Nana's Christmas Butter Cookies

Tender, cutout , butter sugar cookies with a lemon flavor and topped with an egg wash or light vanilla glaze.
In a few short weeks will mark one year since my mom passed away. This year is the first time that I have actually made our favorite Christmas cookies since my mother has been gone. Back in 2008 I blogged about these wonderful butter cookies, but this year for some reason, I felt the need to redo the entire post. 

For me that particular post did not do these cookies justice. It just wouldn't be Christmas without my moms Christmas Butter Cookies. I have had these cookies every year for Christmas for over 40 years. When I was a kid I remember my mother working in the kitchen making batch after batch of these yummy cookies. I never really knew why she made so many, but she did. 

One thing my brother and I did know, was exactly where mom would hide the baked cookies for the holidays. We actually found out by accident. My brother and I were playing hide and seek and I hid in my parents closet.

I scrunched way down in the back corner and when I sat down I sat on a large sack. It was all tied up, so I wasn't sure what was inside. Being the nosy little girl that I was I had to look. I opened the sack and called for my brother. I told him look it's moms cookies!!!! 

It was like we found gold LOL. Mom had all the Christmas Butter Cookies neatly packed in zip lock bags and stashed in a large sack. I told my brother that's where all the cookies are going after she bakes them. We never told anyone that we knew. 

Instead everyday my brother and I would take turns keeping watch and eating cookies. One would stand outside the door and and the other sat in the closet and would eat cookies. We did this everyday for weeks. Then just before Christmas my mother went into the closet to get the all the cookies. 

I remember her passing by me going straight to her room. I knew immediately just where she was headed. All I remember from that day was how mad she was. She called us both in and said why is there only a couple bags of cookies left?

y brother I told her everything. We made a point to tell her how good they were, but it didn't make it any better, because she was still mad and sent both of us to our rooms. To this day I still remember her saying I hope you both get sick from eating all those cookies. When she left we just giggled.

It's funny how I remember that story so well. We just couldn't help ourselves, because we loved those cookies. Mom made so many batches of cookies, because she would package and mail them to my older siblings for their families at Christmas.  

As each of us kids grew up and started new lives mom still baked all those cookies. She would package them up and mail them out to each and every one of us, so we could enjoy the cookies at Christmas. Those wonderful butter cookies went from being called Mom's Christmas Butter Cookies to Nana's Christmas Butter Cookies.  

My kids look forward to these cookies every year just like I did. Now that I'm all grown up I make the cookies myself. I told my kids that story and they just giggled. They said I bet Nana was mad? They also asked me where I hide all the cookies? I told them out in the freezer under lock and key LOL.

I have included a some step by step photos. The full recipe is at the end of this post. The secret to these delicate cookies is keeping the dough cool so the cookies hold their shape. Don't over work the dough or handle it too much much. Roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thick and cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters. Place on a baking sheet that has been lightly sprayed with non stick spray. Do not place on parchment paper or the cookies will spread because of the butter.  Put the baking sheets into the refrigerator for about 10 minutes so the cookies stay cool. Remove and bake in a 350 degree oven. 

You can enjoy these cookies two ways. With an egg wash or with a light sugar glaze. Growing up mom always used an egg wash and when it was Christmas time she added colored sugar sprinkles over the egg wash before baking. I like them with an egg wash and also with a light glaze. My daughter prefers these cookies with the egg wash, so I usually make two different batches. 

I hope when my daughter has her own family that she will carry on the tradition of making these wonderful butter cookies. I know she will, because she loves them just as much as her mama.  

Yield: 2 1/2 dozen
Author: Tina Butler | Mommy's Kitchen
Nana's Christmas Butter Cookies

Nana's Christmas Butter Cookies

Tender, cutout , butter sugar cookies with a lemon flavor and topped with an egg wash or light vanilla glaze.
Prep time: 30 MinCook time: 8 MinInactive time: 2 HourTotal time: 2 H & 38 M


  • 1 - cup unsalted butter, softened (do not use margarine)
  • 1 1/4 - cups granulated sugar
  • 2 - eggs, beaten
  • 1 - teaspoon lemon extract
  • 1/2 - teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 - cups self rising flour, sifted (see notes)


