The Best Sugar Cookies

Soft cut-out sugar cookies with crisp edges and room for lots of icing and sprinkles. Use your favorite cookie cutter shapes and have fun baking and decorating!

The BEST Cut-Out Sugar Cookies. Soft centers, slightly crisp edges, and room for lots of icing and sprinkles!

Today is my birthday and I’m sharing a recipe I have been working since my last birthday. I kid you not. This recipe was supposed to go in my cookbook last summer, but I just could not get the texture perfected! Disappointment after disappointment.

I was going for a soft centered, yet slightly crisp edged roll out sugar cookie. A cookie that would keep its cookie cutter shape in the oven, a recipe without any crazy ingredients, and one that was easy and approachable for everyone. Cut-out sugar cookies are so temperamental! But luckily, I finally got it right.¬†Happy birthday to me indeed! ūüėČ

Soft Cut-Out Sugar Cookies by sallysbakingaddiction.com. These are the BEST!

Cut-out sugar cookies are all the rage during Christmas time. I remember making and decorating dozens and dozens of them with my sisters growing up. We’d have them covering every inch of the counter! Our decorating “skills” probably seemed atrocious to others, but when sugar, butter, icing, and sprinkles are involved – who cares what the package looks like right?!

I’m so excited to share this recipe with you; I could hardly wait until December. Instead of snowflakes and santa hats, you’re getting hearts and hot pinks and rainbows.

Lucky for you, my decorating skills have vastly improved over the years!

Soft Cut-Out Sugar Cookies by sallysbakingaddiction.com. These are the BEST!

Let’s get down to it. The recipe? It’s not complicated! It just took me a good while to find the perfect combination of butter and sugar, flour and leavener.

Start with the right consistency of unsalted butter. This is so 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.

Here is a good visual. You’ll need 3/4 cup (170g; 1 and 1/2 sticks) of butter.

Perfectly Softened Butter for Sugar Cookies

The cookie dough will be thick and not wet. Slightly sticky and crumbly, yet manageable. I compare it to the consistency of play-doh.

Very, very important: This sugar cookie dough does require chilling. Not too long; only about 1 hour. Once the cookie dough is prepared, divide the sugar cookie dough in half, shape into balls, and then roll into two flat rectangles Рabout 1/4 inch thickness each. Stack onto a baking sheet and chill. Chilling is mandatory not only to keep the butter cold to help prevent spreading, but also to give the gluten in the flour a chance to rest. As you notice, I chill the cookie dough AFTER I have rolled it out. 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.

After 1 hour of chilling, you may use your favorite cookie cutter and cut into difference shapes.¬†At this point you can just bake the shaped cookies plain or you may add sprinkles directly onto them. I lined some cookies with circle-shaped sprinkles, as you see above and below. This did take me awhile… maybe about 6 minutes per cookie. Also took me a lot of precision and patience, but hey… they’re pretty right?! Beauty is pain.

Visuals are SO important with these cookies, so I made sure to take a ton of pictures. Here are several of the steps I just explained:

Soft Cut-Out Sugar Cookies by sallysbakingaddiction.com. These are the BEST!

The secret to their soft, tender centers? Underbaking. The cookies will take about 8-11 minutes, or until the look “set” and are very lightly colored on top. You do not want to overbake these cookies. I kept one batch in the oven for about 12 minutes and they were much, much crunchier on the edges than the others.

If you prefer a crunchy sugar cookie, just bake longer.

This cookie dough will hold its shape in the oven. Something so extremely important when it comes to shaped sugar cookies! The edges are sharp and precise; no spreading or distortions. Truly a perfect cookie cutter dough.

Soft Cut-Out Sugar Cookies by sallysbakingaddiction.com. These are the BEST!

Have fun decorating and playing around with the icing! Making these cookies is all about enjoying the process with others, so this is the fun part. I used my all-time favorite sugar cookie icing recipe. Rather than using egg whites or meringue powder, this recipe uses water and corn syrup.

It’s fantastic, it’s quick, it’s the best in my sugar cookie experimenting!

I doubled the frosting recipe to frost a majority of my cookies. I used a paint brush for some and dipped others directly into it. I did not color the icing.

Soft Cut-Out Sugar Cookies by sallysbakingaddiction.com. These are the BEST!

So here we go. My birthday present to you!

Follow me on Instagram and tag #sallysbakingaddiction so I can see all the SBA recipes you make. 

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Soft Cut-Out Sugar Cookies

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 2 hours
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 hours
  • Yield: 18 medium size cookies
  • Category: Cookies
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Soft cut-out sugar cookies with crisp edges and room for lots of icing and sprinkles. Use your favorite cookie cutter shapes and have fun baking and decorating! The number of cookies this recipe yields depends on how thick you roll the dough and the size of the cookie cutter you use. If hoping to make dozens of cookies for a large crowd, double the recipe!


Ingredients

Cookies

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

Easy Sugar Cookie Icing

  • 1 and 1/2 cups¬†(180g) confectioners’¬†sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon light corn syrup*
  • 22.5¬†Tablespoons (30-38ml)¬†room temperature¬†water
  • assorted sprinkles, if desired

Instructions

  1. Cookies: In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until creamed and smooth Рabout 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. 
  2. 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.
  3. 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 2 days. Chilling is mandatory. If chilling for more than a couple hours, cover the top dough piece with a single piece of parchment paper.
  4. Once chilled, preheat oven to¬†350¬įF (177¬įC). 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.
  5. Before baking, you can apply sprinkles like I did on the rainbow sprinkle lined cookies shown in this post. If you’re planning to only ice them instead, or you just want to keep them plain, skip the sprinkles.
  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.
  7. Icing: Whisk the confectioners’¬†sugar, vanilla, corn syrup, and 2 tablespoons of water in a medium bowl. It should be quite thick.¬†If it’s much too thick, add 1/2 Tablespoon more water. If it’s 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. 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.


Notes

  1. Make Ahead Instructions: Unfrosted or frosted cookies freeze well up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator. You can chill the cookie dough for up to 2 days (step 3). You can also freeze the cookie dough before rolling for up to 3 months. Then allow to thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then bring to room temperature for about 1 hour. Then roll and continue with the recipe as directed.
  2. Room Temperature: Room temperature egg is preferred so it’s evenly combined in the cookie dough. Good rule of thumb: always use room¬†temperature egg if recipe calls for butter at room temperature or melted.
  3. Salt: Lately, I’ve been preparing this dough with a little salt and I love the way it brightens the flavor of the dough. You can leave it out for super sweet sugar cookies, but its addition is fabulous.
  4. Corn Syrup: Corn syrup gives the icing fabulous shine. You may leave it out if you aren’t concerned about shiny, glossy icing.
  5. Be sure to check out my top 5 cookie baking tips AND these are my 10 must-have cookie baking tools.
My FAVORITE Cut-Out Sugar Cookies! Soft centers, slightly crisp edges, and room for lots of icing and sprinkles!
These are the SOFTEST cookie cutter cookies. My go-to recipe!
These are the BEST cookie cutter cookies. My go-to recipe!

519 Comments

  1. Epic fail for me on this. Everything was perfect until I tried to take one sheet out of fridge. The two layers stuck together and had to break apart in pieces to get separated. Letting soften now to hopefully re-roll. Did I miss a step to not put in fridge on top of each other with parchment in between??

    1. Oh no! So sorry you experienced that, Carol. I usually stack them with parchment in between. Was the dough particularly sticky?

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