Valentine Cookies

Every other third decade or so, I have an inexplicable urge to decorate sugar cookies. And then I do it. And then I remember why the last time I did it I swore off the practice entirely and vowed to stay upon the straight and narrow path of chocolate chip cookies from here on out. It’s all those little squirty bags and decorator tips and blops of icing everywhere and the high-powered food coloring that gets on your dishrag and the cookies that look nowhere near as good as they clearly ought to, given the amount of fiddly preparation that went into them. That’s the part that gets me down.

The cookies pictured above are the results of my own little baking spree. The cookies pictured at left are the ones which made me decide that it would be a good idea to make some Valentine cookies. Are you drinking in the discrepancy between the two photos?

Once, many years ago, back in the olden days, probably when I was fluffing my bangs into a swoop and spraying them put with White Rain, I saw a picture of some cast stone candlestick holders in a catalog. Don’t ask me why I was so taken with them – I was clearly not in the market for candlestick holders. I was pegging my pants and wearing Keds with no laces, not putting together my stylish Tuscan villa. (Actually, I take that back. It might have been more the Doc Martin era than Keds.) But nonetheless, I deeply loved those candlestick holders. And I figured that I could totally make them myself. That’s always been my downfall. More times than I can count. That nagging little voice that won’t shut up that says, “I’ll bet I could make that myself.”

My plan was to first sculpt one candlestick, make a mold, and then I could produce as many cast stone candlestick holders as I could ever want. Which at the time seemed like it would be really useful. (Rachel tries to distance herself now, and pretend  that she was a skeptical bystander throughout this entire episode, but I’m  convinced that she was deeply involved herself.) As far as it went, it was a good plan. But I was doubtful about my ability to produce  a truly round shape with clay since I didn’t have a potter’s wheel. And I had good reason to doubt my abilities – I believe there had been a major clay incident in my life only a short while before which ended in Mom’s kitchen having a skim coat of clay over every single surface and nothing of any value to show for it. (Not as bad of a mess, however, as the time Rachel and I decided to make some batik on Mom’s stove.) Anyway, on this project I felt I needed to think outside the box. Clay wasn’t going to work. What then? After racking my brain for a while, I came up with what seemed like an obvious solution. I’m sure you’ve thought of it already in fact. Spray foam.

Spray foam could be squirted right out of the can into a perfectly round shape . . . and I could keep building up layers until I had myself a nice neoclassical looking candlestick holder which could then be reproduced in cast stone form. What could go wrong?

Looking back on it, I can of course see a few flaws in my reasoning, beginning with the decision to sculpt with spray foam, and ending with my decision to sculpt with spray foam. Other than that though, it was a pretty good plan. I wish I had saved that valiant effort as a little reminder to myself, a little memento to pull out and gaze at whenever the mood takes me to start a project like this. The end result was sort of like a cross between a pancake and a muffin . . . but not a very symmetrical pancake-muffin. Sort of lopping over to one side and listing to starboard in a depressed sort of way.

This is how I feel about sugar cookies. In my mind I envision the beautiful stone candlestick holder – but in actual fact I am left with a spray foam muffin squash. In my mind, the cookies will turn out like the beautiful Martha Stewart picture, in actual fact we are left with something quite a bit less glamorous. If I had remembered this, I probably wouldn’t have whipped up these Valentine cookies this weekend – I would have just bought some thinking of you cookies online and called it a day.

On the other hand though, these cookies ended up tasting really good, which sugar cookies sometimes don’t. You know how they can be just kind of sickly sweet, with a weird acidic aftertaste? Well these don’t do that. They are really good sugar cookies, and the lemony frosting gives them a little pop of something more interesting.

So if you’re in the mood to sculpt a candlestick holder, try these instead. They may not look any better, but I guarantee they’ll taste better:

Sugar Cookies with Lemon Frosting:

3 c. flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. soda

1 tsp. salt

1 1/8 c. sugar

1 c. shortening

2 eggs

1/4 c. milk

1 tsp. vanilla.

Sift together all dry ingredients and cut in shortening until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Blend egg, milk, and vanilla together. Add to dry ingredients. Roll out, cut into desired shapes, and bake in a 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes.


5 Tbsp. meringue powder

1/3 c. water

3 Tbsp. lemon juice

4 cups powdered sugar

Beat meringue powder and water until stiff peaks form. Add sugar and lemon juice. Beat for 1 minute more. Add food coloring and frost your cookies.


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27 thoughts on “Valentine Cookies

  1. Your cookies look really good, but where are mine? I checked the mailbox in case you left them there. Nothing.

  2. I’m here enjoying your story. My 5 year old comes up and starts rubbing my back with the ‘knuckles’ plastic thingy. And as I scroll up the page, smiling, I hear my thoughts echoed in a 5yo voice, “Hey, those look REALLY good!!” Soak in the inflections. And then, “Can we make those?!” 🙂 Thanks for the recipe…and the fun story.

  3. you gals crack me up… I just made Lizzie’s from “sugar-o-rama” post, and they were pretty darn awesome too!

