Italian Christmas Cookies

Active time: 30 min. Total time: 2 hours, 30 min.
Yield: Makes about 3 dozen (serving size: 3 cookies)

No need to buy a tray of Italian Christmas cookies this year—they’re easy to make and all the ingredients are readily available. The cookie itself is not overly sweet and has a cakey texture, so the sweetness really banks on the icing. We used almond extract in our recipe, but you can also use anise. In order to work with it, you’ll need to chill the dough, so don’t skip that step. Decorate these with the kids for a family-friendly holiday activity.


  • 1/2 cup (4 oz.) salted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract or anise extract, divided
  • 2 1/4 cups (about 9 5/8 oz.) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cups (about 8 oz.) powdered sugar
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons whole milk
  • Red and green candy sprinkles

How to Make It

Step 1

Beat butter, sugar, eggs, 1 teaspoon of the vanilla, and 1/4 teaspoon of the almond extract with a heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment on medium speed until completely combined, about 2 minutes. 

Step 2

Stir together flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl. With mixer running on low speed, gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating just until combined. Cover and chill dough 1 hour. 

Step 3

Preheat oven to 350°F. Using a 1-tablespoon cookie scoop, shape dough into 1-inch balls, and place 1 inch apart on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. (Keep remaining dough chilled until ready to form and bake.)

Step 4

Bake cookies in preheated oven until very lightly browned on bottom, about 10 minutes. Cool baking sheet on a wire rack 5 minutes; remove cookies to a wire rack, and cool completely, about 15 minutes. 

Step 5

Whisk together powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons of the milk, and remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1/4 teaspoon almond extract. If needed, whisk in remaining 1 tablespoon milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, to reach spreadable consistency. 

Step 6

Spoon a small amount (about 1 teaspoon) of frosting on each cookie, and spread with back of spoon; top each cookie immediately with candy sprinkles. Let stand until frosting sets, about 30 minutes.

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