The Land O'Lakes Blog

— Bringing inspiration to those who share our love of good food. —
Ho Ho Ho and a Merry Christmas to All

Ho Ho Ho and a Merry Christmas to All


Leaving cookies and milk out for Santa was a really big deal when my boys were little. We also had to leave a carrot for Rudolph. There was only one kind of cookie that the boys wanted to leave for Santa and that was a frosted butter cookie. Each would carefully select the perfect cookie that they knew Santa would love. Often it was the one with the most frosting and sprinkles. Funny thing is Santa ate both cookies every year – he never seemed to play favorites. We always left him a big glass of milk too. I guess the jolly old man must love frosted butter cookies as much as my boys do.

Of course, this meant that we absolutely had to make frosted butter cookies each holiday season.  The recipe I have made for the past 25 years is Best Ever Butter Cookies.  It is definitely a family favorite!  The dough is quick to mix up, easy to handle and makes a buttery, tender cookie.  I often make the dough a day or two ahead and store it in the refrigerator.  That way it is ready to roll out, cut and bake the day of my family cookie bake.  Then, my artistic sister and creative daughter-in-law are around to do the decorating.  Although the boys no longer want to frost and decorate the cookies they still want to be a part of the taste testing!  And yes, they still want the cookie with the most frosting!  But then, who doesn’t when the frosting is homemade with LAND O LAKES® Butter? 

To make the cookies combine the butter, sugar and egg in a large bowl.


Beat until creamy and then add the orange juice and vanilla.  The orange juice adds just a hint of orange flavor once the cookies are baked and makes them extra tasty.


Continue beating until well mixed. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour and baking powder.


Beat until well mixed and dough is formed.  Divide the dough into thirds and shape each third into a ball.


Flatten each ball of dough to about a ½-inch thick disc.  Wrap each in plastic food wrap.  Refrigerate until firm which takes about 2 hours.  The dough can be refrigerated for 2 to 3 days before baking. 


When you are ready to bake the cookies heat your oven to 400°F.  Generously flour a smooth clean surface like your counter top.


Work with one-third of the dough at a time and roll it out to about 1/8-inch to ¼-inch thickness.  Leave the other dough in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.  Note: the thinner the dough the crispier the cookies.


Cut the dough with cookie cutters and place onto ungreased cookie sheets.  I usually re-roll the scraps of dough that remain from the first round.  I know the cookies won’t be quite as tender but they are still delicious.


Bake for 6 to 10 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned.  If you rolled your dough closer to 1/8-inch thick your cookies will bake more quickly.  Watch them carefully as they can get too brown in a very short time.  Let them stand on the cookie sheet for 1 minute after you remove them from the oven.  Then remove the cookies to cooling racks.  Letting them stand for 1 minute helps the cookies transport without breaking.


While the cookies are cooling completely you can mix up the yummy butter frosting.  Combine the powdered sugar, butter and vanilla in a bowl.  Beat at low speed and gradually add enough milk to reach a spreading consistency.  Go slow with the milk so the frosting doesn’t become too soft.  If it does, just add a little more powdered sugar.


Feel free to tint the frosting with food coloring.  I usually divide the frosting into smaller portions so I can have a number of colors.  Frost and decorate the cookies any way you’d like.  I am not the world’s best decorator so I’m happy to hand this off to my helpers – thanks Cindy and Amanda!  Have fun and be sure to save a couple of cookies for Santa.


I’d love to hear about your favorite “Santa” cookie.  And please, after you try Best Ever Butter Cookies, rate and review the recipe.

On Thursday I will show you how to make another one of my favorite holiday cookies, Raspberry Thumbprints.

Becky Wahlund is the Director of the Test Kitchen for Land O'Lakes and writes for our Recipe Buzz™ Blog.

Back to Top

Leave a Comment

Please note, all submissions are screened for content deemed appropriate by Land O'Lakes. Comments are published within 3 business days.


