Butter cookies

After all the sturm und drang in my recent posts, I thought it was time for a Master baking formula.

There are a few professional formulas that I can point to, which I have mastered myself, that I know are utterly fool-proof, and produce a perfect product, every single time.  That is, as long as you follow them carefully.

This is a butter cookie to decorate that surpasses all other butter cookies of the type.  It is one where you roll the dough out, use a cookie cutter, bake and then embellish the final cookie. You can let your imagination fly with shapes and colors and decorations to produce a professional, delicious, extraordinary cookie, once you do a few small practice runs.

The important thing about this particular formula is the exceptional dough it produces, easy to work with, resulting in a soft delicious buttery cookie, even if you re-roll and reuse the scraps over and over during the process.  There will be virtually no wasted dough, too.

painted butter cookies

It is so easy, that I taught my niece to make this cookie when she was eight or nine years old.  This is the one to make for a bake sale, a church function or a house full of guests during the holidays, especially in the spring.

Forgive the very long instructions and stripped down format below.  It has since been reinterpreted into my upcoming Master formulas baking book, but I had this version handy, so I am being a bit lazy and giving you this one. Since I literally copied and pasted it from a Word doc, the alignments are off in some places, so please overlook that.

I had extensive photos of batches I did with my niece but they went down with a major hard drive crash on another computer years back, so I can only say we did flowers, butterflies, people, frogs, bees, trees, houses, a delightful gamut. You will soon discover that this dough and icing combo lends itself to the same kind of artistry that a painter achieves with acrylics and water colors.  I use regular, clean, new paint brushes that I buy by the package at Michaels.  I also mix my colors in an artist’s palette.

It looks formidable, but I promise you, it is worth the effort to master and once you do, you will never need another rolled cookie painted butter cookies 2formula.  This one does it all.

This is not a vegan formula as it does use standard butter. There are vegan butter products out there and of course, margarine but I have not used them to make cookies.  Also, I have only made this cookie with all purpose wheat flour. You could experiment with a flour substitute and see if that would work well, but I have not done so.

Oh, and I put the professional version first and the simplified version, below it.

Beth’s Master Rolled & Cut Out Butter Cookies

Professional Formula

October 4, 2003

Yield: 48 cookies ¼” thick by 3-4” diameter


Bakers percent %

Grams – small batch

Ounces – small batch

Butter cookie base
Butter, salted



(2 cups)                         16

Sugar, granulated



(2 cups)                         16

Eggs, large, 2



(2 large eggs)           3.34

Heavy cream or whole milk



 (4 T)                                 2
Vanilla extract



(4 T)                                 2

Almond extract



(2 t)                              .33

Flour, unsifted AP



(6 cups)                         28

Baking powder



(1T)                                 .5




*68.17 ounces

(4# 3oz)

Syrups or liqueurs or extracts Tablespoons at a time Get a variety of these as you like.  See flavor ideas below: *(Note: gram batch is slightly larger than ounces batch)
Powdered sugar In four ounce or half cup quantities I use: lemon, raspberry, mocha (coffee and Kahlua); chocolate (from bits), and orange Use seasonal cutters; I used flowers because they were handy.
Note: Use cold butter, eggs and milk Use weight not volume
Go easy on almond


Dough: Dough is soft, creamy, smooth, not at all sticky, does not need chilling, can be rolled and re-rolled and handled.  It has the delightful consistency of Play Doh – a wonderful base dough to make up in all sorts of ways.  Use your imagination or just follow this format here.

Icing: Flat icing: hard, with a sheen but not glossy.  Nice mouth feel.

Cookie: Thick, crunchy, buttery and tasty with the flavoring, not moist or chewy and not brittle or dry.  A nice, firm, thick, cookie-painting-1satisfying cookie.

Time to make: Fifteen minutes to put the dough together; ten minutes to roll and cut; 20 minutes baking per batch of cookies.  I got 12 on a half sheet, put two in at a time, reversing half way top to bottom, front to back.

Special equipment: Flower shaped cookie cutters were used here; you can use any cutters you like.


  1. Combine the butter, chopped into small pieces, and sugar in an electric mixer (a KitchenAid not a Cuisinart).  Make sure the butter is cold.
  2. Do not over-beat, this should not be creamed until light and fluffy but rather just until it is smooth and not lumpy.
  3. In a separate small bowl, mix the egg, milk/cream, and extracts (almond or vanilla or any you like);
  4. Add this mixture all at once to the butter-sugar mixture.
  5. Mix just until the egg is broken up and incorporated; mixture may curdle (mine did not) but that is no problem.  It will smooth out when the rest of the mixture is made.
  6. In another small bowl, mix the flour and baking powder.
  7. Add these dry ingredients to the liquid ingredients in the mixing bowl (or if you need a larger bowl, put the liquid mixture in that larger bowl, first, and then the dry).
  8. Process or mix by hand, squeezing it together until it forms a dough.  You can now gently knead the dough a bit until it is smooth and Play Doh-like.  It should be a creamy, non-sticky, lovely dough that is in a nice, moist ball.  I kept it covered, but it doesn’t dry out like bread dough.