  1. In a large bowl cream together butter, sugar, extracts and beaten eggs using an electric mixer or kitchen aid mixer.
  2. Add the flour one cup at a time to the creamed mixture. Mixing until all ingredients are combined.
  3. Turn the dough onto a loured surface (cutting board or kitchen counter).
  4. Gently knead the dough until the dough is no longer sticky (you may have to add a bit more flour as you knead the dough, but it wont be much).
  5. Cover the dough in plastic wrap or place in a large Zip lock bag and refrigerate dough for at least 2 hours or overnight.
  6. When ready to make cookies, set the dough on the counter for 20 minutes before rolling.
  7. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  8. The secret to these delicate cookies is keeping the dough cool so the cookies hold their shape. Do not use parchment paper or the cookies will spread.  Don't over work the dough or handle it too much much.
  9. Roll out the cookie dough to 1/4 inch thick and cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters.
  10. Place directly on a baking that sheet that has been lightly coated with baking spray.  
  11. Put the baking sheets into the refrigerator for about 10 minutes so the cookies stay cool.
  12. To make the egg wash add, one egg to a small bowl and add 1 teaspoon of sugar, whisk to blend.
  13. Brush each cookie with a little bit of egg wash and add festive sprinkles.
  14. Bake the cookies for about 8-9 minutes. Watch closely so they do not get too brown. You want the cookies lightly brown on the bottom and edges.
  15. Remove from oven and let cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes then remove to a baking rack to cool completely.
  16. To glaze the cookies instead of using an egg wash, bake the cookies first then glaze them and add sprinkles.
  1. Egg Wash: add, one egg to a small bowl and add 1 teaspoon of sugar, whisk to blend. Brush each cookie with a little bit of egg wash and add festive sprinkles.
  2. Vanilla Cookie Glaze: add one cup powdered sugar to a small bowl. Add the vanilla extract and milk. Using a wire whisk mix together until blended. The glaze will be runny, so don't be alarmed. Brush on cookies and add sprinkles. Let the cookies sit for a couple hours so the glaze will set up.


How to make your own Self Rising Flour: You can substitute self-rising flour with all-purpose flour, but you will have to make some adjustments. 1 cup all purpose flour + 1 teaspoon baking powder + 1/4 teaspoon salt = 1 cup self rising flour. 

This cookie dough can also be prepared in advance and frozen for later use. These cookies are freezer friendly once baked. Just store in an air tight container or store in large freezer bags. 

Did you make this recipe?
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Michelle said…
My husband is going to love these. Thanks so much.
Nancy A said…
That is a wonderful story! I miss my mom, too, especially at this time of year. She loved Christmas and made it such a special time for all of us! But, we have the memories and they are fun to share. Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas! Enjoy those cookies, they look wonderful. I may just add that to my lineup.
Tina Butler said…
We have already made one batch and only have a couple cookies left. I will be making another batch today. I knew I should of made a full batch instead of just a half. Goodness sometimes I never learn.
Judy said…
That's such a special story to pass on to your children. It lets them know that Mom was a mischievous kid once too! My sympathies on the loss of your Mom. She sounds like a very special woman. It's wonderful that she passed her recipe on to you to continue with the tradition. My Mom is 91 so I know our time with her is limited. She recently started teaching her daughters and granddaughter how to make her traditional recipes. Merry Christmas to you!
Tina Butler said…
That is so wonderful that she is sharing all her traditional recipes. Wow 91 that is so awesome! Take it all in, because one day you will be making all those wonderful recipes as well. It won't be the same as when your mom made them, but your holidays will definitely feel like home.
Anonymous said…
I loved the story and the recipe. Have a wonderful Christams. I miss my mom so much too! Christmas isn't the same.
Anonymous said…
Tina, how does this recipe differ from your Santa Frosted Cookie Cut outs previously posted (which I made last year and loved). Can you explain the difference in taste or are they sort of similar? Thanks and happy holidays.
WOW Tina! That would be JUST LIKE ME to do something so nonsensical...not even thinking of the consequences that eventually catch up to you! :-/ What an awesome story to pass on to your own kiddos. Thanks for sharing - these cookies look beautiful. I love decorated cookies. MMM good!
laurie said…
That's a cute story! No wonder you two ate them.....they look really good!
Tina Butler said…
The sugar cookie cut outs have butter and shortening added. They also sweet just like a frosted sugar cookies.

