Decorated Sugar Cookies

Blanche and Earlene’s Sugar Cookies

by Ginger Graham (first published on December 24, 2016)

Decorated sugar cookies are an essential part of my life. I grew up learning to make sugar cookie dough, rolling it out and cutting shapes for every holiday, then decorating in a myriad of ways. Pink hearts for Valentine’s Day, flags and firecrackers for the 4th of July, pumpkins for Halloween and my favorite: stars, candy canes and trees for Christmas.

There are many good recipes for sugar cookies, but I love to use a recipe from a family friend, Blanche Otwell. Blanche and her husband, Chick, were like grandparents to me. They moved from the panhandle of Texas to northwest Arkansas and my grandparents and parents followed a few years later. 

Chick taught me to swim by throwing me in the swimming hole he dug in the river that ran through their black Angus and registered quarter horse farm. They let me ride their championship cutting horse when I competed in big shows. Blanche babysat my brother and me while my mother “kept books” at the local Ford Motor dealership. Blanche was famous for many things: she taught us slightly off-color jokes which horrified my mom, she made a mean peach cobbler (stay tuned next peach season!) and she made lots of sugar cookies. I thought her cookies were the best. 

I’ve told my husband about Chick and Blanche many times, but only recently did he realize I wasn’t talking about “Chicken Blanche”! He thought I was talking about a slightly kooky lady who raised chickens! 🙂 Chick and Blanche were an integral part of my family and the cookies are a fun way to make memories with the kids in your life.  

Blanche’s sugar cookie dough can be rolled out many times. Very easy to make, these cookies are really crisp and thin and should be eaten quickly… perfect for kids.

This is what decorating cookies can do for a five-year-old (our grandson, Mack). He was so serious about painting the trees! This is what decorating cookies can do for a five-year-old (our grandson, Mack). He was so serious about painting the trees!

My mom, Earlene, used the second sugar cookie recipe most often. She loved how the orange zest gave them a special taste. The dough puffs up to make big, soft cookies. These are great for gifts as they last for several days.

We always made our own icing and used food colors to create a fun palette for decorating. You can buy tubes of icing and have the same amount of fun. 

Blanche’s Sugar Cookies

  •  2 cups sugar
  •  2 eggs
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  •  enuff flour (4+ cups)

Cream sugar and shortening.  Add eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla.

In a separate bowl whisk together 4 cups flour and 1 teaspoon salt. Combine wet and dry ingredients. Add more flour as needed to form a ball.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to a day.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Dust surface and rolling pin with flour to roll out dough. This recipe makes soft dough — you may use more flour than you were expecting!  Especially since the recipe calls for “enuff.” Cut with your favorite cookie cutters and bake for 8-10 min until just showing color on the edges.


  • These will be thin, crisp cookies that hold their shape well.
  • Even after cookies are cut out and on cookie sheets, keep the dough cold until baking.
  • Eat these cookies in a few days.
  • Ice in your favorite way. (See Icing Recipe, below)

Earlene’s Sugar Cookies

  • 1 1/4 cup butter
  •  2 cups sugar
  •  2 eggs
  •  1/2 cup milk
  •  1/4 tsp. grated orange peel
  •  5 cups flour
  • 3 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  •  1 tsp. salt

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at time, beating well after each addition. Beat in milk and orange zest. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Slowly add dry ingredients to butter mixture, stirring until combined. Divide into two discs, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface, cut into desired shapes and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes until they are lightly golden.


  • This recipe makes a thicker, softer cookie.
  • The dough puffs up more and the cookies retain good flavor longer.

Sugar Cookie Icing

  • 1 (1 lb.) bag powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 1/2 tsp. almond extract
  • milk, to reach desired consistency
  • paste or liquid food color
  • sprinkles, colored sugar, dragees or nonpareils, red hots or any decorations desired

Combine powdered sugar and shortening.  Add almond extract. Add enough milk to achieve the consistency you want.  I keep it thick and remove half of the frosting from the bowl, adding extra milk to make it thin. Then I use this thin icing with a paintbrush to paint each cookie with a background color. (white for stars, green for trees, etc.)  I divide the thicker icing into many bowls, adding paste food color to each bowl to create a variety of colors. Use a baggie with cut corner or a pastry bag and tip to pipe edges or shapes onto the cookies, then decorate with sprinkles, etc.

Happy Holidays to you and your family!

Ginger's mom, Earlene painted this Christmas tray using an old metal garage sale-find tray. Ginger’s mom, Earlene painted this Christmas tray using an old metal garage sale-find tray.

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