Let's Sugar Cookies

James Beard

Author and Educator

One of James Beard’s greatest culinary influences was Jue Let, the Beard family’s Chinese cook. Beard often wrote that everything Let made, from simple rolls and breads to intricate Chinese dishes, was superb, and instilled in him a love and appreciation of a variety of gastronomic experiences. Among Let’s favorite holidays was Christmas, and these simple sugar cookies, which later became a specialty of Beard’s mother, were a staple of the season.


  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon mace
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  • Sugar for sprinkling


Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Cream the butter with the sugar, salt, and mace until light and creamy. Add the egg, heavy cream, and vanilla and stir until well blended. Sift the flour with the baking powder and gradually add to the mixture. Mix until the dough is slightly stiff.

Chill the dough for 15 minutes, divide into thirds, and let the remainder chill while you prepare the first and second thirds. Roll each portion to a 1/8” to 1/4” thickness and cut out the cookies with a cookie cutter of your choice. Brush the cookies with beaten egg white and sprinkle them with sugar.

Bake at 350ºF for 8 to 10 minutes, or until lightly golden.

Ice cookies and add any type of decoration. They have a delicious crispness. If you wish to vary them, you can sprinkle them with sugar and cinnamon and place an almond half on each one before baking. Then they are called sand tarts.


Three dozen 3-inch cookies