My moms butter cookies are all butter and have lemon extract added along with vanilla. They are more of a buttery sugar cookie, but not as sweet. She also uses a egg wash on top of her butter cookies instead of a sweet powdered sugar glaze. When I lightly glaze them it isn't the same a a thick colored frosting. Just a light slather so all the sprinkles stick.
Anonymous said…
Made these twice and they were a BIG hit both times...thank you
Karen L. said…
Hello Tina I'm not a fan of the taste of lemon in my cookies and I want to use just the vanilla so how much vanilla should I use? Thank-you and Merry Christmas & Happy New Year, Karen
Unknown said…
Lucky i found this on my Facebook but for some reason could not get the pin-it buttons to work. I enjoyed reading the endearing moments about your mom.
Anonymous said…
I love that these are not so sweet. The egg wash and sprinkles make them perfect. This is my second Christmas without my mom. She always made plates of cookies and fudge every year and gave them to all our friends.
She was 92. She made a lot of cookies in her life. When she died people who we had not been able to see in decades said "i still remember her fudge".I have been trying to make her rocky road fudge for years but it never turns out as good as hers.
Anonymous said…
I loved the story of your mom, to cherish. if yous have a video camera yous should tape these special memories to cherish forever.with your moms,aunts,just family. making your own memories for years to come.
SharonK said…
I loved your story about your Mom and the memories of those cookies. I was blessed to have two wonderful "mothers" a foster mother that raised me until age two, and then my maternal grandmother who raised me from age 3 to 18. Both of these women left me with wonderful memories of cooking and baking for special and not so special, occasions. They even had bake-offs, so to speak, between them and guess who was the recipient of the fruits of their labors? For that reason, Christmas always has a very special place in my heart when I remember all the wonderful things we would bake and cook at this time of year and the love that flowed between all three of us as we made those treats and laughed with each other while we did it. My two "Moms" are at peace now and I am sure they know how much I think of them and the wonderful times I have now with our own granddaughters when we make new memories for them to cherish as I cherish the past.
Laura from Ipswich said…
Merry Christmas. Help! I followd the recipe but used all purpose flour. I did not see the part about adding to the all purpose flour until after my dough went into the refrigerator. Are they going to come out?
Tina Butler said…
I have only used Self Rising flour like my mama used. If you use All purpose you would need to add baking powder and salt. Self Rising flour already has the addition of the baking powder and salt.
Arlene Mc bride said…
I can't wait to make these, thanks for your story. Miss my mother so much she always made jam cakes at the holidays.
Unknown said…
Why is my dough soooo sticky? I added extra self-rising flour to knead in but it's sticking to everything. I even let in rest for two hours in the refrigerator. I ended up making cookie balls and baked them. They taste great but I wanted to make cutouts with the kiddos.
EloquentlyMe said…
I am glad I found this recipe and story ! My oldest daughter (17 yrs old) just reminded me this year about baking cookies for Santa with my youngest (3yrs old). My older girls ( 15 & 17) remembered how much they loved doing this and wanted to do it with their little brother. We're going to use your recipe, because all they saw was "butter cookie" and said, "Yeah mom, this one, because you can't go wrong with that name!" I'm making up the dough tonight, so that all we have to do is roll out and cut shapes and decorate on Christmas Eve.
EloquentlyMe said…
These turned out so wonderful and delicious.
Tina Butler said…
I'm so glad you liked the cookies Eloquently Me! We just ate all the ones we made :( I baked a batch for my brother and just mailed some off to him. He is going to be so excited.
WOW! What a story! I love this recipe...all your gorgeous photos but especially your WILD story about the cookies. A treasured recipe for sure. Pinned and hope to make this month!! Yours are just beautiful.
Anonymous said…
these are wonderful, just made them today with my daughter. I did not have lemon so I just used 1.5 of vanilla. I had to add about a cup of flour to get them to not be sticky but totally worth it! Thanks for sharing. My husband is 1000 miles away this season so I plan to mail him some :)
God Bless and Merry Christmas!
Inez said…
I want to make these a.s.a.p.!! I just didn't find the exact measure of vanilla and milk to use for the glaze. How much should I use of each?
Tina Butler said…
for the glaze you just add the vanilla and milk until you have a runny glaze. Just a dash of vanilla.