Paintbrush Cookies: a sweet heritage Christmas cookie recipe

girl painting cookies

Beautiful concentration during sprinkles application is a must.

Ah, the loveliness of making cookies

I spent a pleasant afternoon this week making Christmas cookies with my grandies. These weren’t ordinary cookies, but very special “Paintbrush Cookies” that my Mom made with my sibs and me when we were kids.

I’ve been desperately wanting to make these with some littles. Desperately. I’ve been embarrassingly nostalgic lately.

Why is it, gentle reader, that the older I get, the more goofy I get about my childhood memories, and the more I treasure all the things of my girlhood days?

A quick vocabulary lesson

(Gosh, is that a proper use of the word “goofy”? I’d better look it up. It wouldn’t do for a blog of this caliber to have inaccurate word usage.)

      1. North American
          *foolish or harmlessly eccentric.
          *unreasonably nostalgic
proper noun   
      2. Disney
           *name of enigmatical speaking cartoon dog, not to be confused with “Pluto”, the non-speaking        
                 cartoon dog of the same origin

That discovery in the thrift store

To wit: Recently I spotted an old Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook in a thrift store. (Gosh, the treasures in thrift stores never end!) When my eyes lit on this old cookbook, I felt that familiar ache in my chest. My heart skipped a beat. It was that pain of nostalgia, a longing for my girlhood.

Through some mysterious jolt in my poor memory, as I picked up the old book, I remembered that the recipe for Paintbrush Cookies was in it. In a heartbeat. (How did I remember that fact, when I forget so quickly why I’ve walked into a different room? *ugh*)

Then, another minor miracle happened–I turned right to the page that had that recipe on it. There wasn’t even a photo to catch my eye.

little girl making cookies

This one makes her own rules, in decorating cookies and in other areas too. 🙂

I wonder how many times I pulled Mom’s copy of that same cookbook out of her kitchen bookshelf and turned to that page. Making cookies and then *gasp!* actually painting them before they went into the oven was something that delighted all my senses then, and does now, still. Sugar cookies were always a treat, but the creativity involved in mixing up the “paints” and then applying them, with paintbrushes, to the cookies was a delight.

the Best Mom in the world

Mom made these cookies with us, of course. What parent, after all, mixes up “paint,” using a different custard cup for each color, rolls out cookie dough on the kitchen table, and then invites her littles to paint on cookies, for herself? And then, after the kids scatter, leaving the mess behind . . . spends the rest of the afternoon washing up the various cups and containers and paintbrushes? No parent, that’s who.

Mom did that sort of thing purely for the love of us kids. Such a generous act.

I’ve noticed the growing tenderness of my heart toward anything that I had or did as a girl, the farther I get away *cough* from those girlish days. I’ve noticed this phenom in my siblings, as well. (Also no longer spring chicks.)

Case in point: My brother recently built these Christmas decorations and installed them in front of his house. Our Dad built the same display when Mark and I were very little. I’ve wanted to make one of these sets myself for years.

house with Christmas display

I’m desperately jealous now. Desperately.

Here’s a photo of my Dad in his twenties, installing his set on the front of our house in Lincoln.

Man installing Christmas decor on his house

Dad was in his twenties when he made this display, from a plan in a Popular Mechanics magazine. He was a maker then, he is a maker still. I’m glad my Mom took this photo. It’s the only thing that documents the existence of this set of reindeer and Santa Clause. They were trashed in a move.


and the best Dad of course

Thank you, Mom and Dad, for raising us with such abundant love and care. And for going to the trouble to make Paintbrush Cookies.

And that brings us full circle to earlier this week, when I had the pleasure of making the same recipe, from the same cookbook, with my grandies.

hand decorating cookies

Sprinkles are a nice addition, too! No rules here.

The giddiness of making Christmas cookies

There’s no better fun in Christmas cookie baking than the process of mixing food coloring with egg yolks, and then painting on the cookies before you slide them into the oven.

The colors may fade a little in the baking, and all the hues are on the golden side (because: egg yolks) but they gloss up during the baking and it is really a fun process.

The cookies taste pretty good, too.

Life is a gift, is it not?

Especially when you have the freedom to pursue your own happiness. But I don’t have to tell you this, gentle reader. I think we’re in accord on these matters.

painted cookies

They are pretty after baking, too, and best eaten hot with a cold glass of milk! Yum.

Here’s the recipe, based on the one in the old Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook. You may want to invite some littles over to help you make these, or you may be lucky enough to have some living with you right now.

Anyway . . . It’s time to make Christmas cookies!

Paintbrush Cookies

What is more fun than making shaped cookies for Christmas? Mixing up paint and painting them too, before you bake them. Try this recipe and see!
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 12 minutes


  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1.5 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 2.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • and for the cookie "paint"
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/4 tsp water
  • food coloring, as desired


  • Mix thoroughly butter, confectioners' sugar, egg, vanilla and almond extract.
  • Blend in flour, soda, and cream of tartar.
  • Cover; chill 2 to 3 hours.
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Divide dough in half.
  • Roll each half about 1/4" thick on lightly floured board or countertop.
  • Cut into fun shapes.Place on lightly greased baking sheet.Paint designs with small paintbrushes and Cookie Paint.
  • Place on lightly greased baking sheet.
  • Paint designs with small paintbrushes and Cookie Paint.
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes or until firm and golden on the bottoms. Cool on wire racks. (Good with cold milk!)

girl painting cookies

Oh, gosh, I nearly forgot to mention . . . It’s just a few weeks until Christmas, and my Blog Shop is fully stocked with my Dad’s lovely French rolling pins, including this winsome pair, the “Mommy and Me” set, in three different woods. There are full-sized rolling pins, as well, naturally.

pretty cherry Mommy and Me set of rolling pins

“Mommy and Me” in cherry wood: pretty, useful, and they’ll last a lifetime! Click on the photo to learn more, or to order a set for yourself!

Christmas will be here before you know it!

And with Christmas coming, you may want to do a little shopping in my blog shop!? Everything is made by my own Dad–right here in Nebraska, natch’–and if you shop with me, you won’t have to worry about your purchases getting stuck someplace, like in a shipping container on a boat, say.  And you’ll be supporting a congenial old geezer woodworker, and my blog too, of course. 

Dad added these pretty Colonial butter knives to my shop this fall, too. What do you think? Aren’t they pretty?

Colonial wooden butter knives

New Colonial butter knives are in my shop too! Click on the photo to learn more!

I can ship any of these things out for another couple weeks, so jump in and do some shopping! I truly appreciate it.

Hooray! ‘Tis the season for gift-giving, for making cookies, eating cookies, and making memories. I’m so glad!


Pin it for later!


young girl painting cookies



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