These simple Italian Butter Cookies require just 7 basic ingredients, less than 1 hour of your time, and make the perfect holiday treat!
Plain butter cookies have always been an obsession of mine, especially around the winter holiday time. They're simple, no-fuss cookies that melt in your mouth into buttery goodness each time! These Italian Butter Cookies require only 7 basic pantry ingredients for the cookie itself. They can be dipped in your favourite chocolate and topped with colorful sprinkles, or sandwiched with jam or Nutella!
Italian Butter Cookies are traditionally enjoyed during the holiday season or special occasions but I promise, these are perfect at any time of year! This simple recipe does not require any special cooking/baking techniques. All you need is a piping bag with a star tip, a mixing bowl, a refrigerator, an oven, and 1 hour of your time. These will be better than any store-bought buttery cookies and you'll be making them again and again over the winter months!
Ingredients and Variations
Butter - This is the most important ingredient for these simple butter cookies. Make sure to use good quality butter as this is what will give the ultimate taste to these cookies! Start off with softened butter, ideally unsalted.
Sugar - Use plain, granulated sugar.
Vanilla Extract - Although this is optional, the flavour will truly stand out with the addition of vanilla extract. Use high-quality vanilla extract. You can also use a tiny amount (about ⅛ teaspoon) of almond extract for almond flavoring (with or without the vanilla).
Egg Yolk - The trick is to use egg yolks (rather than a whole egg) to bind the dough. Use room temperature eggs if possible.
Flour - All purpose flour is perfect for these cookies. Always use a digital weighing scale to weigh flour to ensure an accurate amount.
Salt - To balance out the sweetness.
Milk - Just one tablespoon to thin the batter slightly (for easier piping). Use whole or semi-skimmed milk.
As a rule, you'll need ½ cup butter : ½ cup sugar : 1 egg yolk : 1 cup flour : (1 tablespoon milk) for these cookies.
For the topping, you'll need: melted chocolate (dark, milk, or white), some coconut oil, your favourite colored sprinkles, maraschino cherries, and/or jam (such as strawberry jam) or Nutella if you'll be sandwiching the cookies.
Equipment for Butter Cookies
For these Italian Butter Cookies, you will also need the following kitchen equipment:
- Stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (you can also use a handheld electric mixer)
- Large bowl - for mixing
- Spatula - to scrape off any ingredients from the side of the bowl
- Frosting/icing/pastry bag and open star pastry tip - this is the best tip to use for these cookies
- Large baking sheet and parchment/baking paper - to bake the cookies!
- Cooling rack - to cool the cookies before covering with chocolate
- Small bowl - to melt the chocolate
How to make Italian Butter Cookies
- Cream butter and sugar together in a mixing bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. You can also use a handheld mixer. Mix on medium speed for 1-2 minutes or until the mixture becomes pale and fluffy. Use a spatula to scrape any ingredient from the side of the bowl.
- Add the egg yolk and vanilla extract to the butter-sugar mixture. Mix well on medium speed until well-combined (around 2 minutes).
- Slowly add the flour mixture (flour and salt - make sure they're sifted and mixed). Mix on low speed until just combined. Do not over-mix. The cookie dough should be sticky and slightly thick. It should not form into a ball like for other cookies. If the cookie batter is too thick (for piping), mix in 1 tablespoon of milk to thin it slightly.
- Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper (you may need to use 2 large baking sheets). Transfer the cookie dough into a piping bag fitted with a large star tip. There are 2 ways in which you can pipe cookies. Either in a circular fashion (for round cookies) or lengthwise into 1½ to 2" long straight line segments for the long cookies (these are the more traditional Italian-style butter cookies and are ideal for sandwiching). Make sure to leave a space of 1" between each cookie.
- Next, you'll need to chill the cookie tray with the piped dough for at least 30 minutes (up to an hour). If you don't want your cookies to spread too much and to hold their shape, this step is very important - do not skip it.
Please note, just like all other cookies, these butter cookies will still spread a bit when baked (hence the need to leave a 1" space), but not as much as the typical cookie.
- Whilst the cookies are chilling, preheat the oven to 175°C (350F).
- Bake chilled cookies for 8 - 10 minutes. Make sure to watch the cookies as they bake, as they're very easy to overbake! You'll need to take them out of the oven as soon as the edges start to turn golden brown.
- The cookies will be soft when hot and will harden as they cool. Allow them to cool for 5-10 minutes in the baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before coating with chocolate.
- For the coating: melt your favourite chocolate in a small microwave-safe bowl. To melt the chocolate, heat it in a microwave at 20-30 second increments on high heat, and stir using a fork between each increment until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Add some coconut oil for a smoother chocolate covering.
