Iced Vanilla Shortbread Cookies

Iced Vanilla Shortbread Cookies are egg free, nut cookies with an easy glaze that can be colored or painted to fit any occasion. A quick egg free icing that is so much easier and faster than royal icing but can be decorated in so many ways. These mini cookies are perfect for tea parties!

Iced Vanilla Shortbread Cookies shaped as stars

When my girls were very little, I belonged to a Mothers of Preschoolers, or MOPS, group. One of our meetings was a Tea and Testimony meeting where we had an adult tea party. My friend brought some tiny iced shortbread cookies to the tea party. They were so delicious! Once I got her recipe, I made them for my next Tea Party for Kids.

Iced Vanilla Shortbread Tea Cookies with brownie bites on a serving platter

One thing I noticed about the recipe was that it does not contain eggs. Many shortbread recipes, including these Espresso Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies, are egg free, but these also have an egg free icing. The icing forms a nice, smooth surface that got me thinking about ways I could decorate it.

iced cookie on a white plate

This icing is so much easier than royal icing. I love making royal icing cookies, but they take a long time to make. I know they can be intimidating to people who haven’t made them before, and most designs require an investment in piping bags, tips, couplers, and more. Furthermore, royal icing is made with meringue powder, which contains eggs, so if you’re baking for someone with an egg allergy, traditional royal icing is not an option.

Iced Vanilla Shortbread Cookies decorated as hearts

I am sharing in detail how to make these Painted Watercolor Cookies in a separate post, where I include how to paint on luster dust and how to easily write in calligraphy on the cookies. I am happy to have an egg free option for decorated cookies!

Recipe Details

Iced Vanilla Shortbread Cookies ingredients

This is a very simple cookie dough with less sugar than a typical shortbread cookie because they will be iced with a sweet icing. The flour and salt are sifted together. The butter is creamed with the sugar and then the flavoring is added. I chose to use vanilla bean paste, but you can flavor it any way you want.

shortbread cookie dough


My sister and brother in law gifted us this Trader Joe’s vanilla bean paste for Christmas. I’ve never used vanilla bean paste but have always wanted to try it!

bottle of vanilla bean paste from Trader Joe's

Vanilla bean paste can be used interchangeably with vanilla extract. If you don’t have vanilla bean paste, you may use vanilla extract or almond extract.

Rolling the Dough

When I make roll out cookies, I use two 1/4-inch wooden dowel rods on each side of the dough and roll until the rolling pin hits the rods. I started this technique when making the Monkey Face Cookies years ago. This ensure even thickness and a smooth cookie surface. You can use a rolling pin with guides instead.

cookie dough rolled out

The dough is cut with mini cookie cutters, around 1-inch wide. My heart cookie cutter is a little larger than I like to use for these cookies, but they turned out good. I also made some mini stars and mini butterflies.

cookie dough with heart cookie cutter

The cookies are baked on a parchment lined baking sheet.

heart cookie on a parchment lined cookie sheet

The cookies cool on the cookie sheet for a few minutes, and then are transferred to the cooling rack to cool completely. While the cookies cool, make the icing.

cookies on a cooling rack

Making the Icing

This is a simple icing made with powdered sugar and milk. I flavored mine with vanilla bean paste, but you can use any flavor of extract, including vanilla extract or almond extract. These taste really good with almond extract! You can use imitation almond extract if baking for someone with a nut allergy.

vanilla bean icing ingredients

The consistency of the icing depends on your preference and whether you’ll be decorating the cookies. When I made these cookies plain, I made the icing thinner so it was more like a glaze. This time, I wanted to paint the cookies so I made it a bit thicker. You can adjust the consistency by adding a small amount of additional milk or powdered sugar depending on whether it needs to be thinner or thicker, respectively.

vanilla bean icing

If you won’t be icing the cookies immediately, make sure to cover your icing so it doesn’t form a crust on top or on the sides.

Coloring the Icing

I chose to use white, uncolored icing and then paint it after it set so that I could do many different colors and patterns. If you want to keep it simple, just add food coloring liquid or gel directly to the icing. That will save you the step of painting the cookies. You can still add dry or liquid luster dust on top after the icing has set if you’d like.

Icing the Vanilla Shortbread Cookies

First, line a cookie sheet or a work surface with a piece of parchment paper or waxed paper and place a cooling rack on top. The paper will catch the drips of icing and simplify clean up.

vanilla icing in a bowl next to cookies on a cooling rack

Make sure to give your icing a gentle stir in case it has separated at all. Then, dip the surface of each cookie into the glaze, and set it on the cooling rack to allow the excess icing to run off.

cookie face down in a bowl of icing

Alternatively, use a small silicone pastry brush to apply the glaze to the surface of each cookie. At this point, you may see bubbles on the surface of your icing. Use a toothpick to pop the bubbles right after the icing is added while it is still wet. If the icing is uneven, you can move the cookie from side to side to help even out the surface of the icing. Allow the icing to set completely. Decorate if desired.

iced and not iced cookies on a cooling rack
iced cookie on a cooling rack
iced cookies on a cooling rack

While the icing is still wet, you can sprinkle sanding sugar immediately on top. This creates a uniform look on the surface of the cookie. I love how the rose gold sprinkles sparkle!

Iced Vanilla Shortbread Cookies with sparkly sanding sugar

Decorated Shortbread Cookies

For details on how I decorated these shortbread cookies, see my Painted Watercolor Cookies. I include how I painted on luster dust (pink luster dust and gold luster dust) as well as how I painted the cookies with pink food gel. I also did some with rose gold paint that were so pretty!

iced cookie on a white plate

For my daughter’s Nutcracker Sweet Birthday Party, I glazed the shortbread cookies with this simple icing and then piped on snowflake details with royal icing.

iced vanilla shortbread cookies snowflake cookies

I also made some smaller cookies that I sprinkled with sanding sugar sprinkles to make some pretty star cookies. The other stars were painted with gold luster dust.

iced vanilla shortbread cookies with sanding sugar

These Wizard of Oz cookies were made the exact same way as the stars.

