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Vanilla Bean Butter Cookie Cutouts

This dough is a little tricky to work with.  The cookie has no egg so it is more like a shortbread than a sugar cookie.  The taste of the cookie is light, crisp and delicious.  If you want to give it a try, just be patient when rolling the dough out and you will be rewarded with a delicious cookie.  

I'm included the technique for decorating these little trees.  

It's easier than it looks and the I think quicker than piping around the edges and filling with a glaze.

Butter Vanilla Bean  Cutouts
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 2 tablespoons cream cheese (room temperature)
  • vanilla bean paste from two vanilla beans
  1. Place sugar in a blender and pulse until it is a fine consistency but not yet powdered sugar.
  2. Stir together flour and salt and sugar in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Beat butter, cream cheese and vanilla bean paste into the flour mixture until combined.
  4. Turn onto the counter and knead until it forms into ball.
  5. Divide into two parts, flatten into discs and wrap in plastic wrap and allow to rest for an hour.
  6. Preheat oven to 375 F and adjust oven rack to the middle of the oven.
  7. Prepare cookie sheets by greasing or lining bottom with parchment paper.
  8. Cut out cookies with cookie cutters.  You can use various sizes but do not place different sized cookies on one tray.  Larger cookies take slightly longer to bake than smaller cookies.
  9. Once all the dough has been rolled out and cookies cut out, combine the bits of dough and reroll until all the dough has been used up.  
  10. Bake for about 10 minutes or until edges of cookies begin to brown. Don't underbake these cookies.  Allow to cool on cookie sheet and then transfer to a cooling rack.  Do not place the next batch of cut outs on a warm cookie sheet.
  • 3/4 cup butter (softened)
  • 2 pounds powdered sugar / icing sugar
  • about 1/3 - 1/2 cup milk (enough to make a frosting that can be piped but holds its shape)  
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • food coloring
  1. In a mixer, beat together butter and powdered sugar until well combined.  Add milk a little bit at a time until you have the right consistency.  Add vanilla and food coloring and beat well for about 5 minutes.

Place frosting into a piping bag.  Cut a 1/8 inch small hole at the tip.

With the tree upside down, start at the middle of the base of the tree and pipe out a bit of frosting and then pull towards you to the next bough shape.

Continue to the right, always pulling the frosting towards you and towards the center.
Move to the left of the center and work your way to the left edge of the bough. 

Continue with the next bough in the same way. 

Continue in this way until you have filled the tree.

Allow cookies to dry well before freezing on a cookie tray.
After cookies are frozen you can transfer them to containers or freezer bags.

If you don't let the frosting dry before freezing, be careful when serving to keep the cookies from being plated one on top of the other.  

You can also continue to decorate with sprinkles or other colored frostings as you would decorate your own tree!  


  1. Oh they look so pretty! Your cookie dough recipe sounds delicious - I love the taste of shortbread. Thanks for the icing tutorial - it looks fabulous.

  2. Those are the most darling cookies. I need one of your grands to show me how to do this!

  3. Those cookies are little works of ART!! Louis Dean loves shortbread so perhaps he can help me with the tricky dough. Thank you for the recipe. I have never seen a prettier Christmas Tree Cookie!

  4. Truly gorgeous!

    Blessings to All,

  5. Is vanilla bean paste just the vanilla beans from 2 beans all smushed up together?

    1. Natasha, To get the vanilla bean paste out of the vanilla bean, slit open the length of the bean and scrape all the paste out from one end to the other.

  6. I've never used vanilla bean paste (showing my lack of culinary expertise/experience here. :-) Where can you find it, and does just plain vanilla flavoring work ok?

    1. Melodie, you can sometimes find vanilla bean paste in a jar but I always buy vanilla beans in the baking aisle. They are long about like a thin green bean and usually come about 4 or 5 together. You can use vanilla extract.

  7. Thanks, Lovella. Honestly, I am just amazed at all the hints you drop into the directions that improve outcomes. Such as this one: "You can use various sizes but do not place different sized cookies on one tray. Larger cookies take slightly longer to bake than smaller cookies." Duh! I should have figured that out. I can also see how this would affect outcome: "Do not place the next batch of cut outs on a warm cookie sheet." Great stuff here.