Inside: These homemade Whole Wheat Sugar Cookies are easy to make, tender and buttery, and topped with naturally colored frosting. And you don’t have to chill the dough!
Thank you to the National Frozen and Refrigerated Foods Association for sponsoring this post!
Of all the holiday goodies we make, classic cut-out sugar cookies are my kids’ favorite.
I was the same way as a child. I loved when my mom brought down all the holiday cookie cutters from the cupboard. I’d sort through them, picking my favorites and helping to roll the dough. I loved piping out the frosting to decorate them. And I especially loved the sweet, buttery flavor.
Yes, homemade sugar cookies are a labor of love. But if I still have those memories, chances are my kids will too–and that’s what I keep in mind when they ask to make them.
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A couple years ago, I took a baking class at the local community college, and this nugget of wisdom has always stuck with me: The quality of ingredients really does matter. That’s always in the back of my head when I’m buying ingredients for baking.
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Land O’Lakes butter is a classic go-to for bakers. It’s creamy and rich—and if you typically use store-brand butters, you’ll probably notice the difference if you switch!
And did you know that Land O’Lakes is a farmer-owned dairy co-op? They’ve been around since 1921 and are currently 1,700 farmers strong.
A few more things I learned about butter from Land O’Lakes:
- You should store your butter in the coldest part of the refrigerator, not the door (oops).
- Sticks of butter can be frozen up to four months (so stock up when it’s on sale!). When you take it out of the freezer, use it within one month.
- To soften butter, use one of these three methods: Let it sit at room temperature for 30-45 minutes OR cut the butter into small chunks and let it sit at room temperature for 15 minutes OR place it between parchment paper and flatten with a rolling pin.
For this recipe I used unsalted butter, which the folks at Land O’Lakes (and my baking instructor!) say is best when you want the pure, sweet flavor of butter to really shine—as in buttery cookies like these.
This recipe for Whole Wheat Sugar Cookies is based on a roll-out sugar cookie recipe from a dear friend’s mom. I swapped in whole wheat pastry flour and tweaked a couple of ingredient amounts. Here’s how to make them.
Soften two sticks of Land O’Lakes butter and cut into chunks:
Cream the butter and sugar together in a standing mixer. (You can also use a hand mixer and a large bowl if that’s what you have.)
Add the vanilla extract and egg and blend well.
Combine whole wheat pastry flour and baking powder in a small bowl and mix well. This is important: For this recipe, only use whole wheat pastry flour, which is made from a milder white wheat and has lower protein content than regular whole wheat flour. If you can’t find whole wheat pastry flour and only have regular whole wheat flour, please follow the instructions below the recipe for using it!
Add the flour and baking powder mixture, one cup at a time, to the butter mixture, blending well after each addition. The dough will be stiff. Do not chill. That’s also very important! This dough does not work when chilled.
Divide dough into two balls. On a floured surface, roll each ball into a circle 1/8-inch thick.
Cut out cookies.
Bake cookies for 6-7 minutes. (I use a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat, but you don’t have to.) Remove sugar cookies to a wire rack and cool completely before frosting.
These are not overly-sweet sugar cookies, which provides a nice balance to the sugary buttercream frosting.
For the naturally colored frosting, use the recipe below for basic buttercream. Then use my recipes for natural red and green tints to color them. You use these tints as the liquid in the frosting, in place of the milk or water called for in typical recipes.
Green is easy to achieve with spinach. Red is trickier. Depending on the size of the beets you use and how long you steep them, you may get a dark pink or a light red. (This batch I made last year was the deepest red I’ve gotten.) If you don’t want to make your own tints, this post gives some other recommendations for other natural color options.
One question I’m always asked about these frostings: Do they taste like beets and spinach? I don’t think they do, and neither do my kids—and neither do the many friends of theirs who were in and out of the house while I was testing this recipe and grabbed a sample. So I can safely say that these frostings are kid-tested!
- 1 cup (2 sticks) Land o'Lakes unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 large egg
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 3 cups whole wheat pastry flour*
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) Land O'Lakes butter softened
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2-3 tablespoons beet or spinach juice
- 1-2 drops almond extract optional (will help mask any beet flavor)
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Move top rack to top one-third of oven.
- Cut butter into chunks. In a standing mixer, cream together butter and sugar. Add egg and vanilla and blend well.
- In a separate bowl, combine baking powder and flour.
- Add flour mixture to butter mixture, one cup at a time, blending well after each addition. Combine just until all blended. Dough will be stiff. Do not chill.
- Divide dough into two balls. On a floured surface, roll each ball into a circle 1/8 inch thick. Cut out cookies, place on baking sheet lined with silicone baking mat, and bake for 6-7 minutes.
- Let cookies sit one minute, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
- To make frosting, combine butter and sugar with a standing or hand mixer. Add vanilla extract. Add beet or spinach juice (use these recipes), one teaspoon at a time, until you achieve the consistency you want.
*Whole wheat pastry flour is essential to this recipe. If you can’t find whole wheat pastry flour and only have regular whole wheat flour, follow the recipe above using 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour and 1 ¼ cups whole wheat flour (measure the amounts, then sift together). I tested them using that ratio and they came out well.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 24 Serving Size: 1 Cookie
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 261Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 38mgSodium: 76mgCarbohydrates: 38gFiber: 2gSugar: 26gProtein: 2g