These homemade Danish butter cookies are the best Christmas cookies! Unlike the store-bought version you may be used to, these are soft in the center with irresistible buttery vanilla and almond flavors. Make lovely designs with a large piping tip and dip in chocolate and sprinkles for a festive touch!
Welcome to the December Baking Challenge recipe AND recipe #1 in this year’s Sally’s Cookie Palooza, my annual Christmas cookie countdown tradition. This year marks my cookie palooza’s 7th year and we are going strong! Two weeks with 10 cookie recipes in a row. Are you ready for this?
First up: Homemade Danish Butter Cookies!
These Butter Cookies Are:
- Not your regular butter cookies
- Mega flavorful with almond and vanilla
- Super buttery and soft
- Crisp on the edges
- Piped with a piping tip like meringue cookies
- Quick– only 30 minutes of chill time
- Extra festive with chocolate, cherries, and/or sprinkles
Butter Cookies Video Tutorial
Let’s watch and learn how to make butter cookies. You’ll notice that this cookie dough comes together easily with only 8 ingredients. You need a mixer for the dough, plus a piping bag and large tip to pipe the cookie dough.
Aren’t they pretty?
Ingredients in Butter Cookies
This is a 1 bowl cookie recipe! There’s no leavening, so the texture is closer to a shortbread cookie. The dough is like my spritz cookies, but with a little milk to make it pipe-able.
- Butter: 1 cup of butter adds flavor, structure, and buttery goodness in each bite. Make sure it’s properly softened to room temperature before beginning.
- Sugar: Creamed butter and sugar is the base of this dough.
- Vanilla & Almond Extract: Flavor and more flavor! Almond extract is a welcome addition. If you’re not a fan of almond, see my recipe notes below.
- Egg: 1 egg adds structure, stability, and flavor.
- All-Purpose Flour: Add the flour directly to the wet ingredients. No need to mix it up in a separate bowl.
- Salt: By offsetting the sugar, salt adds flavor.
- Milk: I don’t usually add milk to cookies like this, but we need to thin out this cookie dough so it flows through the piping tip. You don’t need much, about 1-2 Tablespoons.
How to Pipe Butter Cookies
As you saw in this video tutorial above, this cookie dough is piped onto the baking sheet. That’s how the butter cookies get their lovely shape.
Line the cookie sheet? Some swear by using a PLAIN cookie sheet, but lining with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat is fine. (I use silicone baking mats for all my cookies and these are no different.) If you don’t line the pan, don’t grease it either.
2 Success Tips:
- Start Small: Place the cookie dough in the piping bag. Start with a little bit of dough so you can determine if it’s creamy enough to pipe. If it’s too thick, it’s impossible to pipe and you’ll have to put the dough back in the bowl and add a little more milk.
- Chill: I find it’s easiest to stick with simple designs like a swirl or even just a line. Whatever design you pipe, I highly recommend chilling the piped cookies on the baking sheet for at least 20-30 minutes before baking. Without this chill time, the cookies will likely lose their piped shape.
Best Piping Tips to Use
The cookie dough is thick, so it’s imperative to use a large piping tip with about a 1/2 inch opening. (That’s big!) The smaller the size, the harder it will be to pipe. I highly recommend an open star piping tip, but I actually use Ateco 849 which is a closed star tip. The opening is so large that it still works wonderfully!
Here are some options:
The popular Wilton 1M works too, but you may need to add more milk to the cookie dough to thin it out since the piping tip is smaller. Remember, the more milk you add, the longer you need to chill the shaped cookies or else they will over-spread in the oven.
3 Butter Cookie Varieties!
Make 3 varieties from 1 batch. 🙂
- dip baked cookies into melted chocolate and add sprinkles
- stick a maraschino cherry in the center before baking
- add sprinkles or coarse sugar before baking
How to Join Sally's Baking Challenge
Make the butter cookies. If you’re not into this recipe, here is the alternate December Baking Challenge:
After you make the butter cookies or alternate recipe, share your recipe photo with me any of the following ways:
- Use #sallysbakingchallenge and tag me (@sallysbakeblog) on your public Instagram or Twitter account. (Instagram messages are hard to track, so please email instead.)
- Upload your recipe photo to my Facebook page or Facebook group.
- Email me your recipe photo.
For a bonus entry, leave a review on the recipe below!
By sharing your photo, you are automatically entered in the baking challenge for the $250 Amazon gift card prize. My assistants and I keep track of your photos and randomly select 1 winner at the end of the month. The challenge is open to the whole world. Challenge ends on December 30th 2019 at 5pm ET. The winner will be selected at random and posted in the January Baking Challenge blog post on December 31st 2019.
