Sugar Cookies, Revisited

Believe it or not, I thought I could get through the Easter holiday without decorating some sugar cookies for the occasion.  First I saw Katie’s adorable bunny cookies and they weakened my resolve.  Then I was looking through the pantry and glanced at a set of pastel sanding sugars.  I bought them a month or two ago specifically for decorating Easter cookies.  That settled it, I was making Easter cookies.  I always have a blast decorating with royal icing, and this time was no exception.  I did love it even more than usual though, because I think the sanding sugars took the cookies to a whole new level – taste, texture and appearance-wise.  To achieve the sparkly sugar look, I just sprinkled the sugar on to the still-wet icing from flooding and it worked perfectly.  Just be sure to shake off any excess before adding additional detailing, so the extra piping has a sturdy attachment point.  The bunnies (or “munnies” as Andrew calls them) are just too cute!  If you could use a royal icing tutorial, check mine out here.

I also had to share these because I have been playing with flavor variations on my favorite sugar cookie lately, and I have totally fallen in love with this version.  I actually happened upon this by accident, when I was completing a cookie order and ran out of almond extract.  I didn’t have time or energy to run to the store, so I went with what I had on hand – vanilla extract, vanilla bean, and lemon zest.  Don’t get me wrong, I still love the almond version, but this is a wonderful new spin on my old favorite cookie.  The tiny black flecks of vanilla bean are so pretty, and the lemon zest adds a lovely bright flavor.  As if I needed another reason to make sugar cookies….

For one last fun Easter dessert idea, these baby bird cupcakes are adorable and delicious!

Lemon and Vanilla Bean White Sugar Cookies
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2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 large egg
2½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
Zest of half a lemon (or the zest of a whole lemon, if you love lemon)
2½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and confectioners’ sugar on medium-high speed until smooth, 1-2 minutes.  Beat in the egg, vanilla extract, seeds scraped from the vanilla bean, and lemon zest until blended.  Mix in the flour and salt on low speed just until incorporated.  Form the dough into a ball and wrap tightly with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate until chilled and firm, at least 1-2 hours.

When you are ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 375˚ F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.  Roll the dough out on a well floured work surface to about ¼-inch thickness.  Cut with cookie cutters as desired and transfer to the prepared baking sheets.  Bake 8-10 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through baking, until fully cooked but not at all browned.  Allow to cool on the baking sheet 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Decorate as desired.

57 Responses

  1. I’m loving the grass at the bottom of the bunnies. What an original idea!!

  2. I use your sugar cookie recipe but almost always use lemon instead of the almond. It makes them so bright!

    The rabbits are adorable! You’re so talented!

  3. Just because you need ANOTHER reason…orange zest & vanilla have always been our sugar cookie flavorings, & it’s wonderful too.

  4. Annie – Your sugar cookies are so inspirational! My neighbor and I recently starting looking for any excuse to use royal icing, but we’re having trouble with the finished product. Does your icing dry matte or shiny? We love the shiny look after flooding, but after they fully dry they are dull and don’t look as nice. Do you have this trouble? Have you ever tried Wilton’s Color Flow instead of merigue powder? Looking forward to seeing what you do next!

    • Erin,
      The icing dries matte, but I think they still look pretty that way. I’ve never heard of color flow, I just use meringue powder. You could paint them with a mixture of pearl dust and water/vanilla extract to give them a metallic sheen, but I think they look beautiful without.

  5. I made your almond flavored sugar cookies and used your royal icing tutorial a month back to make lettered cookies for a baby shower. It ended up being much easier than I thought it would be (I was terrified of royal icing). Your tutorial is so easy to follow!! These cookies are adorable. I may just start making sugar cookies every holiday!

  6. Ok, first of all – WOW. I’m so flattered *you* liked my cookies. You having the most gorgeous cookies, of course. And secondly, I totally agree about the sanding sugars. I used them for Christmas and I LOVED them. Your eggs look soooo awesome with them! Usually sugar cookie eggs look a little silly to me, but yours are seriously gorgeous. Love them. And Happy Easter, Annie!! 🙂

  7. Awww, those cookies are so cute.
    You have great piping skills!
    Maybe I’ll try decorating some sugar cookies to work on my piping. . .

  8. You must have read my mind! Just yesterday I was searching your blog for a sugar cookie recipe and I was planning on whipping up some Easter cookies today!

