Like my wreath cookies, these Christmas tree sugar cookies are another fun baking activity – solo or with family – during Christmastime. This is such an easy cookie dough to make, too! Break out your tree-shaped cookie cutters and get ready to make the cutest homemade cookies, dressed up in buttercream. This is also the perfect type of cookie to bring to a holiday party cookie exchange.
Ingredients for Easy Christmas Cookies
The recipe card contains all the steps for making these simple decorated cookies this holiday season, but below are highlights:
- Pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste – Vanilla adds a sweet taste and aroma here. Know that you don’t need expensive vanilla extract for good flavor. I never taste much difference between pricier extracts and more basic ones.
- Almond extract – This extract brings a warm and nutty flavor of almond to these basic sugar cookies.
- Buttercream frosting – Instead of using a royal icing recipe, we decorate these holiday cookies with buttercream. Piping that on top of these cookies adds texture.
- Food gel coloring – You’ll need this ingredient to color the frosting for your Christmas tree sugar cookies! Wilton is normally available in grocery stores. Americolor and Chef Master also make high-quality food gels.
No-Chill Dough for these Easy Christmas Tree Cookies
For best results, some recipes call for putting your cookie dough in plastic wrap and letting it rest before baking.
But these cookies don’t really spread during baking, so no need to chill the dough.
Learn more about the merits of resting dough in this post from Bon Appétit.
Sugar Cookie Dough Recipe
Preheat your oven to 350°F.
Cream unsalted butter, vanilla and almond extract, and sugars together in your mixing bowl with an electric or hand mixer for 3 minutes.
Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure ingredients are all mixing together. Then add salt, baking powder, as well as your eggs and flour. Mix for about 2 minutes on medium speed. Dough will initially look crumbly but pull together.
Next, I spread a silicone mat or two onto my kitchen counter, flour them, and use these for rolling out my dough with my rolling pin. I divide dough into halves or thirds, working with it in two or three waves. I find it easier to roll dough in smaller portions at a time.
Once the dough is flattened and roughly a quarter of an inch thick, press the Christmas tree cookie cutter into it and peel away the excess.
Use a spatula to lift and transfer dough onto an ungreased aluminum cookie sheet, with about 2 inches between each of them. Or you can do what I do – space out the cookies on silicon mats and slide those onto each baking sheet.
If you don’t have baking mats, no need to line sheet pan with anything else.
Bake cookies for 11-15 minutes (longer time for larger cookies, shorter for small ones). Transfer them to a cooling rack after they’ve sat on the baking sheets 5 or so minutes outside of the oven and are firm enough to handle.
Repeat these steps with the rest of the dough until you’ve made all your cookies.
Buttercream for Christmas Sugar Cookie Recipe
With an electric mixer or in the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, combine unsalted butter, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, heavy cream, and salt. Beat in very short bursts to avoid confectioners’ sugar flying everywhere before you increase the mixer speed to high for about 3 minutes.
If too sweet for your liking, add a splash of lemon juice and taste test.
Once happy with flavor, drag the spatula from the middle of your bowl to its edges, watching as the tears and bubbles in your buttercream disappear. Spend 3-4 minutes doing these motions to achieve the right consistency for smooth frosting.
Then, divide your buttercream.
To keep it simple, I used two shades of green food coloring, along with red. After mixing each color in a bowl, put them into separate piping bags, leaving some white in your mixing bowl for backup.
Step-by-step Instructions for Decorating these Delicious Sugar Cookies
After your cookies have cooled on a wire rack, start piping your buttercream! An open star tip like Wilton 14 or 21 works great for texture.
Press your piping bag’s tip against the cookie, and make rows of frosting.
For variety, you may alternate with your other colored green frosting. Or stick with one shade of green per cookie. You could also branch out into white or even pink frosting for a different and non-traditional tree look.
Repeat steps for every cookie, switching as desired between piping tips for different colors and texture.
For ornaments or berries, add sprinkles or seasonal M&Ms to your own trees.
You could also pipe berries or ribbons with a small star or round tip on your bag of red frosting.
Edible glitter is pretty to dust on top of these, too.
Different Ways to Decorate these Christmas Sugar Cookies
With an open star tip like 14 or 21, you’ll essentially be using the same technique you would to make a shell border. Here’s how:
Hold bag at an angle so the back of the bag faces you and tip is at the bottom of the tree.
As you squeeze the bag, you want to initially apply more pressure so that the buttercream at the base of the tree and frosting is bigger and thicker than the end point.
Let the frosting flow and then loosen your pressure on the tip as you bring it back towards you to create the point on the end. This is how you taper off the frosting
Keep making this motion in even rows to fill out your tree “branches” from the bottom until you reach the top.
FAQ for Christmas Tree Sugar Cookies Recipe
Cookies can spread if the dough is too moist. It can also spread due to an excessive amount of baking soda.
If you follow the steps in this recipe, though, you won’t have that issue.
