Iced Shortbread Cookies

Sherri Hagymas
by Sherri Hagymas
15 cookies
25 min

Iced shortbread cookies are lightly sweetened, crispy and golden, and have the perfect surface area for icing and sprinkles. Or enjoy them plain with your morning cup of coffee!

Making treats for valentine’s day isn’t just delicious, it’s fun! Here are two more treats for your dessert table. Valentine’s Rice Krispie treats and Valentine’s hot chocolate bombs are so easy to make and perfect for sharing with all the special people in your life!

closeup of four pink and red iced shortbread cookies with valentine themed sprinkles
Table of contents

Easy Cut Out Cookies

Frosted heart-shaped cookies are the epitome of Valentine’s day and these delicious cookies are one of my favorites to decorate. They’re simple buttery cookies that melt in your mouth, but when baked, they’re sturdy enough for all kinds of icing and sprinkles. They are also holiday favorites for so many occasions just by changing the color or the icing.

They are made with just 5 ingredients (including lots of butter!) and just 12-15 minutes of bake time. Sometimes I like to make two batches and freeze a log of dough for easy access to cookies later on. Don’t let the simplicity fool you, however, because once they’re cut out, baked, and decorated, they’ve got gourmet treats written all over them!

heart shaped red frosted shortbread cookies being held by a woman's hand
Why we love this cookie recipe

  • An easy recipe that comes together quickly and effortlessly. A great one to get the kids involved in!
  • These cookies are great for any occasion. During the holiday season, I like to switch up the colors of the icing and sprinkles and the shapes of the cookie cutters to reflect whatever occasion we’re celebrating.
  • Perfect taste and texture thanks to the butter and powdered sugar that gives them a slightly crispy edge and a tender bite.
several white bowls of ingredients for shortbread cookies - milk, flour, powdered sugar and vanilla extract and two sticks of butter
Ingredients/shopping list

  • Butter – You’ll need 2 sticks for this recipe and they should be taken out of the fridge at least half an hour before you begin. Softened butter makes it easier to cream. Using unsalted butter gives a richest buttery flavor, but salted is fine as well.
  • Pure vanilla extract – When added to any baking it adds a warm flavor element that enhances the overall taste to another level of delicious!
  • Powdered sugar – Otherwise known as confectioners’ sugar, this type of powdered sugar ensures the “melt in your mouth” properties of this cookie.
  • All-purpose flour – Used as the foundation of the cookie that holds the structure together.
  • Milk – The liquid component the brings everything together into a cookie dough.

For the optional icing

  • Powdered sugar and milk – When combined they make a delicious frosting. Depending on the ratio, it can be thin and runny for glazed cookies or thicker for frosted cookies.
  • Food coloring – Red and pink for valentine’s day.
  • Sprinkles – Any sprinkles you like. Jimmies, hearts, little pearls, even some gold flakes would be nice!

How to Make this Recipe

This recipe is perfect for newer bakers and kids alike. It’s also a great freezer-friendly dough, so make a couple of batches and freeze one!

Step 1: In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter until fluffy on medium speed with the paddle attachment. Add the vanilla and reduce to low speed. Then, slowly add the powdered sugar and flour and continue beating on low until completely incorporated. Stop to scrape down the sides when needed. (a hand held electric mixer can also be used if necessary but since the dough is sticky you may have to push the dough out of the beaters a little more often.)

cookie dough in a silver mixing bowl

Step 2: Now you’ll add in the milk 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough forms into a ball. Transfer the sticky dough to a lightly floured surface and roll it out to about ¼” thick. Adding a little flour to the rolling pin will keep the dough from sticking.

Step 3: Grab your cookie cutters and cut out as many cookies that can fit. Place the cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Combine the scraps and roll them out again to cut out the remaining shapes.

six heart shaped shortbread cookies on parchment paper lined baking sheet

Step 4: Place the cookie sheet in the freezer for 15 minutes to set. DO NOT SKIP this step as it ensures the cookies will hold their shape.

Step 5: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grab the chilled cookies and transfer them to the hot oven to bake for 12-15 minutes. The bottoms should be slightly brown.

several heart shaped cookies on a wire rack

Step 6: Allow the cookies to cool completely before decorating.

