Itty Bitty Sugar Cookies

My recipe for these reads “Sugar Cookies by Mern,” but my kids have always called them “the itty bitty sugar cookies.” Mern was the grandmother of one of my best friends growing up, and in my mind, she remains the quintessential Southern belle — gracious and lovely. My only regret is that I have the recipe only in a bland, typed format… not the beautiful, tiny handwriting I remember from my mom’s recipe cards.

These sugar cookies are also one of my favorite Christmas gifts for teachers. The cookies are so tiny and crisp — they melt on your tongue. We make them by the dozens, sprinkle them with red and green sugar, and send them on their way just when teachers are feeling their most stressed.

This year, my youngest son has one of my former students as his English teacher, and it warms my heart in the most small-town of ways. But the fact that she had a thank you note in his hand before car pick-up the day we brought the cookies? Well, the student has certainly surpassed the teacher.


  • 1 cup (8 oz or 2 sticks) butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg (at room temperature)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar


  • In the bowl of a mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until smooth and light (about 3 minutes).
  • Add eggs and vanilla. Beat until light (about 3 minutes)
  • Sift together flour, soda, and cream of tartar. Blend into butter mixture until just combined (do not overmix).
  • Chill until firm enough to work with the dough*
  • Form into small balls (about the size of a nickel in diameter) and place far apart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
  • Dip the bottom of a small glass* into sugar and use it to flatten the dough into thin, round cookies. Dip the glass into the sugar before flattening each cookie* We use red and green sugar at Christmas, but plain white sugar also works!
  • Bake at 375 degrees for 6-8 minutes, until the cookies are lightly browned on the outside.
  • Remove from the cookie sheet while hot and allow the cookies to cool on brown paper.
  • Makes about 10 dozen cookies.


  • Mern said to chill the dough for 30 minutes. This has never worked for me! Maybe she was using her freezer. It takes about 2 hours, or overnight, in the refrigerator.
  • We use a shot glass for this — it’s the perfect size. But any flat-bottomed glass will do.
  • My chief helper highly recommends spreading a little dough across the bottom of the shot glass to make sure that the sugar adheres. We tried water, but not enough of the sugar stuck, so we liked the dough better.


My oldest… way back in the day. I’m not even sure he is going to help me make these for his teachers this year… But middle school teachers probably deserve them the most!

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