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Dec 05


Christmas Tree Cookie Tutorial & a Holiday Cookie Exchange

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It’s Holiday Cookie Exchange time!


Just in time for the Holiday season, a few other bloggers and I have teamed up to bring you some favorite cookie recipes and pretty packaging ideas! I’m sharing a simple Christmas tree cookie tutorial and a Vanilla Sugar Cookie Recipe {below}.

Head on over to these links and enjoy some new inspiration!

Jenn | Hostess with the Mostess

Carrie | Half Baked :: The Cake Blog

Glory | Glorious Treats

Kim | The TomKat Studio

Jessica | Pen N’ Paperflowers


Christmas Tree Cookie Tutorial

You’ll Need:

*I found these sugar stars from FancyFlours.com but you could use candy stars, make fondant or gum paste stars with a small star cutter, or decorate with any candy of your choice.


Once you’ve made your icing, baked your cookies {recipe below} and let them cool to room temperature, they’re ready to be decorated.

Turn your cookie so that the tip of the tree is closest to you. Using a #18 star tip, start from the bottom of the Christmas tree and pipe a line of shells.  Note: Different sized star tips work as well (i.e. #’s 14-21). The larger the number, the larger the shell will be.

Piping a Basic Shell

To pipe a basic shell, hold the piping bag at about a 45-degree angle, at the 6:00 o’clock position, with the tip slightly above the surface of your cookie. Squeeze the icing out of your piping bag, then relax the pressure and pull the piping tip towards the surface of your cookie. Let go of the pressure completely, lift the piping bag away and repeat.

Pipe the shells in rows, staggering each line similar to the pattern of a brick wall.

Each new line of shells covers the tails of the line before it.  Cover the entire cookie.

Place a sugar star on top and enjoy!

Adhere some ribbon to the back of the cookie with royal icing to use your cookies as Christmas tree ornaments!

If you’d like to try a variety of ornament cookies, such as these marbled ones below, click here for a tutorial.

Happy holiday baking!



Vanilla Sugar Cookie Recipe


  • 2 cups unsalted butter (at room temperature)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt


  1. Cream the butter and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer on low to medium speed. (Use the paddle attachment). Mix until thoroughly incorporated - for about one minute.
  2. Add the vanilla extract and the eggs slowly and mix. Scrape down the bowl with your spatula at least once and mix again.
  3. Sift your dry ingredients together. (Flour and salt).
  4. Add all of the flour mixture to the bowl. Mix on low speed for 3o seconds. When the dough clumps around the paddle attachment it's ready. It's also important at this stage not to over mix the dough.
  5. Roll the dough out between 2 large pieces of parchment paper. Place on a baking sheet and into the fridge for a minimum of 1 hour.
  6. Roll out the dough further if you need to, and cut out cookie shapes. Place on parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Re-roll scraps and repeat.
  7. Put cookie dough shapes back into the fridge for 10 minutes to 1 hour to chill again. They will then hold their shape better when baked.
  8. Preheat your oven to 350°F or 176°C.
  9. Bake cookies for 8-12 minutes or until the edges become golden brown. The baking time will depend on the size of your cookie.
  10. Let cookies cool to room temperature and decorate!

Related Content


  1. December 9, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    Love the pastel color change for Christmas. The cookies look fun and festive for a kiddie table at a Holiday Party. Amazing work.

  2. ELVIA
    December 10, 2012 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    me gustaria saber donde consigue el azucar cristal que le pone a las casitas de jengibre o si tiene la receta para hacerlas y cuanto tiempo llevar hacerlos

    muchas gracias


  3. Rosalind
    December 11, 2012 at 12:23 am | Permalink

    Just want to say that you are so inspiring and your creations are delightfully wonderful!!! Thank you for sharing!

  4. Linda
    December 11, 2012 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    These are beautiful. What consistency is the icing? Should I harden at all?

  5. December 11, 2012 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    Hi @ Linda: The trees are decorated with a buttercream icing, so it will be the correct consistency once you’ve made it.

  6. Jimi Paderick
    December 13, 2012 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    What type of flour do you use for your cookies? Love your blog and site. Wow you are great!

  7. Betty
    December 13, 2012 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

    I noticed your sugar cookie recipe here is slightly different than the one in your polar bear cookie post. Do you prefer the more or less butter? I made the Version in the polar bear post and they seemed a tad greasy. Thoughts? Love your work btw!

  8. December 13, 2012 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, @ Jimi Paderick, I use all-purpose flour.

    Hi @ Betty: Yes, I actually like the buttery flavour of the other recipe a bit better, but since people seemed to be having trouble because it’s a wetter dough, I took 1/2 cup butter out. If you like a more buttery flavour, keep the extra butter in, and chill it periodically while you’re working with it. I also roll mine between parchment paper.