Step 7: Combine icing ingredients in a small bowl. Start with a few drops of food coloring and go from there, depending on how vibrant you want it. Add it to a piping bag and decorate as you please!

Allow them to set before taking a bite 🙂

several red and pink iced shortbread cookies on a wire rack
Variations/ Substitutions

  1. Add a teaspoon of almond extract if desired.
  2. Use chocolate icing or dip in melted chocolate chips if desired.
  3. Use gel food coloring for a more concentrated vibrant result.
  4. Substitute half and half cream for the milk, if preferred.
  5. To make life a little easier, you can always use a store-bought cookie icing.
  6. Set up a DIY decorating station for the kids. Have them pipe out their favorite color icing and add their own sprinkles!


  • Use salted butter if preferred. There is no added salt anywhere else, so they’ll be fine.
  • Measure flour using the spoon and level method. This is the way to get the right amount of flour for the perfect texture.
  • Cut into any shape you desire. Rectangle, circles, squares, or any favorite cookie cutter. This is especially useful to keep in mind when baking for all different occasions!
  • Do not skip the chill time! This allows the dough to set and the butter to solidify so that when they bake they do not spread.
  • When they’re done baking they should be only lightly golden on the bottom and perhaps around the edges. Anything more than that and there’s a good chance you’re overbaking them.
  • Allow cookies to cool completely before decorating. If you add the icing while the cookies are still warm, it will melt the icing into a thin runny glaze.
  • No piping bag? No problem! Just use a Ziploc bag and snip the corner.
  • If you’re adding sprinkles to the icing, add them while the icing is wet.
  • Allowing them to set before doing anything with them is important not only for eating them but also for stacking them to package them. Especially if you’re wrapping them up to gift them to loved ones.


How to Store?

Keep any cookies stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Can I freeze shortbread dough?

Once you’ve made the dough, you can do a couple of things. Roll it into a log, wrap it in a piece of plastic wrap, seal it up tightly, and freeze for up to 3 months. Then, when you’re ready to bake, allow it to thaw slightly at room temperature and slice them into cookies, and bake them.

You can also cut them into cookie shapes, and freeze the shapes. Then, thaw and bake when ready.

Other Cookie Recipes

Old Fashioned Snowball Cookies

No Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Snickerdoodle Cookies

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Recipe details
  • 15  cookies
  • Prep time: 10 minutes Minutes Cook time: 15 minutes Minutes Total time: 25 min
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For the Cookies
  • ▢ 1 cup unsalted butter softened (2 sticks)
  • ▢ 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ▢ 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • ▢ 2 cups all purpose flour
  • ▢ 3 tablespoons milk as needed
For the Icing, optional
  • ▢ 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar + 2 tablespoons milk
  • ▢ Red or pink food coloring
  • ▢ Sprinkles of choice
For the Cookies
Preheat oven to 350° F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Add softened butter to a large mixing bowl or to the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment.
Beat until the butter on medium high speed for approximately 30 seconds until fluffy.
Add the vanilla extract and reduce the speed to low speed.
Slowly add the powdered sugar and flour and beat on low until completely incorporated, stopping to scrape down the sides as you blend.
Add milk 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough forms into a ball.
Place the dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll it to ¼” thick.
Cut out your desired shapes and place the cookies on the parchment lined baking sheet.
Place the cookie sheet in the freezer for 15 minutes. DO NOT skip this step or the cookies will not hold their shape.
Once the cookies have chilled, bake them for 12-15 minutes, or until the bottoms are slightly brown.
Allow the cookies to cool completely on the tray before decorating.
For the Icing
Combine the powdered sugar and milk in a medium bowl and blend until smooth.
Add a few drops of food coloring and blend again. Repeat until desired color is achieved.
Add the the frosting to a piping bag or plastic zip closure baggie and cut a small opening in the corner or tip.
Apply the icing to the cookies as desired, followed by sprinkles while the icing is still wet.
Allow the icing to set before storing.
  • Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
  • Make sure to measure using the scoop and level method so cookies do not come out too dry.
  • Substitute half-and-half or heavy cream for milk.
  • Use store-bought cookie icing if preferred.
Sherri Hagymas
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