Holiday sugar cookies have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. When I was a young girl, my mom mixed dough each Christmas season, then cut the forms and baked cookies, while my siblings and I frosted and decorated. There was always competition, of course, with each of us trying to outdo the other producing the prettiest cookies. There were also a few accidents where a cookie broke, and mom let us eat those. That was the best part!
When I was a teenager, my mom bought me my first Wilton cake decorating kit. I learned to pipe frosting on cakes, and make my own flowers and designs using special tubes. My real love though, was decorating sugar cookies. Cakes just never appealed to me a whole lot.
After I moved away from home, I tapped into my creative side, learning new methods of piping frosting on holiday cookies. I often gave my cookies away to coworkers, friends, and neighbors. These cookies were beautiful labors of love, and people looked forward to receiving them each year.
Sugar cookies were how I won over my neighbor, Mr. Hughes. He was very crabby and often yelled at the neighborhood kids. But one day, I took a little plate of cookies over and knocked at the door. Finally, he opened it a crack and asked, “Whaddya want?” in a gruff tone. I explained I had extra sugar cookies left and thought he might like some. He snatched the plate and shut the door. A few months later at Easter time, I took cookies over again. This time I got a thank you from him but no chit chat. The following Christmas, I knocked at the door and he opened it wide with a smile I’d never seen before! He told me I could save a lot of work and not put so many sprinkles on them… because, you know, it’s not manly to eat a lot of sprinkles. So from then on, we were friends, and conversations helped me to realize that he really was not a grumpy old man, but rather a lonely person who was fighting cancer. The last Christmas he was alive, I visited him at his sister’s house. She said he didn’t have long and she wasn’t sure he would come out of his room to visit, but he did. And he smiled, and then got big tears and said, “I didn’t think I’d make it long enough to enjoy another one of your cookies”.
But over the years of baking sugar cookies, things got out of hand. People wanted to order cookies. Many folks wanted more cookies – they had families and “it sure would be nice to have more for the kids to enjoy”. I would go to the store for cookie supplies and ingredients and I’d be approached by people who had heard about my cookies or had gotten them in the past. And at FD’s workplace, his department seemed to acquire more employees each year. Decorated sugar cookies had been a good handmade gift that everyone seemed to enjoy – but with so many people to gift with cookies, I suddenly found myself making hundreds. To lessen the burden, I decided to cut way back on making fancy cookies with piping, and went back to mostly sugars and sprinkles.
Last year, the number of cookies baked and decorated reached 1200, and this year I topped out at 1330 cookies. I make twelve double batches of dough using my KitchenAid mixer, which takes about four hours to complete. Then, it takes me two days to roll out, cut, and bake the cookies. After that, it is another two solid days of frosting and decorating – from sunup to the time I hit the hay at night. I use about twelve pounds of frosting and I go through many containers of sugars and sprinkles.
This year, I only piped frosting on the snowflake patterns since piping takes a long time. And it takes another day or two to allow the frosting to dry. After drying, I pack the completed cookies in tins that hold anywhere from 34 to 40 cookies. Wax paper separates each layer of decorated cookies.
Christmas cookies are still a labor of love, and one I truly enjoy. My brother and two of my sister’s continue their own cookie baking traditions as well, though not on the large scale I do, but we all give away most of our cookies. I find it is a wonderful way to give people something handmade. And I sure hope Santa is watching, so that he will know why I am asking for a convection oven/microwave next year. And I would sure like the loan of an elf or two to help out as well!
© 2018 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…