Bourbon Brown Sugar Cut-Out Cookies with Buttercream

November 18, 2021

These cookies taste like bourbon. Do I need to say anything else? Is an introduction really needed when you have beautiful, colorful cookies that taste like bourbon? I don’t think so. Just make these fun little brown sugar cut-out cookies your own with a decoration of buttercream, and enjoy them.

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Hello and welcome to another edition of “I put bourbon in that,” which honestly should be the name of my cookbook if I ever write one. These wonderfully buttery brown sugar cookies can have a starring role. I like to think the flavor of these is a perfect compromise between the sweetness of yellow sugar cookies and the strength of gingerbread cut-outs. But the bourbon makes it something special.

If you’ve been around here long, you may know I’m not much of a decorator, but these cookies served as my training ground. My mom has always loved buttercream piping, and she taught me some of the tricks of the trade. So you can enjoy my first foray into sugary flowers!

What You Need to Get Started

You can easily find all of the ingredients for these bourbon brown sugar cut-out cookies at your grocery store:

Let’s Make Bourbon Brown Sugar Cookies

You can make these cookies without bourbon, but then they won’t taste like little buttery bourbon bites, coated in sugar. And what fun is that? When it comes to choosing a bourbon to use, I always go for Maker’s Mark, but any sweet whiskey will be delicious.

These come together pretty quickly, so preheat your oven before getting started. You will also want to line a baking sheet or two with parchment paper and set that aside.

Then, get out your stand mixer, because it’s going to do pretty much all the hard work for you here. Fit it with the paddle attachment, and begin by creaming together the butter and brown sugar on low speed for a couple minutes.

Mixing sugar into the butter this way creates tiny little air holes, as the sugar granules puncture the butter. This is one of the reasons that cookies are so delicious — the texture that comes from this creaming method.

Add in the eggs, bourbon, and vanilla bean paste. If you don’t have paste, you can substitute an equal amount of vanilla extract instead. You can also use a mix of vanilla extract and milk to replace the bourbon, but like I said, I wouldn’t dare. Continue mixing on low to combine until everything is smooth.

In a medium mixing bowl, add the flour, cornstarch, and salt. Whisk these all together until they are combined. Cornstarch is the real secret ingredient in this recipe (mostly because the bourbon is too obvious to be a secret). It helps create that ultra soft melt-in-your mouth texture.

Add the flour mixture into the mixer bowl with the wet ingredients. Use the beater, a spoon, or a spatula to stir it in gently by hand at first to prevent the flour from flying all over the room. A splatter guard on the mixer can also help here.

Then turn the mixer on low to just combine the batter, about 30 seconds. The dough should hold together and have a texture similar to a soft modelling clay. If it’s crumbly instead, add just a splash of milk and mix that in until the consistency is right.

Dump out the dough onto a generously floured surface, and roll it out until it’s about a quarter-inch thick. If you have limited space for rolling, you can divide the dough into sections and work with each separately.

Now it’s the fun part, so get the whole family involved. Use your favorite cookie or biscuit cutters to cut out shapes from the dough and place them onto the parchment-lined pan. I decided to make all of mine a fluted round shape to be a blank canvas for decorating. However, this recipe works well for fun shapes too!

On the pan, these can be as close as half an inch apart, but should not be touching.  You can also reroll and cut out any scraps as many times as you want to get more cookies. However, don’t add additional flour if rolling the same dough again. Once you’ve worked with it, you shouldn’t need more anyway.

The raw cookie dough can be stored in the fridge for a couple days if you don’t want to roll it out immediately.  Allow it to come to room temperature before rolling. Rolled and cut raw cookies can also be stored in the fridge for a couple days. Bake these from cold, and just add one or two minutes to the baking time.

Bake these cookies for right around seven minutes. When they are ready, the cookies will appear dry and not doughy, but they will not be browned. Let them rest for just a minute or so on the pan, and then transfer the cookies onto a cooling rack. Roll, cut, and bake until you are out of dough.

How to Decorate Cut-Out Cookies

You can do whatever you want when it comes to decorating, but my favorite medium to use is traditional American buttercream. Some find it to be cloyingly sweet, but I actually love how that complements the flavors in these cookies.

To get started on the buttercream, you’ll be using your stand mixer again. Grab a new bowl, or clean the one you used for the cookie dough, and use a clean paddle attachment. Add the room-temperature butter into the bowl, and mix it on medium-low speed until it has visibly lightened in color, about five minutes.

Carefully add in the sugar with the mixer off, one cup at a time. Similar to adding the flour before, this can puff up and make a mess, so covering the mixer for the first few seconds is a good idea. Fully incorporate each batch of sugar before adding the next.

If it’s tough to mix at any point, you can add a splash of cream, which will help everything come together smoothly. Once all the sugar has been mixed in, add cream to reach your desired consistency. This buttercream should hold its shape but be easy to stir with a flexible spatula.

