Want an eye catching festive treat for the Holiday Season? Then look no further than these eye-catching Christmas Shortbread Cookies. Easy to make cookies that should be part of this years baking plans!
We're now in full swing into Christmas baking. The tree is up and decorated, the Christmas tunes are playing on the radio, and we're making Ginger Snap Cookies, Snowball Cookies and Thumbprint Cookies like theirs no tomorrow!
But I wanted to make a REALLY Christmassy cookie. So I created these with my go-to, fool-proof Shortbread Cookie recipe. Topped with a simple to make buttercream coloured green, they make such a fun, festive cookie!!
With only two components to the recipe, it's a great excuse to get the kids involved. They'll love stamping out the trees and having a go at the piping! Making these Christmas Shortbread Cookies will be both entertaining and fun for them!
🌟 Why You'll Love This Recipe
- Uses basic ingredients. Both the shortbread and buttercream use a short list of basic ingredients. Sprinkles and green food colouring are the only ingredients you may need to pop to the store.
- Melt-in-your-mouth-quality. My epic shortbread recipe is just that. Epic! It has the most divine, tender quality that can't be beaten.
- Simple to make. There's no fancy equipment or technique needed to make these Christmas Shortbread Cookies. Tree cookie stamps are easy to find in-store or online.
- Eye-catching. Sometimes it's fun to go all out on the Christmas vibe. There's no denying what season these cookies are perfect for. Winter! They give me all the cosy vibes!
🧾 Ingredients Needed
The ingredient list for these Christmas Shortbread Cookies is quite short. But it's worth reading for some specific notes regarding some of the ingredients. This will help you succeed at making these beautiful cookies.
- Butter - I recommend unsalted butter so that you can control the level of salt within the recipe. Ensure the butter is at room temperature, so it creams well with the sugar. Go for a good-quality European butter if you can.
- Sugar - The recipe states granulated sugar as it's themore available, but if have access to caster sugar, then use this instead as it dissolves into the butter quicker.
- Butter - As with the shortbread, ensure it's at room temperature.
- Powdered Icing Sugar - (Confectioners' Sugar) Sift before adding to remove any lumps. Don't reduce the amount, as the buttercream won't harden otherwise.
- Vanilla extract - Use vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste to flavour the buttercream. Just steer clear of vanilla essence, which is an artificial flavouring.
- Milk - or cream can be used. You want enough liquid to loosen the buttercream to the perfect piping consistency.
- Green Food Colouring - I prefer gel food colouring over liquid as you need less to colour the dough. If you don't have any green, then keep the buttercream white and use a white sprinkle for snow-covered trees. They'll be beautiful!
- Chocolate Shortbread. Substitute ¼ cup of flour with cocoa powder for the chocolate shortbread cookies.
- Chocolate Peppermint Shortbread: Go completely festive by making chocolate shortbread and adding a ½ teaspoon of peppermint extract into the dough. You can sprinkle the decorated trees with crushed candy canes too.
- Lemon Shortbread Trees: Add lemon zest into the dough, rubbing it into the sugar first to release the oils. Add lemon juice to the buttercream instead of milk.
- Cranberry Orange Shortbread Cookies: Follow my recipe for to make this classic Christmas Shortbread, then decorate with buttercream.
- Spiced Christmas Cookies: Add a teaspoon of ginger, cinnamon and ½ teaspoon of cloves into the dough for a warming variation of this cookie.
👩🏻🍳 How to Make
You may think that these are tricky to make. But trust me when I say that I am no cookie decorating queen. That's not my area of expertise in the baking world. So if I can make these pretty Christmas Shortbread Cookies, then so can you!
You'll see below step-by-step images and instructions of how to make the cookies and buttercream. Check out my How To Make Shortbread Guide for more in-depth information.
Then I show you exactly for to pipe the trees. It's super simple, you'll see.
*Be sure to see the recipe card below for the full ingredients list & instructions!*
Make the Shortbread Cookies
STEP 1. Cream the butter and sugar together. Using room temperature butter (this is important!), cream the butter and sugar together for 2 minutes. It should be visibly lightened and thick. Add in the vanilla extract and mix through (Images 1 & 2).
I use a stand mixer as its easily accessible, but you can use electric hand-held electric beaters also.
STEP 2. Add in the flour and form the dough. Sift into the bowl the flour and add the salt. Then beat on low until the dough starts to clump and form a dough (Images 3 & 4)
Squeeze the dough together in the mixing bowl with your hands and shape it into a flattened, disc. You don't need to be precise about this.
