Audrey’s Holiday Sugar Cookie Recipe

As a child, one of my favorite holiday traditions was making sugar cookies with my mother. Some years we made cookies at Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter. She collected cookie cutters for the occasion, now I keep the bulk of her collection–along with my own cutters–displayed on my kitchen counter in a glass jar.

Her cookie recipe is adapted from the Deluxe Sugar Cookie (aka “Mary’s Sugar Cookies”) from the old Betty Crocker Cookbook. Our family prefers a leaner cookie, so Mom halved the soda. Because our child is peanut allergic, we steer clear of nuts and nut extract. Therefore, I’ve adapted the recipe by subbing lemon for the almond extract.

We’re also steering clear of food dyes, so this year we went with a lovely white granulated sugar that looks like snow.

Ours is a small family but with a big sweet tooth. To spread the recipe out, I divide the dough into four batches and freeze for use later. This is a nice way to keep cookies available year round. Also, if you work full time, you can mix the ingredients up at night and then freeze them for another evening or on the weekend. Spreading the steps out makes the process seem a little easier on busy schedules.

No cookie cutters on hand? Just roll the dough into cylinders before chilling and then slice, top with sugar, bake and serve.

Yield varies according to size and shape of cookie cutters, but count on about 4 to 5 dozen


1 cup softened local butter
1 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla or vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. lemon extract
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. soda
1 tsp. cream of tartar

Granulated sugar (with which to decorate)


Combine butter through lemon extract. Mix well. In a separate bowl, combine flour, soda and cream of tartar. Add dry ingredient mix slowly to the butter mixture. Cover bowl and place in refrigerator for at least 3 hours. (It is at this point that you can divide the recipe for freezing. Well covered, it will keep in the freezer for up to three months.)

Preheat oven to 375. Cover pans with a sheet of parchment. Divide dough into fourths on a lightly floured sheet of wax paper or parchment. Place another piece of paper on top of the dough Roll the dough until it is between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick. Working with the cutters–but not yet cutting into the dough, arrange the shapes so as to maximize the coverage area. Cut into the dough and then remove each cookie carefully, placing them on the parchment covered pans. Sprinkle with sugar. When working with small children, excess sugar can be “swept” up from the pan using a small kitchen brush.

Bake approximately 8 minutes or until the edges begin to brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool a moment before moving the cookies to a rack.


Butter et al, before meeting the dry ingredients. Using local foods like butter and eggs will yield a brighter mix.
This batch came out a little too dry, so I added a bit of water until the texture was right.
This dough actually sat in the freezer a couple of days. To defrost, leave it in your fridge.
Rolling pin, parchment or rolling pin, wax paper. Either combo will work for rolling out the cookies. Just sandwich the dough between two sheets as shown here.
Taking the time to find a good position for each cutter will cut down on your rolling pin time.
Of course, kdis don’t want to wait for the careful alignment of cutters. Let ’em at it.
White sugar can be as special as any colored bits. Think of it as snow–and be glad for the lack of sketchy dyes in your diet.
You can trim the paper to fit. It’ll look less messy and cut down on the risk of fire in your oven. (I cut this paper right after doing the photo.)
When it came to waiting to taste one of these, I had as much trouble waiting as the kid.
This time of year sweet plates can be picked up for a song. I paid $1 for this one at Walgreens. It’d make a honey of a gift, filled with homemade cookies.
Ready for tea time.

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  1. Thank you so much for sharing the recipe! I haven’t found a good sugar cookie recipe that’s a “keeper”–can’t wait to try your recipe this week! Many cookies to be made for school parties…and I love that the dough freezes well.

    And the million dollar question…how many cookies in this batch remain?! Our family loves sweets, so I don’t think they’ll last long.
    Happy Monday!

  2. If you don’t like the lemon, you can switch back to the almond extract, Julie. But having had them both ways, I’m sort of fond of the lemon one now–especially since citrus is in season here. I like that “nod” to my region. You could try orange extract, too, I suppose.

    Oh, and that 1/4 batch is gone. So is the second 1/4 batch. But thanks to the freezer, I’ve got about 2 more batches left!

  3. When Mei Lin & I made cookies we ended up going online to get a sugar cookie recipie – not anymore – Your recipie looks great, especially with lemon in it! Tell your mom it will be Audrey Holiday Sugar Cookies from now on in the Chen-Johnston household – thanks for sharing! It will be our tradition from now on! Love from your Malaysian cousin, Siok Hong in League City.

  4. Siok Hong: Tell Mei Lin that I vividly remember being envious of Mom’s making Aubrey a big batch of these cookies to ship to him =)

  5. Yummy! I love sugar cookies just how you made them – with just a bit of dusting sugar on top. However, if you are ever in the market for a sugar cookie recipe that makes great iced bakery style cookies or just a sugar cookie recipe that doesn’t require lots of sugar in the recipe, try this one:
    It’s fantastic for cutting shapes that have lots of detail. Not much spreading at all.

    As far as the nut allergy, I keep forgetting to ask our doctor, but are you assuming that the nut extract would cause the same reaction as eating the nut? I don’t let Avery eat maraschino cherries for that reason. Thinking I should have her steer clear of sugar cookies outside the home as well.

  6. That’s my concern, Amy. The last big news story about a peanut allergic kid dying from a bakery cookie sealed the deal for us. Unless I make it, we pretty much skip it now. No reason to tempt fate.

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