The Best Sugar Cookies

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.

decorated sugar cookies

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


stack of cookie cutter sugar cookies

soft cut-out sugar cookies on a pink plate

Overview: How to Make Sugar Cookies with Icing

  1. 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!
  2. Divide in two pieces. Smaller sections of dough are easier to roll out.
  3. 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!
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Bake & cool. Depending on size, the cookies take about 12 minutes.
  7. 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.

collage of sugar cookie dough process photos

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. 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.

plain sugar cookies

royal icing in mixing bowl

Sugar Cookie Icing

I have TWO sugar cookie icing recipes and you can choose whichever works best for you.

  1. 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.
  2. Easy Glaze Icing: You can find my easy glaze icing recipe paired with my Christmas sugar cookies. This icing is 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’s thinner than royal icing and 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:

  • Cookie Sheets
  • 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.
  • 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 piping bag.

decorated sugar cookies on a baking sheet

stack of decorated heart sugar cookies

Here’s What You Can Do with This Dough

And if you’re craving sugar cookies with a little extra tang, try my soft cream cheese cookies.

Print
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sugar cookies with icing

Soft Cut-Out Sugar Cookies

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 2 hours
  • Cook Time: 12 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 hours
  • Yield: 24 4-inch cookies
  • Category: Cookies
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

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.


Ingredients

  • 2 and 1/4 cups (281g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 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

Instructions

  1. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl using a hand mixer 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.
  3. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix on low until combined. Dough will be relatively soft. If the dough seems too soft and sticky for rolling, add 1 more Tablespoon of flour.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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 above. 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.)
  7. 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.
  8. Decorate the cooled cookies with royal icing or my easy glaze 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.
  9. 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.

Notes

  1. 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.
  2. 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. You can read more about it in this post. Room temperature egg is preferred so it’s quickly and evenly mixed into the cookie dough.
  3. 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. Along with lemon extract, you can also add 1 Tablespoon lemon zest.
  4. Icing: Use royal icing or my easy glaze icing. See post above to read about the differences.
  5. 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

heart sugar cookies with royal icing and pink sprinkles

1131 Comments

  1. I absolutely loved this recipe every said these were the best cookies they ever ate thank you

  2. Joann trevino says:

    Fixing to decorate my cookies..do I just leave them out to dry overnight ? Once icing is dry how do I store these? sorry newbie here!. Please help !

    1. Tina Thompson says:

      I make these all the time and they are literally the best! I would like to make for someone with a nut allergy so instead of almond extract would you use butter extract maybe?

  3. Allison Koziol says:

    Hello, I am trying to make these and used almond flour and silken tofu in place of the flour and eggs and used vegan butter. My dough is extremely soft and sticky. Can you tell me what I should do? The dough tastes amazing but there is no way I can roll it out! What if I put in the fridge overnight?

    1. Hiya,

      Just a tip, add more flour…
      It won’t really affect the taste. That’s what i do anyway!

  4. I was searching for a sugar cookie recipe that holds shape. These do that and that is the best thing I can say about them. My tried and true cut out sugar cookie does not always hold it’s shape but it is the right combination of crunch and chewy with a wonderful flavor. These are bland and blah even with the extra flavorings. Extremely disappointed! I am known for my cookies; I would be embarrassed giving these away. It is almost like a shortbread cookie which would be okay, if that is what it was called.

    1. “ I would be embarrassed giving these away.” that’s a very unnecessary to say.

  5. I was planning to make these for Xmas, but will not be sharing these with anyone and most ended up in the garbage. They are very dry and crispy and don’t have much flavor, even with the added almond extract. 1/4″ thickness is on the thin side, I increased the thickness after the first pan came out way too thin and all the cookies broke apart when I tried to transfer from the pan to the cooling rack. The dough was impossible to reroll right out of the fridge. It needed to be worked with warm hands for a minute to get it to roll again. The cookies do hold their shape as the recipe states.

    1. If you’ll note, the instructions advise you to roll them out THEN refrigerate. The cookies do hold their shape as stated in the recipe.

