With crisp edges, thick centers, and room for lots of decorating icing, I know you’ll love these soft cut out sugar cookies. Use your favorite cookie cutters and try my classic royal icing.
These are my favorite sugar cookies with icing. I shared the recipe on Sally’s Baking Addiction several years ago and published them in my cookbook as well. I’ve made them at least 38577 times (imagine all the butter), so I figured it’s time to share new recipe tips, a video tutorial, and more helpful information.
Why You’ll Love These Sugar Cookies
- Soft, thick centers with slightly crisp edges
- Irresistible buttery vanilla flavor
- Leave plain or flavor with extras like maple, cinnamon, and more
- Hold their shape
- Flat surface for decorating
- Stay soft for days
- Freeze beautifully
Sugar Cookies Video Tutorial
Overview: How to Make Sugar Cookies with Icing
- Make cookie dough. You only need 7-8 ingredients. With so little ingredients, it’s important that you follow the recipe closely. Creamed butter and sugar provide the base of the cookie dough. Egg is the cookie’s structure and vanilla extract adds flavor. I almost always add a touch of almond extract for additional flavor and highly recommend that you try it too! Flour is an obvious addition, baking powder adds lift, and salt balances the sweet. So many *little ingredients* doing *big jobs* to create a perfect cookie. By the way, I also make chocolate sugar cookies too!
- Divide in two pieces. Smaller sections of dough are easier to roll out.
- Roll out cookie dough. Roll it out to 1/4 inch thick or just under 1/4 inch thick. If you have difficulty evenly rolling out dough, try this adjustable rolling pin. Speaking from experience—it’s incredibly handy!
- Chill rolled out cookie dough. Without chilling, these cookie cutter sugar cookies won’t hold their shape. Chill the rolled out cookie dough for at least 1-2 hours and up to 2 days.
- Cut into shapes. If you need suggestions for cookie cutters, I love Ann Clark brand. (Not sponsored, just a genuine fan!) Some of my favorites include this heart set, dog bone, snowflake, snowman, leaf, and a pumpkin. I also use and recommend these heart cookie cutters.
- Bake & cool. Depending on size, the cookies take about 12 minutes.
- Decorate. See my suggested icings below.
Have a little flour nearby when you’re rolling out the cookie dough. Keep your work surface, hands, and rolling pin lightly floured. This is a relatively soft dough.
The Trick Is the Order of Steps
Notice how I roll out the dough BEFORE chilling it in the refrigerator? That’s my trick and you can see me doing it in the video tutorial above.
Let me explain why I do this. Just like when you’re making chocolate chip cookies, to prevent the cookies from over-spreading, the cookie dough must chill in the refrigerator. Roll out the dough right after you prepare it, then chill the rolled-out dough. (At this point the dough is too soft to cut into shapes.) Don’t chill the cookie dough and then try to roll it out because it will be too cold and difficult to work with. I divide the dough in half before rolling it out and highly recommend you do the same. Smaller sections of dough are simply more manageable.
Another trick! Roll out the cookie dough directly on a silicone baking mat or parchment paper so you can easily transfer it to the refrigerator. Pick it up, put it on a baking sheet, and place it in the refrigerator. If you don’t have enough room for two baking sheets in your refrigerator, stack the pieces of rolled out dough on top of each other.
How Thick Do I Roll Sugar Cookies?
These sugar cookies remain soft because they’re rolled out pretty thick. Roll out the cookie dough to about 1/4 inch thick or just under 1/4 inch thick. Yes, this is on the thicker side and yes, this produces extra thick and soft cookies. If rolling out cookie dough doesn’t sound appealing, try my drop sugar cookies instead.
Sugar Cookie Icing
I have TWO sugar cookie icing recipes and you can choose whichever works best for you.
- Favorite Royal Icing: This royal icing is my preferred sugar cookie icing because it’s easy to use, dries within 1-2 hours, and doesn’t taste like hardened cement. (It’s on the softer side!) I make it with meringue powder. Meringue powder takes the place of raw egg whites, which is found in traditional royal icing recipes. It eliminates the need for fresh eggs, but still provides the same consistency. You can find meringue powder in some baking aisles, most craft stores with a baking section, and online. The 8 ounce tub always lasts me awhile. The trickiest part is landing on the perfect royal icing consistency, but I provide a video in the royal icing recipe to help you.
- Easy Cookie Icing: This easy cookie icing is ideal for beginners. It’s easier to make than royal icing because you don’t need an electric mixer and the consistency won’t really make or break the outcome. However, it doesn’t provide the same sharp detail that royal icing decorations do. It also takes a good 24 hours to dry.
