Holiday Shortbread Cookies

Author: Campus Dining

If you're looking for a new cookie recipe this season, this Holiday Shortbread Cookie recipe is sure to satisfy your holiday sweet tooth. The recipe comes from award-winning Executive Pastry Chef Sinai Vespie. Vespie recently competed and won in the Food Network’s Halloween Baking competition, Haunted Housewarming. Now you can brighten your dessert table with a new family favorite.

Shortbread with Royal Icing

Shortbread ingredients

  • ½ cup sugar
  • 14 Tbsp butter 
  • ½ tsp salt, plus ⅛ tsp
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ orange zest (optional)
  • 1 ¾ cups all purpose flour, plus 3 Tbsp
  • To add a flavor to the shortbread: add ¼ tsp five spice, ground ginger or cinnamon


  1. Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or use a hand mixer.
  2. Turn to medium low speed and cream until smooth.
  3. Add sugar, zest and salt and mix on medium-low speed for about two minutes, until light and fluffy.
  4. Scrape down sides of the bowl.
  5. Add vanilla and mix on low speed for about 30 seconds to distribute evenly.
  6. Add flour in two additions, mixing on low speed for 15-30 seconds after each or until just combined.
  7. Scrape the bottom of the bowl to incorporate any flour that may not have gotten mixed completely.
  8. Place the dough on a long piece of plastic wrap and press or flatten into a square.
  9. Wrap dough tightly and place in the refrigerator for two hours. (This will store in a freezer for up to one month.)
  10. Heat oven to 325 F.
  11. Lightly dust the surface you will roll out the cookie dough on with flour and line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  12. Once cooled, take cookie dough out of the refrigerator, unwrap and place on the floured surface.
  13. Gently roll the dough out to ¼ inch thickness, or as thick as you prefer. NOTE: Be sure to work fast so the dough does not warm up too quickly or it may be difficult to keep the shape when moved to a cookie sheet. If dough gets too warm, carefully transfer into a cookie sheet and place back into the refrigerator for 10 minutes.
  14. Cut out desired shapes and place onto a cookie sheet leaving at least one inch space between cookies.
  15. Bake 13-15 minutes in a convection oven or 17-19 minutes in a standard oven and turn the cookie sheet halfway through baking to ensure even baking and color. The finished product should be a pale golden brown.
  16. Place cookie sheets on cooling racks and cool for at least 15 minutes.


Royal Icing ingredients

  • 4 Tbsp meringue powder
  • 4 cups powdered sugar (about one lb)
  • 6 Tbsp warm water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Food coloring of your choice and amount


  1. In a large bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the meringue powder and powdered sugar, then slowly mix in the water and vanilla while the mixer is running on medium to low speed.
  2. Increase speed to medium and beat until stiff peaks form, around 5 minutes. This can be done with a hand mixer, but will take a couple of minutes longer.
  3. Divide the thick white icing into individual bowls for however many colors you want and add gel food coloring, a few drops at a time, mixing well until you achieve the shades you like.
  4. From there, you can reserve half of each color at piping consistency for piping borders or thin all the icing to flood consistency.
  5. To thin each color to flood consistency, add 1 tsp water at a time and stir well, continuing to add water by 1/2 tsp increments until you reach your desired consistency.
  6. Once your icing is colored and the right consistency, scoop it into a piping bag fitted with a size 2 or 3 piping tip (This is nice to have but not required; available at most craft store decorating sections).
  7. Decorate your sugar cookies by first outlining the border, then filling in the middle with flood icing which should settle into itself.
  8. Use a toothpick or scribe tool to fill in any gaps by spreading the icing around, then tap the cookie on the counter a few times to help the icing settle into a smooth, even layer.
  9. You may add sprinkles and sparkles to your decorations for some fun effects.
  10. Dry cookies at room temperature for 6-8 hours until the icing is completely firm before adding additional layers or design or stacking for transport.


Originally published by Campus Dining at on December 14, 2020.