  6. I made these cookies for Christmas and I put 140 grams of sugar and they were overly sweet. Next time, I’ll try to put 100 grams and see how that works out. A bit of a toothache, but had a nice texture.

  7. This truest is the best sugar
    Cookie recipes! I have tried a few others before this and this turns out the most delicious, most beautiful, less messy. Great tips on rolling out the dough before chilling .

  8. This is the first sugar cookie recipe for baking that I’ve made that doesn’t spread and look like a blob after baking. These held their shape beautifully! All I have to say is, if they didn’t have frosting of them. The cookie itself does not have a nice flavor, it is kind of bland but perfect for decorating. I will always use this in the future when decorating cookies!

  9. Pros: This is a simple recipe that comes together quickly with common ingredients. The process tips are golden! The cookies bake well and holds their shape. It made very pretty cookies.

    Con: The cookies have a very mild flavor almost bland. I used only vanilla extract, maybe the almond helps build a more complex flavor.

    The royal icing recipe was the best I’ve ever made! I’ll never do it any other way!

  10. I make these cookies for my dad because they are his favorite. Unfortunately for him, my family snatched them up before he could eat them. My family doesn’t even like sugar cookies. They were branded the best cookies. Thanks for sharing this recipe and making me look like a good! I can’t say enough good things about these cookies! Amazing, fantastic!

  11. Perfectly shaped, crisp, cookies that looked laser-cut! I swapped the almond extract for 1/4 tsp rose extract and it was the right amount of floral and not too sweet. I’m planning to ship these to family, and they look sturdy enough to make the journey (fingers crossed!)

  12. This cookie recipe was so good! I love the almond extract, it really adds a lot of flavor! They have been out for almost 5 days and still taste soft and chewy. Definitely my favorite sugar cookie recipe.

  13. This really is the BEST sugar cookie recipe! I typically don’t like sugar cookies, but they are my husband’s favorite to have around the holidays. We made these together on Christmas day and I could not stop eating them! I think I ate 6 cookies that afternoon, a few more that night, and a couple more with a cup of coffee the next morning. We will definitely be making these for years to come!

  14. Made these cookies so many times and never disappoints.
    Highly recommend adding the almond extract. Takes the flavour to the next level.

  15. My favorite recipe for cut out sugar cookies. I follow the instructions and it came out perfectly. I read the reviews saying it doesn’t have much flavor. In my opinion they are perfect especially if you are adding royal icing to them. Thanks for the recipe and detailed instructions.

  16. Mary-Clare Cavanagh says:

    Hi,
    I make gingerbread houses to sell at Christmas and I had an order for a shortbread one. I used your recipe and the pieces came out beautifully! I wish I could post a picture. The recipient was so happy .

  17. loved this recipe, I didn’t have enough butter so I substituted about 50 g with cream cheese, and they turned out delicious!
    Also made a batch of chocolate ones by substituting 1/4 cup of cocoa for 1/4 cup flour, definitely a keeper recipe 🙂 Thank you.

  18. Lisa Zacchio says:

    What I love about this recipe…..best sugar cookies I’ve ever had, and friends and family agreed.
    What I don’t like about this recipe……I ate so many of these cookies, I gained 3 lbs over Christmas, lol.

  19. Me and my family loves these cookies, but sadly my dad can’t have them because he’s diabetic. Is there any way I could substitute the the sugar with something else to make them sugar free?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Katie, we haven’t tested this recipe with any sugar alternatives, so we can’t give you a confident recommendation here. We do have a Healthy Sweet collection of our recipes, where you might find a recipe that would work better for your dad. Hope you find some to enjoy!

  20. These are not sugar cookies. They are more along the lines of a shortbread. No flavor at all. They do hold very well though. But I wouldn’t recommend if you want a true, sweet cookie.

  21. I loved these cookies, I actually used them for a 3D solar system project, overall delicious but I found you have to cook them for closer to 15 minutes not 11-12

  22. How long do these cookies last / store for before they go bad?

  23. Love this!

    Thanks Sally! I’ve been searching for a good sugar cookie recipe for ages, and just came across this! Sooo Yummmy!

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