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1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon 2% milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
Red paste food coloring
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-1/3 cups confectioners' sugar, divided
3 tablespoons 2% milk, divided
Sanding sugar, sugar pearls and Red Hots
Preheat oven to 325°. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 5-7 minutes. Add milk and vanilla; mix well. Add flour and mix well. Remove 1-2/3 cups dough; tint red. Shape white dough into 12 balls of 3/4 in. each, 48 balls of 1/2 in. each and 12 balls of 1/4 in. each. Shape red dough into 12 balls of 1-1/4 in. each and 60 balls of 1/2 in. each.
Place the 1-1/4 in. red balls on 2 ungreased baking sheets for the body of 12 Santas. Attach 3/4-in. white balls for heads. Attach four 1/2-in. red balls to each Santa for arms and legs. Attach 1/2 in. white balls to ends of arms and legs for hands and feet; lightly press together.
Shape remaining 1/2-in. red balls into hats. Attach 1/4-in. white balls to tips of hats.
Bake until set, 12-15 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes; carefully remove from pans to wire racks (cookies will be fragile).
For icing, combine shortening and vanilla in a small bowl; mix well. Gradually add 1-1/3 cups confectioners' sugar; add 1 tablespoon milk. Gradually add remaining sugar and milk.
Pipe a band of icing on hat, cuffs at hands and feet, and down the front and at bottom of jacket; while icing is still wet, sprinkle sugar over icing on brim of hat and cuffs at hands and feet. Pipe swirls of icing for beard and tip of hat. Place a Red Hot or red sugar pearl for nose, black sugar pearls for eyes, and silver sugar pearls for buttons.
Editor's Note: Remaining dough may be shaped into balls and baked.