Valentine Cookies {Connecting Through Traditions}


I’m a high-control mom. I’m working on it. More on that in a sec. First, a trip down memory lane.

Valentine’s Day is such a nostalgic time of year for me. When I think back to my childhood, one of the memories that stands out the most is our tradition of decorating Valentine sugar cookies with my mom. I loved it so much that, before we even had our daughter, I used to make special cookies for my husband each year.

Sure, we decorated sugar cookies at Christmas time too. But for some reason the tradition with my mom holds its place in my mind in February. Maybe it was a less stressful time of year for her as a single mom. It was a sweeter time for sure. I can remember my mom letting me help. She wasn’t one of those high control moms. Not concerned about my mess, Mom took the time to teach me how to decorate, without stifling my creativity. She wanted to connect with me.

To be honest, I could learn a lot from my mom in this category. Making a mess stresses me out. Well, more accurately, watching someone else make a mess I’m going to have to clean up stresses me out. And, things taking longer than they need to stresses me out. I think as moms we’ve all been there at some point with our kids; their “help” isn’t helping and ends up slowing you down or making more work.

Show of hands from all the moms whose love language is “efficiency.”

No? Just me. Great.

I often let my ideas about how I want things done get in the way of really connecting with my daughter. So, you can imagine why baking with littles might not be at the top of my list. But you know what? This year, I’m jumping in! If I want to carry on the tradition, in hopes that one day my daughter would have the same fond memories, I am going to have to lighten up, bring my patience, and just do the thing!

And that’s what we did.

We started out with my own hybrid recipe, combining the tried and true one I’ve used for ages, and tweaked it a bit to accommodate my daughter’s Celiac disease, using some pointers from another gluten-free version.

Roll-Out Sugar Cookies

In Mixer:

  • 1 3/4 cups powdered sugar 
  • 1 cup butter (unsalted)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Wisk Together and Add in:

  • 2 1/2 cups gluten-free flour
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)

Mix until dough ball forms.  Wrap and chill 3 hours.  Roll 3/16″ thick (try these rolling pin bands for even thickness) on wax paper or counter, dusting with powdered sugar to prevent sticking as needed.  Bake at 400° for 8-10 minutes until edges are slightly brown.

(Use an oven thermometer to make sure you’re at the right temp. If the butter starts to melt before the cookie sets, they will spread and you will be sad.)

Like most kids, my sweet girl just wants to be a good helper. At the ripe old age of 4, she’s a self-proclaimed big girl and needed a big girl job, so she got to run the mixer. 

When it was time to roll out the dough and cut the shapes, she was most excited for the unicorn cookie cutter. Valentine unicorns definitely didn’t fit my vision, “but hey,” I thought, “we’re bonding so let’s roll with it!” We put the shapes into the freezer for a few minutes, and then into the oven. Eight minutes later, we had our first sheet of yummy cookies awaiting their final touches.

This is my favorite part! The decorating! This year I decided to try my hand at royal icing for the first time. And you know what? I loved it. I have always been a fan of the textures I can get from a piping tip and a no-fuss can of frosting from the store. But there is something so serene about the smooth finish of the royal icing version. And it is super kid-friendly too, because they can just squeeze and let the icing flood the cookie. It is going to take some practice to get the consistency just right, but this technique will be in the cookie rotation from now on.

valentine cookies

In the end, we successfully baked and decorated a ton of Valentine cookies. Some were nice and neat, some were a little more “free spirited.” And the unicorns were eaten as soon as they were decorated.

valentine cookies

If anything, motherhood is an opportunity for growth. I’m learning to let go of my ideas about how things should be, and to embrace what is – perceived imperfections and all. In what areas can you let go a little bit in order to connect with your kids?



  1. I love this idea! I’ve never used Royal icing before but would love to give it a try, any suggestions for newbies to this type of decorating?!?

    • Hi Becca! I am a newbie, too! I just used powdered sugar, meringue powder, and water, and adjusted until I could work with it. I’m sure there are tons of different variations out there. I hope you find something that works great for you!


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