  9. These are adorable!! I love decorating with royal icing, and the results are always great.

  10. so much dedication….I’ve yet to EVER pull out my pastry bag to decorate sugar cookies. I’ve thought about it, but that is an additional mess I’m not yet willing to deal with.

  11. So cute! Thanks for the new recipe too – I’m going to try it this weekend when I make some cookies for my friend who just learned she is expecting!

  12. These cookies are beautiful. I will have to bookmark for the next time I need sugar cookies for sure. And great tutorial on the icing.

  13. These cookies are so cute!! I love checking your blog everyday to see what you have made! You are very talented!!

  14. I love vanilla bean flecks in sugar cookies…or anything, really…too! Try vanilla bean paste if you haven’t already; it’s great!

    I’m with you…love, love sanding sugar! Your cookies are darling! I’m glad you decided to make them! 🙂

  15. I love, love, love your pictures. Did you really decorate these cookies yourself? That is beyond impressive for me, considering slathering on a little frosting (which always comes out looking weird) is my idea of decorating. I cannot wait to try some of your recipes out, including this delicious cookie recipe.

  16. The sanding sugars are so pretty, and I love the detail on the bunnies.

    I love lemon zest in sugar cookies! I think it gives them a wonderful depth of flavor. But Kristin’s orange-vanilla idea sounds delicious too.

  17. Annie, this is great! I needed a new sugar cookie recipe for a bake sale I’m baking for this month – You read my mind! Thanks a bunch. I can’t wait to try these.

  18. Seriously Annie…you out do yourself!!! Question though….do you find that making these cookies take a ridiculous amount of time?? Maybe I am just slow, but they are always so time intensive. They turn out great…but man do they take time!! Any tips on speeding the process up?

    • Heather,
      They used to take me a really long time when I was still in the learning stages, but now that I have done so much work with royal icing, it really doesn’t take long at all. I actually think of it as something fun that I look forward to, and each step never takes too very long. I think the part I like the least is just tinting the portions of icing different colors. The actual decorating is fun!

  19. These are so beautiful!

  20. Your cookies are truly inspiring! I wish I could get my royal icing to look like that, SO impressive! And I Love the look with the sugar and then accented with the icing, really inventive! LOVE your blog : )

  21. they are beautiful!

  22. Your cookies are gorgeous and I love your blog. I was wondering where do you get your sanding sugar?

  23. oh my goodness gracious, these could not look more precious and perfect! i just took your dulce de leche cheesecake out of the oven though, so i won’t be attempting these anytime soon! =) i check your blog almost daily and have loved everything i’ve made. thanks, annie!

  24. Adorable!! I love the layering in the decorating…so cute! 🙂

  25. Hi Annie–I stumbled upon your blog months ago and love it. And I am amazed you have the time between work and your adorable Andrew! One question: how long will these cookies last once iced? I might make these as a baptism favors for my son but I would need to do it ahead of time. I was planning on making them and putting them in cellophane bags. Any idea how long they will continue to taste fresh once iced?

    • Hi Christina,
      You can make them at least 1 week in advance. I have done that several times and as long as they are well wrapped, I think they taste as good as fresh. The royal icing seems to help seal in moisture.

  26. Adorable cookies! I’ve never tried sanding sugars before but would like to now. Your cookies look so beautiful and professional!

  27. annie, i’ve been a long time blogstalker but have yet to leave a comment. these gorgeous cookies of yours brought me out from under my rock. ha!

    anyway, these are some of your best sugar cookies yet! they are absolutely gorgeous! i LOOOOOOOOOVE how turned out.

    btw, i don’t know how you do it with being a doctor, wife, mommy AND maintaining this wonderful blog. seriously, you are my hero. 🙂

  28. Love your Easter cookies, especially the “munnies”! I had so much fun making sugar cookies for Easter. Hope you had a fantastic weekend 🙂

  29. I made these today (as cookie pops) and unfortunately, one broke, and I was simply forced to sample it. The cookie was delicious! I am not a huge sugar cookie fan, but they are the perfect base for cookie pop party favors, so I’m glad to have found a tasty recipe! Thanks! For the record, one batch made about 16, 3″-round cookies.

  30. These are absolutely adorable!!

  31. Such a great blog – your life is amazingly full and interesting 🙂

  32. this recipe sounds amazing with the lemon and vanilla bean. how many cookies does a batch this size make?

  33. Annie,

    These cookies are gorgeous. You’ve insprired me to try my hand at royal icing! Quick question – have you ever tried egg whites instead of the meringue powder? I saw somewhere that they are interchangeable and just wondering if you’ve had more success with one over the other. Thanks!

