Brown Sugar Shortbread Trees

These tree-shaped cookies look divine on a holiday buffet but are easy to make and decorate.

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Brown Sugar Shortbread Trees

Yield: 10 trees (70 cookies) Prep 40 mins Bake 325°F 8 mins to 10 mins Start to Finish 2 hrs 40 mins


  • 1 cup  unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup  confectioners' sugar
  • 1/4 cup  packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon  pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups  all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
  • 3/4 teaspoon  salt
  • 1 cup  Royal Icing (see recipe)
  • 1/4 cup  green sanding sugar
  • 10 small gumdrops, for decoration


1. In a mixer bowl, beat together butter, confectioners' and brown sugars on medium speed until light, about 2 minutes. Beat in extract, then flour and salt until a dough forms. Wrap well in plastic wrap, flatten into a disk and chill until firm, about 1 hour or up to 1 week.

2. Heat oven to 325 degrees F and place rack in center. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. On a floured work surface, using a floured rolling pin, roll out dough to about 1/8 inch thick, occasionally running a spatula under dough to keep from sticking to work surface. Using 1-14-, 1-34-, 2-12- and 3-inch star cookie cutters, cut out ten 1-14-inch and 20 of each of the other sizes; transfer to prepared sheets. Bake, one sheet at a time, until just golden around edges, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer sheets to a wire rack and let cool completely.

3. Transfer icing to a decorating bag fitted with a small plain. Secure end of bag with a rubber band, squeezing out air. (When not using, place, tip side down, in a tall glass with a damp paper towel in bottom so icing doesn't harden in tip.)

4. Working with one cookie at a time, pipe icing around rim of each star and sprinkle with sanding sugar. Let stand until set, about 30 minutes.

5. For each tree, using a dab of icing to adhere, stack 2 large, 2 medium, 2 small and 1 tiny star; top with a gumdrop. (Can be made ahead. Store in an airtight container at room temperature up to 2 days.)

Nutrition Facts

  • cal.(kcal)500,
  • Fat, total(g)19,
  • chol.(mg)49,
  • sat. fat(g)12,
  • carb.(g)81,
  • pro.(g)1,
  • sodium(mg)182,
  • Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet
Royal Icing

Yield: 2 cups


  • 1 pound  confectioners sugar (1 box)
  • 4 tablespoons  meringue powder
  • 1/4 cup  water, plus more if needed


1. In a large mixer bowl, combine sugar, meringue powder and water. Beat on low speed (adding more water, as needed), scraping down sides of bowl, to stiff peaks, about 5 minutes. (If not using immediately, store in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days. Stir before using.)

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