Vanilla Bean Sugar Cookies

Is there anyone who doesn’t like cookies over the holiday season? We don’t think so. We love these cookies because they can add to your holiday festivities in so many ways. If you want to have a holiday baking day like Tuck’s grandma and aunt in California, you can bake the cookies in advance and leave the frosting and decorating for guests who attend your cookie day. If you want to do the work yourself, they make great hostess gifts, teacher gifts, and presents for people like the mailman. It’s a little gesture that can mean a lot for someone’s holiday. 

We LOVE this particular sugar cookie recipe because of their shameless vanilla flavor. The added touch of vanilla beans to the dough and almond extract to the frosting makes these cookies stand out from the crowd. As for the decorating, we understand that people can get hung up over it. For an excellent tutorial on how to decorate with royal icing, watch this video from Food Network. All you need is a few tooth picks, a small tip piping bag, and food coloring of your choice. We always recommend using gel food coloring so that you don’t water down your icing giving it a color change! 

Vanilla Bean Sugar Cookies 
Makes: 24 cookies 
Prep Time: 15 minutes   Total Time: 30 minutes for cookies + about an 1 hour for decorating  depending on how many people are helping you 

Ingredients For Cookies:

  • 2 sticks butter, cold and cut into small cubes  
  • 1 cup sugar 
  • 1 egg 
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract 
  • 1 large vanilla bean, scraped 
  • 1 tsp almond extract 
  • 2 tsp baking powder 
  • 3 cups all purpose flour 

Ingredients for Frosting 

  • 1 lb powdered sugar 
  • 2 tbs meringue powder 
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract 
  • 1 tsp almond extract 
  • gel food coloring
  • sprinkles, if desired 


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 
  2. Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until the butter is light and fluffy. Add the egg, vanilla extract, vanilla bean, and almond extract to the butter. Mix until thoroughly blended, scraping the butter from the bottom of the bowl with a spatula as necessary. 
  3. Add the baking powder and flour to the mix. Mix until just combined. Remove the dough from the bowl and place onto a large sheet of saran wrap. Place in the freezer for 5-10 minutes before rolling out. If you want to make the dough in advance, keep in the refrigerator for up to two days before baking the cookies. 
  4. Use a rolling pin and a bit of extra flour on the surface of your counter and the dough,  roll the dough into an even sheet- approximately 1/2 inch thickness. Use a variety of holiday themed cookie cutters to cut out the dough, and place each cut cookie onto a cookie sheet. Re-roll the dough as necessary until you’ve used it all up.
  5. Bake the cookies for 6-7 minutes. You want the center to be cooked through but do not want them to brown. Remove the cookies from the oven and cool completely on a cooling rack before decorating.  
  6. Make the frosting. Combine the frosting ingredients in a mixer with a whisk attachment. Whisk on medium speed for 5 full minutes, or until the frosting gets a glossy sheen. Give it a taste and add more vanilla or almond, if desired. Mix well to combine.
  7. Divide the frosting into a few smaller bowls and use the gel food coloring to color each small bowl to your desired color. Decorate the cookies as you see fit, using the tutorial above! The frosting recipe is great for outlining the cookies and doing decorations on top of a full icing. We add another +/- 1 tbs of water to the full mix (or a tsp to each smaller bowl) for flooding the cookies. The amount of water can vary- test on a spare cookie until you get the desired frosting texture. 

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