These mini animal cracker cookies are the most adorable cookies to ever come out of my kitchen. It’s actually impossible to NOT smile when you eat one. Maybe the memory of cutting out 1,487 microscopic cookies will quickly wipe that smile away but their cuteness totally makes up for the meticulous small size… right? Just look at the cutie patootie sprinkle covered elephants!
The recipe is based off of my favorite sugar cookies. For some wholesome flavor, I added cinnamon to the cookie dough. I love this sugar cookie recipe, but if you want options, try my soft cream cheese cookies instead. Both are fantastic, but today’s cookies have crispier edges which I correlate to actual animal crackers.
Before I landed on this particular recipe, I attempted a whole wheat version in an effort to make somewhat healthy-ish animal cracker cookies. It was a lost cause. The cookies were dry and completely crumbled in your hands. Heads were literally falling off.
So, alas, if the icing and sprinkles haven’t given it away yet, these mini animal cracker cookies are most definitely dessert.
Behind the Recipe
- Only 8 basic ingredients like butter, sugar, flour, egg, and cinnamon.
- My chilling method is unique and I talk about it in depth over on my sugar cookies page – instead of chilling the cookie dough as one massive chunk of dough, divide the dough in half, roll both out, and THEN chill it in the refrigerator. The dough is more manageable to work with in smaller portions and so much easier to roll out before it’s chilled.
This basic sugar cookie recipe is simple, straightforward, and a reader favorite on my blog.
The icing is my favorite royal icing. It’s not fussy, tastes great, sets quickly, and has a softer texture unlike typical rock-hard royal icing. If working with royal icing terrifies you, I have an easy glaze version posted with my Christmas sugar cookies. I tinted half pink with a drop of gel food coloring. The finished cookies remind me of my childhood favorite: circus animal cookies!! Have fun with the colors; these cookies would be adorable for baby showers and kid birthday parties. (Or adults because, again, how can you not smile?)
Icing is optional and if you decide to skip it, you can always press some sprinkles into the tops of the cookies before baking. But I welcome an excuse for icing and something tells me you’re the same. 🙂
Let me give you a piece of advice on the icing. So you don’t lose your mind, I recommend dipping the cookie tops straight into the bowl of icing. Piping icing onto each individual cookie? Proceed at your own risk! I attempted it and by tiny cookie #5, I piped the remaining icing back into the bowl with a loud “NOPE!”
The combination of rainbow sprinkles, icing, cinnamon, and sugar cookies will bring you right back to childhood. Speaking of! Their small size means more cookies to cut out and dunk in icing, so grab the kids for this one. Something tells me little bakers will LOVE helping with these animal cracker cookies over the summer. You can prepare the dough a day or 2 ahead of time so all that’s left is shaping, baking, decorating, and eating. The fun parts!
Turn a simple 8 ingredient sugar cookie recipe into homemade mini animal cracker cookies! These kid-friendly cookies are flavored with delicious cinnamon and topped with icing and rainbow sprinkles.
- 2 and 1/4 cups (280g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup (1 and 1/2 sticks; 180g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- traditional royal icing or glaze icing
- rainbow sprinkles
- Whisk the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- In a large bowl using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on high speed until completely smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat on high speed until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl and beat again as needed to combine.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix on low until combined. If the dough seems too soft, you can add 1 Tablespoon more flour until it is a better consistency for rolling.
- Divide the dough into 2 equal parts. Roll each portion out onto a piece of parchment paper or a lightly floured silicone baking mat (I prefer the nonstick silicone mat) to about 1/4-inch thickness. The rolled-out dough can be any shape, as long as it is evenly 1/4-inch thick.
- Stack the pieces, with parchment paper between the two, onto a baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 1-2 hours and up to 2 days. If chilling for more than a couple hours, cover the top dough piece with a single piece of parchment paper.
- Once chilled, preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Remove one of the dough pieces from the refrigerator and cut into shapes with animal cookie cutters (I love these, these, and these). Re-roll the remaining dough and continue cutting until all is used. Repeat with 2nd dough piece.
- Arrange cookies on baking sheets 1-2 inches apart. Bake for 9-10 minutes, until lightly browned around the edges. Rotate the baking sheet halfway through bake time. Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before decorating. I like to decorate cookies directly on baking sheets so I can stick the entire baking sheet in the refrigerator to help set the icing. So place the cooled cookies back on baking sheets.
- Decorate with traditional royal icing or this glaze icing.*
- Enjoy cookies right away or wait until the icing sets to serve them. Once the icing has set, these cookies are great for gifting or for sending. Plain or decorated cookies stay soft for about 5 days when covered tightly at room temperature. For longer storage, cover and refrigerate for up to 10 days.
- Freezing Instructions: Plain or iced animal cracker cookies freeze well for up to 3 months. Wait for the icing to set completely before layering between sheets of parchment paper in a freezer-friendly container. To thaw, thaw in the refrigerator or at room temperature. You can also freeze the cookie dough for up to 3 months before rolling it out. Prepare the dough through step 3, divide in half, flatten both halves into a disk as we do with pie crust, wrap each in plastic wrap, then freeze. To thaw, thaw the disks in the refrigerator, then bring to room temperature for about 1 hour. Roll out the dough as directed in step 4, then chill as directed in step 5– no need to chill for 1-2 hours, 45 minutes should be plenty.
- Special Tools: KitchenAid Stand Mixer | Meringue Powder | Americolor Gel Food Coloring Kit | Mini Animal Cookie Cutters | 9-piece Mini Animal Cookie Cutter Set | Mini Noah’s Ark Animal Cookie Cutters | Silpat Baking Mat | Baking Sheets | Cooling Rack
- Food Coloring: Feel free to tint the royal icing or glaze icing pink or any color you desire! I recommend gel food coloring. I used a tiny drop of fuchsia from this food coloring kit.
- Softer Cookies: These sugar cookies are soft in the centers with crisp edges. If you’re interested in super soft and creamy-tasting sugar cookies, use this cream cheese sugar cookie dough instead. Add the 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and leave out the almond extract. That recipe yields over 100 mini animal cracker cookies.
- Be sure to check out my top 5 cookie baking tips AND these are my 10 must-have cookie baking tools.
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