Birthday Cake Sugar Cookies
There are times that I think about taking this blog in a strictly healthy direction. But then I think about things like sugar cookies and I realize that if I could never post about fun treats like that, I would be sad. Besides, what’s more fun than birthday cake-shaped funfetti sugar cookies?
Answer: almost nothing…. if you’re 7, which Bert was when I made these cookies for his class at school. That’s not to say that sugar cookies are just for kids. Don’t let the adults fool you, they are suckers for sprinkles and icing too. Make some and you’ll see.
I have to say that sugar cookies are kind of my thing. I make them for all occasions. I’m not a professional; they are never perfect, but I’m okay with that. I love mixing up colors of icing and then sitting down and deciding how I want to decorate each one. I like using more of a fluid icing and marbling it with a toothpick, but you can decorate them any way you like. Royal icing is nice if you want to be able to stack and store them, and it is what I use. But a buttercream icing will taste a little bit better and you could still pipe it on in fun designs and patterns. Either way, embellishments with things like rainbow sprinkles and colored sugars are key, so don’t leave them out!
This particular cookie recipe is modified from a sugar cookie recipe that originated with my Aunt Jane. The recipe was good as is, but I like to tinker, so over the years, I’ve changed this and that and I think that I’m finally ready to call it done.
A couple of notes on these cookies:
- I use a combination of butter and shortening. The idea of using all butter in cookies is great in theory but butter makes for a crispier cookie more prone to spreading. Cutting it with some shortening helps the cookies keep their shape without having to do the whole chill-then roll-then chill again routine, which I have no patience for. Chilling this dough once is enough and then you can roll it out and bake the cookies right away without too much spreading or puffiness.
- There is also no baking powder or baking soda, which is a purposeful omission and again helps the cookies from getting too puffy and misshapen during baking.
- I like a combination of white sugar and brown sugar. I find that adding some brown sugar gives the cookie a nicer flavor but you can stick with all white sugar if you prefer.
- Speaking of flavor, I’m not usually an ingredient snob, but definitely consider going out to buy some good vanilla because in a relatively simple cookie like this, it makes a difference. Avoid the bottles that describe the vanilla as “imitation.” “Pure” vanilla extract is what you want. And don’t even think about buying one that’s clear. It should be really dark brown.
- Lastly, I’ve added sprinkles to the batter because birthday cookies of any shape seem to need sprinkles in them, but the dough is just as good without!
Bake the cookies only until they are just barely brown. In fact, it may be a good idea to bake one test cookie to see how long is a good amount of time in your oven. I’ve over-baked so many cookies over the years because I thought I knew how long they needed and it was too long. I think I’ve finally figured out that 10-13 minutes is the magic number in my oven. The first batch may take a smidge longer because the dough is still chilly. For example my first tray usually takes 12-13 minutes, but my second tray only needs about 10.
One recipe makes approximately 2 1/2 dozen cookies using a 2-3 inch cookie cutter and rolling the dough about 1/4 inch thick. Cookies will keep well in a sealed container for about 3 weeks. They also freeze well so feel free to make them ahead and decorate them later.
- 4 T. unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
- 6 T. butter-flavored shortening
- 3/4 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 3 cups cake flour*
- 2 tsp. vanilla
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp. salt
- 4 T. multicolored nonpareils
- 1. Preheat oven to 330 degrees.
- 2. Cream butter, shortening, and sugars together. If your butter isn't soft, that's okay, just throw it in and let your mixer do the work. Add eggs, one at a time, until well blended. Add vanilla and mix.
- 3. Add flour and salt and mix until dough begins to come together. Add nonpareils and mix just until blended.
- 4. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead once or twice until it forms a ball. Divide dough in half and wrap each half in plastic. Refrigerate for 25-30 minutes.
- 5. Using one half of the dough at a time, roll out onto a well-floured surface. Roll dough about 1/4 inch thick.
- 6. Cut with cookie cutters and place on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper or a silicone mat. Bake the first batch of cookies for 12-13 minutes, or until they are just barely brown on the bottom. It's generally a good idea to bake one test cookie before you put a whole pan in the oven. Whatever your ideal time is for the first batch of cookies, subtract 2-3 minutes for the second batch. In my oven, I know to check my second try after 10 minutes and they are usually done because at that point the dough is no longer chilly and they bake faster.
- 7. After cookies are cool, store in a sealed container until ready to decorate or wrap up and freeze for later.
- 8. Decorate with your favorite icing and lots of sprinkles!!
- Sugar cookies freeze fine, so feel free to make them ahead!
- Will keep in a sealed container for 3 weeks.
- *To make your own cake flour, substitute 2 tablespoons of cornstarch for 2 tablespoons of flour for each cup of flour needed. Sift cornstarch and flour together to mix and aerate the flour and then use in your recipe as needed.