There’s truly nothing more festive and cheery than these melt-in-your-mouth Christmas Tree Sugar Cookies. Make it an occasion by decorating them with loved ones, and in under 2 hours, you’re sure to become Santa’s favorite stop!
Why these Cookies are Best
These sugar cookies are a winner for any seasonal gathering. Here’s why you’ll love them,
- The inclusion of lime juice and zest makes for a unique and irresistible flavor.
- Royal icing makes this recipe effortless to package without any mess.
- Get artsy! Flexibility to make this recipe highly decorated or keep it simple.
- You have the option to make these cookies ahead of time and decorate them later.
If you love decorating cookies for holidays, you’ll have to try our Halloween Monster Cookies. Or give our fun Jack O Lantern cookies a try next. And of course, our candy corn cookies are a delicious treat.
For The Cookies:
- All-Purpose Flour – You won’t need fancy baking flour for these cookies. Any all-purpose flour will do. It has the perfect protein content to create that melt-in-your-mouth texture we’re striving for. Of course, use our guide on how to measure flour properly.
- Lime – We’ll be juicing and zesting it. Think of lime (you can use lemons as well) as your secret ingredient with a bright bursting flavor that will cut through the overwhelming sweetness of a traditional sugar cookie. If you prefer a different flavor profile, feel free to substitute with vanilla extract. Use our guide on how to zest a lemon if you’re unsure.
- Unsalted Butter – Stick with “unsalted” butter, so that the cookies don’t get over-salted. You’ll want the butter to be at room temperature and completely softened before beating it with the sugar and lime to achieve the best creamy consistency. We’ve got tips and trick on how to soften butter quickly if you need help.
For The Royal Icing:
- Egg Whites – Royal icing is traditionally made with egg whites since their inclusion speeds up the time it takes for the icing to harden. Alternatively, you could swap the egg whites for 3 tablespoons of meringue powder combined with 9 tablespoons of warm water and achieve the same result.
- Powdered Sugar – I use powdered sugar for this recipe instead of granulated sugar because it dissolves much quicker, and you’ll end up with a smooth consistency instead of a grainy one. You could even sift the powdered sugar into the beaten egg whites to ensure a perfect consistency every time.
- Food Coloring – Use pink gel food coloring to create a classic iced sugar cookie look, like the frosted animal crackers you loved as a kid or the cakey cookies you’d find in your grocery’s bakery section. And you don’t have to stick with pink – try green for a festive look, or robin’s egg blue for a chic Instagrammable look. Have fun with it!
For The Cookies:
- Combine Dry Ingredients
- Beat Butter, Sugar, & Lime Juice – It doesn’t need to be as fluffy as if you were making chocolate chip cookies because we are going for a less cakey consistency here, but it should be smooth, creamy, and glossy.
- Incorporate The Eggs
- Add Dry Ingredients In Batches – Once the flour mixture is incorporated into the butter, and the dough has formed and is pulling away from the sides of the bowl, you’re ready to move on to the next step.
- Chill – Scrape your dough into the center of a large sheet of plastic wrap. Form it into a flattened disc, so it will chill evenly and be easier to roll out once cold. Refrigerate the dough for at least an hour, or freeze it now and then thaw it whenever you’re ready to get baking!
- Cut – After chilling your dough, you can roll it out and cut it into shapes. Place it on a lightly floured surface, so the dough doesn’t stick. Too much flour can alter the consistency of the cookies, so don’t use too heavy of a hand here. You’re looking to achieve about ¼ thickness for the dough. I’ve used a 3-inch Christmas Tree shaped cookie cutter for this recipe, but you can use any shape you’d like.
- Bake – Move your cut-out cookies to a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees F for 12-14 minutes. Let them cool completely before icing them.
PRO TIP: Any scraps can be smooshed back together and rolled out again to get more cookies, but you won’t want to repeat this process more than once, or else the cookies will become tough.
How to Make Royal Icing
- Beat Egg Whites – Begin by beating the egg whites in a stand mixer or with a hand mixer on high until foamy and frothy. You don’t want to go as far as soft peaks, so keep a close eye on them during this step.
- Incorporate The Sugar in Batches – At medium-low speed, add the powdered sugar to the egg whites in about ¾ cup batches. You’ll beat the mixture until it just begins to form peaks.
- Divide – Color the icing if you’d like and divide it evenly into two bowls. You’ll be keeping one of the bowls of icing as-is. You will use this thick icing to pipe a border around the outside of the cookies.
- Thin – Add 1-2 teaspoons of water to the other bowl of icing and mix well. This thinner icing is for flooding inside the border of the thicker piped icing to achieve a smooth, professional finish.
- Decorate – Move your icings to separate piping bags and decorate! Use the thick icing to pipe a border, and then use the thin icing to fill in that outline. Use a toothpick to move the icing into pockets that didn’t fill. If you want to add sprinkles, do that before the icing sets.
Tips and Tricks
- Chill the Dough. Cold dough will create crisp edges for your tree branches and will be less sticky and messy when trying to work with it.
- Add Flavor. For the royal icing, you can mix in 1 teaspoon of vanilla or almond extract after you’ve beat the sugar into the egg whites. You should never add extracts directly to raw eggs since the high alcohol content in extracts can start cooking the protein in egg whites leading to a grainy and stringy texture.
- Store. When using egg whites in icing, it’s best to store these cookies in the fridge. However, if you use meringue powder, you can keep the iced cookies at room temperature.
- If you’re not a fan of royal icing, to begin with, try out our sugar cookie frosting instead! Then, top it with holiday sprinkles, and your cookies will look and taste irresistible.
- Are you a planner? You can start stocking your freezer with these baked and frozen undecorated Christmas cookies as early as October. By the holiday season, you’ll have a stockpile of homemade cookies for co-workers, last-minute gifts, host or hostess presents, or entertaining.
Both parchment paper and silicone baking mats will work in this recipe. Silicone baking mats achieve flawless, even cooking on even the worst baking sheets, but if you only have parchment paper on hand, that will still work like a dream.
Chilling the cookie dough before rolling out and cutting it is essential, so the dough isn’t overly sticky. This way, you’ll be able to get cleanly cut Christmas tree shapes with crisp edges and avoid a gluey mess of melted dough.
The cookie dough can be frozen and then thawed (but kept chilled) before use. Or, you could freeze the already baked and undecorated cookies, then thaw and ice them when ready.