These Ugly Christmas Sweater Cookies are actually adorable and a fun, unique addition to your holiday festivities! Made with a buttery vanilla and anise-infused spiced cookie dough.
For the Cookie Dough:
- 3 sticks butter, room temperature
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon anise extract
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
For the Royal Icing:
- 3 pasteurized egg whites
- 1 pound powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (optional)
- Gel food coloring
Make the Cookie Dough:
- Using the paddle attachment, cream the room temperature butter with both the white and brown sugar until smooth and creamy.
- Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and all of the spices. Set aside.
- Add the egg and both the extracts to the mixer. Mix until combined. Scrape the bottom of the bowl.
- Add in your flour/spice mixture in a few additions, beating until just combined and being careful not to over-mix. Be sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl in between additions.
- Form the dough into two square disks and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight or for a few hours.
Roll Out the Dough:
- Let the chilled dough sit out at room temperature for a bit. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to your desired thickness (usually about 1/4″ to 1/2″). Cut out your cookies using a cutter. (If you don’t have a sweater cutter, see notes below.*)
- Place your cookies on parchment-lined cookie sheets** and bake until lightly golden brown around the edges, about 17-18 minutes. Let cool.
Make the Icing:
- With a paddle attachment, beat the egg whites until frothy, about 1 minute. Add the powdered sugar in additions until all of the sugar is added and the mixture is combined. Beat the royal icing on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the icing is a bright, crisp white, about 5-7 minutes.
- Transfer the icing into individual bowls to color using gel food coloring. Make sure whatever icing you are not working with is covered with plastic wrap (placed directly on top of the icing, touching), as stiff royal icing dries very, very quickly. Transfer the icing into piping bags.
- To thin the icing to make “flooding” icing, add water to the stiff icing, teaspoon by teaspoon, and stir until you have a nice consistency. The icing should not be too thin, but it should flow easily.
- See the notes for more decorating tips.
*If you don’t have a sweater cookie cutter, simply made a ‘stencil’ and cut the cookie out free-hand. Draw a sweater shape on a piece of cardboard (a clean pizza box works) and cut it out. Place the cardboard on the cookie dough and trace around it with a sharp knife. All of your cookies will be exactly the same shape and uniform.
**If your dough softens too much while handling it, place it in the freezer for 5 minutes before baking so it keeps its shape.
I like to outline my cookies with stiff icing before flooding the cookie. This is not necessary, but it ensures that the icing does not pour over the edges and keeps the look clean.
I love to put my flooding icing in small squeeze bottles when decorating the cookies. This makes flooding cookies a breeze, and squeeze bottles are much easier to refill than piping bags.
When flooding cookies, bring the icing just to the edge but not quite there. You can use a toothpick to ‘push’ the icing to the edges, without it spilling over.
Keep a toothpick handy for several uses. Pop air bubbles that form in the flooded cookies (as soon as you see them and before it starts to dry!). You can also use the toothpick to prick and clear holes of pastry tips or squeeze bottles where icing has started to dry.
For decorating, I use a 2 or 3 tip for most detailing and a small star tip for the wreath or tree to give it a more, well, “tree” look!