Go Back
+ servings
Cookie tree made with snowflake cookies on a white plate

Christmas Shortbread Cookie Tree

Chocolate shortbread cookies frosted with royal icing and stacked into a cookie tree.
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 8 minutes
Total Time 53 minutes
Servings 30 cookies
Author Jenn


Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

  • 1 cup (227 g) unsalted butter softened
  • 2 cups (240 g) confectioner's sugar plus more for rolling
  • 1 large egg room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon bourbon
  • 1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups (375 g) all purpose flour
  • ¼ cup (25 g) dutch processed cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ½ teaspoon espresso powder


Chocolate Shortbread Cookie Dough

  • Preheat oven to 375 F (190 C) and line two cookie sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.
  • In a large bowl beat together softened butter and confectioner's sugar with a hand mixer. Start on low and increase to medium as the sugar starts to blend into the butter, about 2-3 minutes. Scrape bottom and sides of bowl with rubber spatula as needed.
  • Add the egg, bourbon, and vanilla mixing until distributed.
  • Using a medium bowl whisk together the sifted flour and cocoa with the baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, and espresso powder.
  • Mixing on low speed, spoon the flour mixture into the butter mixture until a cookie dough is formed. If it seems clumpy, just pat together with you hands to form a large ball of dough.
  • The dough should not be dry and crumbly, nor wet. But, a nice soft smooth texture that does not stick to your hands and packs well.
  • Divide the dough in half. Then wrap one half in plastic wrap and set aside.
  • Dust your work surface and rolling pin with confectioner's sugar. I find that flour dries out the dough, so I prefer to roll my cookies out on confectioner's sugar instead.
  • Shape cookie dough into a disc with your hands. Roll out to ¼ inch thickness.
  • Cut with the 5 gradual sized snowflake cookie cutters. Making sure to cut out 3 of each shape for your cookie tree.
  • Place cookies on baking pans spacing 1.5 inches apart.
  • Bake on middle oven rack for 7-9 minutes. Be careful not to over bake your cookies. Remove when the edges are a bit darker than the rest. (Yes, chocolate cookies are harder to tell, but they should be thick, well shaped and have a slight crinkle on the top). They will be slightly soft when warm, but firm as they cool. (8 minutes was the sweet spot for me)
  • Place pans on wire cooling rack for 1-2 minutes. Then carefully transfer cookies directly onto rack using a rubber spatula to completely cool.
  • Repeat with remaining half of cookie dough.
  • Pipe cooled cookies with royal icing in desired designs. Let icing dry and firm.

Assemble Cookie Tree

  • With the first set of cookies start with the largest snowflake first. Stack cookies from biggest to smallest, twisting them ever so slightly to keep the points from lining up.
  • You can use 3 of each size to create your tree. Or 4 if you aren't planning on making 2 duplicate trees.
  • Pipe royal icing onto the center of each cookie as you stack them to act as a glue to hold them together. You can also stack a few cookies, let them set and then move on to the next.
  • For the vertical "star" on the very top, use royal icing on the center of the last cookie then stand the little "star" upright to act as the tree topper.
  • Repeat with remaining cookies for a second cookie tree.