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Vanilla Sugar Cookie Trees with Cream Cheese Frosting by Baking The Goods

Vanilla Sugar Cookie Trees with Cream Cheese Frosting

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The simple sugar cookie base starts with a double dose of vanilla, then the cookies get dressed in their holiday best with a festive flourish of wintergreen frosting in a dazzling mini star design.




  • 1 cup unsalted butter (- at room temperature)
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 whole vanilla bean (split lengthwise, seeds scraped and reserved)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe follows)

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 cup cream cheese (softened)
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter (- at room temperature)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar (- sifted)
  • Green and blue natural food coloring



  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter, sugar, and and reserved vanilla seeds at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 5 to 7 minutes, stopping to scrape sides of bowl. With mixer on medium-low speed, add vanilla, beating to combine.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and sea salt. With mixer on low speed, gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating until incorporated. Turn out dough onto a floured surface, and divide in half. Shape each half into a disk, and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  3. Let dough stand at room temperature until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Roll dough to about 1⁄4-inch thickness. Using a3- to 4-inch tree-shaped cutter, cut dough, rerolling scraps as necessary. Line baking sheets with parchment paper, and place cookies 1 to 2 inches apart on prepared pans. Freeze or refrigerate for at least 1 to 2 hours.
  4. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  5. Bake until cookies just start to turn golden brown around the edges, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool on pans or wire racks.
  6. Divide Cream Cheese Frosting among 3 small bowls. For light green color, add 1 drop of green food coloring to first bowl, and stir until combined. For medium green color, add 3 drops green food coloring to second bowl. Stir until combined. For minty blue color, add 3 drops green food coloring and 1 drop blue coloring the third bowl. Stir until combined.
  7. Place one-third of each frosting in a piping bag fitted with a small open star tip (Wilton No. 16 or No. 18). Refrigerate in piping bags for at least 20 minutes. (Cover remaining frosting in bowls with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to use.)
  8. To decorate cookies, hold frosting bag straight up, with tip just slightly above surface. Squeeze bag, and use light pressure to form a small star; add more pressure to make a bigger star. Stop squeezing before pulling tip away. Using one color at a time, cover cookie with stars; fill in with other colors. Repeat with remaining cookies and remaining frosting. (If frosting gets too warm, the stars will not hold their shape. You may need to place the piping bags in the refrigerator for a few minutes to chill the frosting a few times throughout the decorating process.)
  9. Alternatively, skip the tips and smear thick swirls of frosting on each cookie with an offset spatula. Then add festive sprinkles if you'd like!
  10. Store decorated cookies in refrigerator. Remove from refrigerator 1 to 2 hours before serving.

Cream Cheese Frosting

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla at medium speed, 1 to 2 minutes, until smooth. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating until thick and creamy. Use immediately.


*Get a jump start on your holiday baking by making the dough ahead of time. You can mix up the dough, roll out and cut your trees, then store them in the freezer, in an airtight baggie for up to 2 months. Bake straight from the freezer on decorating day. When baking from frozen, cookies may need an additional minute or two to fully bake. 

*Don't worry if you don't have a vanilla bean, you can double down on the vanilla extract.

  • Prep Time: 1 hour
  • Cook Time: 12 minutes