When I do bake I use unsalted butter, your recipes just say butter but I also don't see salt added to the recipes. I would love to bake your best butter cookies but would like to know first is it unsalted or salted butter.

Posted March 26, 2016 by Renee
Test Kitchen Comment
From: Mallory
Hi Renee,

You can use salted and unsalted butter interchangeably in our recipes. It all comes down to personal preference. Happy baking! 
Posted April 11, 2016

I've made these cookies for years and they are my very favorites. Rather than cutting them out, can I roll them into a log and slice and bake them after refrigerating?

Posted December 11, 2015 by Mary
Test Kitchen Comment
From: mallory
Hi Mary, you could most certainly try! Happy baking!
Posted December 16, 2015

Does this recipe call for unsalted or salted butter? Which of the two do you use? Thank you.

Posted December 24, 2014 by Maria
Test Kitchen Comment
From: cindy
In most of our recipe testing, particularly when the recipe states Land O Lakes Butter in the ingredients we use the salted butter. Go ahead and use either one - it should be fine in your recipe.
Posted December 25, 2014

I have made this cookie recipe for 35 years and it is still family and friends' favorite. The icing just caps it off perfectly.

Posted December 04, 2013 by claudia

Can the iced cookies be frozen (after the icing is put on)? If so, for how long can they be frozen?

Posted January 26, 2013 by Kathleen
Test Kitchen Comment
From: Cindy
It is much better if you freeze this cookie unfrosted. You would then frost the cookies once they thaw. If the cookie is frosted and then frozen, you may notice when the cookie is thawed a layer of moisture under the frosting and on the cookie. Unfrosted cookies can be successfully frozen for about 2 months.
Posted January 29, 2013

I've been using this recipe for years and it always gets rave reviews. I'm wondering if I were to add mergingue powder or color flow powder to the icing recipe, could I make it thin and have it harden, but still have the same great taste? I just saw the glaze recipe but still wonder if the other powders would help it dry better.

Posted December 18, 2012 by Carolyn
Test Kitchen Comment
From: Cindy
Thanks for your comments. This cookie is one of our most requested cookies. We have not tested the glaze mixture by adding some meringue powder. I encourage you to try it and see if it hardens better on the cookie.
Posted December 20, 2012

I would like to make these cookies ahead and freeze....then decorate later. How long can I freeze them and are there any 'hints'? Or should I just prepare the dough, freeze it and bake later?

Posted November 28, 2012 by Terry
Test Kitchen Comment
From: Cindy
Yes, these cookies freeze well. I assume you want to frost and decorate the cookie after it thaws which is the best way to do it. Make sure that the cookies are secure in the freezer container. You would not want them to break while they are in the freezer. Another idea is to freeze the dough and then cut -out the cookies when the time is closer to when you need them. You can keep cookies such as this butter cookie in the freezer for up to 2 months. The dough will keep in the freezer for up to 2 months as well. You will want to thaw the dough in the refrigerator and then when thawed roll the dough out and cut out the cookies.
Posted November 29, 2012

If you don't want to mess around with frosting, you can brush the tops with egg yolk before baking and sprinkle with a variety of colored sugars and sprinkles. Bake as usual.

Posted December 10, 2011 by Caroline

Does the frosting harden like traditional royal frosting?

Posted June 01, 2011 by Ellie
Test Kitchen Comment
From: Cindy
This recipe's frosting is not a royal icing type of frosting but rather a buttercream texture. It does firm up but does not get hard like royal frosting.
Posted June 04, 2011

Becky, Thank you for blogging @ Best Ever Butter Cookies. I've had this recipe for 2 years & haven't made them yet. I'm not crazy @ orange juice & wondered if lemon juice can be substituted instead. Do you know if someone has ever used lemon juice & if so, how did they turn out? Thanks, Julie

Posted November 24, 2010 by Julie

these are my absolute Favorite cookies .I am making now for my granddaughter 's birthday.

Posted October 23, 2010 by barbara