A mom friend of mine from my daughter’s school asked if I would make cookies for the school’s Diwali festival.  Three hundred cookies, actually.  Now, normally, I only bake for my family but I was studying for my board recertification and something in me just craved the intensity of a big baking project.  Baking 300 cookies is no small task but on the second baking day I alighted on my “perfect formula” for making sugar cookies from which I will never stray.  Here are my steps and the recipe is down below.

Scoop out about half a batch of fresh cookie dough straight from your mixer onto a piece of parchment paper. You do not have to chill first.


Line up a 1/4″ dowel on either side of the dough. I also tried using rolling pin guides but found this method to give me greater consistency.


Place a second piece of parchment paper on top of the dough. By the way these pieces of parchment were about the size of my half sheet cookie pans.


Gently flatten the dough ball.


Start rolling out the dough using the dowels as your “tracks.”


You’ll know you’re done when the rolling pin rolls smoothly across the top along the dowel “tracks.”


Remove the dowels.


Stack the sheets of dough on top of each other on a baking sheet. Arrange them so the ones you just made go on the bottom of the stack. Chill for 1-2 hours or until firm.

I then take out one sheet of dough at a time, cut out the cookies, and put them straight into the oven.  I don’t give them any time to warm up.  In fact, if they soften at all while I’m cutting them out I will put the pan of cookies into the fridge again for 1bout 15 minutes until they are firm.

I only re-roll the dough scraps once.  Trust me I tried to be thrifty and re-roll the scraps more than once but I was not pleased with the results.  When I re-roll the scraps I again use the dowels and mark the parchment paper with two tick marks signifying that it is the end of the line for this dough sheet then stick the sheet back in the fridge to firm up again before cutting.


Diya cookies

I’ve experimented with different royal icing consistencies and found that I am most comfortable with a 15-second flood icing.  I outline and flood right away.  For the cookies with just one background color I’ll use a #3 tip to go faster.  For multiple background colors like the flag cookies I’ll use a #2 tip for better control.  I’ll then use a medium consistency icing with a #1 tip for the details.  For me, a medium consistency icing still holds soft peaks when you run a spatula through it but the surface will eventually smooth out.  To check this, I will rap the bowl a few times on the counter and see if it smooths out. I know, it’s not a perfect scientific method but it’s about a 30-second icing.

Indian Flag
Pink Elephants

If you have time you can flood the cookies and add the details all in the same day.  You just have to give the flood icing a couple of hours to set before piping the details.  Then let the cookies set overnight for the icing to harden completely.  I check this by tapping on the icing.  If I don’t leave any indents then I’m good to wrap them up.  Once they’re wrapped up — especially if you use a heat sealer — they’re good for a couple of weeks.

Blue and orange elephants

Placing a fan in front of freshly iced cookies helps retain their shine as they dry.  The difference between air-dried and fan-dried cookies is slight (and unrecognizable to DH) but I could tell the difference.


  • Amber Spiegel has a fantastic cookie decorating course on Sweet Elegance: 16 Cookie-Decorating Techniques (w/Amber Spiegel)“>Craftsy.  You should definitely check it out
  • You should use couplers in your disposable bags even if you don’t intend to switch out tips.  I found out the hard way when you’re icing a lot of cookies that royal icing slowly leaks around the tip and gets crusty and becomes a total pain.  Couplers really cut down on this problem.
  • You can bake the cookies, cool and stack them in an airtight container and ice them the next day if you’re crunched for time. I would not bake them more than 2 days ahead of icing however as this will definitely cut down on the taste.  If you need more lead time, cut and freeze them raw.  Then bake them straight out of the freezer.
  • Once you ice them and dry them overnight try to bag them right away to keep them fresh.  If you don’t intend to bag them then you can stack them in an airtight container but try to consume within a couple of days so that they still taste great.


Perfect Sugar Cookies

20-24 cookies depending on size


  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened (8 oz)
  • 1 cup confectioner's sugar
  • 1 egg at room temp
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tsps almond extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  1. Sift together flour and salt. Beat butter and sugar in a stand mixer with flat beater or with a hand mixer on medium speed until fluffy. Add egg and mix until combined. Add flavorings. Gradually blend in flour on low speed just until flour is completely incorporated. Do not overmix once you add the flour. Scoop out immediately and roll out into dough sheets as above or wrap in cling wrap and a ziploc bag and chill for 2 hours. Work with a half batch at a time.
  2. You can also store it in the freezer until ready to use. When ready to use, thaw overnight in fridge.
  3. Bake on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper or silicone baking mats at 375F for 12-14 minutes or until edges just begin to turn golden.

2 thoughts on “My Formula for Perfect Sugar Cookies and 300 Diwali Cookies

  1. stephen says:

    I think you forgot to mention that DH, before “your best friend” the heat sealer arrived, bagged and tied a gazillion of these cookies!!! 😛

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