Shortbread Cutouts

Total Time

Prep: 20 min. Bake: 20 min./batch


about 2 dozen

Updated: Nov. 29, 2023
I found this recipe in a magazine over 30 years ago and have made these shortbread cutout cookies for Christmas ever since. They're an oh-so-simple recipe to whip up during the hectic holidays. —Jean Henderson, Montgomery, Texas
Shortbread Cutouts Recipe photo by Taste of Home


  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 5 tablespoons meringue powder
  • 1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 5 to 6 cups confectioners' sugar
  • Assorted gel food coloring
  • Optional: Sanding sugar, sugar pearls and sprinkles


  1. Preheat oven to 300°. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 5-7 minutes. Gradually beat in flour. Transfer dough to a clean work surface; knead gently to form a smooth dough, about 2 minutes. (Mixture will be very crumbly at first, but will come together and form a dough as it's kneaded.)
  2. Divide dough in half. Roll each portion between 2 sheets of waxed paper to 1/4-in. thickness. Cut with floured 2- to 3-in. cookie cutters. Place 1 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets. If desired, sprinkle with colored sugar.
  3. Bake until lightly browned, 20-25 minutes. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer add water, meringue powder, vanilla extract and cream of tartar. Whisk by hand until meringue powder has completely dissolved.
  5. Place bowl on stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. With mixer on low, slowly add 5 cups confectioners’ sugar, a little at a time, until all the confectioners’ sugar has been incorporated. Increase speed and mix until icing is glossy and forms peaks, 3-5 minutes; divide icing in half.
  6. For stiff icing (used for outlining cookies), the frosting should form stiff peaks and hold its shape; if needed, add remaining 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, a little at time, until desired consistency is reached.
  7. For flood-consistency icing (used for filling in cookie design), a line cut through the icing with a spatula should take 15 seconds to disappear. Add water to the remaining half of the icing, a little at a time, stirring by hand, until the desired consistency is reached.
  8. Tint icing with food coloring and decorate as desired. Keep icing covered to prevent drying. Let cookies stand until icing is set.
Shortbread Cutout Cookies Tips

Can you use another kind of extract instead of vanilla in shortbread cutout cookies?

Certainly! You can use any preferred extract (almond, lemon, or orange extract to name a few) in place of vanilla in the icing for these shortbread cutout cookies. Keep in mind: vanilla extract lends a nice, harmonious flavor to baked goods, while other extracts can be stronger. If you wish, you can do 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, 1/2 teaspoon other extract to balance flavors. Please note, this recipe uses clear vanilla extract to keep the icing nice and white. Other extracts may tint the icing slightly and affect any coloring you may add.

How else can you cut and decorate shortbread cutout cookies?

These shortbread cutout cookies are delightfully versatile and can be used with any cookie cutter you wish—whatever the occasion! If you want to skip the icing altogether, a sprinkling with colorful sanding sugars before baking makes a wonderfully simple way to decorate cookies!

Can you freeze shortbread cutout cookies?

You can freeze your cookies for up to 6 months without icing. When you're ready to decorate, thaw at room temperature while you prepare your icing.

Mark Neufang, Taste of Home Culinary Assistant

Nutrition Facts

1 cookie: 132 calories, 8g fat (5g saturated fat), 20mg cholesterol, 61mg sodium, 14g carbohydrate (4g sugars, 0 fiber), 1g protein.