I can remember baking sugar cookies with my mom as a kid. We’d use the recipe from our family copy of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook and decorate the cookies with colored sugars before baking them. They were always delicious, but those were the days when I wasn’t concerned with being an artist in the kitchen. The goods just had to be tasty!
When I began decorating cakes, I decided to try my hand at cookie decorating. With each project I would test a new cookie recipe. I was looking for one that held its shape and also tasted sweet and buttery, with the noticeable flair of vanilla. What I discovered is that a quality cutout sugar cookie required a delicate balance of ingredients.
You cannot simply add more flour to your dough in hopes that it will roll, cut and baker better. You’ll end up with a bland, tasteless mess. It really helps, in my experience, to use confectioners sugar in place of granulated sugar to create a dough that produces a tender cookie that holds its shape while baking. The addition of buttermilk adds just another touch of flavor, and since it is acidic, it inhibits some of the flours’ ability to form gluten during mixing. That is a good thing when you are taking those dough scraps and re rolling them as you cut out all of your cookies.
I also discovered that swapping some of the confectioners sugar for brown sugar allowed for even more flavor to be incorporated. Orange extra also gives these cookies a bright flavor, an extra kick if you will, without turning them into ‘orange cookies.’ Finally, using less baking powder than is called for in some recipes keeps the cookies from rising up and spreading , maintaining their shape and allowing for a flat surface to decorate. I share a few of my favorite was to decorate cookies in the video below.
Now on to the RECIPE!
- 8 ounces cool butter
- 1½ cups confectioners sugar (190 grams)
- ⅓ cup brown sugar (75grams)
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- ½ teaspoon orange extract
- 2 tablespoons buttermilk
- 3 cups all purpose flour (390 grams)
- ¾ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside
- In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars until they are fluffy and have lightened in color, about 2 minutes
- Add the egg, vanilla, orange extract and buttermilk and beat on medium low until smooth
- Add the flour all at once, mixing on low just until a dough forms
- Allow the dough to rest in the bowl for 10-15 minutes. This will allow the flour to fully absorb the moisture in the dough, making it less sticky and easier to roll
- Preheat your oven to 375*F and line 2 cookie trays with parchment
- Roll the dough to about ¼" thick using your favorite rolling method
- Cut out the cookies, then combine the scrapes with the second half of the dough and repeat rolling and cutting. Continue on until you have cut out your desired amount of cookies
- Bake the cookies for 7-10 minutes, until the they golden brown around the edges
- Allow them to cool on the trays then leave them set at room temperature for at least one hour before decorating