The pictured hearts are decorated with my royal icing using Wilton piping tip #4. If you’re not into piping tips, you can simply dunk the tops of the cookies into the icing like I do with my animal cracker cookies. 🙂
Sugar Cookie Tips & Tools
Before I leave you with the recipe, let me suggest some useful sugar cookie tools. These are the exact products I use and trust in my own kitchen:
- Electric Mixer (Handheld or Stand Mixer)
- Baking Sheets
- Silicone Baking Mats or Parchment Sheets
- Rolling Pin or this Adjustable Rolling Pin
- Food Coloring: Liquid food coloring can alter the consistency of the icing, so I recommend gel food coloring. For the pictured cookies, I used a few drops of dusty rose and 1 drop of sky blue. This Americolor Soft Gel Paste Color Kit is great to have if you do a lot of decorating and want to have a variety of colors on hand.
- Piping Tips/Squeeze Bottle: If you’re using royal icing, I recommend Wilton piping tip #4 for outlining and flooding. This is a wonderful basic piping tip to have in your collection. If you’re using my easy glaze icing, I recommend using a squeeze bottle.
- Piping Bag: If you’re using royal icing and a piping tip, you need a disposable piping bag or reusable piping bag.
- Couplers: Couplers are handy if you have multiple colors of icing and only 1 tip, and need to move the tip to the other bags of icing.
- Cookie Cutters: I like this heart-shaped cookie cutter, but you can use any shape you desire!
Here’s What You Can Do With This Dough
- Christmas Sugar Cookies
- Striped Fudge Cookie Sandwiches
- Snowman Cookies
- Cinnamon Roll Cookies
- Stained Glass Window Cookies
- Valentine’s Day Cookies
- Maple Cinnamon Stars
- St. Patrick’s Day Cookies
- Easter Cookies
And if you’re craving sugar cookies with a little extra tang, try my soft cream cheese cookies.Print
Soft Cut-Out Sugar Cookies
- Prep Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 12 minutes
- Total Time: 4 hours, 45 minutes (includes cooling)
- Yield: 24 3-4 inch cookies
- Category: Cookies
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
With crisp edges, thick centers, and room for lots of decorating icing, I know you’ll love these soft sugar cookies as much as I do. The number of cookies this recipe yields depends on the size of the cookie cutter you use. If you’d like to make dozens of cookies for a large crowd, double the recipe.
- 2 and 1/4 cups (281g) all-purpose flour (spooned & leveled), plus more as needed for rolling and work surface
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 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 or 1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional, but makes the flavor outstanding)*
- Royal Icing or Easy Glaze Icing (royal icing is pictured)
- Assorted sprinkles
- Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- In a large bowl using a handheld or a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on high speed until completely smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg, vanilla, and almond extract (if using) and beat on high speed until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl and beat again as needed to combine.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix on low until combined. Dough will be a bit soft. If the dough seems too soft and sticky for rolling, add 1 more Tablespoon of flour.
- Divide the dough into 2 equal parts. Place each portion onto a piece of lightly floured parchment paper or a lightly floured silicone baking mat. With a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough out to about 1/4-inch thickness. Use more flour if the dough seems too sticky. The rolled-out dough can be any shape, as long as it is evenly 1/4-inch thick.
- Lightly dust one of the rolled-out doughs with flour. Place a piece of parchment on top. (This prevents sticking.) Place the 2nd rolled-out dough on top. Cover with plastic wrap or aluminum foil, then refrigerate for at least 1-2 hours and up to 2 days.
- Once chilled, preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Line 2-3 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Carefully remove the top dough piece from the refrigerator. If it’s sticking to the bottom, run your hand under it to help remove it—see me do this in the video below. Using a cookie cutter, cut the dough into shapes. Re-roll the remaining dough and continue cutting until all is used. Repeat with 2nd piece of dough. (Note: It doesn’t seem like a lot of dough, but you get a lot of cookies from the dough scraps you re-roll.)
- Arrange cookies on baking sheets 3 inches apart. Bake for 11-12 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges. If your oven has hot spots, rotate the baking sheet halfway through bake time. Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before decorating.
- Decorate the cooled cookies with royal icing or easy cookie icing. Feel free to tint either icing with gel food coloring. See post above for recommended decorating tools. No need to cover the decorated cookies as you wait for the icing to set. If it’s helpful, decorate the cookies directly on a baking sheet so you can stick the entire baking sheet in the refrigerator to help speed up the icing setting.
- Enjoy cookies right away or wait until the icing sets to serve them. Once the icing has set, these cookies are great for gifting or for sending. Plain or decorated cookies stay soft for about 5 days when covered tightly at room temperature. For longer storage, cover and refrigerate for up to 10 days.
