These buttery, melt-in-your-mouth Sugar Plum Fairy Shortbread Bites are super easy to make with no rolling or cutting out and make a delicious, quite magical gift with the free printable labels!
The inspiration for these Sugar Plum Fairy Shortbread Bites came from a Café follower. She made our Leprechaun Shortbread Bites, a recipe that we posted back in March to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. After requesting and receiving the Leprechaun gift labels, she sent the following email:
"Any chance that you could swap the leprechaun on the label for a fairy and replace the word leprechaun with fairy, as well. I would love to make your shortbread recipe in pink and hand out little boxes of fairy shortbread bites."
It was a brilliant, super fun idea, so I ran with it. Thanks, Nora!
I loved the name Fairy Shortbread Bites but decided to elaborate a bit more and call them Sugar Plum Fairy Shortbread Bites. I thought the name might conjure up mythical, magical imaginations of charming pink-winged, sugar-kissed nymphs sprinkling enchanting fairy dust on each delicious little bite!
A pretty pink glaze
I love adding a new twist to recipes so I decided to include an optional glaze for these shortbread bites. The glaze is super simple and one that I've used over and over to glaze other shortbread recipes, like these Easy Decorated Shortbread Cookies (aka A Snowy Night in the Mountains Cookies). The easy glaze involves simply combining powdered sugar, half and half (or milk), vanilla and a drop (pink in this case) of food coloring. Stir it all up and you're all set to glaze away!
Delicious, with or without
Although the glaze adds a wonderful sweet coating and beautiful presentation, you can also make these Sugar Plum Fairy Shortbread Bites without the glaze. Just add a few drops of pink food coloring to the softened butter when making the dough and top with extra sprinkles before the first chill.
Then, when the cookies roll out of the oven, you're done! Those of you who have already made our Leprechaun Shortbread Bites know that they're delicious, even without the glaze!
No rolling or cutting out
The recipe is so easy you'll be surprised that you can have such delicious results with such minimal labor. Start with a bowl of nice soft, butter (tips below on how to easily soften butter) then stir in a scoop of sugar. Add vanilla, salt and a few cups of flour and stir it all together until the flour is gone and the dough is crumbly.
Press the dough into a foil-lined 9-inch square pan and chill it to firm up the dough. Remove the dough from the fridge, cut it up into one-inch squares and chill one more time right on the sheet pan. I love that there's no rolling or cutting out as with lots of other shortbread cookies.
It will take right around 15 minutes for the buttery little shortbread bites to bake and they'll be ready for the pretty glaze. To make the glazing step super clean, we took a few process pictures (below).
Start out with the simple icing. You want it fairly thick, but definitely spoonable. Transfer the icing to a shallow bowl and have a cooling rack nearby.
Place 3-4 of the shortbread bites in the bowl and spoon the icing over each one to submerge. Using a fork, lift one bite up and let the excess icing drip off.
Wipe the fork on the side of the bowl, then transfer the glazed shortbread bite to the cooling rack. Repeat with the remaining cookies.
Sprinkle each one with some of the pretty nonpareils and you're done! Then just give the glaze time to harden. It will take 3-4 hours. Flip them over and give the underside a chance to harden and they're ready to give away!
The BEST gifts
Need a fun gift for a family member, neighbor, friend, co-worker, hairdresser...?
A little bag or box of these Sugar Plum Fairy Shortbread Bites will be sure to delight and bring a bit of magical joy to an ordinary day. I'm offering a PDF for a free printable label (as requested by Nora) that can be easily attached to gifts.
To receive these labels simply scroll to the bottom of this post and leave us a comment letting us know that you like them. We will email them to you with instructions on how to print them.
Whether you chose to glaze... or not, these magical Sugar Plum Fairy Shortbread Bites will delight kids of all ages! Make a batch as soon as possible, you'll have lots of happy partakers!
Cafe Tips for making these Sugar Plum Fairy Shortbread Bites
- Because this recipe doesn’t call for a mixer, you want the butter to be nice and soft. You can leave butter sit out at room temperature to soften but if the air is chilly it won’t get soft enough. Here are a few easy tricks for softening butter.
- You can soften the butter in the microwave at a 10% power level. It works like magic. You’ll need to experiment a bit with your microwave though, as they’re all different. Start with 1 minute. Add 20 to 30-second increments until you learn how long your microwave will take to get the butter nice and soft, but not melted.
- Another technique I often use to soften butter is to put it in the microwave for 30 minutes to an hour with the light on. To keep the light on in the microwave I put a folded paper towel in the door. Don’t leave it in there too long though. I forgot about it a few days ago and was amazed when I opened the door and found a plate of melted butter!
- Boil a cup of water in the microwave for 3-4 minutes and get things nice and steamy. Leave the water cup in the microwave, add the butter and close the door. The warmth from the steamy water will help to quickly soften the butter within 20-30 minutes.
- Cutting the butter into small pieces helps it soften quicker.
- Put the butter in the oven with the light turned on. This will take 1-2 hours.