- Dip the cooled butter cookies into melted chocolate (I used white and dark chocolate), transfer back to wire rack and top with rainbow sprinkles (or your favourite sprinkles).
Alternatively, you can spread jam (such as strawberry or raspberry jam) at the bottom of the longer cookies and sandwich using another cookie for sandwich cookies. You can also top round cookies with maraschino cherries!
Tips for the Best Italian Cookies
- Use room temperature ingredients
If you want the fluffiest butter cookies, make sure to use room temperature ingredients (butter, egg yolk, and flour). During the mixing step, room temperature ingredients traps more air, which expands and produces a fluffy cookie.
- Measure your ingredients correctly
The most common mistake in this recipe is inaccurate ingredient measurement, especially for the butter, sugar, and flour, which are the most important ingredients. The best way to avoid this is to use digital kitchen scales (which costs just as much or less than a set of measuring cups).
- Mix well
Mix the butter and sugar as well as the egg yolk very well before adding dry ingredients. Creaming the butter and sugar long enough ensures a fluffy texture and even distribution of sugar throughout the batter. Mixing the egg and butter mixture well will ensure that the fat in the butter and the water in the egg are thoroughly combined.
TIP: if you will be doubling the batch (and using more than one egg yolk), add one egg yolk at a time and mix well (1-2 minutes) after each addition.
Similar to other baking recipes, do not overmix the batter once you add dry ingredients. Note, that the cookie dough in this recipe will not come together in a ball like for other cookies, so overmixing will not help here.
- Chill the cookie dough before baking
Make sure to chill the piped cookie dough before baking - this is a very important step to prevent over-spreading of cookies and if you want these cookies to hold their shape.
- Do not overbake!
Butter cookies can be easily overbaked if not properly watched, so make sure to keep a close eye on them whilst baking. Even baking for an extra 30 seconds may cause these cookies to overbake! I personally find the 8 minute mark (give or take 30 seconds) as the perfect time but baking time may vary according to oven type and cookie size/thickness. You'll need to take these out of the oven as soon as the edges being to turn golden brown.
Store Italian Butter Cookies in an airtight container for 4-5 days at room temperature.
If making these in summer and coating them with chocolate, store them in an airtight container in a refrigerator (to avoid chocolate from melting).
Yes, these butter cookies freeze well for up to 4 months. Store them in a freezer-safe containers and place parchment paper between each one to prevent them from sticking.
Thaw overnight at room temperature before serving.
Butter is the most important ingredient (obviously!) for these butter cookies! Therefore, make sure to use high-quality butter, softened to room temperature, and ideally unsalted.
For accuracy, weigh butter using digital kitchen scales.
You can use any sprinkes for these cookies (in any form or color). Rainbow sprinkles (vermicelli or non pareils - round coloured ones) are perfect. For this recipe, sprinkles don't need to be bake-safe as they will only be used for covering the cookies after these have been baked.
If you're making these during the holiday season, go for Christmas-themed/colored sprinkles!
Other Cookie Recipes
Italian Butter Cookies
- 112 g unsalted butter softened (½ cup)
- 100 g granulated sugar (½ cup)
- 1 egg yolk
- ¾ tsp. vanilla extract
- 120 g all-purpose flour (1 cup)
- ¼ tsp. salt
- 1 tbsp. milk whole or semi-skimmed
- 150 g dark chocolate or white chocolate melted
- ½ tsp. coconut oil
- 4 tbsp. sprinkles
- Sift and mix flour and salt and set aside.
- Place softened butter and sugar in a large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy (1-2 minutes). Use a spatula to scrape any ingredients from the side of the bowl.
- Add egg yolk and vanilla extract and mix for another 2 minutes.
- Slowly add dry ingredients and mix until a semi-soft, sticky dough is formed. If the dough is too thick, mix in 1 tbsp. milk.
- Transfer cookie dough to a frosting bag fitted with the open star attachment. Pipe dough either in a circular fashion (for round cookies) or into 1½ to 2" long segments, leaving a 1" space between each one.
- Transfer baking sheet to refrigerator and chill for at least 30 mins (up to 1 hr). In the meantime, preheat the oven to 175°C (350F).
- Bake for 8-10 minutes or until edges become slightly golden brown.
- Allow to cool for 10 minutes in baking sheet (cookies will be very soft when out of the oven), then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely before coating with chocolate.
- Melt chocolate in a microwave safe bowl. (Heat for 30 second increments, stirring with a fork at each pause until chocolate has melted). Stir in coconut oil.
- Dip cooled butter cookies into melted chocolate, transfer to a wire rack, and top with sprinkles. Chill for 20 minutes or until chocolate has set.