You can add food coloring all at once and use the mixer to incorporate it if you are making only one color. If you want multiple colors, divide the buttercream among smaller bowls and tint each separately. For bolder colors, if you add a lot of food coloring, this can also make your frosting softer, so keep that in mind.

If you don’t want to decorate everything all at once, the buttercream can be stored in the fridge in piping bags or in a sealed container. Allow it to thaw to room temperature before using it, so it’s easier to work with.

Decorate the cookies as you please, with pretty flowers, other piped designs, or just a simple swoop of spread frosting. You can also leave the decorating to whoever is eating them for an interactive treat.

The baked cookies, whether they are frosted or unfrosted can be stored in a sealed container at room temperature for a few days, or they can be frozen for a couple months.

Cookies that taste like bourbon, smothered in colorful buttercream? Yes, please! These brown sugar cut-out cookies are perfect for any occasion.

How to Serve Buttercream Cut-Out Cookies

These cookies are so pretty, I suggest just leaving a plastic-wrap covered plate out on the counter, and grabbing one every time you walk through the kitchen. If you let the cookies sit for a bit after being frosted, the buttercream will set, and get a hardened crust with a soft inside. You could also eat them immediately after piping for fully soft buttercream.

I’m an advocate of cookies for all meals of the day, but if you’re a traditionalist, dessert and snacks are the way to go. Try serving these with a cozy beverage, like chai white hot chocolate. Or stick with the colorful theme and pair them with a birthday cake martini.

If you love cookies, add these to your next spread. Fill out the dessert table with lemon curd sandwich cookies, persimmon rye thumbprints, and blueberry cheesecake cookies for a lovely rainbow of flavors.

Use Up Leftover Ingredients

Similar Treats to Try

Bourbon Brown Sugar Cut-Out Cookies with Buttercream

Midway between sugar cookies and gingerbread, these cut-out cookies have a subtle brown sugar and bourbon flavor and melt in your mouth texture, perfectly complementing colorful buttercream flowers.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Total Time30 mins
Course: Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: American
Servings: 50 cookies
Calories: 88kcal

Ingredients

Cookies

  • 1 Cup Butter
  • 1 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 Tbsp Bourbon or Whiskey see note for substitution
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Bean Paste or vanilla extract
  • 3 ½ Cups All-purpose flour
  • ½ Cup Cornstarch
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • 1-2 tsp Milk only if needed

Buttercream

  • 1 Cup Butter
  • 7 Cups Confectioners Sugar
  • ¼-½ Cup Heavy Cream if needed
  • Food Coloring as desired

Instructions

Bourbon Brown Sugar Cookies

  • Preheat the oven to 375°F with a rack in the center, and line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and brown sugar for the cookies until fluffy, about 1-2 minutes on low speed.
  • Add in the eggs, bourbon, and vanilla bean paste. Continue mixing on low to combine until smooth.
  • In a medium mixing bowl, add the flour, cornstarch, and salt. Whisk together until combined.
  • Add the flour into the mixer bowl with the butter. Use the beater to stir it in gently at first to prevent splattering. Then turn the mixer on low to just combine the batter, about 30 seconds. The dough should hold together. Only if it's crumbly add a splash of milk.
  • Roll the dough out on a generously floured surface until it's ¼-inch thick. You can divide the dough into sections if space is limited.
  • Use cookie or biscuit cutters to cut out shapes from the dough and place them onto the parchment-lined pan. These can be as close as half an inch together, but not touching. You can reroll and cut the scraps, but don't add more flour if rolling the same dough again.
  • Bake for 6-8 minutes until the cookies appear dry but not browned. After 1-2 minutes, transfer the cookies onto a cooling rack until cooled completely. Repeat for multiple batches as needed.

Buttercream Frosting

  • In a clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the butter. Mix on medium-low until lightened in color and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the sugar, 1 cup at a time, fully incorporating each batch before adding the next. If it's tough to mix at any point add a splash of cream.
  • Once all the sugar has been incorporated, add cream until you reach your desired consistency. It should hold its shape but be easy to stir with a flexible spatula. If you are spreading the frosting, it can be harder than if you are piping.
  • You can add food coloring all at once and use the mixer to incorporate it, if you are making only one color. If you want multiple colors, divide the buttercream among smaller bowls and tint each separately.
  • Decorate the cookies as desired, with pretty flowers, other piped designs, or just a simple swoop of spread frosting.

Notes

  • Bourbon substitute: Mix 1 tsp vanilla extract with 2 tsp milk to replace the 1 Tbsp of bourbon. 
  • Make ahead tips:
    • Cookie dough can be stored in the fridge for 1-2 days. Allow it to come to room temperature before rolling.
    • Rolled and cut raw cookies can be stored in the fridge for 1-2 days, and baked from cold (add 1-2 minutes) or frozen for 1-2 months and thawed before baking.
    • Baked cookies, frosted or unfrosted can be stored in a sealed container at room temperature for 3-4 days, or frozen for up to 2 months.
    • Buttercream can be stored in the fridge in piping bags. Thaw to room temperature to use.
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