Using just 8 basic ingredients and a large piping tip, make these soft vanilla almond flavored butter cookies. There’s no leavening, so the texture is close to shortbread cookies. I recommend chilling the piped cookies for at least 20-30 minutes before baking.
- 1 cup (2 sticks; 230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 2 and 1/4 cups (281g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 – 2 Tablespoons (15-30ml) milk
- one 4-ounce quality semi-sweet chocolate bar (113g), finely chopped*
- maraschino cherries
- sprinkles or coarse sugar
- Read through the recipe and recipe notes before beginning. Make room in your refrigerator for a baking sheet so the shaped cookies can chill for 20-30 minutes. Without chilling, the piped cookies may over-spread. If you chill the dough prior to shaping, the dough will be too cold/stiff to pipe.
- Line 2-3 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Or leave un-lined. If un-lined, do not grease the pan.
- In a large bowl, using a handheld mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and granulated sugar together on medium-high speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the egg, vanilla extract, and almond 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.
- On low speed, beat in the flour and salt. Turn up to high speed and beat until completely combined. On medium speed, beat in 1.5 Tablespoons of milk. You want a dough that’s creamy and pipe-able (but still thick), so you may need up to 2 or 2.5 Tablespoons of milk. The more milk you add, the more the cookies will spread so chilling in step 6 is imperative. I recommend keeping the amount of milk small and using a large enough piping tip, like the ones I suggest in the post above.
- Add your large piping tip to the piping bag. Spoon a little bit of dough into the piping bag and pipe a 1-2 inch swirl or line on the prepared baking sheet. The reason I suggest only a little bit of dough to start is because the dough may still be too thick to pipe. If it’s too thick, transfer that dough back to the mixing bowl and add another 1/2 Tablespoon of milk. If the dough is creamy enough to pipe, continue piping the dough in 1-2 inch swirls or lines, 3 inches apart on the baking sheet. See video above for a visual if needed. If desired, place a maraschino cherry in the center of the swirl or sprinkle the dough with festive sprinkles and/or coarse sugar.
- Chill the shaped cookies on the baking sheet for 20-30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350°F (177°C).
- Bake the chilled cookies for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned on the sides. The cookies will spread like all cookies do, but not completely lose their shape especially if you chilled the shaped dough. If the cookies are smaller, they will take closer to 12 minutes. Keep your eye on them. They’re done when the edges lightly brown.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Optional Chocolate: You can melt the chocolate in a double boiler or the microwave. If using the microwave: place the chopped chocolate in a medium heat-proof bowl. Melt in 20 second increments in the microwave, stirring after each increment until completely melted and smooth. Dip the cookies in chocolate and top with sprinkles, if desired. Allow the chocolate to set completely at room temperature for about 1 hour or in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
- Plain cookies stay fresh in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week. Cookies with chocolate or cherries stay fresh in an airtight container at room temperature for 3 days or in the refrigerator for 1 week.
- Make Ahead Instructions: You can chill the shaped cookies on the baking sheet in the refrigerator for up to 2 days before baking. If chilling for longer than 30 minutes, cover with plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Sometimes I pipe all the swirls close together on 1 baking sheet, then refrigerate for up to 2 days. (Since my refrigerator can’t fit 2-3 sheets at once.) After chilling, the shaped dough is cold, so you can use a flat spatula to pick up the cold shaped dough and arrange on 2-3 baking sheets. You can also freeze the un-baked shaped dough for up to 2-3 months. Bake the frozen shaped dough (no need to thaw) for an extra couple minutes. Baked cookies, with or without chocolate/cherries/sprinkles, freeze well for up to 3 months.
- Almond Extract: Almond extract adds such a wonderful flavor and I don’t recommend skipping it. If desired, you can leave it out completely or add another 1/2 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract in its place. You can also substitute with 3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract, 1 teaspoon lemon extract, or another flavor extract you enjoy. (Some are more potent than others.) Adding 1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon is delicious too!
- No Piping Tip: This recipe is similar to my spritz cookies where I use a cookie press. If you don’t have a large piping tip, you can make the spritz cookies (they do not need the milk). If you don’t have a cookie press or large piping tip, snip a 1/2 inch corner off the end of a plastic bag and pipe lines/flat swirls.
- Optional Chocolate: For the best results, use a 4 ounce “baking chocolate” bar found in the baking aisle. I prefer Bakers or Ghirardelli brands. You can use semi-sweet, milk chocolate, or even white chocolate. Candy melts or almond bark work too. Do not use chocolate chips, as they contain stabilizers preventing them from melting into the proper consistency. After you melt it, if the chocolate is too thick for dipping, stir in 1 teaspoon of canola oil to help thin it out.
Keywords: cookies, christmas cookies