Today, I’m sharing how to make gourmet decorated shortbread cookies.

Decorating cookies is a great way to express your individuality. It also reminds me that you have to treat the individual and not just the disease. It might sound like a tenuous connection, but for me, it’s very real.

Every person is an individual and treatments for cancer are becoming more and more individualized and more effective.

I made chocolate cheesecake pie in honor of my brother, who lost his fight with leukemia decades ago. And I make decorated shortbread cookies in honor of Lily, who is alive and thriving and (update) 5 years cancer-free!

For ease of browsing, you can find all my cheesecake recipes and my cookie and bar recipes in one place.

Gourmet decorated shortbread cookies (princess-theme) on plates.

For this post, OXO sent me a lovely box of supplies for making cut-out cookies. OXO is donating $100 to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer* for every blog post dedicated to this campaign during the month of September, including mine. Thank you OXO!

Fundraising for Cancer Research

Cancer is the worst. If you are a human being, I’m sure you know this, either through first-hand experience or through a family member’s or a friend or acquaintance’s journey.

I got to know cancer when my brother was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia back in 1996. Though we were ever-hopeful, his story ended exactly 2 1/2 years later.

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Cancer is one of those diseases that is so ubiquitous in our society that there are many rallying points. Walk-a-thons, bake sales, lemonade stands. People raising money at the grassroots level all the way up to huge corporate-sponsored fundraising, all with the goal of providing more money for more research to help find a cure.

An overhead shot of all colors of decorated cookies spread out on a baking sheet. Some say "Lily" or "Princess Lily," others have hearts, crowns or princess dresses on them.
Decorated shortbread cookies as individual as we are.

Fortunately, the search is bolstered by success stories. Stories of people who have beaten the odds. Stories of types of cancers that are becoming more and more treatable.

Knowing that a diagnosis of cancer is now about fighting for your life rather than waiting for your death. Cancer is no longer whispered about.

You can’t whisper an enemy away. You have to defy it.

Lily’s Story

Today I can share with you, with permission**, the story of one of my best friend’s children, a little girl named Lily who, after being diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia at the age of five underwent treatment for 2 1/2 years and is now fast approaching one year, post treatment.

Today, Lily is happy and healthy. She loves her mom and dad. She loves her grandmother and her cats and princesses. She is taking piano lessons and gymnastics. She’s a Girl Scout, and she is loving the third grade.

That she is here to do and be and love is a tribute, not only to the strength and care of her family, nurses and doctors, but also to the researchers who have worked tirelessly to make these types of statistics possible:

  • About 98 percent of children with ALL go into remission within weeks after starting treatment.
  • About 90 percent of those children can be cured. Patients are considered cured after 10 years in remission. (St. Jude)

Lily’s future is looking very bright indeed.

Collage of photos of Lily. Text reads "Lily's ALL Journey Diagnosed: August 5, 2011. Last Treatment: October 10, 2013. Currently: Happy, Healthy  and Loving the 3rd Grade!.

I do not know if OXO’s initiative, Cookies for Kids’ Cancer has directly impacted Lily’s treatment, but in all likelihood it has.

I know that the research they fund has directly helped many, many kids and families. They grant funds to five of the leading childhood cancer research facilities in the US with the goal of finding less toxic and more effective treatments.

This is huge, because kids need to be as strong as possible to fight cancer, and when the treatments make you feel horrible, it’s hard to fight.

Closeup of a decorated heart-shaped cookie with pale yellow frosting and white cursive writing that spells "Lily."
I used a dry paintbrush to brush luster dust on some of the cookies to give them a sparkle. It’s easy to do and makes your cookies look extra fancy!

The Folks at OXO Are Good Cookies

This fight is a personal one for the OXO family. Cancer doesn’t care who you are, or who your family is, or who they work for.

So when childhood cancer struck in the OXO family, they didn’t just sit back and hope for the best. They mobilized. They do great work year round, of course, but during September, Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, OXO is donating $.25 per sale of all their products labeled with this sticker:

CFKC Sticker

This is part of OXO’s pledge to donate $100,000 to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer.

September is winding down, but I bet you there are a ton of OXO products that you could use and would love, so get out there and get to buying!

OXO gadgets including 3 spatulas, a small offset spatula, measuring spoons, cookie cutters, and measuring cups.

Making Gourmet Decorated Sugar Cookies

Decorated shortbread cookies cut out in star shapes and decorated in different pastel colors.

Since I am partnering with OXO for their Cancer Awareness Month initiative, they were kind enough to send me a kit of Cookie Items.

I had three choices for the kind of kit: spritz, drop or rolled. Since I generally tend to shy away from cookies in general since they are pretty time-intensive, I decided to choose the most time and labor-intensive kind of cookie: rolled and decorated cookies.

Because if you’re going to make cookies for someone who has survived cancer, the least you can do is step out of your comfort zone just a bit.

I asked my friend Gail, the incredibly talented and generous cookie maven formerly of One Tough Cookie, to share a great recipe for rolled cookies, which she most kindly did (printed below). She also encouraged me in my decorating when I thought I wouldn’t be able to do them justice. Thank you, Gail!

I also found another sugar cookie from The Kitchn, Best Cut-Out Sugar Cookies. I made dough from each recipe, rolled them out between sheets of parchment and cut them out with my awesome new OXO cookie cutters: circles, hearts and stars.

I then used the great recipe for royal icing from Family Spice, flavoring it with a touch of almond extract and a couple of drops of orange oil.

