Lisa's Letters Home: Bake Ahead Sugar Cookies - Sweet Potato Chronicles - Sweet Potato Chronicles

Lisa's Letters Home: Bake Ahead Sugar Cookies

Now that our friends in the US have cel­e­brated Thanks­giv­ing, it’s now offi­cially okay to go nuts about Christ­mas. Pin­ter­est has exploded in a green and red mass of baked goods. I’m now well and truly in the Christ­mas spirit.

I’ve been liv­ing in Eng­land for just over 12 years now, and I still learn new things every day. I heard a few friends men­tion “stir-up Sun­day” over the week­end, and had no clue what it meant. I dis­cov­ered you are sup­posed to make your Christ­mas pud­ding on the last Sun­day before advent, which was this past week­end. How I didn’t know about some­thing dessert-related is beyond me, but there you go.

Although I’m not a huge fan of Christ­mas pud­ding (a slowly steamed cake, filled with fruits, nuts, and booze) and have never made one myself, I am a huge fan of Christ­mas bak­ing. Not only does it pro­duce yummy things to eat, it keeps the kids enter­tained. It’s also a great way to cre­ate teacher presents with­out break­ing the bank.

I don’t have a lot of free time these days, so I have to bake as and when I can. I’m get­ting increas­ingly frus­trated with the num­ber of Christ­mas recipes that don’t tell you if you can make it ahead of time or how long it will keep. Over the next few Fri­days, I’m going to talk about recipes you can do in advance and I will tell you HOW FAR IN ADVANCE YOU CAN MAKE IT. (Sorry for shouting.)

I stum­bled across “The Sweet Adven­tures of Sug­ar­belle” ( in a quest to find royal icing tech­niques for sugar cook­ies – she has some fan­tas­tic tuto­ri­als and ideas on there, if you ever need to make fan­cy­pants cook­ies. She has a basic sugar cookie recipe (–cookie-recipe-2/) that I’ve been mean­ing to try, par­tic­u­larly as she claims that it doesn’t spread. I tend to use my Nigella recipe for cut-out cook­ies, but it requires a lot of fuss to pre­vent spread: make dough, chill, roll dough out and cut cook­ies, chill again, bake, prey.

Amaz­ingly, this one doesn’t spread. Okay, it does a lit­tle, but the cook­ies still hold their shape very well. You don’t chill the dough before bak­ing or after cut­ting – you just roll, cut, and bake. The baked, uniced cook­ies can be frozen for up to a month, so you can make these well in advance of Christ­mas. Take them out of the freezer around 15–20 min­utes before you dec­o­rate them. Once iced with royal icing, they keep for around a week in an air­tight con­tainer. The batch I made last week­end is going to be dec­o­rated by the kids a lit­tle later in Decem­ber for gifts.

I used fon­dant spac­ers to get the dough to a 3/4'” thick­ness. They are plas­tic dow­els that go under the rolling pin with the dough/icing in the  mid­dle. You can use wooden dow­els from the hard­ware store as a cheaper substitution.

Your oven may vary. Mine is the diva of ovens: tem­pera­men­tal and very high main­te­nance. I always have to turn any­thing I bake halfway through so that one side doesn’t end up burnt. Bake a cou­ple of cook­ies at first to get an idea of timing.

I got over 2 dozen cook­ies from this recipe (31 to be pre­cise), but of course this depends on the size of your cut­ter. They are but­tery, light, and most impor­tantly, don’t come out look­ing like uniden­ti­fi­able blobs.

Sugarbelle’s Sugar Cookies

1 cup  unsalted but­ter, soft­ened
1 1/2 cup confectioner’s/icing sugar
1 large egg
2–3 tsp flavour­ing (I used vanilla)
2 1/2 to 2 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp bak­ing pow­der
1 tsp salt



Pre­heat the oven to 400F/180C (fan-assist). Line a cookie sheet with parch­ment paper or a non-stick sil­i­cone bak­ing sheet.

Cream the but­ter and sugar until fluffy. In another bowl, com­bine the egg and vanilla, and add it to the but­ter mix­ture. Mix well – it might look a bit “cur­dled”, but that’s fine. It’ll come together in the end.

In another bowl, sift the flour, bak­ing pow­der, and salt. Grad­u­ally add the dry ingre­di­ents to the but­ter, sugar, and egg mix­ture. The dough is ready when it comes away from the sides of the bowl and sticks to the pad­dle. You want it to be soft to the touch, but not sticky. I started with 2 ½ cups of flour and added more by the spoon­ful until the dough came together; I prob­a­bly used close to 3 cups in total.

Dust your sur­face with a lit­tle flour. Roll out to ¼” thick­ness (you may need to dust the top with a lit­tle more flour so the rolling pin doesn’t stick), cut, and bake for around 7 minutes.

Let the cook­ies sit for a minute or two, then trans­fer to a wire rack. Let them cool com­pletely before dec­o­rat­ing or putting into the freezer.



  1. Lisa S says:

    Bis­cuiteers recipes are good for not-spreading, though they are a bit faffy. I find it suits me to do a bit then chill (while I run round doing some­thing else) then bake then col­lect the kids then, I don't know, ice them then out them to bed (ice the chil­dren put the bis­cuits to bed).

  2. Lisa Durbin says:

    Oooh I've got their book on my Ama­zon wish list!

  3. Avoid feel­ing dis­cour­aged or a fail­ure if you are nonethe­less
    cop­ing with mon­e­tary or per­sonal restric­tions. You get the
    oppor­tu­nity to make some fas­ci­nat­ing new alliances and Cupid could also
    be involved.

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