  9. Ali
    December 13, 2012 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

    I am not really an experienced baker. Why do you use insulted butter instead of salted? I always see the different kinds but I didn’t know the difference. Thanks! I am hoping to bake these this weekend they look great and I have all the stuff to do the fancy frosting!!!

  10. Paula
    December 14, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Permalink


    Using unsalted butter allows the baker to control the amount of salt in a recipe. I was taught this in pastry school and always use unsalted butter.

  11. December 15, 2012 at 3:48 am | Permalink

    These look beautiful, I love the colours. I also love how you have included a picture with the instructions of how to pipe the shell shape, this is very helpful. I will definitely be making some of these for Christmas this year. 🙂

  12. Melissa
    December 15, 2012 at 6:45 am | Permalink

    @ Marian (Sweetopia): Hi Marian, will the buttercream frosting harden like the royal icing? I’m going to make these tomorrow for a party. Thanks! (LOVE your work!)

  13. marian
    December 15, 2012 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    @ Ali, exactly what @ Paula said. 🙂 Thanks, Paula!!

    Have fun, @ Mignon!

    Hi @ Melissa: The buttercream forms a crust, but doesn’t harden like royal icing does. I don’t like to stack these cookies or put them individually in cellophane bags for that reason. I would suggest putting them on a platter or in those clear gift boxes (or other cookie tins), as long as they’re not arranged so that too much pressure is on them. Hope that helps!

  14. Melanie
    December 15, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    I love this idea! I used the star 18 as suggested and they turned out super. I could not get the stars in time so instead I used the light green buttercream icing and then sprinkled with dark green crystal sugar. Again great idea thank you & Merry Christmas

  15. Catherine
    December 17, 2012 at 12:21 am | Permalink

    Those look delicious, I hope to make them for a party soon but I must ask how many cookies will this recipe make using the standard tree cookie cutters? Oh and Merry Christmas!!

  16. marian
    December 17, 2012 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    That’s great to hear, @ Melanie! Merry Christmas to you too!

    @ Catherine: It should make about 30 trees. Merry Christmas to you! xo

  17. sydney cueva
    December 18, 2012 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    Hi! I love these cookies and was wondering if they are the crunchy sugar cookie or more of a soft sugar cookie? Please let me know! Thanks! Love your work 😉

  18. Linda
    December 19, 2012 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    This may seem like a silly question, but, I’ve just made these cookies with the buttercream icing and the icing is very soft on the cookie tree. You’ve posted that you can use these as decorations on the real tree. I just want to ask how because the icing will go all over the tree. It seems like the icing is melting. Help.

  19. Connie Beal
    December 19, 2012 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    No baking powder in the cookie recipe?

  20. December 20, 2012 at 1:40 am | Permalink

    Made these cookies yesterday and they were a hit with the family and friends. Just struggled to handle them during the cutting process, probably due to the high content of butter in them but I fixed this by putting the dough in the freezer for a few minutes and had no problem after this 🙂

  21. December 21, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Hi @ sydney cueva: The longer you bake them, the crunchier they will be and vice versa.

    @ Linda: Do you live in a warm/humid climate or is your house warm? Buttercream will be soft if it’s too warm for it.

    @ Connie Beal: No, here is the reason; http://sweetopia.net/2011/04/top-8-tips-on-preventing-cookies-from-spreading/

    @ Maree Hugo: Super! Thanks for your comment!

  22. December 24, 2012 at 5:29 am | Permalink

    As always you give me inspiration ! thank you for everything you create and share. Have a wonderful and fabulous Christmas

  23. Kathy
    January 1, 2013 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    I love the soft pastel colors! May I ask where you got your mitten cutter from? It’s adorable.

  24. Maria
    January 6, 2013 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

    We tried to make sugar cookies using instant refrigerated dough from the grocery store. We cut them into shapes for Valentines Day had them perfect and when they were cooking they just went back into circles. We never made cut out shape cookies before. I’m not sure what happened?

  25. January 7, 2013 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    @ Fabienne: Thanks! xo

    @ Kathy: It’s been so long since I’ve bought that one, but I believe it’s a Wilton cutter.

    Hi @ Maria: This post explains it; http://sweetopia.net/2011/04/top-8-tips-on-preventing-cookies-from-spreading/

  26. Elaine Larsen
    January 14, 2013 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

    I love your work! You are an inspiration! Thank you!

  27. Ashley - baker by nature
    January 18, 2013 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    Wow – how am I just finishing your blog now?! I’m in love with how pretty you make every single recipe, and I’m totally inspired to try some ASAP!

  28. January 18, 2013 at 2:19 pm | Permalink


  29. marian
    January 19, 2013 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    @ Elaine Larsen and @ Ashley – baker by nature: Thank you so much for your sweet comments!