  4. The cookies look beautiful, Bekah. Really, I don’t think there is a way to make iced sugar cookies without all the fuss. But I bet the kids loved them.
    The spray foam candlestick story is very cute. You always make me smile.
    Happy Valenntine’s Day , Girls!

  5. Oh my goodness! I had this exact same experiance only with Christmas cookies! It was a solid week of sugar cookie stress madness. Everyone kept telling me the cookies looked so pretty and great but I couldn’t see it because in my mind was the picture of what I was trying to achieve. So now I get it- because the picture of your cookies looks absolutely beautiful!

  6. Beautiful creation! Now I just have to convert the recipe to gluten free ,and hope that they won’t crumble as I cautiously apply the frosting! I crave the REAL version above every year at this time!!

  7. Shortening is margarine or rather hydrogenated vegetable oil (white flora in UK) and meringue powder is primarily dehydrated egg whites mixed with corn flour. The cookies look beautiful and I’m a “I could make that” kind of girl so I’m going to give them a go with my girls this afternoon. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Sandy – are you in the UK? When we were living there, the closest thing I could find to shortening was Trex … and it was a decent substitute but created a lighter and fluffier result than shortening. Erika’s suggestion of white flora sounds much more informed – is that the same as Trex Erica? Also – on the meringue powder question, if you can’t find it you can substitute 3 egg whites and omit the water from the recipe, as long as you’re not squeamish about raw egg!

  9. Wendy,
    Rachel and I agree with you. In fact, I like the homemade look of hers more than the other ones! (And I wish I had one right now!)

  10. Your killin me! You do this! You say, “yes you can come over, but don’t look at my floors.” So what do I do, I look at your floors.

    It is the same with the cookies. I saw the first picture and thought “How impressive! I should do that for my kids. They would flip over those.” Next thing I know, your pointing to a prettier batch and showing me that “See, in fact, mine stink.” Cause yah, that other batch is beautiful, and perfect, and very Martha Stewart. Which in code means that some poor, low paid, girl worked for 15 hours on 1 doz. cookies while Martha screamed profanities at her incompetence.

    I, like yourself, get crazy pictures in my head of what something will look like when I am finished, and rarely does it. I see ALL the imperfections, and feel the annoying disappointment after all that work. But the rest of us ohh and ahh over your creations, so you must be meant to bear the disappointment alone. I feel ya sister.

    But I love that you share your perspective. God has given you such a fantastical sense of humor. I split my gut so often when I read your thoughts.

    Thanks for the recipe included, I am not going to hop on the crazy train, and see what kind of disaster I can come up with for tomorrow.


  11. I just bought a boat load of valentinsy colored sprinkles and have promised my kids we will decorate butter cookies this afternoon. I’ll show them your cookie image for inspiration.

  12. You are hilarious, and our Valentine’s Day cookies don’t hold a candle(stick) to the way yours look. Good thing I have just boys who only care about eating them. 🙂

  13. Your cookies look great! You shouldn’t compare them with the “perfect” ones. I have been in that same position so many times. Know what I did with my cookies? I made the frosting thin into a glaze and then I drizzled squiggly lines all over them. They’ll still taste good. I also don’t have any girls who like pretty things. My boys probably won’t even notice how they look, but they will enjoy eating them. =)
    LOVE the candlestick story!

  14. White flora looks just like crisco, so I assume that would be the equivalent of shortening in the UK. Thank you for putting that in about 3 egg whites because I was guessing 2 whites no water. We tried them out today and although mine look decidedly less professional than yours (my girls wanted to make pink and white ones exactly like your beautiful cookies), we had fun and they taste great. Some of the wonkiness of my hearts I’m sure is due to the fact that I used the margarine I had in my fridge rather than shortening and that I had to jimmy a heart shape by cutting and smushing a coke can. One must have heart shapes for Valentine’s day by any means darling. =) Thank you so much for the fun story and the tasty recipe.

  15. Okay, I just have to say- A friend and I got together today and put together our own little V-day party for our kids. We made these cookies. They tasted great! Love them!

    But-my idea to make many different wonderful colors of hot pink, powder pink, purple and red frostings, turned into a whole plethora of different shades of Mauve…or Salmon, I’m not sure which they looked more like, but NOT pretty, let me tell you.

    But man, do they taste good!


  16. Bekah, your cookies look amazing! I have never found a good sugar cookie recipe, but plan on trying this one for shamrock sugar cookies for St. Patrick’s Day 🙂

    Aunt Monica

  17. After meeting you several years ago, my dad came home to Bloomington and told me you and I needed to meet each other. He said we’d be great friends. I figured he was probably right, but didn’t have the opportunity to test his theory. After reading this post, I KNOW he’s right. I had a run-in with spray foam myself recently, and it ended in….well, I’ll just have to tell you the story sometime. I’d type it up right here and now, but I know I’d get finger-winded. And besides, first impressions are important, and after hearing that story you’d relegate me permanently to the ranks of “total imbecile.”

    Btw, I hear your husband is paying us a visit this week–care to join him? I swear we have room for you and all the chilluns.

    -Michal (Previously Bayly) Crum

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