One of my most treasured possessions is a Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book (1953, 1962). It belonged to my mother. The red and white gingham design yellowed with age. Actually, everything has yellowed over the years. The pages fall out and the cover has separated from the spine. It seems like most recipes require vegetable shortening and a “moderate oven.” The directions are sketchy at best, making each dish seem like the technical challenge from The Great British Baking Show. But it is still my favorite and the only thing I wanted from my mom.

I cannot think of her without thinking of her cooking, and so many of her recipes came from this book. To me, it contains more of my mom’s spirit than any of her worldly possessions.

The Best Sugar Cookies Ever {}So today, when my girls begged to make cut-out Christmas cookies, I couldn’t resist digging out my mom’s trusty sugar cookie recipe. It was exactly where I remembered it, at the very top corner of the page, first and most benign in a series of increasingly difficult and unpronounceable recipes, like pfeffernuesse and lebkuchen.

As ingredients filled my mixing bowl, memories filled my mind. Her smile, her laughter, the feel of her hands on mine as she helped me roll out the dough or press the cookie cutters, the way she always saved enough batter for me to taste. Each revolution of the paddle paid homage to her and the life she made for us. Now, my children get to attend the memorial, writing new chapters and making adjustments according to their tastes. My scribble accompanies my mother’s handwritten notes. Hopefully, my kids will one day add theirs, assuming the cookbook lasts that long (fingers crossed!).

And for you, a gift: my mother’s recipe, modified slightly. I promise it will be one of the best sugar cookies you have ever tasted.

Feel free to share!


The Best Sugar Cookie Ever {}

The Best Sugar Cookies Ever

Moist, soft, delicious, and guaranteed to be the best ever. Orange and Mexican vanilla make these cookies stand-outs in the Christmas crowd.  Recipe modified from The Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook (1953, 1964).  

Prep Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 50 minutes


  • 2/3 cup coconut oil (soft, but not melted)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp orange zest (about one medium orange)
  • 1/2 - 1 tsp Mexican vanilla (can use regular vanilla)
  • 1 egg
  • 4 tsp milk
  • 2 cups sifted flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Ornamental Frosting

  • 1/4 cup cold butter
  • 4 cups powdered sugar (sifted)
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 tsp Mexican vanilla (can use regular vanilla)
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 to 2 tsp milk (to desired consistency)


  1. Cream together coconut oil, sugar, orange zest, and vanilla.

  2. Add egg. Beat until light and fluffy

  3. Stir in milk.

  4. In a separate bowl, sift together dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, and salt). Blend into cream mixture.

    The Best Sugar Cookies Ever {}
  5. Divide dough in half. Chill for at least one hour. (Make frosting, if desired)

  6. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

  7. On a lightly floured surface, roll chilled dough to 1/8 inch thick. Cut into desired shapes.

    The Best Sugar Cookies Ever {}
  8. Bake on a greased cookie sheet (or parchment) (or Silpat) at 375 degrees for about 6-8 minutes. 

  9. Cool slightly, remove from pan and finish cooling on wire rack. 

  10. Decorate as desired. 

    The Best Sugar Cookie Ever {}

To make frosting

  1. Sift powdered sugar into the mixer bowl. Cut up butter and add to sugar. Mix with the paddle attachment. Alternatively, cut butter into sugar with a pastry blender (or fork).

  2. Add egg whites, vanilla, and cream of tartar. Beat thoroughly with the whisk attachment.

    The Best Sugar Cookies Ever {}
  3. Stir in milk until proper consistency is achieved. It needs to be stiff enough to pipe and maintain shape. 

  4. Tint with food coloring if desired. (We use Ziploc bags to pipe the frosting. Just snip off the corner and voila!)