Sour Cream Sugar Cookie Trees

This sugar cookie dough recipe is easy to cut into tree shapes, which look extra festive when frosted in ombre shades of green. Sour cream lends richness and a subtle tang.

By Yankee Magazine

Oct 18 2018

Sour Cream Sugar Cookie Trees

Sour Cream Sugar Cookie Trees

Photo Credit : Mark Fleming

A holiday cookie swap recipe from Senior food editor Amy Traverso (@amytraverso). “I inherited this recipe from my friend Mindy McRae,” Amy says, “and it’s my favorite canvas for cookie decorating.” The versatile dough is easy to cut into tree shapes, which we frosted in ombre shades of green (though you can do any colors you like). Sour cream lends richness and a subtle tang.


about 3 dozen cookies

For the cookies


½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon table salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
½ cups granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
½ teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup sour cream


Preheat oven to 350° and set baking racks to the upper and lower middle positions. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together 2½ cups flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Using an electric or standing mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until fluffy, about two minutes. Scrape down the bowl. Add the egg and vanilla, and beat to combine. Add the dry ingredients in three batches, alternating with the sour cream, then beat until just combined, scraping down the bowl halfway through. Add a bit more flour as needed until the dough begins to adhere around the paddle and form a large clump. Divide the dough into two balls; wrap each in plastic, then press to form a disk. Refrigerate until firm, at least one hour and up to two days.

Take the first batch of dough out of the refrigerator. Dust a counter with flour, then roll out the dough to ¼-inch thickness. Cut out tree shapes, gathering and rerolling the scraps as needed. Transfer cookies to the baking sheets and bake until the edges are just turning golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool. Repeat with remaining dough.

Meanwhile, make the icing.

For the icing


½ cup vegetable shortening
4 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons plus 1 tablespoon milk
Green food coloring


Using an electric or standing mixer, beat the shortening, sugar, and 3 tablespoons milk on medium-high speed until smooth. Scrape down the bowl and stir again. If the icing appears too thick, stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon milk.

Divide the icing into four equal batches, which you will use to create four successively darker shades of green. Add a small amount of food coloring to the first batch , a bit more to the second, and so on.

When the cookies are cool, frost with the different shades of icing. Return the cookies to the wire racks to allow the icing to set completely. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container between layers of wax paper for up to five days at room temperature and up to 10 days in the refrigerator.