Soft, chewy and slightly sweet sugar cut-out cookies. They’re the quintessential holiday cookie in my opinion. In fact, I’ll make a bold claim now and say that it never really feels like the holidays until these festive cut-out cookies make their appearance! Do you have a favorite cookie like that?
Let me tell you about my family’s favorite, vegan sugar cut-out cookies.
How to Make Vegan Sugar Cut-Out Cookies
I have fond childhood memories of me and my brother baking sugar cut-out cookies with my mom — carefully cutting out cookies with our favorite cookie cutter (mine was a duck), placing them gently on a cookie sheet, slightly burning them in the oven, and topping them with an array of bright, artificially-colored red and green sprinkles — that I think about every time I make these cookies.
I treasure these memories even more now that my mom has passed away.
The cookies of my childhood were packed with a variety of animal products — butter, eggs, artificial food coloring, beeswax — which isn’t very vegan-friendly at all.
These days I make my sugar cut-out cookies vegan, and I make them artificial color free. But that doesn’t mean that I bake them with less flavor or make them less pretty.
I’ve tested lots of recipes for vegan sugar cut-out cookies and royal icing, each not quite capturing that flavor and nostalgia of the cookies from my childhood. Sometimes it’s because the cookie isn’t right, other times it’s because the icing is wrong. So I set out to make my own.
I wanted a sugar cookie with a soft, lush texture while still being sturdy enough to hold a cut-out shape and decorations well. I also wanted a less sweet cookie to balance the sweetness of adding sugar icing or decorations later. It was actually something that my maternal grandma said to me that made this recipe click: “Everything is better with cream cheese.” She was talking about dairy cream cheese no doubt, but she’s right.
Everything is better with cream cheese.
Adding vegan cream cheese is the secret to creating a soft, luxurious cookie worthy of the phrase, “This is the best damn vegan sugar cut-out cookie I’ve ever had.”
Or, “mmmm.” You know, whichever.
Let’s talk cookie dough for a minute.
If you’ve ever made vegan sugar cut-out cookies before, you know how important it is to have nice cookie dough to work with. If it’s too wet, the dough will be too sticky, if it’s too dry it’ll crack and fall apart. The perfect cookie dough should be soft, pliable and easy to roll.
That’s what this dough is. Even after it’s rolled and cut and rolled again, it’s a dream. It’s the perfect cookie dough to use with your favorite cookie cutters.
This dough works best if you let the dough warm for a few minutes before using. I like to make my cookie dough a day before I want to use it. Then later, I can just pull the dough out, let it warm for about 15 minutes, and I’m ready to make the vegan sugar cut-out cookies.
The cookies featured in the photos were topped with royal icing and then decorated with the blue natural color sugar from the India Tree Nature’s Color line, Let’s Do Organic Multi-Color Sprinkelz, organic snowflake sprinkles made with carnauba wax, organic sanding sugar I found in the bulk section of my local health food store, and an organic peppermint candy cane that I broke into pieces.
They were scrumptious.
- 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup vegan butter (softened, room temperature)
- 1/4 cup vegan cream cheese (softened, room temperature)
- 1 cup organic granulated sugar
- 2 egg replacer "eggs" [ I use Ener-G Egg Replacer ]
- 1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 350° and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Set up cooling racks.
- In a large bowl, cream the softened vegan butter and the sugar together until fluffy. Add the egg replacer "eggs," softened cream cheese, and the vanilla to the same bowl. Mix until combined.
- In a separate bowl, add the flour, baking powder, and cinnamon. Stir together.
- Using a spatula, gradually stir in the dry ingredients into the wet mixture until the dough is formed.
- Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and set it on a plate in the fridge to chill for several hours or overnight.
- When ready, take the dough out of the fridge and let stand for 15 minutes before working with it.
- Sprinkle work surface with a little flour and place some of the dough in middle to be rolled out. Dust the top with a little flour and roll the dough out to about 1/8″ thick – the thicker the cookie, the longer the bake time and conversely, the thinner the cookie, the shorter the bake time – or a thickness you prefer. Use your favorite cookie cutters to cut out cute shapes.
- Place cookies on lined cookie sheet and bake for 10 – 12 minutes. Bottoms will be barely brown when done. Start checking on the cookies at the ten minute mark- don't let the bottoms get dark or it drys out the cookies. You're looking for a barely brown on the bottoms.
- Remove cookies from the baking sheet and let cool on cooling racks. Cookies should be completely cool prior to decorating.
- Make sure butter and cream cheese are at room temperature (softened but not melted) before beginning. These cookies keep well in an air-tight container placed in a cool location. They also freeze perfectly so feel free to make a batch or two for later.
How to Make Vegan Royal Icing
Now, about that royal icing. A lot of royal icings are made using egg whites, obviously not very friendly for us vegans (or chickens for that matter). Instead, you’ll want to make a batch of vegan royal icing for your vegan sugar cut-out cookies. That’s where I come in with this vegan royal icing recipe to save the day.
Fair warning friends: This stuff is the real royal icing deal. It sets quickly, so if you want to add sprinkles to your vegan sugar cut-out cookies — and you know you do — do it immediately after icing the cookie. You can dip your cookies into the icing, or if you want to get your inner Martha Stewart on, use a food-safe paint brush and brush it on. I’ve done both.
This icing is a perfect base for other flavors of icings, experiment with lemon, orange, or cinnamon flavors. It’s off-white in color, but you can add color to it if you like. Experiment, have fun!
- 1 cup organic powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons of non-dairy milk
- 2 teaspoons of light corn syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Place sugar in bowl, add non-dairy milk and whisk until smooth.
- Add the almond and vanilla extracts along with the corn syrup. Whisk until smooth. The icing will be shiny and just a little runny. You don’t want it really runny or the icing won’t stick to the cookies. Icing will be hard with a shiny finish once dry. You can either dip cookies into icing, paint it on with a food-safe paint brush, or in a pastry bag.
Are you ready to get baking? I hope I’ve convinced you to make a batch of these vegan sugar cut-out cookies. If you do, leave a comment to let me know how it goes or tag me on Instagram at #yourdailyvegan!