TIP: Don't over mix the dough
This is my top tip when making shortbread. Mix it until it just starts to clump. Anymore and you'll start over mixing the dough which can result in tougher cookies.
An easy way to prevent over-mixing is to squeeze the dough together rather than kneading it. The heat of your hands will help it come together in a cohesive disc.
STEP 3. Roll out the dough and stamp out the cookie rounds. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to a half cm thickness. Flour the surface and rolling pin rather than the dough itself (Images 6 & 7).
Stamp out as many trees as you can using a floured cookie cutter. Lay them on a baking tray lined with baking paper. They don't spread so they can be a cm away from each other (Image 8 below). Bring together the scraps and cut out more cookies.
REFRIGERATE. This is super important to do. You have to refrigerate the tray of cookies for at least half an hour so that the butter re-solidifies. This will help the cookies maintain their shape whilst baking.
STEP 4. Bake. The cookies only take 8-10 minutes in the oven. They're ready when the edges just start to turn golden brown. If you prefer a crisper cookie, keep it for a little longer (Image 9).
Let them cool completely on a wire rack.
Make the Buttercream
STEP 1. Cream the butter. Add the butter to the bowl of a stand mixer and beat for 4 minutes. This makes it super aerated and pale.
STEP 2. Add the icing sugar and vanilla. Sift the powdered icing sugar into the butter and add the vanilla extract. Mix on low until incorporated (watch out for that icing sugar cloud!) Then, turn up to medium speed and beat for another couple of minutes.
STEP 3. Add in the milk. Add half the milk and beat into the buttercream. Add more to create the perfect piping consistency.
STEP 4. Colour the buttercream. Split the buttercream into two bowls - these will form the green parts of the trees.
Take two tablespoons from each of these bowls and put it into a third bowl. This will be for the white tip of the tree, and you'll need a much smaller quantity.
Add green food colouring into the two larger amounts of buttercream, ensuring a distinct difference in the shade of green. Add the green a drop at a time, as a little goes a long way!
Decorate the Christmas Cookies
Now to turn regular shortbread cookies into gorgeous Christmas Shortbread Cookies!
STEP 1. Add the buttercream into three separate piping bags. You'll only need small bags and can use sandwich bags if necessary. Just snip a ½ cm hole from the corner of each bag (Image 14).
The good part is you don't need any piping tips for this!
STEP 2. Pipe the buttercream onto the cookies. The fun part. You will start from the bottom, piping the darker green buttercream first.
Pipe blobs across the bottom of the cookie but not on the trunk. Use the back of a spoon to press down in the centre of the blog and swipe up. Repeat on all the blobs. Then pipe and smear another row (Images 16 & 17).
Switch to the paler green buttercream and pipe three more rows of blobs, pressing the spoon handle into each blob and smearing it up (Images 18 & 19).
Lastly, add a bit of white icing to the top of the tree (Image 20). Then sprinkle with your choice of sprinkles and a gold star if you can. But any sprinkles or jimmies will do! (Image 21)
I had a touch of sparkling sugar left over and sprinkled this all over them. You can enjoy them straight away or set them aside for 1 hour for the buttercream to form a hardened crust on the outside.
Put on your favourite Christmas movie, snuggle up under a cosy blanket and enjoy your Christmas Shortbread Cookies.
💭 Recipe Pro Tips
- Room temperature butter. The only way to cream the butter successfully. You can't use cold butter or melted butter. Take it out of the fridge for at least 45 minutes before making the recipe. Cubing the butter makes it come up to room temperature quicker.
- Don't overwork the dough. This only leads to activating the gluten, which in turn will affect the overall tender texture of the cookies.
- Refrigerate the dough. Once the trees are cut out and on the baking tray, please, please, please do this. Otherwise, you'll end up with very oddly shaped cookies!
- Go easy on the food colouring. Too much can affect the taste and texture of the buttercream. Add a little at a time.
📋 Recipe FAQs
In fact, yes, it is. When created, it was made to be enjoyed at celebrations such as birthdays, weddings and at Christmas time. It's such an easy cookie to make that there's no excuse to add some shortbread to your cookie box! My Pecan Shortbread is a perfect example!
A bit of both. It should have a little crispness around the edges, but when bitten, it should have a soft, melt-away texture. It shouldn't be wet underneath, though. This is a sign of under-baked shortbread.
