Holiday Cut-Out Sugar Cookies with Easy Icing.

Cut-out holiday sugar cookies with crisp edges and soft centers. My icing recipe is so simple, making decorating hassle-free! 

Holiday Cut-Out Sugar Cookies with Easy Royal Icing Recipe by

Here we go, year number 2 of Sally’s Cookie Palooza! That’s 10 new cookie recipes for your Christmas season. I’ve been a cookie MADWOMAN for the past month in preparation for this festive, cavity inducing celebration. Make sure your cookie jar is currently empty. Make sure a glass of milk is handy. And make sure you have all the butter in the world because you’ll definitely be needing it. From sprinkles, to mint chocolate, to icing, to gingerbread, to red velvet, to peanut butter– I think you’ll all find a cookie to love. Ready for this?

We’re kicking it off with a Christmas cookie classic. Nothing beats an iced sugar cookie made from scratch, unless it’s a soft and buttery iced sugar cookie made from scratch. This particular sugar cookie beats any and all of the sugar cookie recipes I have ever tried. And I grew up making these cookies.

Holiday Cut-Out Sugar Cookies with Easy Royal Icing Recipe by

Trust me when I say that this is a sugar cookie recipe you need to try. It’s taken me awhile to find that perfectly soft-centered, yet slightly crisp edged recipe. A cookie that keeps its cookie cutter shape in the oven, has a nice flat surface, a recipe without any crazy ingredients, and a recipe that is easy and approachable for everyone.

I posted today’s sugar cookie recipe back in May and have gotten rave reviews. Since you may already be familiar with the all-star sugar cookie recipe itself, I’m using today to focus on the icing. I’ve slightly changed the icing recipe, making it a little easier to work with.

Holiday Cut-Out Sugar Cookies with Easy Royal Icing Recipe by

Royal icing can be a pain sometimes, but it doesn’t have to be. You can create gourmet looking cut-out sugar cookies at home and you don’t have to lose your mind doing it.

I do not use powdered egg whites or meringue powder in my icing because I never have either in my pantry. What I do use is confectioners’ sugar, water, vanilla extract, and a touch of corn syrup. The corn syrup makes the icing nice and shiny, while the ratio of confectioners’ sugar to water keeps it thick. The icing dries hard and slightly crunchy, so you can easily stack these decorated sugar cookies and travel with them.

Like I’ve been saying– this icing is so easy to work with. To make decorating a breeze, I’ve started to use empty plastic bottles. Plastic bottles are so much easier! You can find them for about $1 at Walmart, Target, on Amazon, or in your regular grocery store in the kitchen supplies aisle. I fill each with a different color icing and simply squeeze them onto the cookie. That’s about it.

This is a recipe that requires planning ahead. First, the cookie dough needs to chill. Chilling is a mandatory step. Before decorating the baked cookies, make sure the cookies are completely cool. If they are not completely cool, the icing will melt. To completely harden on top of the cookies, the icing needs at least 24 hours to set.

Holiday Cut-Out Sugar Cookies with Easy Royal Icing Recipe by

Before beginning the recipe, be sure to look at a few step-by-step photos at the bottom of this post. Happy Cookie Palooza-ing! Oh and don’t be overwhelmed by all the steps, I’m just extremely thorough. Here’s a video so you can see!

Holiday Cut-Out Sugar Cookies with Easy Icing



  • 3/4 cup (170g) unsalted butter, slightly softened to room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg1
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract (makes the flavor outstanding)
  • 2 and 1/4 cups (281g) all-purpose flour (spoon and leveled)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Easy Icing

  • 1 and 1/2 cups (180g) confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon light corn syrup2
  • 2 - 2.5 Tablespoons (30-38ml) room temperature water
  • pinch salt3


