Italian Christmas Cookies

No.  The stockings are not hung by the chimney with care.  Nor is my tree decorated.  And the presents remain unwrapped.  But I’m having fun baking holiday cookies!  And this is probably my all-time favorite Christmas cookie, as it was one of two recipes that my mom would make to kick-off the holiday season.  The other was strufoli, a labor-intensive little morsel drenched in honey and adorned with tiny, colorful sprinkles that everyone, except me, just loved.

There are so many versions of Italian Christmas Cookies, but this is the recipe that has been handed down in our family, and I am happy to share it with you!

Italian Christmas Cookies

4 1/2 cups flour

2 sticks butter

1 1/2 cups sugar

6 eggs

6 teaspoons baking powder

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Cream butter and sugar until blended.  Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Mix in vanilla extract.  In a separate bowl, combine flour and baking powder.  Slowly add flour to creamed mixture and mix until blended.  If the dough is too sticky, sprinkle a bit more flour.   Hand-roll teaspoon-sized balls and place 2″ apart onto ungreased baking sheet.  Bake at 350 until cookies are set and bottoms are lightly browned.

Confectioners’ Frosting

3 cups confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla, almond, lemon, or anise extract (my personal favorite)

1/4 cup water

Mix all ingredients with an electric mixer, or by hand.  Beat until smooth.  Dip tops of cookies into frosting.  Leave plain or add colored sprinkles.  Let dry completely on cooling rack.

I have 15 days to make it all happen.  I do believe in miracles, I do believe in miracles….

“A”

63 thoughts on “Italian Christmas Cookies

      • 10 minutes, more or less. Cookie size and oven temps vary, so I suggest doing a small test batch (3 or 4 cookies). The tops should look cooked (no wet spots) and the bottoms should be slightly browned. If they’re a wee bit overdone, the icing will totally make up for it. Have a happy holiday!!
        Ann

  1. Pingback: Yes, little a baked Christmas cookies too. « Big A, Little A

    • It really depends on how large you make them. I use a 1″ cookie scoop, which yields at least 6 dozen cookies. Maybe more. When I make them next week, I’ll count and give you the update.

      Hope this helps!
      Ann

    • I made these cookies today and used the 1″ cookie scoop. The yield: 5 dozen cookies. I really think you could make them smaller and stretch the yield to 6 dozen or so.

  2. My Italian grandmother made these when I was little. Her memory is going, but of what she remembered, this recipe sounded like the closest. I just made them (swapped shortning for the butter) and it was perfect. Thank you, a tradition will live on. :)

    • Thanks for making my day! I’m thrilled to know that your cherished tradition will continue. I think I’ll give the shortening a try and see if it changes the texture. Thanks for taking the time to comment!
      Wishing you a happy holiday season ;-)
      Ann

    • Probably somewhere around 10 – 12 minutes. The tops should be puffy and dry (no wet spots), and the bottoms will be lightly browned. It helps to bake a few test cookies first. Hope this helps!!
      Happy baking ;-)
      Ann

      • Thank you! I was looking for something like a sugar cookie but different. Being Italian I’m gonna give these a whirl. I also remember the strufoli from childhood but those seem a bit ambitious.

      • My mom made strufoli every year, but she needed a team of helpers (my sister and I ;-). They took forEVER to roll, cut and fry. These are so much easier. They are on the softer side, and mildly sweet. It’s that icing that makes them wildly delicious. I use anise flavoring in the frosting, but I’ve tasted them with almond or vanilla, and that tastes fine too. Just be careful not to make the icing too thin. It should resemble a thick shampoo. Good luck and let me know how it goes!
        Ann

      • Thank you for a good estimate of baking time. That was my one and only question. I hate to keep open the oven and peeking. I now know start and 10 mins… and do not go beyond 12 mins. Big Thank you.

      • You are very welcome! Since oven temps can vary, you might have to watch the first batch more closely, and then you’ll have a good idea of how long to bake the cookies in your oven. I hope you enjoy them, and I wish you a wonderful holiday.
        Ann

  3. I always have trouble with the sprinkles or candies bleeding the dye into the icing. If I wait to long, they icing is too dry and the topping will not stick..is there a trick that you can share to getting it just right? Thanks!

    • Hi Kristine!
      I’ve noticed over the years that the tiny, hard, crunchy little sprinkles are more likely to bleed than the softer sprinkles (like the ones used on ice cream cones). For that reason, I try to use mostly soft sprinkles. I always sprinkle while the icing is wet because if I wait too long, they just bounce right off the cookie. I’ve also noticed that when freezing these Italian cookies after I ice them, the sprinkles will definitely bleed as the cookies thaw. So, what I try to do is bake the cookies ahead, freeze them UN-iced, and then ice them a couple of days before I need them.

      Hope this helps! If there are any other suggestions out there, please do share ;-)

      Ann

  4. Thanks so much, Ann! I am going to try the soft sprinkles as suggested. I would love to somehow incorporate strawberry & chocolate flavors to the icing to make a neopolitan-inspired assortment (without the anise flavor in the cookie). I am excited again to make (and devour!) these loved cookies and I thank you for sharing your tips. Buon Natale!

    • Glad to hear that you’re enjoying the recipe, Kristine, and I LOVE the thought of a “neopolitan-inspired” assortment. Thanks so much for sharing your idea, and I look forward to hearing about your success with that!

