Christmas Tree Cookies

published Dec 20, 2022
christmas
Christmas Tree Cookies Recipe

The act of decorating and munching on Christmas tree cookies is an easy-peasy way to spark holiday cheer.

Makes36 (3-inch) cookies

Prep25 minutes

Cook25 minutes to 35 minutes

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Photograph of Christmas tree cookies on a white plate.
Credit: Kristina Vanni

When I was growing up, cookie decorating day was one of my favorite parts of the Christmas season. Using a yellowed handwritten recipe card from my great-grandmother, my mom would whip up a batch of sugar cookie dough while my sister and I picked out our favorite cookie cutter shapes from the basement. Of course, there was always a Christmas tree in there.

These days, there are so many options and styles when it comes to decorating sugar cookies, including some that are incredibly stunning and require a lot of time and patience. But the purpose of this recipe is different. For me, it’s my go-to project for little hands to get excited about being in the kitchen. The frosting is not only simple and delicious, but it also spreads easily. You don’t need any special skills or tools, and it is all about having fun. When I was a kid, my mom knew that little pearls of sprinkles would likely end up all over the kitchen floor.

I can’t wait to make these cookies with my three young nieces this Christmas and, in the coming years, with my own newborn daughter. It warms my heart to think about the next generation making this very same recipe from their great-great grandma and continuing the tradition. I hope it is a recipe that can be shared and enjoyed in your family for generations to come as well.

Tips for Making Christmas Tree Cookies

  • Roll out the dough to an even thickness. This ensures every cookie bakes evenly, without overcooked or undercooked spots.
  • Choose a good cookie cutter. I recommend using a Christmas tree cookie cutter with distinct edges to help mantain a recognizable tree shape, even after the cookies have puffed in the oven.
  • Have fun with the toppings. Christmas tree cookies are typically decorated with green tinted icing. After frosting the cookies, they can be decorated to your heart’s content! Sanding sugar, colorful candies, or even edible glitter are all fun and festive options.

Christmas Tree Cookies Recipe

The act of decorating and munching on Christmas tree cookies is an easy-peasy way to spark holiday cheer.

Prep time 25 minutes

Cook time 25 minutes to 35 minutes

Makes 36 (3-inch) cookies

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the cookies:

  • 2 sticks

    (8 ounces) unsalted butter

  • 3 cups

    all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    baking soda

  • 1 cup

    granulated sugar

  • 1

    large egg

  • 2 teaspoons

    vanilla or lemon extract

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

For the frosting and decorations:

  • 2 tablespoons

    unsalted butter

  • 2 cups

    powdered sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    vanilla extract

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons

    milk, plus more as needed

  • Green food coloring

  • Star-shaped candy decorations

  • Red Hots cinnamon candies or red M&M candies

    Instructions

    Makes the cookies:

    1. Place 2 sticks unsalted butter in the bowl of a stand mixer (or large bowl if using an electric mixer). Let sit at room temperature until the butter is softened. Meanwhile, place 3 cups all-purpose flour and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda in a medium bowl and whisk to combine.

    2. Add 1 cup granulated sugar to the bowl of butter. Beat with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add 1 large egg, 2 teaspoons vanilla or lemon extract, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Beat on medium-high speed until combined, about 30 seconds.

    3. Add the flour mixture and beat on the lowest speed until just combined, about 45 seconds. Transfer the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and shape into a disk. Completely wrap the disk in the plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.

    4. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350ºF. Meanwhile, let the dough sit at room temperature until it has softened slightly to roll easily, 15 to 30 minutes.

    5. Lightly flour a work surface. Unwrap the dough, place on the work surface, and roll out until about 1/8-inch thick. Use a Christmas tree shaped cookie cutter to cut out as many trees as possible. Transfer to an ungreased, unlined baking sheet, spacing them at least 1-inch apart, 12 per sheet.

    6. Bake until set and lightly browned on the edges, 8 to 12 minutes. Gather the cookie dough scraps and form into a ball. Repeat rolling and cutting out more trees, chilling the dough as needed if it gets too soft.

    7. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack and let cool completely. Bake the remaining cookies on cooled baking sheets. Meanwhile, wash and dry the stand mixer bowl and paddle attachment. Place 2 tablespoons unsalted butter in the bowl and let sit at room temperature until softened.

    Frost and decorate the cookies:

    1. Add 2 cups powdered sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract to the bowl of butter. Beat with the paddle attachment on low speed until just combined, about 1 minute.

    2. With the mixer still on low speed, gradually beat in 2 to 3 tablespoons milk, adding more milk as needed until smooth and spreadable. Beat in green food coloring, a few drops at a time, until the desired shade of green.

    3. Spread the frosting onto the cookies in an even layer. Decorate each cookie with a star candy decoration on top and press Red Hots cinnamon candies into the frosting to look like ornaments. Let sit until the frosting is set, about 20 minutes.

    Recipe Notes

    Storage: Store frosted cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days, or refrigerate for up to 1 week. Cookies that haven’t been frosted or decorated can be stored in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let come to room temperature before frosting and decorating.