Iced Vanilla Shortbread Cookies Wizard of Oz Cookies

These adorable Bunny Peep Cookies were made by sprinkling Wilton Sanding Sugar onto the wet icing. Once set, I used black icing with a small round piping tip for the Bunny Peep faces and white icing with a small star piping tip for bunny tails.

Iced Vanilla Shortbread Cookies Bunny Peep Cookies

Marbled Cookies

Here is another technique to make a marbled pattern on the surface of the cookie. Drop liquid food coloring into a bowl of icing, swirl with a toothpick, then dip the surface of the cookie into the icing. Let icing run off. This creates a fun marbled look on top.

Marbled fall leaf cookies

These Marbled Fall Leaf Cookies are so pretty! If you like these, you can also check out my Painted Fall Leave Cookies and Fall Leaf Sugar Cookies.

Marbled fall leaf cookies

These Marbled Star Cookies are perfect for summer holidays!

Marbled Star Cookies

Gluten Free Iced Shortbread Cookies

To make these cookies gluten free, substitute a gluten free baking flour in place of all purpose flour, such as Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1 to 1 Baking Flour. The cookies will be much more fragile than when made with all purpose flour, so be extra careful taking them off of the cookie sheet. To add the glaze, you’ll want to carefully brush it on or pour it over the top rather than picking up the cookie to dunk in a bowl of glaze. The cookies will have the same delicious flavor but will be more crumbly than when made with AP flour. This is often the nature of gluten free cookies.

Iced Vanilla Shortbread Cookies Pin

Looking for More Tea Party Recipes?

My Tea Party Ideas for Kids post has an exhaustive list of tea party drinks and food broken down by category. Some ideas include Classic Cream Scones, Dark Chocolate Chip Scones, Turkey Cranberry Tea Party Sandwiches, and Fancy Hot Chocolate.

Check out these other Cookie recipes:
Roll Out Sugar Cookies
Nut Free Linzer Cookies
Soft Frosted Sugar Cookies
Browned Butter Sugar Cookies
Citrus Glazed Butter Cookies
Christmas Butter Cookies
Chewy Oatmeal Cookies
Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
Graham Cracker S’mores Cookies
Dark Chocolate Covered Cherry Cookies
Thick and Chewy Double Chocolate Cookies
Santa’s Whiskers Cookies
Nut Free Linzer Cookies
Coconut Macaroons
Snowflake Gingerbread Cookies
Brown Sugar and Spice Winter Mitten Cookies

See all of my Royal Icing Cookies HERE.

iced vanilla shortbread collage

Iced Vanilla Shortbread Cookies

Iced Vanilla Shortbread Cookies are egg free, nut cookies with an easy glaze that can be colored or painted to fit any occasion. A quick egg free icing that is so much easier and faster than royal icing but can be decorated in so many ways. These mini cookies are perfect for tea parties!
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 7 dozen (or more) mini cookies


  • two 1/4-inch wooden dowel rods or rolling pin guides
  • small cookie cutters
  • toothpicks


For the Cookies:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter, softened (2 sticks)
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste, vanilla extract, or almond extract

For the Icing:

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste, vanilla extract, or almond extract
  • food coloring liquid or gel (optional)


Make the Cookies:

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt. Set aside.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl using a hand mixer, cream the butter. Add the sugar and beat until well blended.
  • Add the vanilla bean paste or extract of choice and mix until well combined.
  • Slowly add the dry ingredients until just incorporated.
  • Roll dough out on well-floured surface to a thickness of 1/4-inch. You may use wooden dowel rods set up as guides for the rolling pin or rolling pin guides that slip onto the ends of the rolling pin to achieve even rolling thickness.
  • Use small cookie cutters to cut out the dough and place on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Bake for 5-7 minutes, depending on the size of the cookies, until baked through but not brown.
  • Remove cookie sheet from the oven and allow cookies to cool for 1 to 2 minutes before removing them to a wire rack. Allow cookies to cool completely. Meanwhile, make the icing.

Make the Icing:

  • Mix together the powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla bean paste or extract of choice. If necessary, add more milk or powdered sugar to achieve a dippable consistency.
  • Add food coloring liquid or gel if desired.
  • Store in an airtight container until ready to ice the cookies.

Ice the Cookies:

  • Place a wire rack over a parchment or waxed paper lined cookie sheet or work surface.
  • Gently stir the icing to make sure it's fully mixed.
  • Dip the top surface of each cookie into the icing and place the cookies on the wire rack to allow excess icing to drip off. Alternatively, use a silicone pastry brush to apply the icing to the surface of each cookie.
  • Use a toothpick to pop any bubbles on the surface of the icing immediately after dipping.
  • Allow icing to fully set up. Store the cookies in a single layer in an airtight container at room temperature.
  • Once the icing has set, it should be smooth. It can be painted with luster dust or food coloring gel diluted with everclear or vodka, see note.


For painting icing with luster dust or color:  Dissolve dust or food coloring gel in drop-wise amounts of a high proof alcohol such as everclear or vodka. Mix well with a food grade paint brush. Touch brush to the side of the mixing container to allow excess liquid to run off.  Carefully paint the surface of the icing.  Allow to dry completely.  Do not stack cookies.  
FULL DETAILS for painting cookies under Painted Watercolor Cookies
Source: Adapted from a recipe by my friend Molly P.
You’re Gonna Bake It After All
Keyword cookies, dessert, egg free, gluten free, holiday

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