Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies

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Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies

Early editions of Yankee included a monthly “Almanac,” a three-column grid stuffed with recipes, quirky stories, and local ephemera. One item recorded old-time Mainer expressions, such as “mizzly day,” a mixture of fog and smoke, and “wodget,” a handful of rags twisted together.

These old-fashioned sugar cookies are based on a 1939 recipe that ran in December. “No old-time Christmas was complete without a fat stone crock packed tight with filled cookies,” it read. “This is an old New Hampshire recipe.”

As written, the original recipe lacked modern appeal—the cookies came out dry and the “filling” turned out to be really more of a lemon–raisin sauce. But with small adjustments, we ended up with delicious sugar cookies, perfect for cutting and decorating—and a favorite treat for the holiday season.

Find more recipes for “Cookies Through the Decades.”

Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Hands-On Time: 45 minutes
Yield: about 4 dozen cookies


  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1–2 tablespoons water
  • Decorative sprinkles (your choice, optional)


In the bowl of a standing mixer (or in a large bowl, if using a hand-held mixer), cream the butter and sugar until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and beat 1 minute. In a medium-size bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the dry mixture to the wet ingredients, and stir just enough to form a smooth dough.

Turn the dough out onto a counter lightly dusted with flour and divide into two equal portions. Gather each portion into a disk shape, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 30 minutes, or up to overnight.

Preheat your oven to 350° and position the racks in the middle. Grease two cookie (baking) sheets or line with parchment paper. Roll the dough out on a counter dusted with flour to a 1/8-inch thickness and cut out shapes with your favorite cookie cutters, gathering and rerolling the dough as needed.

Bake until just golden brown on the bottom, 12 to 15 minutes, rotating pans halfway through; then cool on wire racks.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together confectioners’ sugar and water. When cookies are cool, spread with glaze; then sprinkle with decorative sugar. 

  • Hi Ellen. We’re sorry to hear that the recipe didn’t work out for you. If the texture seemed to dry, the culprit might have been too much flour. The recipe calls for 3 cups, but if you’re an inexperienced baker, you may not know the good vs. bad ways to measure flour. Unlike brown sugar (which you’re really got to pack into the cup like making a sandcastle), flour should be sifted so it’s light and fluffy, and then spooned into the measuring up. This is why many bakers choose to use a scale rather than a measuring cup, so the get the perfect amount every time. A cup of flour should weigh 4 1/4 oz. Another culprit could have been the weather — you’ll need a bit less flour on dry days, a bit more when it’s humid. Hope this helps for your next baking adventure!

  • Unfortunately these did not turn out for me, but I am an inexperienced baker. The consistency was like sand. I kept rereading the recipe to see if I missed something or left something out. It was more like a shortbread dough so I put most if it in the bottom of a pan, filled it with raspberry jam and crumbled the rest of the dough on top. I let it cool then covered it in powered sugar. I would like to know what I could have added so it wasn’t so dry though.


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