I get that it’s past Halloween, but it’s still technically fall, right? Right?! I mean, Thanksgiving is the epitome of fall, so therefore, minus the orange and black combo and the carved pumpkins, all fall colors and treats are still allowed for a few more weeks. That’s how my mind justified making my all-time favorite Soft Sugar Cookies this past weekend. Sure, all the colored leaves that were here just a couple weeks ago are completely gone and there may have been people hanging Christmas lights yesterday while Philip and I were out walking, but IT’S STILL FALL! Ahem.
Anyway, if you think it’s time to pull out the garland and Christmas lights, these Soft Sugar Cookies are just as tasty shaped into trees and bells as they are shaped like leaves and acorns. And believe me, I know, because these cookies have been made into everything from pumpkins and hearts to Easter eggs and bells over the years. As far back as I can remember, for every possible holiday, my mom was always making a batch of these cookies for me to decorate with her.
Let’s take a trip down memory lane, shall we? Here’s Little Kara at 4 years old (probably in my favorite black leotard I wore while I “helped” my mom do her Jazzercise…ahh, gotta love the early 90’s). We always covered the kitchen table with old newspaper and slowly filled it up with cookies as they came out of the oven. Normally my mom was in charge of frosting (I suppose in this picture I was showing my independence), while I followed close behind her, liberally shaking a variety of sprinkles onto the cookies before the frosting dried. #teamwork
20+ years later, this is still one of my favorite cookies. While I still really love my Cookies ‘n Cream Cookies and my Soft & Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies are a classic, this one ranks up there. It even made it to one of three recipe cards we handed out at our wedding (Cookies ‘n Cream Cookies and another favorite of Philip’s that’s still to come on this blog were the other two). They’re that good.
While I didn’t have my mom around to help me this time, I
dragged recruited Philip to help me with the decorating. It definitely helps having another person around while doing this job. From the making of the dough to rolling, cutting, and decorating, it can be a somewhat long process. Plus, it just makes it more fun.
The odd thing is, I don’t even really like sugar cookies normally. I love decorating them, but after that, I could take or leave them. They’re usually somewhat crisp or hard and they’re almost too perfect to eat. If you’re nodding your head and thinking the same thing, these cookies are for you. Even if you like those hard sugar cookies, I know you’ll appreciate these, too. These sugar cookies are…well, soft. Baked just right, they’re almost pillowy, light, and practically melt in your mouth. It’s almost impossible to eat just one. Not that I would know…
If you feel like the frosting is a little…shall we say, sloppy, you’re right — it is. Because they’re so soft, they’re not the cookie you meticulously frost with five different piping tips. Just a good slather of glaze on top with a shake of sprinkles does the job. (Even the perfectionist in me is okay with that for these cookies).
For once, this recipe remains unchanged from the original recipe. I’ve left this recipe identical to what my mom has been making for years — it may not be the healthiest, but for a holiday treat, it’s a great one. One of the best kept “secrets” is the orange flavoring my mom uses in the glaze. Just a little bit will do ya. It’s just enough to make you notice it and wonder what’s different about them. Of course, vanilla or almond flavoring (another favorite of my mom’s) will suffice, too.
Although the shape of these cookies may be debatable in this current changing of the seasons, their deliciousness still stands. Make these for Thanksgiving, a Christmas cookie exchange, or into whatever shape your heart desires. They taste good any time of year. Guaranteed.
Kara’s Favorite Soft Sugar Cookies
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 teaspoons vanilla
- 3 eggs
- 3 1/2 cups flour
- 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Powdered sugar
- Orange extract or other extract flavorings such as vanilla or almond (~1/2 teaspoon extract)
- Cream the butter in a large bowl. Add in the sugar and continue creaming together.
- Add in the vanilla and eggs one at a time, mixing after each egg.
- Add in the remaining dry ingredients.
- Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill dough for at least an hour. This can be left in the refrigerator for a couple of days in advance.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Using plenty of flour to prevent the dough from sticking (plenty!!), roll dough out with rolling pin to about 1/8 to 1/4″ thickness. To prevent dough from getting tough, handle and roll out the dough as little as possible. Cut into desired shapes and transfer to a cookie sheet lined with a Silpat or parchment paper. (If you notice the dough starting to get sticky, put bowl of remaining dough in the refrigerator while rolling and cutting the dough).
- Bake for about 6 – 8 minutes. The dough will not turn brown and will remain very white. Do not wait until it turns golden brown on the edges to take the cookies out of the oven.
- While baking the cookies, mix about a 3:1 ratio of powdered sugar to milk together. From here, adjust as needed for desired glaze consistency. It should be thin enough to drip from a spoon, but not to the point of being runny. Add a little bit of orange extract and taste before adding more to the glaze. The orange should not be overpowering. If too much orange is added, overcome this by adding some more powdered sugar and milk to the mixture.