Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Sugar Cookies: A not-so-secret family recipe.

My extended family (which is VERY extended, since my mom is the middle of 15 kids) shares a love of baking that is probably the origination of my love for sweets.  Food was the glue that held an impossibly large family together.  I grew up living next door to my grandparents, and every Saturday, their house was a-buzz with 30+ family members…the aunts in the kitchen with my grandmother, uncles watching sports or racing in the living room with my grandpa (who always wore denim overalls, even though they moved away from the farm in the 70’s), and us cousins careening through the house as an unstoppable squealing human locomotive, pausing for brief seconds in the dining room to grab veggies & pickles off a relish tray before crashing through the back door to play “Houseball”…which is a lot like volleyball, except the house is the net.
Christmas was a time when several aunts would meet together at one of their homes to have a Bakeapalooza (they didn’t call it that, but you get the idea).  Divinity, chocolate fudge, peanut butter fudge, fruitcakes, and the centerpiece—my Aunt Loyce’s sugar cookies. 
These are not the sugary, crispy cookies.  No.  These are the delicious, fluffy, delicate, melt-in-your-mouth sugar cookies that grocery stores try to replicate before adulterating them with half a pound of sprinkles & neon pink icing.
I don’t actually know if my aunt is the originator of this recipe, or if it was handed down to her.  But once upon a time when I had my first computer & learned how to do some very basic desktop publishing (circa age 14), I printed her recipe with fancy font & a fancy background & framed it for her.  She still has it hanging in her kitchen, which makes me smile every time I visit.
The other day (aka Easter) I was craving some of these cookies, so I dug out my copy of the recipe, and have decided to share with you. 

2 cups white sugar
1 cup shortening (Crisco, butter, light margarine—whatever you have around the house.  We use light margarine.)
1 cup thick sour cream
3 eggs
1 tsp baking soda
1.25 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt
5-6 cups flour
(Note: these measurements are for 5 dozen cookies.  You can pretty easily divide it in half if you don’t want 5 dozen cookies hanging out at your house)
Heat your oven to 375 degrees F.
Combine the first 8 ingredients in a mixer & beat until well integrated.  Then slowly start adding flour, with your mixer set at a low speed.  Stop periodically to scrape the sides if needed.
Continue to add flour until the dough holds together well, pulling away from the sides of the bowl & is only slightly tacky to the touch.
Spread out a layer of wax paper (TIP: I tape mine down to keep it from shifting), and sprinkle it with flour.  Place the dough ball on the wax paper & lightly sprinkle the dough with flour so it won’t stick to your rolling pin.
Roll out to 1/4” inch thick—any thinner than this and the cookies will end up a bit crunchy on the bottom.  To help with getting perfect thickness, you can either use rolling pin rings along the outer edges, or, I go with Alton Brown’s tip of stacking rubber bands to get to the thickness you want.

Now—grab your cookie cutters!
IMG_0523 (The cupcake one gets a very special icing treatment—stay tuned!)
My favorite, however, is my dinosaur sandwich cutter:
(Bear in mind—I do not have a child.  I bought this for ME.)
Begin cutting out your shapes.  Cut your cookies as close as you can to each other, because yes, you can take the trimmings, ball them up, and re-roll them out to do a second round, but the more times you do this, the tougher and drier your cookies are going to be.
Move the cut out shapes onto non-stick or lightly sprayed cookie sheets.  Bake for 8 minutes or until the bottoms are just slightly golden, but not crispy.
Now, Aunt Loyce typically makes her own frosting for these as well.  Her recipe is:
1/3 stick butter
1/4-1/2 cup milk
powdered sugar to thicken
However, we had some leftover white cream cheese frosting in the house, so I used that to make small batches of colored frosting.  (3 tbsp frosting + 2 drops of food coloring = enough for about 8-10 cookies)

(I am by no means a professional froster, as you can see.)
I had a little more fun with the cupcake ones.  I used tinted frosting to make the “wrapper”:

And then piped on plain white frosting in a back & forth pattern with a small star tip and a piping bag made from a Ziploc baggie.  Then they all got a “cherry” (actually a Nerds jelly bean, leftover from our nephews’ Easter candy).

I love the look of these.  So fun & spring-y!  And, of course, DELICIOUS.  My hubs & I kept about a dozen at our house & then the rest went to my work (I frequently use my coworkers as guinea pigs.  So far—no complaints.)  They disappeared before lunch.
Shared on 33 Shades of Green's Tasty Tuesday, Crazy for Crust, The Sweet Spot, The Kurtz Corner, Michelle's Tasty Creations and It's Overflowing.


  1. Had to tell you again how in love with those cupcake cookies I am. Oh, and if you had a giveaway with THOSE as the prize? I bet more people would enter. tee hee.

    1. LOL, if I thought I could ship them to someone & have them still be super fresh, I totally would. But that's the downside to the non-grocery store cookies--they're not chock full of preservatives to make them last 4 months. :D

  2. Hi,

    I followed you over from Crazy Sweet Tuesday Link Party. These cookies sound delicious. I love the cookies shaped like cupcakes too, very cute.

    I would love to invite you to share this, and any other posts you would like to, at my Creative Thursday Link Party at (Link up until Monday 4-23-12)

    Have a great day,

  3. Those look SO good. I love sugar cookies. And family recipes are always the best!

  4. Thanks for linking up this week to Creative Thursday. I can't wait to try the yummy looking cookies.