of dough at a time.
- After you have cut the first roll out, remove excess dough, reform and re-roll and cut. After the second rolling remove excess dough and set aside. We usually reform and re-roll this last bit of dough after all the dough has gone through its second rolling. It’s great for making your own pop-tarts with a filling of your choice. You can also use a rectangle cookie cutter, roll it out thicker and once baked, use these cookies as place-markers on your Christmas table.
- Yes, the buttercream frosting includes an egg. It is your choice to add it or not. We’ve always added it and have never had an issue after over 60 years of making them.
- No, we didn’t store ours in the refrigerator. Again, never had an issue, but I will advise you to do so for health safety sake.