The main difference is in the ingredients list. Sugar cookies have baking powder, acting as a leavener, making them lighter in texture. Shortbread doesn't have this making them crumbly and denser.
❄️ Storage and Freezer Instructions
To Store: The shortbread cookie dough can be made well in advance. Wrap well with plastic wrap and store the dough for up to a week in the fridge.
Once decorated, let the buttercream firm up before laying them layered with parchment paper in a Tupperware box. They'll last up to 5 days and be in the fridge for up to one week.
To Freeze: Wrap the dough well in plastic wrap and place in a freezer-safe airtight container. Freeze the dough for up to 3 months and thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
If freezing baked and decorated Christmas Shortbread Cookies, store in an airtight container and freeze them for up to 3 months. Allow cookies to come to room temperature before serving.
🎄 More Christmas Cookie Recipes
If you tried these Christmas Shortbread Cookies or any other recipe on my website, please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how you go in the comments below. I love hearing from you!
Christmas Shortbread Cookies Recipe
- 195 g unsalted butter, room temperature
- 90 g caster sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 270 g plain flour (all-purpose)
- ½ fine salt
- 170 g unsalted butter, room temperature
- 300 g powdered icing sugar (confectioners’ sugar)
- 2-4 tablespoon milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- green food colouring
Make the Tree-shaped Cookies
- Cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla extract. Line one or two baking trays with parchment paper. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the butter and sugar, and cream on medium speed until pale and lightened. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add in the vanilla extract and mix again.
- Add in flour and salt and beat them together. Add the flour into the creamed butter, and, at low speed, mix them all on low speed until they are combined. The dough will look quite raggedy.
- Form a dough and roll out. With your hands, squeeze the cookie dough together making a ball. Press it into a rough disc. Then on a lightly floured surface roll it out to a ½ cm thick. Note: if the dough is too soft at this point then wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 10-15 minutes or longer until it firms up slightly and makes it easier to roll out. Keep an eye on it as if the dough is too hard, it will crack when you try to roll it out.
- Cut out cookie shapes and chill. Once the dough is rolled out, use a tree shaped cutter to stamp out the dough. Lay them onto the prepared baking tray. Bring together any scraps, re-roll and stamp out more cookies. And then, do it again if needs be. Just be aware that every time you re-form the dough, it will pull in the flour from the benchtop and hence may dry out the dough. Add a couple of drops of water to the dough if this happens.Now refrigerate the stamped cookies for 30 minutes minimum or until the cutouts have hardened. This means the butter has resolidified and will give you the best possible chance of the cookies retaining their shape in the oven.
- Bake. Preheat the oven to 170°C (335°F). Remove the cookies from the fridge, then bake for 12-15 mins or until golden around the edges. Cool on the tray for ten minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.
Make the Buttercream
- Beat the butter. Add the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until pale, approx 4 minutes.
- Add the icing sugar and vanilla. Sift in the powdered icing sugar into the butter and add in the vanilla extract. Mix on low until incorporated. Then, turn up to medium speed and beat for another couple of minutes.
- Add in the milk and food colouring. Add half the milk and beat in to the butter cream. Add more to create the perfect piping consistency.Split the buttercream into two bowls - these will form the green parts of the trees. Take two tablespoons from each of these bowls and put it into a third bowl. This will be for the white tip of the tree and you'll need a much smaller quantity.Add green food colouring into the two larger amounts of buttercream making sure there is a distinct difference in the shade of green. Add the green a drop at a time as a little goes a long way!
Decorate the Christmas Cookies
- Add the buttercream into three separate piping bags. You'll only need fairly small bags and can use sandwich bags if necessary. Just snip a ½ cm hole from the corner of each bag. No piping tips needed.
- Pipe the buttercream onto the cookies. The fun part. You are going to start from the bottom and work your way up piping the darker green buttercream first.Pipe blobs across the bottom of the cookie, but not on the trunk. Use the back of a spoon to press down in the centre of the blob and swipe up. Repeat on all the blobs. Then pipe and smear another row.Switch to the paler green buttercream and pipe three more rows of blobs, pressing the spoon handle into each blob and smearing up. Lastly add a bit of the white buttercream to the top of the tree. The sprinkle with your choice of sprinkles and a gold star if you can. But any sprinkles or jimmies will do!
All recipes are developed and tested in Metric grams. I strongly recommend that you bake using digital scales for a more accurate result. I have provided a conversion to US customary in the recipe but please note that I haven’t tested using this method.