Generally, adding a bit of baking powder or flour to a cookie’s dough can help prevent them from spreading as much. Chilling dough before baking it is another method to prevent spreading.
These cookies will stay fresh at room temperature (around 70°F ) for 3-4 days.
These cookies also freeze well, frosted or unfrosted. If you’ve already frosted them, give the buttercream time to form a crust before freezing. This hardened texture will form if the room is not too hot or humid (room temperature or slightly cooler is great) and keeps the design from getting smudged.
After buttercream has formed a crust, place cookies in a single layer in an airtight container. Gently add wax or parchment paper on top of the first cookie layer so any frosting doesn’t get caught on other cookies or frosting but paper instead. Continue filling container with cookies, separating each layer with paper.
Cookies will retain their flavor for about three months in the freezer. Let them come to room temperature before serving.
General Tips for Chewy Sugar Cookies
- If you aren’t already, use a scale for accuracy in your baking. This ensures you’re following the exact measurements and your cookies will turn out how the recipe intended them.
- Periodically check the freshness of your leavening agents. Mix a pinch of baking powder with hot water. For baking soda, combine it with a few drops of something acidic, like vinegar or lemon juice. If your leavening agents have no reaction (i.e. no fizzing or bubbling), it means they also won’t help your ingredients rise during the baking process.
- Before starting a recipe, clear your workspace and set out all your ingredients in front of you. This will make it less likely that you’ll forget to leave something important out of your mixing bowl!
More Dessert Recipes
Looking for another option for a holiday cookie? These mascarpone cookies are delicious and a real treat – they taste like a mix between tiramisu and pumpkin cake!
Want a spookier version of these cookies? Check out my frosted pumpkin cookie tutorial!Print
Christmas Tree Sugar Cookies with Buttercream
Bring these Christmas tree sugar cookies to your next holiday party this season! Use a piping bag and buttercream to decorate these cookies.
- Prep Time: 45 minutes
- Decorating Time: 1 hour
- Cook Time: 15 minutes
- Total Time: 2 hours
- Yield: 30 sugar cookies 1x
- Category: Dessert
- Cuisine: American
- 12 T butter (170 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3 cups + 2 T (380 grams) all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
- 2/3 cup (150 grams) white sugar
- 1/2 cup (90 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp almond extract
- 1 1/4 tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 2 cold, large eggs, straight from the fridge
- 6 cups (750 grams) powdered sugar
- 1 1/2 sticks (170 grams) of unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/2 cup (150 grams) heavy cream (see notes)*
- 4 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tsp almond extract
- Pinch of salt
- Lemon juice to cut sweetness
- Food gels to dye your frosting
Sugar Cookie Dough
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Cream butter, vanilla and almond extracts, and sugars together in your mixing bowl for 3 minutes.
- Stop the mixer and add salt, baking powder, as well as your eggs and flour. Mix for about 2 minutes on medium speed. Dough will initially look crumbly but pull together.
- Roll the dough into a ball on a clean, flat, floured surface. I like dividing half at a time and rolling it out to about ¼ inch before pressing the cookie cutters into the dough.
- Use a spatula to lift and transfer dough onto ungreased aluminum baking sheets, with about 2 inches between each of them. Bake for 11-14 minutes (longer time for larger cookies, shorter for small ones).
- Transfer them to cooling racks after they’ve sat on the baking sheets 5 or so minutes outside of the oven and are firm enough to handle.
- Combine unsalted butter, powdered sugar, almond and vanilla extracts, heavy cream, and salt in mixing bowl. Beat with electric mixer in very short bursts to avoid confectioners’ sugar flying everywhere before you increase the mixer speed to high for about 3 minutes.
- Taste test. Add splash of lemon juice if too sweet.
- Spend 3-4 minutes dragging the spatula from the middle of your bowl to its edges to achieve nice, smooth frosting.
- Divide buttercream. To keep it simple, I used two shades of green food coloring, along with red. After mixing each color, put them into separate piping bags, leaving some white in your mixing bowl for backup.
- Load buttercream into piping bags, fitted with a small open round or open star tip. For my green, I used tips 14 and 21 for variety.
- With the narrow end of the tip pointing outward, squeeze frosting from your piping bag onto the surface of your cookie. As you continue to apply pressure, lift the piping bag slightly, and then release the pressure to create design. Do this at a 45-degree angle.
- Continue piping trees in a consistent pattern, repeating steps for every cookie. Feel free to switch between piping tips for different colors and texture.
- As a last step, use your red frosting in a piping bag (fitted with a small round open or star tip) to add berries or ribbons. Alternatively, you can use your favorite blend of holiday sprinkles or M&Ms for wreath decor.
Regarding the buttercream: When my kitchen is colder, I add more liquid to my bowl. The moisture helps colder, stiffer ingredients mix together more easily. If your kitchen is humid and/or warm, start with about 1/3 cup (80 grams) of heavy cream and add more from there.
Keywords: Christmas sugar cookies, cutout cookies, frosted cookies, holiday cookies, seasonal cookies, tree cookies