  30. Manda
    January 22, 2013 at 5:58 am | Permalink

    I have a question (and this might be a silly one) what is 2 cups of butter? (g or oz) how would you measure this out? i’m so used to recipes having measurements in g or oz not in cups so forgive me if i sound a bit dim haha

  31. Mariah
    January 28, 2013 at 12:39 pm | Permalink


    I’m from the Netherlands, and I like your video’s and your blog!
    It is really amazing!
    Keep it up!


  32. Shaunna
    February 4, 2013 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    Thank you for this darling recipe,
    What type of sugar do you use?
    Many thanks

  33. February 4, 2013 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    @ Shaunna: For the cookies themselves, I use regular, granulated sugar.

  34. jacqui
    February 8, 2013 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    So love your page, its really inspirational.But please would you be so kind as to use metric weights in your recipes – ie grams – only ‘cups’ is very confusing to us who live in Europe! Many thanks.

  35. February 8, 2013 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    Yes, I must do that @ jacqui! My mother is from Switzerland and she only uses a scale as well, and I must say, I am truly a child of both North America and Europe, as I use both! Please watch out for the post which announces the new measurements.

  36. JM
    March 8, 2013 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

    I got to this post from the “Sugar Cookie Recipe” post (http://sweetopia.net/2009/12/sugar-cookie-recipe/) but I see that the two recipes are not the same.

    Which recipe should I try first? One calls for 2-1/2 cups butter, the other calls for 2 cups butter but none of the other ingredients have different quantities. Which version is better? I was hoping to make these tonight so I’d appreciate if you could let me know. Thanks!

  37. marian
    March 8, 2013 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

    Hi @ JM: This version seems to be easier for people to work with (the other version is a bit sticky), but the flavour is a little less buttery. Still good though! Have fun baking!

  38. JM
    March 11, 2013 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    Hey Marian,

    Thanks for the quick reply! I opted for the 2-1/2 cup butter recipe and while I did find it rather difficult to work with at first, I managed to tweak my process and came out with delicious cookies! Ordinarily I don’t like plain sugar cookies, as they can often be rather tasteless but these were so great on their own, we didn’t even frost them! Thanks again for the great recipe!@ marian:

  39. marian
    March 11, 2013 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Oh that’s good, @ JM! Glad you liked them!

  40. Suzanne
    November 20, 2013 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    I want to make this for kids school bake sale buttercream doesn’t dry hard, can I use royal icing? Does anyone have a tastier royal icing recipe?

  41. December 16, 2013 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    I usually make traditional sugar cookies from my grandmother’s recipe, but this year I plan to decorate them this way. This looks lovely. Let’s hope I can pull it off!

    • marian
      December 16, 2013 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

      Have fun with it, and please let me know if you have questions. 🙂 I’ll try my best to help.

  42. December 17, 2013 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    I just saw these on facebook and fell in love! Thank you for posting this!

    I am eagerly waiting to hear your reply to comment #57….have you been unusually mean to your butter lately?

    • marian
      December 17, 2013 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

      You made me giggle! Thanks for your comment and have fun baking!

  43. Amy
    December 17, 2013 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

    What is the shelf life with buttercream icing? And souls you store in the refrigerator ?

    • marian
      December 18, 2013 at 6:18 am | Permalink

      Hi Amy,
      About two weeks in the fridge, 3 months in the freezer. In between using, yes, store it in the fridge.

  44. December 17, 2013 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

    Hi, Just a quick question, when you say sugar in your receipe, do you mean just normal sugar or what type of sugar do you use? ie super fine sugar, icing sugar, confectioners sugar??

    • marian
      December 18, 2013 at 6:19 am | Permalink

      HI Julie,
      When I say sugar in my recipes, I mean granulated, regular sugar. Have fun baking! xo

  45. Andrew
    December 20, 2013 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    I just made this recipe and they are very delicious! I crave more after every bite! The dough was so easy to work with, the frosting is delightful! My cookies turned out amazing and they look like they should be on display! Thank you so much for this wonderful recipe!

    • marian
      March 11, 2014 at 11:51 am | Permalink

      Glad you like it, Andrew! 🙂

  46. February 25, 2014 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    Hi Marian, I am a fan from way back. Your work is simply amazing. I am trying to set my royal icing so that I am able to make the consistency to sustain the tree above without using buttercream. Do you have a recipe or a tutorial?

    Many Blessings,


    • marian
      March 11, 2014 at 11:52 am | Permalink

      Hi Lisa,
      I would use the royal icing as it is when you make it (the recipe I use anyways)… it’s thick and perfect for this type of piping. (For flooded cookies I thin it out). Hope that helps!

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  1. […] Pastel Christmas Tree decoration was inspiration from Sweetopia (http://sweetopia.net/2012/12/christmas-tree-cookie-tutorial-holiday-cookie-exchange/). Her tutorial is for buttercream, but I did mine in Royal Icing. It was very quick to apply and […]

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