Have a Cookie

Age Old /Thread to the Past (almost) Never Fail Sugar Cookies

BAKED very year since 1973

Tweaked most years to serve various needs & environmental conditions

I think all bakers agree that terms such failsafe or foolproof are fallacy. Practice may not make perfect,  but we have eaten well for 45+ years in trying. Over the years / decades, I have borrowed hints, ingredients and techniques from some of the best cooks I know; who like me, are not chefs or even safe measurers, but who also know their stuff around the kitchen, especially when it comes to the Holidays.

MY first taste of wafer tin shortbread cookies came back in the early ’70s, when my new mother-in-law (& mentor of Canadian/Minnesotan lineage) presented me with a set of Xmas cookie cutters and her recipe for cut out cookies with sweet cream icing. Little did I know that the gauntlet she offered would lead me on a lifetime quest. … a lifetime of Christmases gathered around the cookie tins and the quest for enough kitchen counter space to bake cut out cookies.

IN the early years, I spent hours testing different fancy cutters and variations for dough. During my years as a vegetarian, I tried making them healthier ( BAD IDEA!) Any substitutions were not only noticed, but strongly frowned upon. SO my mantra of the past decade is to “Follow the recipe.”

OF all the holiday traditions that Berthelsen folks desire to continue, it’s the Christmas cookies that seem to rise to the top of the heap every year. Several years ago, when I began to grow weary of the marathon, my husband and adult daughters started coming over for  ‘COOKIE DAY’ to “get-‘er -done.”  I invested in several pastry mats, rolling pins, and lots of baking sheets to created several stations for various tasks.

THEN I faced a change in priorities from creating perfect form and decor to aiming for the best tasting cookie possible. I pitched the decorating tubes and brought in sprinkles. Like my husband said as he held a wide bladed spreading knife dripping with creamy goo, “Do ya want it pretty? Or do ya want ‘em done.” Well, done of course.

Since our holiday tradition carries forward with our newest family members, my gift to the larger collective is this cherished recipe…

With love from the depth of my heart!

Several hours before making cookies

  • Soften Butter
  • Gather all Equipment
    • Heavy mixer/bowl
    • spatulas
    • measuring cups/spoons
    • pastry mat
    • rolling pin
    • cookie tins
    • wax paper for lining cookie tins
    • parchment paper ~ half sheet sized for cookie sheets (King Arthur has great ones that lay flat better than parchment rolls)
    • flour for rolling out dough

INGREDIENTS for ONE Recipe  (I usually make a double recipe – The brands I use are in parenthesis)


  • 3 1/2 cup Flour (King Arthur All Purpose)
  • 1 cup Sugar  (granulated white)
  • 1 teaspoon SODA
  • 1/2 teaspoon SALT
  • 1 teaspoon Cream of Tartar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1./4 cup  SOFTENED BUTTER (Plugra~Stick preferred & NOT tub b/c it has too much water in it)
  • 3 Tablespoons whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla  (Pensey’s )

MEASURE out all ingredients before mixing.

Mix together in a small  bowl

        • Cream of tartar
        • Salt
        • Soda

Blend together in mixer in this order while mixing at medium speed IN THIS ORDER

  1. softened butter
  2. sugar
  3. ADD: eggs
  4. Vanilla & cream
  5. salt, soda, CreamOfTartar mixture MIX WELL
  6. STOP INTERMITTENTLY TO STIR & TEST… ADD sifted flour in small amounts at a time to blend well and until dough is light to the touch when pressed (does not stick to the finger)

Refrigerate dough over night, in covered bowl or tightly sealed cellophane wrapped balls for rolling out

  • ROLL out on lightly floured pastry mat to thinness you prefer and cut.  This dough is fragile and tears easy, but taste best on the thin side.
  • Place on parchment sheet. (one large parchment sheet per pan of cookies works well for transferring them from pan. Then you can just move the sheet of cookies to the counter and you don’t need to scoop!

BAKE 350 F degree oven ~ WATCH for burning! These buttery darlings go from pale to burnt faster than you think… light brown is tastiest, but dark brown is just sad… (I’ve burned my fair share!) It’s about not getting distracted, especially if you are working with 2 ovens at a time.

Allow cookies to cool on parchment before icing.


  • Powdered sugar
  • Whipping cream
  • food coloring
  • colored sugars/pastiles/ decorations

Add in a large bowl :

one bag confectioners sugar

Add several Tablespoon cream at a time while whisking until the icing is desired thickness  (viscosity)

IN SMALLER bowls, mix your favorite coloring into a cup of icing and then spread on cookies with broad knife.

Then sprinkle sugars/ decor on cookies while icing is still wet. It dries fast!

ALLOW to completely dry before transferring to cookie tins. This takes several hours at least, depending on the humidity in the air.   Separate layers of cookies with wax paper.

I  hope this all makes sense… HAPPY BAKING!!!