Sour Cream Sugar Cookies

Baking rack with decorated Sour Cream Sugar Cookies With Icing and sprinkles.
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Gather loved ones young and old around a batch of these rolled sugar cookies, and settle in for a lazy afternoon of festive decorating and cozy memory-making.

Sour Cream Sugar Cookies: Memories in the Making. 

Take a moment and reflect on your earliest Christmas memories—being allowed to open a first present on Christmas Eve, laying sleeplessly in bed as you wait for morning to come, standing nervously in a long line, practicing your wish list in your head until it’s finally your turn to meet Santa. Or, maybe your earliest memories of the holidays take place in the kitchen—ours revolve around standing on a chair next to our mothers and grandmothers, eager to “help” roll out the dough for this years’ batch of Christmas cut out sugar cookies.

Now that we have young children of our own, we want to fill their memory banks with moments like these, especially around Christmas time. And so, we make these rolled sugar cookies. We make them often and for many different occasions. Our children sift the flour, pour the sugar, whisk the eggs, but the real “helping” fun begins after the sugar cookies have been rolled out and baked and it’s time to decorate.

In an instant, our kids get promoted from mere helpers, to head couturiers of the cookie world. Depending on their age, this may be one of the most life-giving opportunities they’ve ever experienced: a plate of cookies, three shades of frosting and countless bowls of sprinkles and dragées in all shapes and sizes. Oh, the possibilities! Oh, the responsibility! After all, Christmas sugar cookies are a big deal. Glittering and joyful, they sit at the center our homemade cookie plates, given out to neighbors and loved ones. And—most importantly—they will be carefully laid out just before bedtime on Christmas Eve, as a little gratuity for Santa’s hard work.

This particular rolled sugar cookie recipe has been handed down through three generations. They’re the quick, easy and perfect sugar cookies your holiday baking dreams are made of—the dough is easy to roll and cut out, and the final result is deliciously buttery.

How to Make Sugar Cookies

Homemade sugar cookies really are easy to make, but a little baking technique goes a long way in making sure you get perfect sugar cookies every time. It helps to break the process into a few simple steps. 

  1. Sifting: the lightness and tenderness of our rolled sugar cookies begins here. Sifting all of the dry ingredients together (sugar included) helps to aerate your flour and distribute the leavening (baking soda). 
  2. Cut the fat into the dry ingredients: for flakey, tender sugar cookies, you want to carefully cut the butter and shortening into the dry ingredients just as you would for pie crust—resist the urge to use your stand mixer! 
  3. No chill time! This is perhaps the best sugar cookie recipe EVER because it doesn’t need any time in the fridge before rolling and cutting. If you’re making this with tiny “helpers”, the value of not having to chill your cookie dough cannot be underestimated. 
  4. Rolling out the dough: with just enough flour on your roller to ensure a no-stick situation, roll out your sugar cookie dough to a 1/4-inch thickness and (finally!) it’s time to let your little elves get to work cutting out all of their favorite shapes. 
  5. How to know when your cookies are done: these sugar cookies bake fast, so keep an eye on them! Watch for just a touch of light golden brown at the edges of your cookies—this should happen around the 6-8 minute market—and take care not to over bake. 
Bowls of colorful sprinkles.

Notes on the Ingredients in Our Sugar Cookies

As we mentioned, this sugar cookie recipe has been handed down through three generations, and while some of the ingredients may look a bit old fashioned it has stood the test of time. Here is a quick look at what make these rolled sugar cookies work so well: 

  • Shortening: shortening has fallen out of fashion, but it is one of the reasons these cookies are so perfect for rolling out and cutting. “Shortening”, technically, is a term for any fat that is solid at room temperature. The combination of vegetable shortening and butter in these sugar cookies really helps the dough hold its shape and limits spreading, which is so essential for cut out cookies.
  • Sour cream: sour cream is a true unsung hero of the baking world. It brings moisture and flavorful fat to this otherwise-basic cookie dough, and produces a supremely tender cookie. 
  • Vanilla: a small spoonful of vanilla is really the only strong flavor of rolled sugar cookies like these, so use the best you can. We’re huge fans of this brand of Pure Vanilla Extract.
Sour Cream Sugar Cookies with Christmas sprinkles.

How to Make Your Homemade Sugar Cookies Picture-Perfect

Everyone has their own idea of what Christmas sugar cookies should look like—and isn’t that part of the fun? Especially when we’re making rolled sugar cookies with our kids, we like to pull out all the stops—lay out a table full of cookie cutters, bowls of colored icing, and plenty of sprinkles and let their imaginations do the rest. Here are a few must-haves for dressing up your rolled sugar cookies for the holidays: 

  • Cookie cutters: this simple set of snowflake cookie cutters is always a hit, but nothing beats family heirlooms—if your parents or grandparents have a set of cookie cutters, ask to borrow them for this project to make it even more special. 
  • Silver dragees: these silver balls are the gold standard (silver standard?) when it comes to making your homemade sugar cookies look polished and professional—not to mention festive.  
  • Icing: this icing is luxurious and thick, and using heavy cream instead of milk means that it tastes good, too. If you don’t have piping bags, just use a zipper top bag with the tip snipped.

Feeling Festive? 

If so, check out our other holiday favorites, like our classic Gingerbread Loaf or Santa-ready Crinkle Cookies with Peppermint Cream

If you make these Christmas cookies, we’d love to hear about it! Be sure to snap a photo, add it to your Instagram feed or stories and tag us @themodernproper and #themodernproper if you do. Also, feel free to leave a comment on the post and tell your friends where you discovered the recipe.

Sina's Sour Cream Sugar Cookies

Serves 3

Ingredients

1/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup butter, cold
1/2 cup sour cream, cold
1 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 cups flour (plus extra for rolling)

glaze

2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
pinch of salt

Method

  1. Set oven to 400º fahrenheit. Sift dry ingredients into a bowl.
  2. Cut in shortening and butter until mealy. Add eggs, sour cream and vanilla.
  3. Roll out dough to 1/4” thickness. Cut and bake for 6-8 minutes until the edges just start to get light brown.
  4. Frost and decorate only after completely cooled. These will keep in an airtight container for up to a week.
  5. In a small bowl, mix all the glaze ingredients until completely smooth.