  1. Preheat the oven to 350-375F – the cookies will not brown too much, just slightly around the edges.
  2. Dust a clean, smooth surface (bread board with absolutely no residues or odors, is ideal) with powdered sugar, as generously as you wish.
  3. Take a large chunk of dough (the size of a fist) and round and gently flatten it with your hand or rolling pin.  Then roll it into a ¼ to ½ inch slab.
  4. Dip your cookie cutter in some powdered sugar and cut cleanly, lifting the cut cookie out with the cutter so you don’t distort the shape.
  5. Put the cookies on a parchment-lined sheet with about 1 inch between them, staggered like the stars on the American flag.  They will rise a bit but will not spread.
  6. Bake until just lightly golden; avoid over-baking or they will be too dry; I did about 17 minutes for each batch with two batches on different racks.  Experiment with a couple of sparse sheets to get the right length of time.  If using two trays at a time, put the racks in top and bottom thirds, rotate each tray 180 degrees halfway and switch shelves.
  7. As soon as they are out of the oven, use a think spatula to gently transfer them to cooling racks.
  8. They will cool in 10 to 15 minutes and then can be placed on a platter or in a tin or whatever, separated by parchment paper (or deli paper) in single layers.
  9. Let them cool completely before icing.


This is where artwork and intuition come in.  I used six bowls and put some powdered sugar in each.cookie_ugc_1209_5436186_11405287_xl

Then I added the syrups or liqueurs or extracts and mixed with a spoon for each, until it was thick and paste-like.  Taking a thick, flat pastry brush, wipe on a nice, smooth layer of base icing.  It will smooth and harden to a satiny, lustrous hard finish.  Let this first finish dry and harden completely before decorating with other flavors.  Once all the base icings are smoothed on, looking like a thick enamel coat, take a small painters brush with a tapered end (that you dedicate just to pastry) and paint on whatever decorations you want.  Here I did a simple swirled circle (in the middle of each flower).  You could get interesting and do pictures, characters, designs, spirals in different colors.  You can let your imagination and colors themes/artistry run wild at this point.  Note: I shaved orange rind for the orange icing.  Where I needed more color, I put a sparing drop of food coloring in.

By the way, do not use food coloring from the supermarket.  Get it at a baking supply store  or Michaels.  Sur la Table and William Sonoma sell excellent food coloring products.  If you live in Southern California, go to Surfas for professional food colorings.

Store the icing

Covered in a tin or bowl or box with plastic wrap.  It should keep for a week and still be fresh.  Do not refrigerate and don’t leave uncovered, or it will be ruined and dried out.

* * * * * * * * *

Roll and Cut Butter Cookies – Simplified non-professional formula

Prep Time:

25 min

Inactive Prep Time:

Cook Time:

10 min




4 dozen cookies (standard size


  • 2 cups salted butter
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons whipping cream (or whole milk)
  • 4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 6 cups unsifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder


Combine butter and sugar. Do not take this mixture to a “light cream.” Think “incorporate” — not “cream.” Just make sure the mixture is smooth with no butter lumps.

In a small bowl mix egg, milk/cream, and extracts. Add this mixture all at once to the butter and sugar. Mix just until the egg is broken. The mixture will “curdle” but that’s not a problem.

In another small bowl, mix the flour and baking powder. Add these dry ingredients to the liquid ingredients in the mixing bowl. Process to form dough.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. It’s just that simple! The beauty of this dough is that it does not need to chill before using it. Simply dust a work surface with some confectioners sugar. Knead the dough a few times to smooth it out and with a rolling pin, roll dough. Cut into desired shapes. The dough scraps can be used several times. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

When the cookies are completely cool, ice with French plastique:  sift ½ cup of confectioners sugar in a bowl.  Add up to a teaspoon of flavored extract and syrup (corn, maple, agave, etc.) and mix until the consistency of mayonnaise.  Apply to the surface of the baked, cooled cookies with a silicone pastry brush.  Allow to harden and then use more of the plastique, colored, to add decoration and embellishments.

Images: bettycrocker.com, pinterest.com, bonappetit.com,marthastewart.com


16 Comments on “Butter cookies”

      • For some reason I can’t comment on your post, so I will leave it here. I bake quite a bit, but have never seen this icing recipe. I am already envisioning the spectacular cookie masterpieces to come. Thank you! My family also thanks you! 🙂


        • That is so weird. I have had the commenting problem on other people’s posts — WP acts up from time to time, so I will apologize on ‘our’ behalf (WP’s and mine).

          This is a great icing. You can add or omit corn syrup. It gives the icing more plasticity and structure that is desirable in some cases more than others. I far prefer working with plastique or flat icing than with butter cream.

          Let me know how it works out. Thank you so much, as always for visiting and (trying to) comment. 🙂


    • When I wrote this formula up, I referred to a flower cookie cutter. I wish I had a picture of the cookies my niece and I made, but the first one we did was a simple flower, white plastique covering the surface, with a simple colored/flavored dot or circle in the middle like a daisy. It couldn’t be easier, so no artistry is necessary. What is amazing is the flavor and texture of the cookie itself. All the rest is gilding the lily. It even stands on its own as a type of shortbread cookie without any icing. 🙂


    • Michael, you could make these, plain, they are so, so simple. But coax your mom to try this cookie formula. It is something everyone should have as a go-to recipe for a basic butter cookie. 🙂


      • (I think it sucks that WP doesn’t let us amend our own comments. What’s up with that? Meanwhile, I wrote this up so late at night this weekend, that I had to sit here correcting every other sentence yesterday after I posted it. We are all in the same boat in that regard.) 😉


    • My belief is that the key to this cookie is in the cream-egg combo and that the flour here is relatively less important. I don’t know how often you bake, but when people need a cookie, this is a fantastic version of a butter cookie. I would try it – in fact, I may try it myself this week with Bob’s Red Mill GF. I cannot imagine it would be too different. 🙂


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