Birthdays used to be a big deal. Now they’re markers of time. I used to dread the idea of getting older. But when my mother was in her last phase of illness she told me to think positively about it – there’s only one alternative. I’m lucky – in many ways – but in particular, I share my birthday with International Women’s Day. I get to celebrate something bigger than myself – and that focus on a day of celebrating the empowerment of women everywhere makes the birthday so much happier to me.
I come from a family of strong women. One grandmother survived the holocaust with a very young family, walking kilometers a day to get them milk and bartering what little she had for food to get them through. Once in Montreal she fought to ensure that they all thrived. My mother fought cancer for 15 years, through more surgeries and treatments than most people would be willing to tolerate.
I have an aunt who always was, and will be my second mother. A sister who supports all of our crazy, and two young nieces (and the best nephew EVER) I want to grow up to be the best, happiest humans.
To celebrate my day, to welcome in the next 365, to set the tone for the year and to put that in motion, I spent the day with these women. My littlest niece declared no boys allowed, but then made a few exceptions (because certain boys don’t count). We danced, chatted, shared and laughed. A lot. And we decorated. And colored. And made a huge mess. Because a birthday should be a celebration and a welcoming in of another year of fun and blessings for all.
The recipe for the cookies is my personal favorite – no fail, can be frozen until needed, and comes together in 5 minutes. I added a cup of colored sprinkles to the dough. Happy celebrating!
Adapted ever so slightly from NYT Cooking (Susan Spungen’s Basic Sugar Cookies):
- 2 1/2 cups (320 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup (225 grams) unsalted butter, softened
- 3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup sprinkles – optional
In the bowl of a standing mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add egg and vanilla and mix to combine. Add 1/2 flour, mix to incorporate then add baking powder, salt and remaining flour and mix until well combined. Add sprinkles and mix just to combine.
Scrape dough out of mixer and pat into flattened disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour or freeze until needed.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut 2 large sheets parchment paper. Flour 1 sheet lightly then place unwrapped dough on flour. Sprinkle top of dough with light dusting of flour and cover with second sheet of parchment. Roll dough to 1/4 inch thick. Use cookie cutters to cut shapes, rerolling dough on floured surface as needed. Freeze cutout shapes until needed (if not using right away) or about 10 minutes to prevent spreading. Transfer cookies to parchment-lined cookie sheets and bake 12-14 minutes until just colored at edges. I like 12 minutes – the cookies don’t appear done but will firm as they cool.
We spent the day decorating with edible markers, colored sugar, candy-coated chocolate pieces, licorice and colored dragees. All stuck on with a royal icing glue. My favorite go-to royal icing is from Sally’s Baking Addiction. If you use meringue powder, there’s no need to worry about raw egg whites with young children.