  1. Make sure you have allotted enough time (and enough counter space!) to make these cookies. The cookie dough needs to chill, the cookies need to cool completely, and the icing needs 24 hours to completely harden. If enjoying right away and hardened icing isn't a concern, you'll only need about 4 hours to make these.
  2. In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until creamed and smooth - about 1 minute. Add the sugar and beat on high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 or 4 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Add the egg, vanilla, and almond extract and beat on high until fully combine, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.
  3. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. Turn the mixer down to low and add about half of the flour mixture, beating until just barely combined. Add the rest of the flour and continue mixing until just combined. If the dough still seems too soft, you can add 1 Tablespoon more flour until it is a better consistency for rolling.
  4. Divide the dough into 2 equal parts. Roll each portion out onto a piece of parchment to about 1/4″ thickness. Stack the pieces (with paper) onto a baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day. Chilling is mandatory.
  5. Once chilled, preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line 2-3 large baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. The amount of batches will depend on how large/small you cut your cookies. Remove one of the dough pieces from the refrigerator and using a cookie cutter, cut in shapes. Transfer the cut cookie dough to the prepared baking sheet. Re-roll the remaining dough and continue cutting until all is used.
  6. Bake for 9-12 minutes, until very lightly colored on top and around the edges. Make sure you rotate the baking sheet halfway through bake time. Allow to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before icing. No need to cover the cookies as the cookies cool.
  7. For the icing, whisk the confectioners' sugar, vanilla, corn syrup, and 2 tablespoons of water in a medium bowl. It should be quite thick. If it is much too thick, add 1/2 Tablespoon more water. If it is much too thin, add 2 more Tablespoons of confectioners' sugar. If you drizzle a little of the icing with the whisk, the ribbon of icing will hold for a few seconds before melting back into the icing. That is when you know it's the right consistency and is ready to use. If desired, add liquid or gel food coloring. You can pour some icing into different bowls if using multiple colors. If not decorating right away, cover the icing tightly and keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
  8. Decorate the cooled cookies however you'd like. Squeeze bottles make decorating so easy. You may enjoy right away or you can wait 24 hours for the icing to set and harden-- no need to cover the cookies as the icing sets. Once the icing has set, these cookies are great for gifting or for sending. I find they stay soft for about 5 days at room temperature.

Make ahead tip: unfrosted cookies freeze well up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator. I don't recommend freezing with icing-- it never thaws very nicely!

Recipe Notes:

  1. Room temperature egg is preferred to be easily dispersed in the cookie dough. Good rule of thumb: always use room temperature egg if recipe calls for butter at room temperature or melted.
  2. Corn syrup gives the icing fabulous shine. You may leave it out if you aren't concerned about shiny, glossy icing.
  3. I know salt isn't a typical ingredient in cookie icing, but my taste testers and I preferred that little pinch of salt. I use about 1/8 teaspoon. OR you can add 1/4 teaspoon of salt to the dry ingredients in the cookie dough. I like it better used in the icing, though.

Did you make a recipe?

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© Sally’s Baking Addiction. All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without prior permission. If you want to republish this recipe, please re-write the recipe in your own words, or link back to this post for the recipe.

Start with the right consistency of unsalted butter. This is important! Butter must be softened, but not melty in the slightest. You should be able to press your finger into the stick of butter and make an indent easily, without your finger sliding anywhere. Firm, but not cold. Lightly softened is what you should go for. Use this photo as a visual. If it’s helpful, this is exactly what butter should look like before being used in frosting recipes.

Perfectly Softened Butter for frosting

Once the cookie dough is prepared per the recipe’s instructions above, it will be slightly thick and not wet. Sticky and crumbly, yet manageable. I compare the cookie dough to the consistency of play-doh.

Before chilling the cookie dough, roll it out. Yes, roll the cookie dough out before chilling! With all of my recipe testing, I learned that this method is so much easier than chilling the cookie dough as a whole and then trying to roll out a cold chunk of dough.

To make rolling easier, divide the sugar cookie dough in half, shape into balls, and then roll into two flat rectangles – about 1/4 inch thickness each – onto parchment paper. Stack onto a baking sheet, with parchment paper in between each rectangle, and chill for at least 1-2 hours. Once the dough rectangles are chilled, cut into shapes.

Holiday Cut-Out Sugar Cookies with Easy Royal Icing Recipe by

Bake until the edges are very lightly browned. This is the secret to their soft centers! A slight underbake. You do not want to overbake these cookies, unless you prefer a crunchy sugar cookie.

The BEST Holiday Cut Out Sugar Cookies Recipe

Now, the icing. This easy sugar cookie icing is thick; thicker icing is easier to work with. If you drizzle a little of it with the whisk, the ribbon of icing will hold for a few seconds before melting back into the icing. That is when you know it’s the right consistency.

Easy Royal Icing

At this point, you can color the icing if you want. Or just begin decorating. Have fun!

Holiday Cut-Out Sugar Cookies with Easy Royal Icing Recipe by

Christmas sugar cookies on

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EASY holiday sugar cookies! This is my go-to recipe because it is so straight-foward and simple!
Holiday Cut-Out Sugar Cookies with Easy Royal Icing Recipe by



  1. Yara on March 29, 2016 at 3:23 am

    Hi, Sally!!
    Your step-by-step were so helpful!! Can you tell me, how long does the cookie glaze take to dry? 

    • Sally on March 29, 2016 at 7:48 am

      Glad it helped! Overnight – 24 hours to completely dry.

  2. Linda on July 22, 2016 at 10:31 am

    These cookies tasted great but they all baked a little differently some were hard as a rock and some were really gooey in the middle, do you have any ideas on what went wrong?

