Welcome to the sapphic table, a series of (hopefully!) unfussy seasonal recipes for your farmers market, your CSA bounty — or your grocery store. Today we’re making soft baked Christmas cookies with tie-dyed frosting and coquito, a Puerto Rican coconut rum punch.
My favorite holiday shirt started as a joke that I found online by one of those shops that stalks your Instagram. It’s one of those “designed to look vintage” thin, worn cotton shirts in a red color so pale it might as well be pink. In loopy, swirly 1950s-style font it reads “I Just Want to Watch Christmas Movies and Bake Cookies.”
I bought it right away because the algorithm will never be defeated. The truth is that baking Christmas cookies by well over the hundreds was my Christmas tradition for years, nearly a decade in fact. I’d test drive new recipes to launch in the months prior, and in the final week before the big holiday I’d narrow down to a half dozen finalists: peppermint brownies, cookie butter fudge, oversized cookies with sprinkles galore, delicate European varieties with subtle sweetness, you name it. Then I would find the cheesiest, cringiest Christmas rom-coms that Netflix could muster and I’d stay up all night getting to work.
I… do that less now. But there is always one cookie that I return to, a cookie that start to finish takes less than a movie to accomplish but the results are so impressive, so photo ready and will make everyone in your life light up with glee as they coo at the details, that it will appear as if you it took you all day to lovingly craft them. They will melt the instant they hit your tongue and remind you of those soft, brightly colored Lofthouse sugar cookies in every grocery store, but this time instead of a backtaste of slightly hard to place chemical coating your throat (hey no judgement said there at all, I love those cookies!) — you will only find the sweetness of vanilla.
This is, to me, the quintessential Christmas cookie. It’s the one my family asks for first every December. And then once I learned that for only one to two extra steps I could blow the decorations of those grocery store cookies out of the water by — gay gasp — TIE DYING THE COLORS?!? You cannot tell me that I’m not guest starring as a master chef on The Great British Bake-Off.
Funny enough, when I originally decided on this month’s recipe, it originally wasn’t about the Christmas cookies at all. I wanted to tell you about how long it took me to finally learn how to make coquito. Coquito is a delicious creamy coconut and cinnamon rum drink that is most often described as “Puerto Rican Eggnog” even though, confusingly, there are no eggs involved (I suppose its rare that eggnog these days has egg in it either? What’s the backstory on that?). Coquito and Puerto Rican Christmas are at this point, synonymous.
Are you really going to tell me that you don’t want melt in your mouth sugar cookies and cinnamon, coconut, and rum to wash it down with, right this very moment? Because I don’t believe you.
This specific Christmas cookie recipe with tie-dyed frosting is a Frankenstein of my creation from a few places. The cookie base comes from The Novice Chef’s Almond Meltaways (I substitute almond for vanilla here, since that’s what most people have on hand. That said if you have some almond extract on your shelf, feel free to switch it back! It’s delicious either way). The frosting recipe comes from Smitten Kitchen because Deb seems to be the only one who’s figured out how to make sugar cookie frosting hard enough to be able stack without making a mess, but soft enough to bite into without any distraction or teeth hurting. And finally, the “tie-dye” design originally caught me from Bon Appetite, though I streamlined the steps.
The Coquito recipe has existed in my notes app, tweaked and adjusted from year to year until I got it right, that I’m not sure of its origins? So we’ll just call it a “family recipe.”
Tie-Dyed Christmas Cookies and Coquito
Makes roughly 36 cookies, and I’m Puerto Rican — we only measure coquito in love
Ingredients for Christmas Cookies with Tie-Dyed Frosting
For the Cookies
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
For the Frosting
1 large egg white
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
A few drops of vanilla extract
Two food colors (choosing contrasting colors for maximum visual impact)
Sprinkles, if you wish
Instructions for Christmas Cookies with Tie-Dyed Frosting
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Coat a baking sheet with nonstick spray or line it with parchment paper (in this instance, I recommend the parchment paper). Set aside.
In a stand mixer, beat butter and sugar for four minutes. Trust me on this! It will feel like a long time, but the extended mixing will ultimately make for melt in your mouth cookies. The final mixture should be the texture of buttercream cake frosting. Add egg and vanilla extract, mixing briefly until combined.
Add flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix until combined. Now the texture should now be that of a soft dough.