- The fastest way to soften butter is to put cold butter in the microwave for 10 seconds. Turn it to the opposite side and microwave for another 10 seconds. It might be ready at this point, but if it’s not completely soft, add one or two more 5-second stints, turning the butter each time. Don’t walk away when using this option or you’ll have the prettiest puddle of melted butter you ever saw.
- Feel free to skip the glaze if desired. The cookies will still be delicious!
- If you are using the glaze, the recipe calls for half and half. Half and half, for those of you living outside of the U.S., is an American convenience product often used for coffee. It's simply a mixture of half milk and half heavy cream.
- If you prefer to use a mixer, go for it! You won’t need the butter to be as soft.
- There are several pan options for making these Sugar Plum Fairy Shortbread Bites and your choice will determine how thick the final shortbread squares are. I usually use a 9×9-inch baking pan which results in a nice thick shortbread as pictured above. You can also use a 9×13-inch baking pan which will yield thinner (and more) squares. We love it both ways.
- These Shortbread Bites make a delicious and easy dessert served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of this Best Ever Hot Fudge Sauce or this Ridiculously Easy Raspberry Coulis.
- As mentioned above these delicious shortbread cookies make a really fun gift. I like to put them in a little cellophane treat bag then tuck the bag into one of these pretty gift boxes. Add a label (see above) and you’ve got a delightful gift that anyone would love!
- A 1-inch wide plastic ruler makes it a breeze to score and cut these Shortbread Bites.
- Normally, I like to line my sheet pans with parchment paper for easy clean-up, however, it seems that skipping the parchment with this recipe keeps the dough from spreading in the oven.
- If you're in the market for sheet pans, I love these OXO Good Grip pans. I've gone through lots of sheet pans over the years. These are definitely my favorites!
Thought for the day:
As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
What we're listening to for inspiration:
If you enjoyed this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review! It’s so helpful to other readers to hear your results, adaptations and ideas for variations.
- 1 cup very soft butter
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ teaspoon almond extract
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract.
- a few drops of pink or red food coloring (I use liquid food coloring) optional
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons multi-colored nonpareils I used a combination of turquoise, white and several shades of pink. Use whatever color or colors you like!
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 6 tablespoons half & half maybe more
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ⅛ teaspoon almond extract
Heat oven to 325°F. Line 9-inch square baking pan with foil, leaving a 1-inch overhang on 2 sides. Spray the foil and sides of the pan with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
Combine butter, sugar and extracts in a large bowl. Stir until creamy and well combined. Add the pink food color, if desired, just a drop at a time until the desired color is achieved. (If glazing, I use a drop of pink food color in the glaze rather than in the dough itself. You can omit the food color altogether, if desired.)
Add the flour and salt. Stir with a sturdy spatula or wooden spoon until all of the flour is incorporated. The mixture will be crumbly. Stir in the nonpareils. leaving 1-2 teaspoons for the top.
Transfer the dough to the prepared pan and pat it to an even layer. I like to use the a flat bottom glass or a metal hamburger spatula to help pat and even out the dough. If you’re going to skip the glaze, sprinkle the reserved nonpareils evenly over the top of the dough and press gently to help them adhere. If you choose to use the glaze, set aside the reserved nonpareils until after glazing.
Refrigerate for 10 minutes then use the foil to lift the dough from the pan onto a cutting surface. Cut the dough into 1-inch squares. Place squares 1-inch apart onto 2 ungreased cookie sheets; discard foil.
Refrigerate again for at least 30 minutes and up to 12 hours.
Bake on the center rack for 13-18 minutes or until bottoms just begin to brown. Transfer to a cooling rack and cool completely. Repeat with the second pan of cookies. Store in an airtight container.
Combine all glaze ingredients in a medium-size bowl and whisk until nice and smooth. The glaze should be fairly thick but spoonable. If it seems too thin, add a little more powdered sugar. If it’s too thick add more half and half, a few drops at a time until desired consistency is reached. (See the picture above in the post.)
Transfer the icing to a shallow bowl. Add 3-4 of the shortbread bites to the bowl and spoon the icing over each one to completely coat.
Using a fork, bring one of the shortbread bites up out of the icing and allow the excess icing to drip back into the bowl. When most of the extra icing has dripped off, wipe the bottom of the fork against the side of the bowl then transfer the cookie to a cooling rack and sprinkle with nonpareils. Repeat with remains shortbread bites.
Allow the icing to completely dry. It will take 3-4 hours (maybe longer). When you touch them the icing should feel hard and dry. When the icing is dry, flip the cookies over and let sit until the bottoms are also nice and dry.
Once the glaze has set, the shortbread bites can be stacked on a plate or platter or packed in bags or boxes to be given as gifts. If giving as a gift, I like to place the cookies in a plastic or cellophane bag and secure it with a twist tie to keep them fresh.
Store in an airtight container. These cookies can also be frozen. When ready to serve, remove them from the freezer and thaw in a single layer.
See Café Tips above in the post for more detailed instructions and tips.