      Wishing you happy baking and a joyous holiday season. Thanks for taking the time to comment ;-)

  5. We made these cookies this year, and they are one of our new favorites! I’ve gotten requests for the recipe, too. Definitely a keeper,

    • I’m so glad that your family enjoyed them, Emily! Thanks for taking the time to let me know. Wishes for a Happy New Year ;-)
      Ann

  6. Pingback: {Food} Italian Christmas Cookies | When You Wake Up

    • “Italian Christmas Cookie” recipes seem to get passed along from generation to generation. My mom’s mom wasn’t much of a baker (but she made a whopping good pizza!!), but my dad’s family had some extraordinary cookie bakers. This recipe came from one of his aunts, and it has always been a Christmas favorite. If you give it try, please let me know if it is similar to your mom’s. Wishes for a happy holiday ;-)
      Ann

  7. Ooh these cookies definitely bring back memories, I love them with lemon in the frosting! I’ve never had a recipe for them so thank you for sharing yours!

    • mmmmmmmmm….I love that lemon frosting too!! Haven’t tried it with these cookies, but I’ll bet it would be delicious. Please let me know if you give it a try. Wishing you a happy holiday ;-)
      Ann

    • Glad to hear that you love them, too ;-) I just may give that swap a try…did you add lemon to the icing too? Have a great holiday!

      Ann

    • I have frozen the baked, unfrosted cookies, but I’ve never frozen the dough. Sorry I can’t be of further help but, if you freeze it, I’d love to hear how it works out!
      Ann

      • Hi, Ann. Thanks for getting back with me. I am going to freeze the dough :) Others have been successful freezing the dough, so I’ll give it shot. Thanks, again. Neil

      • Sounds great, Neil! I think I’ll go ahead and freeze the dough too. Thanks for helping make my baking chaos a little easier ;-) Happy holidays, and happy baking!!
        Ann

      • After you take them out of the freezer approx. how long should they defrost before icing them? My older sister always made these cookies for Christmas. I’m going to try and out do hers!

      • They should come to room temperature before you ice them. Good luck taking on your sister…I have an older sister too, so I know what that’s all about ;-) Wishes for a happy holiday!
        Ann

    • LOL! Little A and I removed the last batch of these cookies from the oven two minutes ago, and we can’t wait to frost them. I’m so very glad that you’re enjoying them. Merry Christmas!
      Ann

  8. Can you make this recipe half the quantity?
    What is sticks of butter?
    Is there a less fat version?
    Have cholesterol and diabetes

    thanks
    Rosa

    • Hi Rosa,
      Yes! You can definitely halve this recipe. A stick of butter is the equivalent of 1/4 lb., or 8 tablespoons. Sorry I can’t give you any suggestions for a “less fat” version. Have a happy holiday!
      Ann

  9. These sound amazing! Wondering if you let the cookies cool before frosting them? I am making these for our school cookie exchange! Can’t wait!

    • Oh yes. They have to be totally cool before frosting, or the frosting will be a drippy mess ;-) I hope the cookie exchange folks enjoy them. Have a wonderful holiday!!
      Ann

    • I sometimes tint the icing pink…and then I go ahead and use sprinkles anyway ;-) It’s a great, basic Italian cookie recipe. You can easily change the flavor with extracts, either in the cookie itself, or in the icing. Almond and lemon work well, but our tradition was anise, so that’s what I use in the icing. Happy holidays!!
      Ann

    • So glad you like them, Jen, and kudos on the icing. I never seem to measure well and either have enough for a double batch, or I have to stop and make a bit more;-) Wishes for a happy holiday!

      Ann

  10. made these yesterday, cannot wait for my grandchildren to taste them. My husband and I loved them. This recipe is a keeper. Thanks for sharing. Happy holidays to all

    • I hope your grandchildren enjoy them as much as you and your husband! Thanks for the happy comment, and wishing you and your family a happy holiday season ;-)
      Ann

  11. I have a batch in the oven as I type .my aunt would always make these and now that im older inwas looking for ideas that u very much for sharing as all my family is milesnaway it brings back memories. Just think I made them a tad too big but hopefully they come out ok

    • I’ve made them larger, and they are always delicious. I hope you enjoy them! They bring back many fond memories for me, as well. Have a very happy holiday!
      Ann

  12. I made these because last year i wasn’t crazy about the recipe i used and they are amazing. Baked 15 minutes and they were perfection. Probably the best I’ve ever eaten.

  13. Hi I have been making cookes almost the same receipe that my husbands grandmother made for over 30 years. Everyone loves them how do you store they. If I put them in a metal cookie tin the frosting gets wet after being in there for a few hours. If you don’t put them in the a tin they will get hard. I have tried not putting any shortening in frosting but didn’t help. How do you store them?

    • Hi Rhonda,
      I store these cookies for a day or two, after frosting, until I’m ready to place them on the tray. I use Rubbermaid large rectangular take-alongs*, and I place one sheet of parchment between the layers of cookies. I try to make sure that the frosting is completely dry before placing them in the container, and I use a simple glaze which does not require any shortening. They stay pretty soft and fresh in these containers, with no wetness but, again, I don’t store them for more than a few days. I do notice that if I leave them on a platter just covered in plastic wrap, the frosting will get brittle after several days (they still taste good, though ;-)

      Hope this helps!
      Ann

      *I have found these containers in the grocery store, Target, and Amazon has them too (although theirs are red top & bottom: http://www.amazon.com/Rubbermaid-Take-Alongs-Rectangular-Container/dp/B00GU9ULCW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1421159859&sr=8-1&keywords=rubbermaid+large+rectangular+take+along)

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