On your prepared baking sheet, roll 1 tablespoon of dough at a time into small circle. Once all your balls have been made, lightly press into discs using the bottom of a cup.
Bake cookies for 8 minutes. These cookies will not look browned or cooked, but once again I am asking you to trust me that they are! Remember that we we soft, plush sugar cookies and a short baking time will help with that process! Remove cookies from oven and them rest on baking sheet for 5 minutes (this will allow them to use the residual heat to firm up and finish cooking). Then, remove off of cookie sheet to cool completely.
While your cookies cool, it’s time to make your frosting. Whisk egg white in a large bowl until it’s loose and frothy. Add 1 cup of powdered sugar, and whisk until smooth. Add vanilla extract and your last 1/4 cup of sugar — the frosting should be pretty stiff at this point, which is how you want it. This will allow it to harden on the cookie in a smooth sheet (which makes for easy stacking and packing!).
Split the frosting into three small bowls (you can just eyeball it, but save the slightly biggest amount to be left plain white).Take the two smaller amount bowls and, moving quickly, add in food coloring, start small and gradually add until the food coloring brightness is to your liking.
WHEW! Don’t give up! You’re almost there! Let’s assembly line! The frosting will continue to harden so, once again, moving efficiently is your key to success from here on out.
Put bowls of frosting next to cookies, and a flat even surface where the “dipped” cookies can eventually be placed (I just used my baking sheet). Get a small plate, this is where you will do your tie-dye.
Spoon roughly 1 slightly oversized teaspoon of white frosting into the center of your small plate. Drizzle 1 teaspoon of your first color, and 1 teaspoon of your second. You can drizzle in a loose pattern, but don’t go overboard, the cookie dipping process will do most of the work.
Gently press and slightly twirl the top of a cookie into frosting mixture (imagine a tie-dyed t-shirt as you go), then lift up and allow excess glaze to drip back onto the plate. Using a fork, pop any air bubbles on the cookie and swirl colors more if desired — but remember that less is often more!
Transfer cookie to your flat surface. Sprinkle with sprinkles (if using) while the frosting is still wet.
Repeat this process with 2 more cookies. The glaze will lose its swirly effect at this point, so add a fresh ½ teaspoon of each color into your dip mixture. Then start again with the next set of cookies.
If the colors in your mixing plate get too muddled, clean your plate entirely and repeat process, decorating cookies in batches of 3 until all cookies have been glazed. If frosting begins to stiffen too quickly while you’re still decorating, re-loosen with 1/4 teaspoon water at a time (a little goes a long way here) to thin the frosting until it’s back to its original texture.
Let sit cookies sit until the glaze hardens enough that you can tap it with your fingernail, then they are ready to be stored in an airtight container. Meanwhile, let’s make some coquito.
Ingredients for Coquito
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
15 ounce can cream of coconut (Yes in the can form is important, I grew up with Coco Lopez, if you don’t live in a Latine community you can usually find cream of coconut with liquor or piña colada mixes)
14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
13.5 ounce can coconut milk
12 ounce can evaporated milk
RUM OPTIONS: You ultimately want equal parts dark and white rum, up to 2 and 1/2 cups total to taste (ie/ 1 and 1/4 cup white and 1 and 1/4 dark, see *note for non-alcoholic modifications)
Clean glass bottle, for storage
*Note: Did you want to make a non-alcoholic version? To make virgin coquito, replace the rums with either more coconut milk or half-coconut milk and half-coconut water (or even just regular water)
Instructions for Coquito
Add all the ingredients into a blender. Blend on low for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the blender, then blend for an additional 1 minute on medium speed.
Taste for rum, add more until it’s to your liking (after each addition, re-mix coquito either by hand whisking or 30 seconds in the blender on low).
When you’re happy with the taste, gently pour mixture into the glass bottle of your choice. Cap your bottle and refrigerate for at least four hours.
You can store coquito made in the fridge for anywhere between 4 to 8 weeks. It’s not common, but also not unheard of, for the coconut fat to sometimes solidify in the refrigerator. If this happens just remove the bottle of coquito from the fridge set it out on the counter for 10 to 15 minutes minutes before serving, that allows the coconut fat to soften as it warms back up.
Give the coquito bottle a brief shake before pouring to mix the spices that will have settled. Serve cold and poured over ice.