The holiday season is on its way, bringing with it one of my favorite traditions: a tray filled with festive spritz cookies. It’s a simple cookie that is anything but plain. A tender-crisp exterior and sugary topping that simply melts in your mouth. The never-ending variety of shapes, colors and flavors. Designs like candy canes, stars or cute little trees complemented by vivid colors from sugars, sprinkles or food coloring (like my favorite red velvet cookies with peppermint). Better yet, go the extra step and fill them with your favorite frosting to make the best sandwich cookie.
Yup, it’s definitely a good time of year to start perfecting your spritz cookies. Luckily, our Test Kitchen experts discovered the secrets behind spritz cookie technique. We can’t wait to share it with you! All you need is a cookie press and your favorite disc shapes. So pull out your colored sugars, jimmies and nonpareils and get ready to feel festive.
How to Make Spritz Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup finely chopped almonds or colored sugar
An electric hand mixer, or a stand mixer with the paddle attachment
Cookie press, or a piping bag with a star tip
A quick note on ingredients:
Not all recipes use cream cheese, but we love this addition. It adds a richness to the cookie and keeps it from being overly sweet.
Step 1: Cream the Butter, Cream Cheese and Sugar
Creaming means mixing together the butter and sugar until they are well blended. It’s best to use an electric mixer, or a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, to incorporate a lot of air into the mixture. The result is a fluffy batter filled with tiny pockets of air. Since cream cheese has the same texture as butter, we’ll add the cream cheese in at this step, too.
Start by beating the butter and cream cheese on low speed for 30 seconds, until the mixture looks nice and whipped. Add the sugar and increase the speed to high, beating for a few minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl from time to time with a rubber spatula, making sure you’ve incorporated all the ingredients.
Test Kitchen Tip: Always start with room temperature ingredients (including your mixing bowl). Room temperature ingredients whip more easily than cold ingredients. If you forgot to pull the butter out ahead of time, you can grate it on a box grater to soften it.
Step 2: Add Flavorful Extracts
While the extracts aren’t essential, they do add flavor to your dough. Spritz cookies aren’t super flavorful on their own, so we like to add a little extra oomph with extracts.
In this recipe, we use almond and vanilla extracts. Feel free to substitute with your favorite flavors (like orange or peppermint). Add the extracts, but don’t beat them in yet (you’ll be doing plenty of mixing in the next step). You can also tint the cookie dough with a few drops of food coloring.
Step 3: Beat in the Flour
Now it’s time to add body to your cookie by beating in the flour. It’s important to add the flour little by little to prevent clumps, but you don’t want to overmix. Overworking your mix will cause the gluten to overdevelop. Read: The cookies will become very dense. Don’t worry though, you got this!
The best method is to add the flour a little at a time (about 1/4 cup), mixing on low speed as you go. Once the flour is fully incorporated, turn off the mixer. That’s it, the dough is done.
Step 4: Chill the dough
Not all recipes require this step, but we found the dough is often too soft to use right after mixing. A half hour in the refrigerator, covered, helps firm it up a bit before you put it into the cookie press.
This is also a good time to chill your baking sheets. This extra step will help your cookies hold their shape as they set up in the oven.
Test Kitchen Tip: If you’ve had trouble with your cookies spreading as they bake, this step may solve all your problems.
Step 5: Preheat the oven
Preheating the oven is essential to a successful spritz cookie. When you use cold baking sheets, cold dough and a hot oven, you allow the cookies to expand rapidly without spreading out. The result: a perfectly formed cookie. For these cookies, we preheat the oven to 375° F.
Step 6: Prepare the Cookie Press
If this is your first time using a cookie press, don’t stress! It seems like there are a lot of rules, but really, this is easy stuff. After a few presses, you’ll be a total pro.
Pack the dough into your cookie press (fitted with the disc of your choice). Press out any air pockets in the dough as you go. Once you’re locked and loaded, go ahead and pull your cookie sheets out of the refrigerator. No need to grease them or use parchment paper: There’s enough butter in the dough to keep them from sticking to the pan.
Step 7: Press the Cookies
Now that you’re ready to go, it’s time to press. Hold the press straight up and down against the cold, ungreased cookie sheet. You don’t want to tilt the press, and you don’t want to hold it above the sheet. Hold it directly against the pan.
Press the dough 2 inches apart onto the baking sheets. Pause each time before releasing the dough, then pause again before lifting the press. You want to make sure your dough has time to stick to the sheet before moving on.
How Much Dough Do You Need to Press Out?
With a little practice, you’ll know exactly what “just right” looks like. Too small and the dough won’t meet at all the indentations, resulting in a cookie that breaks too easily. Too much dough and your cookie will lose its form as it bakes. The Goldilocks “just right” amount has a uniform design and crisp indentations.
Test Kitchen Tip: If you don’t have a cookie press, you can pipe the dough into shapes using a large star tip. It will be a little bit trickier to get the dough to release. You may need to help it along by cutting the dough from the tip with a small spatula or a paring knife.
Step 8: Time to Decorate
Now comes the fun part: decorating. Sprinkle the cookies with the almonds. You can also use colored sugar, jimmies or nonpareils. All of these items go on before baking, whereas glazes and frosting would go on after baking.
Step 9: Bake ’em
We’re ready to bake! Place the baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven and bake until the cookies are fully set, about 8 to 10 minutes.
Once the cookies have baked, allow them to cool (on the pan) for 1 minute before removing them to wire racks to cool. These cookies are delicate and can break apart if you don’t allow them to set up for a minute. If you’re adding frosting or glazes, wait until the cookie is fully cooled before decorating.
Test Kitchen Tip: If you’re baking multiple batches and reusing your baking sheet, cool the sheet down before adding more dough. It’s a good idea to clean the baking sheet and give it time to chill in the refrigerator before baking more batches. This will ensure that your cookies hold their shape as they set up in the oven.
Now that you’re an expert spritz cookie-maker, check out the rest of our favorite holiday cookie recipes. These bites are perfect for holiday cookie trays or—let’s be honest—a pick-me-up that’s tasty any time of the year.