Sanding Sugar Vanilla Sugar Cookies

When I first saw the inspiration behind this recipe over at Joy the Baker, I knew I had to make them.  I’m not one who is obsessed with sprinkles, by any means, but something about the cookies just looked so festive and celebratory.  I decided to make a batch for our New Years Eve party, because who doesn’t want to ring in the new year with some seriously oversprinkled cookies?  I took an iPhone picture of the colorful cookies before they rested overnight in the fridge:
and meant to photograph the finished product the next day.  Except I worked all day on New Years Eve, and by the time I rushed home before our guests arrived I just plain ran out of time to take a picture.  Isn’t that always the case?  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made something for friends with the intention of taking a few minutes to photograph the finished product so I can blog about it, and then never get around to it.  Oh well – I just knew it meant I’d have to make them again!
While they were beautiful and delicious with the sprinkles, I rarely have a jar of sprinkles in my house, so I decided to take a slightly different approach this time with something I do always have: sugar.  It’s really easy to color your own sugar to customize for any event, so a dusting of red sugar for Valentine’s Day seemed like the obvious choice.  You can certainly purchase the little vials of colored sugar the grocery store, but it’s pretty easy to make it yourself, and it means you can make it on a whim.  To make your own, place 1/2 cup of regular granulated sugar into a small jar, add one drop of gel-based food coloring, put the cap back on the jar, and shake shake shake.  Add more coloring one drop at a time until you achieve the desired saturation.  The colored sugar will keep in the jar for several months… although I tend to just make as much as I need and use it up all at once.
vanilla sugar cookies
These cookies are light and sugary, with a strong vanilla flavor.  Aside from waiting overnight for the dough to chill, they come together quickly and are pretty low maintenance.  Plus, you can customize them for any holiday, or go back to the original sprinkles – I did love the extra little crunch the sprinkles added to the soft cookies.  Either way, you can’t go wrong – enjoy!
vanilla sugar cookies
Colored Vanilla Sugar Cookies
Adapted from Joy the Baker

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 – 1 cup colored sanding sugar or sprinkles, divided


  1. Beat the butter and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer using the paddle attachment.  Once butter and sugar mixture is fluffy, add in the vanilla bean paste, along with the egg and vanilla extract.  Beat until thoroughly combined (the mixture will look a little curdled: this is fine!)
  2. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the flour, baking powder, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt.  The dough will be pretty thick.  Add in 1/4 cup of the colored sugar or sprinkles.
  3. Use a medium cookie scoop (1.5 tablespoons) to scoop up the dough and roll it into a ball.  Roll the ball in a bowl with the remaining sanding sugar/sprinkles.  Place the balls on a plate and refrigerate overnight.
  4. The next day, bake on parchment-paper lined cookie sheets at 350F for approximately 8 minutes, until cookies spread but are still pale and soft in color.  Allow the cookies to cool on the sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.