Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Cut-Out Sugar Cookies

It took a couple of days for my plunger finger to recover, but the sunflower cookies were a hit in Kinley's classroom on Kansas Day.
I have an old-fashioned cookie decorator set, and my "trigger" finger got tired after carefully decorating 30 cookies, using a leaf tip. But it made the most realistic-looking sunflower petals, so a little discomfort was just the way it was!
I spoke to one of the first-grade classes at Amanda Arnold Elementary School for Kansas Day at the request of Kinley's teacher, Jennifer Monaco. Jennifer grew up in Stafford, and her dad was Jill's middle and high school science teacher.
 It truly is a small world that Kinley ended up in Jen's classroom - a definite bonus for this Grandma!
When Jen asked me to come and read my farm counting book to the students, she also mentioned that they love cookies. What kid doesn't, right?! I asked Jill if she had a sunflower cutter. She didn't either. But, after some perusal, she ordered me a daisy cookie cutter from Amazon, saying that's what was shown for making sunflowers, too.  (She has Prime -and I don't - and I am cheap, so she had it shipped to me.)
Jen gave us these awesome Kansas tea towels. I'm using mine for the first time when I host PEO at my house today!
Thanks to Jill for also revamping her work schedule so she could help with farm bingo and other logistics. Thanks to Kansas Wheat for the bookmarks and pencils, as well as the Kansas Wheat pins we used for bingo prizes.
Jill also recommended the sugar cookie recipe as one that held its shape well. She used it for her Christmas cookies this year. So I went through the extra steps of bringing ingredients to room temperature and then chilling the completed dough before cutting them out. Even though I sometimes want to skip steps, I think those tips were critical to the successful cookies.
I had enough dough left to use a couple of heart cookie cutters for some Valentine shapes, too.

It seems all the professional cookie decorators use royal icing. It does make a beautiful cookie. But I'm a fan of actually using good-tasting frosting, so I used a buttercream to ice the cookies. I like using both vanilla and almond flavorings to boost the yumminess. And it's always fun to bring out my arsenal of sprinkles, too. (I used a chocolate disc in the middle of each sunflower cookie. You could also use chocolate chips or chocolate stars.)

Both Jill and I highly recommend this cookie recipe if you're looking to make cut-out sugar cookies. Enjoy!

But, first, a little bit of housekeeping: Mary Jo Taylor was the winner in my blog anniversary drawing. She chose to receive my book, "Count on It! Adventures from a Kansas Farm." Thanks to all of you for your wonderful comments! 
Cut-Out Sugar Cookies
3/4 cup salted butter, slightly softened to room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg at room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla (or vanilla bean paste)
1/2 tsp. almond extract
2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt

Using a stand mixer, beat the softened butter until smooth, about 1 minute. (Note: Don't melt the butter. Just have it softened to room temperature.) Add the sugar and beat on high until light and fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes. Scrape the bowl to make sure the sugar and butter are well incorporated. Add the egg, vanilla and almond extract; beat on high until fully combined. Again scrape down sides and bottom of bowl.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Turn the mixer down to low and slowly add about half the mixture, just mixing until it's barely combined. Add the rest of the flour and continue mixing until just combined.

Divide the dough into 2 equal parts. Roll each portion onto a piece of parchment paper to about 1/4-inch thickness. Put on a baking sheet and refrigerate at least 1 hour. Don't skip the chilling step!

Once chilled, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Use cookie cutters to cut as desired. If you are using a medium-sized cookie cutter (like the largest sunflower cutter in the photos above), it makes about 18 cookies. The heart cutters were smaller, so that translated to more cookies.

Bake for 9 to 12 minutes until very lightly colored on top and around the edges. Rotate the baking sheet halfway through baking. Allow to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.

Frost as desired, using buttercream icing and sprinkles.

Quick Vanilla Buttercream
Recipe from Food Network
3 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
1 tsp. vanilla or almond extract (I used 1/2 tsp. of each)
1 to 2 tbsp. whipping cream
In a standing mixer, mix together butter and shortening. Add powdered sugar, a little at a time, incorporating after each addition. Mix on low speed until well blended and then increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes.

Add vanilla (or almond) and cream and continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute more, adding more cream if needed for spreading consistency.

Color the icing and decorate as desired. 

  • If you want, you can sprinkle the raw cutouts with colored sugar before baking. Then they are decorated without frosting.
  • I am not a royal icing fan, but you could use a royal icing to frost these cookies. For a recipe for that, check out Sally's Baking Addiction. (Note: I did not try her frosting recipe).
  • I doubled the recipe, using my Kitchenaid mixer. I would NOT try to triple the recipe because it would be difficult to get the cookie dough mixed. (Jill said she tried tripling at Christmas and it didn't work. So we are saving you the trouble!) When doubling the recipe, I divided the dough into four parts and rolled each part to 1/4-inch thickness.
  • I am a big fan of vanilla bean paste. It's expensive, but it provides lots of flavor. 
  • If you want step-by-step photos, Sally's Baking Addiction has those for you.


  1. How wonderful for Kinley to have you visit her classroom. A an X junior school teacher I loved this peek into her classroom. Your sunflower bikkies were worth the sore fingers.

    1. Having the connection to Kinley's teacher has been a blessing and has provided some unique opportunities for interaction this year.

  2. Your cookies turned out beautiful! Sunflowers are some of my favorite flowers.

    1. Thanks! I hope your first week at the new job is going well!