This recipe is my most treasured Christmas Cookie recipe, as it was my Great Grandma Niklas’ which was passed down through the family. When my grandmother and I baked cookies together when I was younger, this used to be my favorite part. We’d sit in her dining room at the big long table and just chat while we iced and filled the length of the table with finished cookies. The cookie part of it is the same as the one I used for my Decorated Cut Outs (I will repeat all the steps in this post) but the icing is what steals the show! They’re decorated with just a dusting of colored sprinkles… my grandmother told me the other night that she used to make her own sprinkles by tinting granulated sugar with a drop of food coloring which I thought was so cool! The best part about this recipe is that they’re not supposed to look perfect… the icing will inevitably drip down a few sides and some may break but these cookies are Christmas for me!
Start out by making the sugar cookie dough. Cream 2 sticks of softened unsalted butter and 2 cups granulated sugar on medium speed in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add 3 large eggs in one at a time, beating well after each addition. Dissolve 1 1/2 tsp baking soda in 2 tbsp milk, then add that into the mixture along with 1 1/2 tsp cream of tartar, 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp vanilla. Turn speed down to low and add in 5 cups sifted flour, one cup at a time until a dough begins to form. Divide the dough into quarters and wrap each separately in plastic wrap. Chill until firm, about an hour or overnight.
Lightly flour your work surface, preheat your oven to 400 degrees and line baking sheets with Silpats. Roll one disk of dough to 1/8 inch thickness. Dip your cookie cutters in flour before using them and cut out the shapes that you prefer. Roll out scraps and keep cutting out until all the dough is used. Transfer the cut outs to baking sheets and freeze until firm, about 5 minutes. Cook until the cookies start to turn a light golden brown, about 7 minutes. Let cool a couple minutes on the baking sheets and then transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Next make the icing. In the bowl of an electric mixer put 2 lb confectioner’s sugar. In a heatproof measuring cup, put 3 tbsp unsalted butter cut into pieces and add a little half & half (this trick comes from my grandmother… the half and half makes it so the butter melts without splattering all over the microwave). Put the measuring cup in the microwave and heat for about 30 seconds until the butter is melted. Put your mixer on the lowest speed and slowly add the butter mixture. Add in 1 tsp vanilla and then turn the speed to medium. Slowly pour in more half & half until the icing reaches desired consistency.
Using an offset spatula, spread a thin layer of icing on your cookie and then, holding the cookie over a small plate, dust with sprinkles and then let dry for a couple hours on the wire racks. I like to wait quite a while for the cookies to dry before packing them up. I think my grandmother puts a piece of wax paper in between each layer in the container before freezing but my icing was hard enough from drying so long that I just stacked them all on top of on another.