Both cookie recipes are pretty spectacular.

  • The shortbread Gail shared is rich, buttery and has that nothing-else-like-it crisp/crumbly bite of shortbread.
  • The cut-out cookie recipe from The Kitchn barely spread at all, so the edges of the shapes were very crisp.
Decorated Halloween shortbread cookies.
I made the shortbread again to decorate for Halloween. Hooray for decorated Halloween shortbread!

I would highly recommend either recipe, although I suggest keeping the shortbread for yourself or for local giving, saving the sugar cookies for shipping since they are a bit sturdier from the addition of an egg.

The decorating itself took me hours and hours. And hours. I decorated each cookie along Lily’s favorite princess theme, and because no two cancers are exactly alike because no two people are exactly alike, I made sure that no two of my cookies were exactly alike either.

Each cookie is unique, just like we are.

A little girl with brown hair holding a heart shaped cookie decorated in pink frosting with "Lily" written in yellow.

How To Pack Decorated Cookies for Shipping

After all the icing dried, I packed up my decorated shortbread cookies really well and shipped them off to Lily, where they were Very Well Received indeed!

By packing them well, I mean:

  • Get a box big enough to hold a cookie tin with at least 2″ larger in all dimensions than the tin you’ll be packaging the cookies in.
  • Line the bottom of the box with 2 layers of large bubble wrap.
  • Line the tin with tiny bubble wrap along the bottom and around the sides. Pack the cookies in the tin as tightly as you can. On end if the tin is deep enough. Either way, you want to minimize the chance for the cookies to shift in shipping. If your cookies are very intricately decorated, you may want to place each one in an individual bubble wrap pouch before packing in the tin.
  • Place the tin in your bubble wrap-lined box.
  • Pack shipping peanuts or paper tightly around the tin and finish off with another layer or two of big bubble wrap.
  • Make sure you stamp or write FRAGILE on every side of your box.
A smiling girl eating a sugar cookie.

I am thrilled for my friend that her Lily is happy and healthy, and I don’t think that would have been possible even just ten or twenty years ago.

It’s all thanks to research funded from people and companies who care. Thank you, OXO, for being one of those companies.

Even if you don’t think you can decorate shortbread cookies or sugar cookies, I encourage you to give it a try. It was worth if for the smiles alone! And the cookies really are delicious!

Gear for Decorating Cookies

If you want to try your hand at decorating cookies, there are a few pieces of equipment I recommend. The cutters are very versatile, and you can use them for biscuits and scones as well as for cookies.

Food coloring is a must and luster dust is a great extra that you can brush on your cookies after they dry. And piping bags and tips help you easily define your designs. You will mainly be using a round tip for most decorating, but if you use a thicker icing that holds its shape, you can experiment with other tips.

And now I think it’s time to do some baking. You ready?

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buttery shortbread

Decorated Shortbread Cookies

Jennifer Field
Perfect cut-out shortbread cookies just begging to be decorated!
Recipe from the book Sarabeth's Bakery, page 225 as shared with my by Gail Dosik.
4.73 from 11 votes
Tried this recipe?Please give it a star rating!
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Additional Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Course Cookies and Bars
Cuisine British
Servings 3 dozen
Calories 122 kcal


  • 2 c unbleached flour
  • tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 sticks room temp butter
  • ½ c superfine sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • grated zest of 1/2 lemon


  • Whisk together the flour and sea salt. Set aside.
  • Beat butter, add sugar, vanilla & lemon zest & beat on med high til light & fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  • Reduce mixer to low add flour & salt in 3 additions.
  • Mix til combined, scraping down the sides as necessary.
  • Roll out into a rectangle & chill for at least 30 minutes.
  • Cut out and bake at 350F for about 15 minutes total, rotating pans from front to back midway thru baking.
  • Cool completely before decorating with your favorite icing. I used the Royal Icing Recipe from Family Spice. I flavored mine with 1/4 teaspoon almond extract and 3 drops of orange oil.

Did You Make Any Changes?


Yield will vary depending on the size of your cutters. If you are using a 2″ round cutter, you can expect to get about 48 cookies. Nutritional information is based on that size cookie without the icing.


Serving: 2cookiesCalories: 122kcalCarbohydrates: 12gProtein: 1gFat: 8gSaturated Fat: 5gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 20mgSodium: 72mgSugar: 4g
Keyword cookies, decorated shortbread cookies, shortbread cookies
Did you make this recipe?Please tell us what you loved!

**All photos of Lily taken by her Mom, Liz, and used with permission

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  1. What a beautiful story and those cookies look amazing! I prefer shortbread cookies to sugar cookies any day of the week. Can’t wait to try all of this deliciousness!

  2. Thanks for all you and OXO have done to find a cure for cancer! Treatments and cures have come a long way but there’s still so much more that needs to be done.

    I’m employed at a Comprehensive Cancer Center in a large city. The research that is being done is promising but unfortunately, not all of our genes are made the same. I’ve seen huge strides in cancer and get excited with every new study that crosses my desk. We are getting promising results and what’s even more promising is seeing Lilly, happy, healthy and munching on a delicious cook.

    Thanks, Jenni. You continue to amaze me in all that you do for EVERYONE!

    1. I think personalization of treatment might be a key, Sherry, although I am by no means an expert. I just think we’re all different and perhaps react to treatments in different ways. Hence the no-two-cookies-alike. 🙂

  3. Wonderful post and a beautiful little girl. For someone who stepped out of their comfort zone those cookies are incrediable looking.

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