Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies

Vanilla and nutmeg give these classic bakery-style cookies that distinctive “sugar cookie taste,” and using shortening (rather than butter) makes them extra tender. Take them over the top with a smear of vanilla frosting and colorful sprinkles.

25 mins
16 to 18 mins
43 mins
about eighteen 3" cookies
Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies - select to zoom
Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies - select to zoom
Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies - select to zoom


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  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a couple of baking sheets, or line them with parchment.

  2. To make the cookies: In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the shortening and sugar until smooth.

  3. Add the buttermilk and vanilla, again beating until thoroughly combined. The mixture may look a bit curdled; that's OK.

  4. Weigh your flour; or measure it by gently spooning it into a cup, then sweeping off any excess.

  5. Add the flour, nutmeg, baking soda, and salt to the wet ingredients and beat until the mixture forms a cohesive dough.

  6. Drop the dough in balls onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 2” between them. If you have a scale, each ball should weigh about 27g; a tablespoon cookie scoop is just right for this task.

  7. If you want a cookie with slightly crisp edges, flatten them with the bottom of a drinking glass dipped in sugar. If you like a chewier center, leave them as is.

  8. Bake the cookies for 14 to 16 minutes, until they’re just beginning to brown around the edges.

  9. Remove the cookies from the oven and transfer them to a rack to cool; or simply let them cool on the pan.

  10. To make the frosting: In a medium bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the confectioners’ sugar, salt, and butter until just combined.

  11. Gradually add the vanilla and the desired amount of milk or bourbon. (Less liquid will yield a stiffer frosting that will dry slightly, making cookies easier to stack; more liquid will result in a softer, buttercream-like consistency, one that stays soft for several days.)

  12. Beat the frosting on high speed until fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Frost the cookies immediately; or store airtight at room temperature until ready to use.

  13. Storage information: Store cookies, well wrapped, at room temperature for three or four days; unfrosted cookies can remain at room temperature for up to a week. For longer storage, wrap cookies airtight and freeze, layered in waxed paper if frosted.

Tips from our Bakers

  • Looking to put a fresh spin on these old-fashioned cookies? Brown the butter used in the frosting to give it a flecked appearance and rich, nutty flavor.

  • As they cool, the cookies will become a bit crispy around the edges. If you want to retain this texture, store them in an airtight container when they’re totally cool. If you want them to be a bit chewy, store them in a bag with a slice of apple.