These cookies were inspired by a nostalgic childhood treat – Frosted Animal Cookies! This version gives shortbread a holiday makeover in red, green, and white with lots of sprinkles on top.
These cookies were the result of a happy accident. I ordered a set of cookie cutters (these) for a client project, and when they arrived they were much smaller than I expected! I love miniatures of all kinds, and these cutters were too adorable for words. If you look closely, they are all dog shapes – although the dachshund could pass for a seal which is one of the original Keebler Animal Cookie shapes – ha!
I instantly knew these cutters were destined to stamp out shortbread shapes for a version of animal cookies all dressed in holiday colors!
Because the cutters are so small, one batch of dough makes many, many cookies! It’s definitely an intense session of stamping and re-rolling dough, but it goes pretty fast. And the beauty of the icing is that there’s not a lot of fussy detail – it’s simply icing and sprinkles.
I divided the assorted shapes into three batches and decorated each batch of shapes a different color. I think they look really festive!
These don’t have to be dog shapes, of course, but if you’re like me and love doggos, or have friends that are dog owners, then bags of these would make fun gifts for them! If you’re more interested in the traditional circus animal shapes, you can find those cutters here.
These are so buttery which is the hallmark of any good shortbread, and the royal icing gives them just the right amount of sweetness. They are so adorably mini, it makes eating handfuls a totally reasonable thing to do!
Frosted Animal Cookies for Christmas
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups unsalted butter room temperature
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 4 cups confectioners’ sugar sifted
- 3 tablespoons meringue powder
- 1/2 cup warm water plus more for thinning
- 1/2 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
- green gel food color
- red gel food color
- Red white, and green nonpareil mix
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with baking parchment paper.
- Sift flour and salt into a bowl; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer or in a medium bowl with a hand mixer, beat butter and lemon zest on medium low speed until smooth and creamy. Gradually add sugar and beat until smooth, about two minutes. Beat in vanilla extract. On low speed, gradually add flour mixture, gently stirring just until incorporated. Flatten the dough out into a disk shape and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill until firm, about 1 hour.
- Roll out the dough to 1/4-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Cut out animal shapes with lightly floured cookie cutters, and place on the prepared baking sheets. Refrigerate for 15 minutes so the dough will firm and cookies will maintain their shape when baked. Bake cut-outs for 7-9 minutes or until lightly browned on the bottoms but still pale on top. Cool thoroughly on wire racks before frosting.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, stir the confectioner’s sugar and meringue powder on low speed until combined. Add the water and beat on medium high speed until very stiff peaks form, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add flavoring and beat on low until combined; divide into three bowls and tint one portion of icing with the green gel food color; tint another portion red; leave the third portion white. Bring each to flood consistency.
- Flood Consistency: Stir drops of water into each bowl until the icing is thinned but still has the consistency of a thick milkshake, this is called flood consistency. To make sure the consistency is correct, drag a spoon through the center of the icing in a straight line, creating an indentation. When the icing is of perfect flood consistency, the indentation should completely disappear in 10 seconds. If it disappears too quickly, then the icing is too thin and will not dry properly. The indentation should disappear as close to the 10 second mark as possible. It is much harder to thicken the icing after it has been thinned than to make thick icing thinner, so take your time and add water drops a few at a time.
- Place a #2 round decorator piping tip into the bottom of a small piping bag; snip off plastic on the end of the piping bag. Fill piping bag with green icing and seal the open end with a rubber band. Repeat steps with the red and white icing. Stand each piping bag in a tall glass with a moist paper towel in the bottom to prevent the icing from drying out and the tip from clogging.
- Pour nonpareils in a small container and have them close to hand. Divide cookies into three batches of assorted shapes on large parchment-lined baking pans. Pipe one batch of the cookies with the green icing, stopping to sprinkle on nonpareils immediately after piping each cookie. Pipe the second batch with the red icing and sprinkles, repeat steps with the white icing.
- Allow the cookies to dry for 4 hours or overnight. When cookies are dry, package assorted shapes and colors of cookies in cellophane bags and tie with festive ribbon. Or, keep them in airtight containers.