The Best Sugar Cookies

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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! 😉

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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 – about 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, available on All Recipes (with a video too!). It’s so simple. Rather than using egg whites or meringue powder, this recipe uses milk 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. 

Soft Cut-Out 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!

Yield: 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. I got 18 medium size cookies. This recipe can be doubled.

Ingredients:

Cookies

  • 3/4 cup (170g) unsalted butter, slightly softened to room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature*
  • 2 teaspoons 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*
  • 2 - 2.5 Tablespoons (30-38ml) room temperature water
  • assorted sprinkles, if desired

Directions:

  1. Cookies: 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. 
  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°F (177°C). 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.

Make Ahead & Freezing 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.

Recipe Notes:

  1. 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.
  2. Edited to add: 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.
  3. Corn syrup gives the icing fabulous shine. You may leave it out if you aren't concerned about shiny, glossy icing.
  4. Be sure to check out my top 5 cookie baking tips AND these are my 10 must-have cookie baking tools.

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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!

451 Comments

  1. I am making cookies for my friend, coming home in two weeks, and I had bought some cookie cutters that are intricate. Do you think the dough will hold it’s shape for that? And Also, how long can you chill the dough up to? Could I make and chill the dough on Wednesday and then bake them on Friday?

  2. Just wondering if it would be ok to substitute almond emulsion for the extract? I’ve seen almond emulsion in other cookie recipes and have already purchased it… would it be a 1:1 substitution?? Thanks!!

    1. It’s not usually 1:1 as emulsions have a more pronounced flavor. I would personally use the same amount since I love the flavor of almond emulsion, though you can just add a drop or so.

  3. I made these yesterday for Halloween. They were just fine. Not the greatest recipe I’ve used, but they were easy enough. I would definitely suggest using lots of flour on everything when you roll them out, since they are quite sticky. But they do hold their shape really well. 
    The icing recipe for these cookies is on point though! Really easy to work with, and they dry really pretty and glossy. 

  4. Hi Sally!  I’m trying these out for some Halloween cut-outs for my kids’ day care parties this week.  I’m a pretty experienced cook, but a novice baker.  One question about the dough – why no salt?  I always find that a little salt brings out a lot of the other flavors and almost “brightens” the sweetness in desserts.   I was really tempted to add a good pinch, but I was worried it would affect the texture ultimately – or maybe affect the baking power efficacy? So I didn’t add it but just wondering. Any reason it’s not in the ingredients?  My dough is chilling now – I’m really hopeful for these as I’ve not had great luck with cut-out cookies in the past.  Thanks so much!

    1. I don’t usually add it to my sugar cookies just for preference but by all means– go right ahead if you make them again. Enjoy!

    2. Jessica, I know this is a little late, but took your suggestion a few weeks ago and tried the sugar cookie dough with 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Now, usually I prefer cut-out sugar cookie dough without any salt at all because I love them super sweet (which is odd because I prefer salty/sweet desserts)– but I love its addition in my sugar cookies! Thanks so much.

  5. I was wondering if I could leave out the almond extract completely or replace it with something? We are very careful about using almond extract due to allergies in our family. I don’t believe that anyone with an allergy will be eating them this time around, but I just wanted to ask for future reference? Thank you!

  6. I don’t remember ever doing cut out sugar cookies growing up just the premixed stuff…but I don’t like the premixed stuff anymore, I’ve been making all my goodies myself this year! Well I have a baby who was born on the 14th of December and we all know how those Christmas birthdays are…well I made these yesterday so we could decorate them today and the recipe was easy enough and the rolling of the dough, I just rubbed a little flour on my rolling pin when it started to stick to it which wasn’t very often or very much so I did something right with your recipe.  But seriously the taste the experience and they turned out so beautiful…I plan on making this recipe every year for my youngest daughter’s birthday…thought it would be an awesome Christmas birthday activity to do as a family or for a small birthday party involving a few extra kids (just imagine the sprinkle mess though! Lol). My oldest 2 thought it was a wonderful idea! Thank you so much, this was the first and only sugar cookie recipe I’ve tried and I am super happy with it you did awesome! 

  7. Thank you, thank you, thank you. These are awesome, came out perfect. Great tasting, kept their shape perfectly, and soft. No need to look any further, this is my go to sugar cookie recipe for life!

  8. I have made these cookies multiple times and always get rave reviews! I follow the recipe exactly and they are amazing! Thank you for a great recipe!

  9. Sally’s recipie has made me into a sugar cookie decorator! I really disliked sugar cookies before I found this one. I have made this recipie for my niece’s school events using a combination of princes cake, vanilla, butter, orange and lemon extracts –small amounts at a time, tweeked to taste. They are always a hit! We even won a very prestigious plastic trophy one year for the top selling cookie at a bake sale fund raiser lol!!!

  10. I read through comments about finished cookies staying soft for 5 days at room temp. I am decorating cookies today for a party tomorrow night, but I want to bring some cookies to a party in a week. Should I just save uniced cookies in the freezer and decorate them next week, or can I store them in the fridge decorated for next week?

    1. Hi Jenny, If the party isn’t for a week I would freeze the unfrosted cookies and then follow the directions to thaw and decorate before the party! Have fun!

  11. Hi Sally,

    I have a question. I’ve read cake flour makes good cookies. Do you suggest it too or suggest sticking with all purpose flour?
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Laura! I fear that cake flour won’t be sturdy enough for these cookies to hold their shape. But you can definitely test it if you’re curious!

  12. These are the best cut out sugar cookies I’ve ever made or tasted! My hubby is crazy about them! I’ve baked three batches this Christmas season.

  13. I just made put the cookies to chill and am just now realizing how much vanilla extract were in these and am starting to stress out.. why is there so much vanilla extract? Is 2 teaspoons really right? Wondering if I need to remake these…

  14. Hi Sally, it’s still early here in Cali. I’m making these sugar cookies tonight. I’m thinking about doubling but with the recipe as is calls for 3|4 cup or 170g of butter. On my scale I have 2 sticks (each 1/4 cup) and the scale is registering 224 grams, if I add another 1/4 cup or stick I’ll be way over in ounces. Each stick says 113g on the wrapper. Is the measurement correct? I use your site for most of my baking and this is the first time something seems amiss. Please help.

  15. hi these cookies are delicious and didn’t burn as monst other peoples cookies i made were burned. I also give these ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Because 1. You are so motivated in baking and I’m just a 9 year-old kid and you inspire me so much !!!!! keep up the good work!

    Eva aged 9

  16. My first-ever time making cut-out sugar cookies from scratch and oh.my.goodness, they are amazing! Made these and the chocolate sugar cookies, both came out perfectly. The icing was easy to work with, too. Stacked them without any issues and sent them to my husband’s work for a coworker’s birthday, but kept some home to give tonight to Santa. Happy holidays, Sally!

    1. Hi Noaya! If you stamp the cookie dough, then chill the stamped cookie dough shapes right before baking– they’ll definitely hold their shape. I suggest chilling the shaped cookies for 1 hour prior to baking.

  17. Thanks easy recipe.. cooling of the dough does really help…. My question was… For icing…I searched for.corn syrup… It’s hard to find and expensive at the same time. What can be substitute… As I want make icing on the cookies tht hardens and stays. Thanks
    Gloria

  18. I have made these sugar cookies several times and we LOVE them. Really delicious. Have been thinking of trying to substitute part white whole-wheat flour for all purpose flour. Do you think that would work?

    1. I tried using whole wheat flour when I made this dough into mini animal cookies and it unfortunately didn’t work at all. Let me know if you give it a try!

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