Holiday Cut-Out Cookies

December  6, 2012

Every day till Christmas, we're bringing you 12 Days of Baking: 12 all-new baking recipes to lift holiday spirits -- from breakfast pastries to dinner rolls, and all the desserts you can handle.

Today: Amanda brings us her family's all-purpose, Postal Service-friendly, lasts-forever Holiday Cut-Out Cookie.

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This is my mother’s recipe. She’s a stickler for details, which plays to her advantage when it comes to baking. Her cut-out cookies are always the thinnest and prettiest and have the most restrained amount of decoration. Contrary to the plump and pale versions you often see, cut-out cookies should be very thin with browned edges, so they’re crisp and nutty!

Holiday Cut-Out Cookies

Makes 80 cookies (depending on the cookie cutter size; you can halve or quarter the recipe)

1 1/4 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 cups all-purpose flour
1 egg white
Finely chopped walnuts or sliced almonds (optional)
Sanding sugar (optional)
Dried citron or candied cherries, finely chopped (optional)

See the recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by James Ransom

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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Amanda Hesser

Written by: Amanda Hesser

Before starting Food52 with Merrill, I was a food writer and editor at the New York Times. I've written several books, including "Cooking for Mr. Latte" and "The Essential New York Times Cookbook." I played myself in "Julie & Julia" -- hope you didn't blink, or you may have missed the scene! I live in Brooklyn with my husband, Tad, and twins, Walker and Addison.


lauriw December 1, 2013
I know that I'm really late to the party, but could I make this, cut the cookies into shapes and then freeze them (before baking)? In my humid climate, I'm worried that baking them and having them sit for a week would kill their crunchiness.
Author Comment
Amanda H. December 1, 2013
My mother used to make the dough ahead of time and freeze it so I don't see why you couldn't freeze the cut out shapes. Just don't decorate them until just before baking -- you probably know this, I'm mentioning it just in case!
lauriw December 1, 2013
Thank you so much! I'm amazed to get a response, let alone so quickly (of course, I should have known better than to doubt since I'm on Food52!)
Sahara January 22, 2013
They look good, I am gonna make them even if it's not christmas.
Iowa R. December 17, 2012
Made these yesterday. It's a huge recipe so have valentine hearts in the freezer, too. This is the best sugar cookie recipe I've tried. They're crisp and delicious, and from now on, are the go-to cookies when the cookie cutters come out.
Author Comment
Amanda H. December 17, 2012
Delighted to hear this! Will tell my mom.
AntoniaJames December 10, 2012
Made these over the weekend. Actually, it seems like I made thousands of them, and I only used 1/3 of the dough! They taste great, even without waiting 2 weeks. Topped some with chopped, lightly pralined pecans, others with lemon scented sugar and others (my favorite) with raw sugar + Ceylon cinnamon. Dough handles well. ;o)
Author Comment
Amanda H. December 11, 2012
Like your topping combos!
stellabelle December 16, 2012
What about waiting 2 weeks?
Author Comment
Amanda H. December 16, 2012
The flavor will improve.
AntoniaJames January 16, 2013
Amanda, the ones with crunchy raw sugar plus cinnamon were the overwhelming favorite among our recipients. What makes them sort of fun is that the cookies smell just like snickerdoodles, with the fragrant butter, sugar and cinnamon, but then the cookies are crisp and crunchy when you eat them. My out-of-town recipients have all been writing to ask for the recipe! (The locals all just stopped by to see if there were any left.) ;o)
Author Comment
Amanda H. January 16, 2013
Great to get the post-holiday debriefing!
TastefullyKimS December 7, 2012
I will be trying these this weekend!!
dfcourtright December 6, 2012
any thoughts on making this gluten free? my mom makes these every year, but i haven't tried with bob's AP flour or almond, etc..
Art D. December 6, 2012
Hello, You could paint the cookies before they are baked and sprinkled with sugar. Into a cup add 1 egg yoke and a few drops of water; add a food color and stir with fork; paint cookie with small brush; add more cups for more colors (then add sugar to cookie). To make a tart, we would brush the cookie with egg white and add cinnamon.
AntoniaJames December 6, 2012
I made a batch of this dough the other night, and plan to start rolling/baking this evening. Cannot wait! What are the actual toppings that you used to decorate the cookies in the photo? I'm thinking about grinding up finely some maple-olive oil-pecan pralines that I made for another holiday cookie (inspired by Nekisia Davis' Genius granola) to sprinkle on lightly. And just raw sugar on a few batches. And maybe a thin hard-sauce inspired glaze (butter + confectioners' sugar + apple brandy) on some others. Love that moon shaped cookie, by the way. ;o)
Author Comment
Amanda H. December 6, 2012
My mother often uses sliced almonds. Here, the moons are topped with chopped walnuts; the stars and trees with green sanding sugar from Whole Foods (which is colored with spinach rather than dye) and chopped citron (from Kalustyans).
AntoniaJames December 6, 2012
Great tips! Definitely will try to run down that green sanding sugar. Not sure where I can get decent chopped citron locally, but it sounds worth the effort of trying to run it down. Thanks so much. ;o)