It’s Christmas cookie time! One of my all-time favorites for the holidays is sugar cookies with homemade buttercream frosting. Making and decorating sugar cookie cut-outs was a major events at my parent’s house while we were growing up. It was a several hours process that including made-from-scratch dough from the recipe card called “Judy’s Sugar Cookies”. After chilling the dough, we’d roll them out and use the pile of cookie cutters my mom has to make snowflakes, Christmas tress, stars, gifts, Santas, stockings, angels, and just about any other Christmas shape you can think of. We made batches and batches of them – we have a big family, so a couple of dozen wouldn’t cut it.
Then came the decorating. This was serious business and entailed pounds of homemade buttercream frosting in every color we needed, plus sprinkles where appropriate. Please don’t use canned frosting, ever. It’s gross, and homemade buttercream takes about 5 minutes to make using a stand or hand mixer. We never really used a recipe for the frosting, but the one of the box or bag of powdered sugar works fine, and the Domino’s Buttercream Frosting recipe is a good one to use. We were not professional decorators in any way, but we were detailed until the last couple of dozen – those ones just got spread with whatever color was left because we were tired of decorating. By the end, the thought of frosting would make us a little sick (from too many tastes), until at least the next day.
Being the youngest, eventually my sisters had moved out or were working, so I had less help. In high school, friends came to help on occasion, and we’d decorate the gingerbread people to look like people we knew. When I moved out, I continued making sugar cookies each year, and occasionally for other holidays (Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, 4th of July, Steeler’s Superbowls, Halloween, etc). I didn’t have a stand mixer, so I stopped making them from scratch and would use Betty Crocker cookie pouches. Everyone loved them and didn’t seem to notice they weren’t homemade. I remember my mom being surprised when I told her they were just the $2 pouch mixes.
The first time I made them after I moved to Columbus with a friend, every batch came out of the oven super hard (but not burned), and I was so mad! I remember ranting to her and saying I was going to throw them all in the trash (I had a temper issue back then). I was determined to have sugar cookies to take home though, so I angrily left them until the next day. I figured that if you throw enough frosting on a cookie, it would be good whether it was crunchy or soft. The cookie is just the delivery system for the frosting anyway. I frosted them the next evening and tried one the next day. The frosting had softened them just enough, and they were perfect. And I felt dumb for my fit of anger. For the next few years, I was the main supplier of sugar cookies at my family’s Christmas, and would always take them into work. One year I had a booze and cookies party at the apartment Lo and I shared. The intent was for people to help make and decorate a variety of cookies so I didn’t have to do it alone. Instead, everyone ended up mostly just drinking and entertaining me while I decorated the cookies.
Once I was gluten-free, I gave up hope of finding a substitute for a few years. I wasn’t big on trying to bake gluten-free from scratch, and I’m still not. I’d try a mix that I’d find here and there, and they were okay. One year my niece was selling pre-made cookie dough for a fundraiser and shockingly they had gluten free chocolate chip and sugar cookie dough. I bought a tub of each to freeze, and made the sugar cookie dough the following year for Christmas. It was great – and so easy. The cookies were a little flat (which is common with gluten-free), but tasted great. They didn’t sell it again, so I made do with other options until I decided to track down that brand, Savory Foods, a few years ago. While it’s mainly a fundraising brand, there is a website, Penn Street Bakery, that sells the dough online for $10-$12 for a 2 lb tub (which makes plenty), so I ordered it again that year. I’ve made sugar cookies each year since, using different kinds of mixes that I’d find through the years. Jenson has “helped” me the past 2 years, though last year he was sick, so I only let him decorate a few “personal” cookies.
Now that gluten free diets are more common, it’s so much easier to find gluten free substitutes for almost everything. There are plenty of gluten free sugar cookie mixes that work well, but I ordered the Savory brand dough again from Penn Street Bakery for this year. Right now it’s $12 a tub and ships for free. Both kids will be able to “help” me this year, and I look forward to it being a tradition every year. I’ll list the mixes I’ve used in the past below, and please let me know if you’ve used any others! I cannot remember the mix I used last year, but if I see it again, I’ll be sure to add it. No matter which kind you try, if you are making roll-out sugar cookies, you’ll need some type of gluten free flour to sprinkle on the table and rolling pin to prevent sticking. If the dough is too sticky, you may even need to work a tablespoon or two of flour into the dough to make it more firm.
Gluten free Sugar Cookie Options
Savory Sweets Gluten Free Sugar Cookie Dough via Penn Street Bakery: $12 for a 2 lb tub. Makes 36 (10 oz) cookies, which is a big cookie, so I probably get about 4 dozen.
Betty Crocker Gluten-free Sugar Cookie Mix: $5.37 at Walmart. Find it in various stores and on Amazon, though the Amazon sellers have it listed at a crazy price, so I’m not even going to link to them.
Pamela’s Products Gluten Free Sugar Cookie Mix: $4.22 via Amazon. Makes 17 cookies.
gfJules Gluten Free Cut-Out Cookie Mix: $9.09 for 1 or $34.21 for 4 via Amazon. Each tin makes 36, so this is a decent deal – and gfJules stuff is ALWAYS good.
Cherrybrook Kitchen Gluten Free Dreams Sugar Cookie Mix: $6.69 via Amazon. Makes 20 cookies.
Pillsbury Gluten Free Funfetti Cookie Mix: $2-$3 in most grocery stores and Target. This has the funfetti “chips” in the mix, but could be used for cut-out cookies. I find it too sweet and the icing would make it even sweeter (gag), but some people love Funfetti.
From Scratch option:
Better Batter recipe – If I was going to make it from scratch, I’d probably try this Better Batter recipe, as I’ve always loved their mixes and flour.