whole food ~ well made

Holiday Traditions: My Grandmother’s Sugar Cookie Recipe

For the first time ever our Oregon family is going east for Christmas. It’s an exciting change for the girls to gather with their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins in a big ski house in Vermont.

Cece asks questions almost daily about it, “Are there sled dogs in Vermont?” Molly, who has viewed pictures of the place online, asks, “Is there a big hill we can sled down?” Sorry kids, there will be no sledding, no sled dogs and no skiing this year.

But there will be sugar cookies. After all, what is Christmas without sugar cookies?

There is much we are not doing in and to our own home this year since we’ll be away. For one, no decorated indoor tree, no wreath or swags of pine boughs, so there isn’t the piney scent of the holiday season.

With no tree, there are no presents collecting and sparkling in their wrapping underneath it. Most of our other decorations are still in their boxes, though the stockings are hung. For me, the only unskippable tradition is cookie baking.

sugar cookie cut outs

I love the mess of flour and the rolling and the decorating. It’s one of my most vivid memories growing up when it seemed like we kids got to have a free-for-all with the dough and the candies.

I have a clear recollection of my frisky younger brother starting a flour war and not getting in any trouble for it. The tree and the presents could not be touched, but cookie baking was our time. With edible rewards.

One of my best new memories is watching our daughters relive the freewheeling holiday magic of it all. {When they’re not begging to eat up the dough.}

So, no matter how much organizing and packing there is to do for a holiday away from home, we will be baking decorated sugar cookies.

The dough is already made and chilled. Only the fun awaits! What’s your unskippable holiday tradition?


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Classic Sugar Cookie Dough

This is my favorite recipe passed down from my paternal grandmother from who knows where. It makes tender and buttery cookies, akin to shortbread. This is easy-to-handle dough makes anything from cut-out shapes and sandwich cookies to thumbprint cookies and bars. These cookies also last and last stored in a cookie tin.
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 4 dozen
Author Lynne Curry


  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4  cup granulated sugar
  • 2 egg yolks whites reserved for decorating
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 1/4  cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  • Cream the butter with the sugar in a stand mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  • Beat in the egg yolks and the vanilla until well-incorporated and smooth.
  • Sift together the flour and the salt. On low speed, stir in the flour just until a smooth dough comes together.
  • Turn the dough onto a lightly floured board, collect it into a round and pat it into a disk. Chill (or freeze) until ready to use, at least 2 hours.
  • When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place rolled-and-cut cookie shapes on an ungreased baking sheet. Brush them with the reserved egg whites and sprinkle on colored candies. 
  • Bake cookies for 10-12 minutes until lightly golden and transfer to a cooling rack.

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