Classic Christmas Butter Cookies and an Alternative to Icing

I thought that I had finished baking for this Christmas season, at least until baking a Blueberry or Apple Pie for Christmas Eve dinner. When my five-year old niece got an apron for St. Nicholas Day, she wanted to bake some Christmas Cookies. I wanted to do this later, but apparently we’re doing this now. I don’t have the greatest memories baking with my niece. Two years ago I made the dough ahead of time, she cut out two cookies and left me in the kitchen by myself, coming back to ask for something to drink or lunch. When the kitchen has cookies covering every surface, I really want to cook you lunch. Hopefully this year it will go better. More on that later.

Classic Christmas Butter Cookies

This recipe is very old, it came with a cookie cutter cube, which seem to be making a comeback as I have seen them in some shops. We’ve lost the recipe so many times, you wouldn’t believe it. When I was a little girl, I would make these cookies with my Mum. She hated baking, but she would always bake Christmas Cookies with me. The dough is practically indestructible for children, they don’t break when transferring them onto the lined baking sheet. Once they are done baking them, they can spend hours decorating them, at least that is my hope. Or you leave them plain, they are still delicious and your kitchen won’t look like a toddler flung icing at your kitchen cabinets. I’d love to get away with just baking them, we’ll see. Wish me luck baking with her.


A Deep Hatred for Icing

Can we just agree on icing being a huge mess? I hate it. It sticky, slides of your cookies and taste way too sweet. Until now I never found a good way to decorate some Christmas Cookies without turning the kitchen into a huge mess. Not only do you make a huge mess decorating them with icing and sprinkles everywhere, you have to leave them to dry for at least 24 hours or you ruin the cookies while putting them away.

I needed to find an alternative way to do it, so I started googling for a new way. I don’t remember where it was (when I find it, I’ll give you the link), but somebody wrote about decorating by using simple syrup as glue for the sprinkles and I heard a choir singing. If that worked, it would be the perfect solution. As you can’t buy simple syrup here, I just made some. Or I think I made some. I reduced a cup of sugar with a cup of water and one teaspoon of vanilla extract until I liked the consistency. The syrup has crystallized a little in the jar on the second day, which always happens to me. If anyone knows how to prevent that from happening I’d be much obliged.


Back to the question you are probably asking yourself: does it work? I brushed a thin layer of simple syrup  on the cookies and put the sprinkles on. In one hour the syrup had dried mostly clear, there are a few whitish specks, but for the most part they have a lovely shine. It’s not superglue, but it really works. I might never make icing ever again. Scrap that, I will never make icing ever again.


Classic Christmas Butter Cookies (pdf download)


300 gr Flour

2 Tsp. baking powder

100 gr Sugar

1 Tsp. Vanilla extract or Vanilla sugar

150 gr Butter

1 Egg

optional: 1/2 Tsp. Lemon zest

some milk or almond milk

For decoration:

150 gr Confectioners sugar

1/2 Lemon, juiced

Tempered chocolate (Milk, dark or white)


Food colouring

Simple Syrup


  1. Knead all the ingredients into a homogenous dough. Wrap it in cling film and put it into the fridge for one hour.
  2. Roll out the dough to about 5 mm thickness on a lightly dusted surface and cut the cookies out with a cookie cutter.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  4. Place the cookies with enough space on a lined cookie sheet.
  5. Brush the cookies with some milk, which will improve their colour while baking.
  6. Bake the cookies until golden for 12-15 minutes.
  7. Place the cookies on a cooling rack.
  8. For the lemon icing, stir together lemon juice and confectioners sugar. For regular icing replace the lemon juice with water.
  9. Once the cookies have cooled completely, decorate them with icing, chocolate*, simple syrup and sprinkles.
  10. Leave them to dry for at least 12 hours before storing them in an airtight container. Simple syrup decorated cookies are dry in about one hour.

*Tempering Chocolate:

  1. Chop the chocolate and put it into a microwaveable bowl.
  2. On medium heat microwave for twenty seconds, take it out and stir the chocolate.
  3. Put the chocolate back in the microwave for ten seconds, take it out and stir the chocolate.
  4. Repeat step three until the chocolate is melted smooth. I don’t have a thermometer and this method has always worked for me.


Despite baking with a five-year old, who made a fuss as soon as she got tired after one hour exactly, I think they turned out great. I thought I’d make lunch more exciting by baking Pizza Men with her, that was when everything turned to hell. I don’t know whether she was just tired or hungry or both, but there were tears. Though they can never see you cry. they will use your own tears as a weapon against you. After eating two of the Pizza Men, she was back on top of the world and finished baking the cookies without a fuss.


She especially got into making those Candy Cane Cookies, which turned out to be super hard because the dough was so fragile. Not the prettiest cookies, but at least we tried. I’m really proud of her. Then she really got into decorating them and, after besting me in a round of Frozen Monopoly, we could put the cookies away to take with her. She loves packing things to take home, she even raided my previous cookie plate and packed an empty bottle. Thankfully she didn’t pack my freezer bags again. I will probably need all weekend to recover. I wish you a beautiful third Sunday in Advent.

St. Nicholas Day Christmas Cookie Trifecta Part 1- Traditional Vanilla Crescent Cookies

St. Nicholas Day Christmas Cookie Trifecta Part 2 – Grandma’s Shortbread Cookies

St. Nicholas Day Christmas Cookie Trifecta Part 3 – Chocolate Peppermint Stars

St. Nicholas Day Christmas Cookie Trifecta Bonus – Chocolate Mountains

Christmas Granola with Pistachios and Cranberries



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