    • Autumn,
      I only use meringue powder. It’s so convenient and doesn’t have the same risks of bacterial contamination as raw eggs.

  34. Hi Annie! Can the dough be made ahead of time and kept frozen until it’s ready to be baked? If so, how far in advance can I prepare the dough but not bake it? Thanks for such a terrific blog!!!

    • I don’t see why not, though I haven’t tried it myself. I’m not a food scientist so I don’t know how long it will last in the freezer but the longer it is there, the more the quality will decrease.

  35. Annie, these are phenomenal! The taste is superb, and they are incredibly moist. I decided the Friday before my bridal shower (which took place that Sunday) that I was going to make pumpkin shaped cookies as favors. Some people in my family have nut allergies, so I decided to do these as opposed to your standard recipe. I have never made sugar cookies before, nor have I ever done royal icing, but thanks to this recipe and your tutorial on the icing, they turned out to be amazing! Everyone was commenting that they looked so professional , and even designated me the family baker for the holidays! Thanks so much for your blog =)

    • Jacqui, I’m so glad! Just for future reference, you can always use imitation almond extract for those with nut allergies. Our babysitter’s daughter is allergic to nuts, so I always use that for their cookies and it is fine.

  36. Hi Annie,
    I’ve been perfecting my sugar cookie recipe. Martha Stewart’s recipe tastes awesome but the cookies puffed up so much that they almost lost their shape. I’m looking forward to trying your latest recipe. (They’re in the oven right now).

    I’m also trying to be consistent with my measurements by using a scale to weigh the ingredients.. It’s frustrating because different websites give me different conversions for confectioner’s sugar (1 cup to ___grams). They vary by up to 20 grams! Where do you find your info for conversions when using your kitchen scale?

    • I only weigh ingredients when weight measures are given. If only volume measures are provided, then that is how I measure since that is how the recipe was designed. I only use volume measure for my sugar cookies and for me, they turn out perfect every time and keep their shape very well.

  37. Where do you get your vanilla beans? I am in a small town with just Walmart and Smiths. I went through and cannot find the section they would be in. Do you order it or do you need to buy it from a specialty store?

    • I order them online. The cost of a vanilla bean in the store is usually $3-6, but you can buy 30-40 online for $20-30.

  38. I must say I think it’s a little funny/interesting that you had vanilla bean on hand but not almond extract. 🙂

    Next…when you say you rotate the baking sheets 1/2 way through the baking…you just mean that if you have more than one sheet in the oven right?

    • When you bake as much as I do, you go through pantry staples in no time. And with all the sugar cookie orders I get, I run out of almond extract frequently. I buy vanilla beans in bulk.

      I always rotate baking sheets, whether there is only one or two in the oven.

  39. I know you are tired of hearing from me but I just had to tell you, I was quite leery of this recipe and all the vanilla that was called for so last week I tried your “Ella’s White sugar cookie” with almond extract instead-it looked a little more familiar. It was good, but not quite what I was hoping for. So this week I thought I’d take a chance with all the vanilla & lemon zest. I haven’t even made the cookies yet, I just finished the dough and oh MY! so yummy, so smooth. I can’t wait for the cookies!

  40. Hey Annie,
    LOVE your blog.. and am going to attempt some cookies this weekend before Thanksgiving. I am currently living in Israel and cannot find vanilla beans anywhere. Can these cookies be made without it? Or can you add more extract? What is your suggestion? Thanks!


    • If possible, I would just recommend trying the original version (linked within this post) with the almond and vanilla extracts. You can certainly add more vanilla to this recipe, but I don’t routinely do that myself so I don’t have an exact recommendation of how much to use.

  41. Hi, thank you for your site. I just have a question on my Royal icing. Have tried every recipe starting with a simple sugar water glaze , to a one with corn syrup in it to another with a bit of butter in it. But I always get this ugly crystalization when dried. Can you tell me what is the reasons for that. Thank you sweetie…..

    • I’m sorry, I’ve never had that problem. All I can do is recommend this royal icing recipe (and also my royal icing tutorial). Good luck!

  42. Hi Annie,
    I just wanted to leave a comment about this fantastic recipe. I just made them and they all turned out to be amazing. This is by far the best sugar cookie recipe I have ever made. Thanks for continuing to introduce your readers to all these wonderful recipes. 🙂

  43. YUM!! We made these last night and they were a huge hit 🙂 thanx for the recipe 🙂

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