    • Susana on November 6, 2016 at 9:31 pm

      Your Oven Probably Has HOT SPOTS Which is Why She Recommends Rotating the Tray while Baking. I Always Rotate Around 5 or 6 Minutes Into the Baking Time and They Come Out Great!

  3. Andrea on July 25, 2016 at 11:26 am

    I want to try the icing recipe but I’m wondering if it will hold in the heat after it completely harden? Want to bake these cookies for a girl tea party out in the yard.

  4. Stacy on July 26, 2016 at 6:38 pm

    Would it be ok if I omitted the corn syrup for the royal icing? Would it make a huge difference?

  5. Cynthia on August 26, 2016 at 9:51 am

    Your step by step recipe was a blessing!  1st time cookies for high school seniors were perfect. Used longhorn head cookie cutter (mascot). THANK YOU for sharing your gifts!

  6. Jan Bornitz on August 26, 2016 at 10:13 pm

    Thanks so much.  Have been making cutout cookies for years, but didn’t have theingrediants for the icing I usually make on hand and your recipe does.  Awesome.  Making wildlife cookies for a friend in a nursing home.

  7. PooH on September 8, 2016 at 9:54 am

    Awesome. It was really helpful. Thank alot for shearing.

  8. Amy B on September 13, 2016 at 2:03 pm

    Thank you for walking me through your wonderful cookie and icing recipes.

  9. Penny on September 28, 2016 at 5:46 am

    Can I make half of the recipe? Can I divide all ingredient quantities into two? Hope to get a reply soon! 🙂

    • Hanna on November 5, 2016 at 11:00 pm

      One extra large egg is equivalent to two extra small eggs, so you can just use one extra small egg instead for half the recipe. Everything else you can halve using a calculator. Hope I helped! 

  10. Trisha on October 15, 2016 at 11:06 am

    Hello! Wondering if margarine would work instead of butter? Im currently outside of US and real butter is outrageously expensive. Thanks!

    • Sally on October 17, 2016 at 5:42 pm

      I’ve never found margarine to be the best sub in sugar cookies, so I do not recommend.

  11. Willow on October 16, 2016 at 9:16 am

    Hey Sally! These cookies look very wonderful and I was wondering, if I leave out the icing because my family aren’t huge fans of it, should i add more sugar to the cookie dough?

    • Sally on October 17, 2016 at 5:17 pm

      They’re sweet even without the icing 🙂

  12. Cara on October 30, 2016 at 11:20 pm

    Hi Sally! Just wondering if there is a way I could speed up the detting time for the icing? Thanks!

    • Cara on October 30, 2016 at 11:20 pm


    • Sally on October 31, 2016 at 7:52 am

      Hi Cara! I find the BEST way to speed up the time is to simply use a royal icing instead. Or you can set the cookies in the refrigerator, which helps speed it up 🙂

  13. Kathy on November 19, 2016 at 6:00 am

    I’ve made these cookies now a few times. They are my go to sugar cookies, never fail and never any left. Wish I could add a picture.
    Christmas time again will be making soon.

  14. Johanna @ Johanna's DIYS on November 19, 2016 at 9:01 pm

    Could I use vanilla extract instead of almond? Love the recipe:)

    • Sally on November 21, 2016 at 12:19 pm


  15. Leigh on November 21, 2016 at 9:51 am

    Have you ever tried to make the corn syrup icing with the meringue powder added to help make if stiffer?

    • Sally on November 21, 2016 at 12:32 pm

      Sometimes I make traditional royal icing with meringue powder, yes! I like this recipe.

  16. Nadine on November 26, 2016 at 4:16 am

    Hey Sally!!!

    I was wondering if I could leave out the almond extract because it overpowers the taste sometimes in other cookies I’ve tried, will this happen?

    Thank you!!!

    • Sally on November 26, 2016 at 8:03 am

      It’s not overpowering in these at all! But you can always leave it out if you’d prefer.

  17. Amy Falco on November 28, 2016 at 10:40 pm

    I made this recipe a few weeks ago for the first time and they were a hit at a fundraiser/bake sale! The chilling is absolutely necessary and helps the cookies hold their shape so well, and the icing is beautiful. I cannot wait to make them again for Christmas! I’ll definitely double the recipe.

  18. Valerie on November 29, 2016 at 10:19 am

    Hello Sally, is it okay to salted butter in this recipe?

    • Sally on November 29, 2016 at 11:12 am

      Absolutely! Leave out the salt in the recipe though.

  19. Logan Christine on November 29, 2016 at 5:55 pm

    How long does the dough need to chill in refrigerator? Can’t wait to make these!