- Freezing Instructions: Plain or decorated sugar cookies freeze well up to 3 months. Wait for the icing to set completely before layering between sheets of parchment paper in a freezer-friendly container. To thaw, thaw in the refrigerator or at room temperature. You can also freeze the cookie dough for up to 3 months before rolling it out. Prepare the dough through step 3, divide in half, flatten both halves into a disk as we do with pie crust, wrap each in plastic wrap, then freeze. To thaw, thaw the disks in the refrigerator, then bring to room temperature for about 1 hour. Roll out the dough as directed in step 4, then chill rolled out dough in the refrigerator for 45 minutes – 1 hour before cutting into shapes and baking.
- Special Tools (affiliate links): Electric Mixer (Handheld or Stand Mixer) | Baking Sheets | Silicone Baking Mat or Parchment Paper | Rolling Pin or this Adjustable Rolling Pin | Heart-Shaped Cookie Cutter | Americolor Soft Gel Paste Color Kit | Disposable or Reusable Piping Bags | Couplers | Wilton Tip #4 | Squeeze Bottle
- Room Temperature: Room temperature butter is essential. If the dough is too sticky, your butter may have been too soft. Room temperature butter is actually cool to the touch. Room temperature egg is preferred so it’s quickly and evenly mixed into the cookie dough.
- Flavors: I love flavoring this cookie dough with 1/2 teaspoon almond extract as listed in the ingredients above. For lighter flavor, use 1/4 teaspoon. Instead of the almond extract, try using 1 teaspoon of maple extract, coconut extract, lemon extract, or peppermint extract. Or add 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice or ground cinnamon. If using lemon extract, you can also add 1 Tablespoon lemon zest.
- Icing: Use royal icing or my easy cookie icing. See post above to read about the differences.
- Be sure to check out my top 5 cookie baking tips AND these are my 10 must-have cookie baking tools.
Keywords: sugar cookies, royal icing, Christmas cookies
Reader Comments & Reviews
I love your sugar cookies. Getting started on an order of 500 for a wedding. Will decorate and freeze for 2 -3 weeks. I’m hoping they will defrost well! I did try a small batch and they were fine but still nervous!
Everyone loved this recipe! I have been asked to make them twice for Birthday parties.
The best sugar cookie! I got a lot of compliments.
I was wondering if I could sub lemon extract for vanilla. If so would it be the same amount?
Hi Terry! We recommend using 1 tsp lemon extract in addition to the vanilla extract.
Does this icing dry when you put it on the cookies??
Hi Lillian, yes, the royal icing does dry so that the cookies can be easily stacked once set. Hope you enjoy the cookies!
Hi Sally, thank you so much for this delicious sugar cookie recipe. I have made them several times now & they’ve always turned out perfect but today l made them & some of the cookies spred & some of them didn’t. Can you tell me why?
Hi Nancy, we’re happy to help troubleshoot. Was your dough getting a bit too warm as it was rerolled and cut for more shapes? It sounds like some of the dough may have been warmer, causing it to spread while the cooler dough did not. Certain shapes can also hold better than others, so that may be the culprit. Finally, feel free to rotate your pan half way through bake time. This promotes more even baking since some ovens tend to have hot spots. We’re so glad you’ve been enjoying these cookies!
This is my favorite sugar cookie recipe. I have tested many and this is the ONE!!
I have made hundreds of these. Simply the best and a crowd pleaser. I always add the almond extract to dough and icing! Yum!
Can I use salted butter
Hi Laura, if using salted butter you can reduce the added salt in the cookie dough from 1/4 teaspoon to 1/8 teaspoon.
I would like to make the cookies 3/8 vs 1/4
What baking time would you recommend and will this have an affect on the cookie itself besides being a little thicker
Hi Kalie, we’re unsure of the exact bake time, but keep a close eye on them and remove when the edges begin to (very) slightly brown and look set.
Sorry if it’s been asked already but can you emboss these? With an embosser? Iv never tried embossing or making these before so just wanted to check. Thanks so much!
Hi Laura! This recipe should work with a stamp/embosser, as we’ve done something similar with snowflake “stamped” cookie cutters for our sugar plum fairy cupcakes. We recommend chilling the shaped cookies (after cutting them) in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes right before baking. This will help guarantee the faces come out perfectly.
I just made these last night as well as your chocolate chip cookie recipe. Both turned out perfectly. Thanks again for sharing!
So glad you enjoyed both recipes, Valerie!
This was the best cookie and came out beautifully! Will be making more for an upcoming bridal shower. They look like they were made from a bakery, that’s how pretty and delicious they were. I followed the recipe and watched the videos, so impressed how great the cookies came out!
Is this dough okay in the refrigerator for any longer than 2 days?
I made some but haven’t had a chance to roll it out yet! It is day 4. Can I still use it?
Hi Priscilla! That’s entirely up to what you’re comfortable with in terms of food safety. We recommend refrigerating for up to two days and freezing for longer storage.