Sugar Cookies – A Family Tradition at Christmas

A few weeks ago I wrote about two important Christmas traditions. One – cutting down a tree, and two – baking sugar cookies. I’ve done both now, so I guess Christmas must be getting close. I don’t think I’ve ever skipped a year of making these. Whether I baked with my cousins and my grandma, just me and my mom, or with the help of new housemates when I was a student in Wales, I just have to make these every year. This was the first year that my son helped. He provided excellent supervision while I mixed ingredients, and he waited patiently, peering in the oven door, while the cookies baked. He’s tasted quite a few, and thoroughly approves the family recipe!

Sugar Cookies

Sugar Cookies

Here’s what you need to make the our family sugar cookies:

NOTE: you’ll need to allow several hours for this recipe, for prep, chilling, decorating and baking…


2 ½ cups flour
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp cream of tartar (find it in the spice isle, small container)
¼ tsp salt
½ cup soft butter
1/3 cup margarine or shortening
1 1/3 cup sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp lemon extract
2 eggs

*** You’ll also need 1-2 baking/cookie sheets, a few table spoons of flour, rolling pin, 2 egg whites (set these aside for the decorating process), sprinkles, basting brush, cookie cutters.


Mix together butter, shortening and sugar very well, until shiny. Mix in vanilla & lemon extracts.  Add eggs and beat until fluffy. Mix all dry ingredients (flour, salt, cream of tartar, baking soda) together in a second bowl, and then add in small portions to the wet ingredients. Mix well, the dough gets pretty stiff.

Dough needs to chill at least one hour, but preferably overnight. Remove 1/3 of dough at a time. Roll on a lightly floured surface to ¼ or 1/8 inch thickness. Use cookie cutters, and place cut outs on cookie sheets. Baste uncooked cookies with 2 egg whites that have been fluffed. Then sprinkle on your decorations and bake. Depending upon thickness and preference, cookies should bake between 6-10 minutes in 375-425 degree F. Remove cookies and place on cooling rack. This makes 4-5 dozen, depending upon thickness and cookie size. (I always double or triple the recipe, so I have plenty to share with family, friends and neighbors.

If you are a Brit looking to bake in the US read about our experiences here.


About Michelle Laker

A California native; I spent 10 years living, studying, working, (and falling in love) in the United Kingdom. I returned to the Bay Area in 2011, with my British husband in tow. I am re-adjusting to life in the bay, feeling more like an expat than a local. I have spent my career working with international student & families. I love learning about other cultures, languages, and traditions. My desire to welcome newcomers, and help you make the most of your new life in the Bay Area comes from the unforgettable memories (and mistakes) I made during my time in the United Kingdom. If you've just arrived, and don't know where to start, email me ( I am happy to help!

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