    • Sally on November 30, 2016 at 9:34 am

      See step 4 🙂 1 hour

  20. Emy on November 30, 2016 at 7:54 am

    Oh my goodness! These look absolutely amazing. There’s this bakery near me that makes amazing sugar cookies….but I bet yours tastes better 🙂 Anyway, I’m allergic to almonds so I was wondering if there’s some substitute to the almond extract or if I could just leave it out altogether?

    • Sally on November 30, 2016 at 9:27 am

      You can just leave it out or add more vanilla in its place. Enjoy!

  21. Dakota on November 30, 2016 at 8:25 pm

    I’ve searched for the perfect frosting recipe for sugar cookies and found it with your easy icing! That icing is great; can’t wait to make more sugar cookies with it. Thanks Sally.

  22. Elisabeth Marie on December 4, 2016 at 12:21 pm

    These were DELICIOUS! I forwarded the recipe to my sister and she dropped them off at my house a few minutes ago! Who says you can’t have cookies in the morning!?

  23. Trixie on December 4, 2016 at 1:42 pm

    Hi Sally, I wanted to share my experience in making these. I chilled my rolled-out dough overnight in the fridge, just as described in the recipe, and laid a piece of parchment paper on the top piece. When it came time to remove these from the fridge & begin using cookie cutters, the parchment papers were badly stuck to the dough. It wouldn’t have been a problem if the two dough slabs weren’t stacked, as I could have just turned a slab over and peeled off the paper. But this way, the hardened dough prevented me from being able to separate the layers. I ended up needing to tear apart the top layer and re-roll. Not the end of the world but sorta defeated the purpose of chilling. Maybe I needed to leave them sitting out for a little after removing them from the fridge? At any rate, these came out really nicely despite the momentary frustration. I discovered I’d prefer to roll them a bit thicker than I did.

    A question: is this the type of recipe where one could add cornstarch for a softer cookie? Or would that change the texture or flavor too much?

    Thanks again for a delicious recipe–my first time making scratch sugar cookies.

    • Sally on December 5, 2016 at 6:49 am

      Hi Trixie! Thanks so much for your feedback. For the cornstarch– this is a precise amount of flour (dry) to butter (wet) BUT 1 teaspoon of cornstarch should be OK if you’re looking for a slightly softer cookie.

  24. Leanna on December 4, 2016 at 3:23 pm

    Hi Sally. I made this recipe and they were delicious! I had some trouble with the dough though. It was crumbly and hard to roll out. Any ideas what I may have done wrong? Thanks for all your delicious recipes!

  25. Emma on December 5, 2016 at 12:31 pm

    Hello Sally,
    I just discovered your blog and I have been reading a few of your recipes with much interest. Baking is also one of my favorite things to do. I started about two years ago. When I was little I helped my mom when she was baking. During the Christmas holidays we always made sugar cookies in the shape of snowflakes.
    My favorite thing to make are cupcakes, cookies and cakes. When my best friend Els and I are together we always bake. We even have a Facebook group where we post photos of our creations. We made a Halloween cake, Unicorn cookies and all sorts of cupcakes. We don’t only bake, but we also love to make deserts like chocolate mousse and tiramisu.
    Last year for my birthday I received a big box with baking essentials like cookbooks, an apron, a mixer, … This year for my birthday I got a stand mixer.
    With all this equipment and your great blog, I feel really inspired to bake as much as I can. Maybe in the future, who knows, I can start a blog myself and post some of my favorite recipes.
    In the meantime, I’m looking forward for some new posts on this blog.

  26. Margot on December 5, 2016 at 4:55 pm

    Hello, I really want to make these cookies, but I only have salted butter on hand. If I leave out the extra salt in the recipe and use salted butter, would the cookies still turn out the same ?

    • Sally on December 5, 2016 at 9:04 pm

      Yep! You can use salted and leave out the added salt.

  27. Katie Cavalier on December 7, 2016 at 11:17 am

    Could I substitute agave syrup for the corn syrup?

  28. Lissa on December 7, 2016 at 5:03 pm

    Could self rising flour be used?

  29. Jen White on December 7, 2016 at 8:29 pm

    Hi Sally! I am a huge fan of your blog, and bake one of your recipes from it at least once/week. I am SO EXCITED to try these sugar cookies. Last year was my first time trying sugar cookies from scratch, and although they tasted good, they didn’t look as pretty. Your suggestion to use squeeze bottles is GENIUS! Do you a tip on the best way to get the icing from the bowl into the bottle?

    • Sally on December 8, 2016 at 7:47 am

      Hi Jen! I can’t wait for you to try these too. I usually make my icing in a glass liquid measuring cup with a spout. Makes it easy to transfer.

  30. Bethany on December 8, 2016 at 4:36 pm

    Hello!! I am looking forward to making these for Christmas parties but what if I just have a regular mixer and no paddle attachment? Will it work the same?

    Thank you!!



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