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 cream cheese sugar cookies recipe instead. Both are fantastic, but these have crispier edges which I correlate to actual animal crackers. The cream cheese sugar cookies are softer all around. Choose which you want! I remind you in the recipe notes below.
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. (If anyone has a healthier homemade animal cracker recipe, please share!)
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
If you’re curious about the sugar cookie recipe, check out this post where I walk you through all the ingredients. Two things worth repeating:
- only 8 basic ingredients like butter, sugar, flour, egg, cinnamon
- my chilling method is unique – 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, contains no egg whites, and has a softer texture unlike typical rock-hard royal icing. If working with royal icing terrifies you, I have an easy glaze version right here. 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!
Mini Animal Cracker Cookies
- 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.*
- Decorated or plain cookies will stay fresh covered at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Make ahead tip: Plain cookies freeze well up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator. I do not recommend freezing with icing on top. You can chill the rolled-out cookie dough in the refrigerator for up to 2 days (step 5). You can also freeze the cookie dough (before rolling out in step 4) for up to 3 months. Then allow to thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before rolling out. Chill for only 30 minutes in step 5 as opposed to 1 full hour.
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.
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.
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SHOP THIS RECIPE
Here are some items I used to make today’s recipe.
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