Homemade Circus Animal Cookies

Published April 6, 2016. Updated March 11, 2019

This post may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure policy.

Any day is a good day for Homemade Circus Animal Cookies! Bring on the sprinkles! My kids thought these frosted circus cookies were basically the greatest thing ever, and they were so excited to help decorate them (theirs aren’t pictured here though because they piled on so many sprinkles you could hardly even see the icing. They joy of being a kid).

Homemade Circus Animal Cookies on a red plate

The Best Circus Animal Cookies

I couldn’t believe how much better these frosted animal crackers were than the store-bought version. I mean, I set out to make a good cookie, but these exceeded even my expectations.

These circus animal cookies are deliciously buttery — definitely something the store-bought version lacks — and they have a real vanilla flavor to them (plus I love the hint of flavor from the almond extract I added). They are also more tender and have more of a melt-in-your-mouth bite to them, and best of all they don’t have that off flavor (I’ve never liked that about the store-bought version, not sure if it’s a preservative or what).

My husband and I loved these frosted animal cookies just as much as our kids did, so I know these are going to be something we’ll make again and again.

They are such a fun treat for just about anything (tint any color you’d like) or anyone, because who doesn’t love iced animal cookies? I love making homemade versions of classic childhood favorites, people always go crazy for them (have you tried my recipe for Homemade Oatmeal Cream Pies yet? Love those!). Plus, fresher is just always better.

I tested these circus cookies with two types of icing, the first is a creamy glaze that hardens and the second is probably more similar to that of the original version — but I loved both so I listed both.

Just use what you have, then try the second option the next time and see which you like best. Happy baking!

Homemade Circus Animal Cookies on red plate next to straws and glasses of milk

Frosted Circus Animal Cookies Ingredients

  • All-purpose flour
  • Baking powder
  • Salt
  • Unsalted butter
  • Powdered sugar
  • Granulated sugar
  • Egg
  • Vanilla and almond extracts
  • Rainbow sprinkles
  • Half and half
  • Food coloring

How to Make Circus Animal Cookies

  • Make the cookie dough.
  • Divide into two portions, shape into disks and chill until more firm.

two discs of sugar cookie dough on plastic wrap

  • Cut cookies into mini animal shapes using cookie cutters.
  • Transfer to a parchment paper or silicone baking mat-lined baking sheet and bake until set.

unfrosted circus animal cookies on baking sheet

  • Prepare icing. Tint half with pink coloring (or other color of choice), if desired.

two bowls of vanilla icing with sprinkles

  • Let cookies cool, then spread icing over cookies. Add sprinkles before icing sets.

decorated circus animal cookies on wire rack

Do I Have to Chill the Cookie Dough?

Yes, otherwise the circus cookies won’t hold their shape in the oven and will spread a lot. You need to chill the dough for at least 90 minutes!

Can I Cut These Frosted Animal Cookies Into Different Shapes?

Of course! If you don’t have animal-shaped cookie cutters, you can use any small cookie cutter you have on hand.

How to Store Frosted Circus Animal Cookies

These buttery cookies are slightly crisp, and they keep beautifully on the countertop. Store them in an airtight container to keep them fresher for longer.

Homemade Circus Animal Cookies on red plate

Tips for the Best Circus Animal Cookies

  • You can make the icing with heavy cream as well as half and half, but you may have to add a little more since heavy cream is thicker.
  • Use any color of food coloring you’d like to make these animal cookies suitable for any occasion.
  • Let the circus animal cookies cool for several minutes on the baking sheet before moving them to a cooling rack.

More Cookie Recipes You’ll Love:

16 Quick & Easy 30 Minute Recipes! (plus weekly recipe updates)

5 from 3 votes

Frosted Circus Animal Cookies

A childhood favorite, and this homemade version is so much better than store-bought. Buttery, mini animal shape, shortbread-like cookies are topped with a simple glaze and finished with colorful sprinkles for a cookie people of all ages will love!
Servings: 130
Prep45 minutes
Cook35 minutes
Chill1 hour 30 minutes
Ready in: 2 hours 50 minutes





  • For the cookie dough: In a mixing bowl whisk together flour, baking powder and salt, set aside.
  • In the bowl of an electric stand mixer cream together butter, granulated sugar and powdered sugar until well combined. Mix in egg, vanilla extract and almond extract. 
  • With mixer set on low speed, slowly add in flour mixture and mix until combined. Divide mixture into 2 equal portions, shape each portion into a smooth 6-inch disk. 
  • Chill dough: Wrap with plastic wrap and chill 1 1/2 hours, or until firm (you can chill overnight then let rest on counter about 5 minutes if it's too firm to roll). Preheat oven to 350 degrees during last 10 minutes of chilling.
  • To roll dough and cut cookies: Dust a clean work surface with flour then place one disk of dough on floured surface, dust top lightly with flour and roll out to 1/4-inch thickness (leave dough disk chilled that you aren't currently working with). 
  • Cut into mini animal shapes (I used these here) then transfer (use an offset spatula to help lift them from surface if needed)to a baking sheet lined with a silicone liner or parchment paper, leaving about 3/4-inch between cookies. 
  • Bake in oven: Bake in preheated oven about 7 - 11 minutes until set (meanwhile gather scraps of dough, mash and shape into smooth disk again and refrigerate). 
  • Let cool: Remove from oven and cool several minutes on baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack and cool completely. Repeat with remaining disk of dough.
  • For the icing: In a medium mixing bowl whisk together powdered sugar, vanilla and enough half and half or cream to reach a medium consistency (not runny, not thick). 
  • Divide mixture evenly among two bowls, tint one of them with pink coloring and leave the other white. Spread over cookies and immediately sprinkle with sprinkles after frosting each one. Let rest until glaze has set.


  • *For a second icing option you can also try them with 16 oz. vanilla candy melts. Melt according to package instructions and tint with pink gel food coloring. Immediately sprinkle with sprinkles before candy melts set.
  • **Heavy cream will work great too, you may need a little more as it's thicker.
Nutrition Facts
Frosted Circus Animal Cookies
Amount Per Serving
Calories 33 Calories from Fat 9
% Daily Value*
Fat 1g2%
Cholesterol 5mg2%
Sodium 9mg0%
Potassium 8mg0%
Carbohydrates 4g1%
Sugar 2g2%
Vitamin A 45IU1%
Calcium 3mg0%
Iron 0.1mg1%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition values are estimates only. See full disclaimer here.
This post contains affiliate links.