I grew up with these as the “go-to” sugar cookie recipe of the family.
I have many fond memories of cutting out shapes, decorating with sprinkles, and baking the cookies with my mom. But technically, these aren’t sugar cookies. The original recipe called them “old fashioned tea cakes” and it was from the 1953 edition of the Red River Cookbook published in Shreveport Louisiana (and currently out of print).
When I first became a mom, I couldn’t WAIT to share the holiday sugar cookie tradition with my boys.
These cookies don’t puff up during baking. They hold their shape like old fashioned Christmas gingerbread cookies do. They are thin and crisp and slightly flaky. If you stick with simple shapes, they even travel relatively well. I find this dough easier to work with than most sugar cookie doughs. That makes them PERFECT when you have small hands helping you bake.
I’ve been baking these for decades. You can use butter or margarine. You can make them with alternate flours. You can roll up the dough into a log and slice them. You can freeze the dough. They’re pretty darn hard to mess up.
I don’t bother to ice them – it’s much more fun to hand over all the colored sprinkles and let the kids decorate the cookies before baking. But they DO ice up perfectly if that’s what you want.
(I um… failed at icing decorations. shhh!)
This makes about 3 dozen cookies depending on the size cutter you use.
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 cup margarine or butter (2 sticks)
- 1 egg
- 2½ cups all purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- Cream the butter and sugar together.
- Then add the egg and vanilla and mix in.
- Sift the flour and baking powder together and then add to the first mixture. Stir until everything is smooth (like cookie dough, ok?)
- On a floured surface, roll the cookie dough out to about ¼ inch thick. Sometimes I use powdered sugar to roll with, just to make the kids happy.
- Use cookie cutters and cut shapes.
- Transfer to an ungreased cookie sheet. Decorate them.
- Roll the dough scraps up into a big ball and re-roll.
- Repeat. Repeat again.
- You may need to refrigerate the dough before the 3rd rolling, it depends on how much you've worked it. After about 3 rollings, the dough is a little tough. It's the perfect time to trace your child's hand into a cookie and let them decorate it.
- Bake 7-10 minutes (until the edges just start to brown) in a preheated 350 oven.