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 even published them in my cookbook, too! I’ve made them at least 38577 times (that’s a lot of butter), so I figured it’s time to share new recipe tips, a video tutorial, and more helpful information.

Sugar cookie success is in your near future. I can smell them baking already!

Why You’ll Love These Sugar Cookies

  • Soft, thick centers
  • 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


cookie cutter sugar cookies

soft cut-out sugar cookies

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 10-12 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.

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 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

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 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. 🙂

decorated sugar 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 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
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 Tablespoon more 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. 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.
  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 and 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

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!

299 Comments

  1. I plan on making this recipe next week. As far as the icing goes, what makes these two different from store bought icing? I’m baking cookies for my baby shower and while I love to bake, I’d like to take some of the stress away.

  2. I don’t make sugar cookies often, but when I do, I use this recipe! It’s very informative for the novice sugar cookie maker, but if you do have a question Sally is great when it comes to responding to a lot of questions.mThanks for a great recipe!

  3. Every year during the holiday season I’ve tried to find a good sugar cookie recipe that cuts the mustard, can’t tell you how many batches that have gone in the trash. Then I tried this one last week and finally it did exactly what it did for you in your video. I’ve been baking for years but never found that right cookie recipe that I want to stick with until now. I love this recipe and I tried it last night with some other flavors and they are a hit. Thank you and I love your technique for rolling out the dough and refrigerating. My cookies have great height and definition with nicely flat tops for decorating. Glad I came across your website during my google search.

  4. I am new to your website and have recently purchased all of your cookbooks! I love reading your weekly emails and trying your new recipes. I have a question about the icing on the decorated sugar cookies. I’m looking for an icing that does not harden and make the cookies crunchy at that point my family won’t eat them and throw them away. Which one of your icing recipes will stay soft on the decorated sugar cookies not runny but more of a soft rather than a crunchy texture ?

    1. Welcome to the website, Traci! I’m so glad that you have been enjoying the emails and recipes! It sounds like you might want to decorate your cookies with buttercream frosting instead of royal icing.

    1. Hi Fi, that’s completely normal since it contains solidified butter. If it’s too hard and the shaped cookies are breaking, let it soften at room temperature for a few minutes before shaping.

  5. I absolutely love this recipe. I made it the first time by measuring out the cups of flour and it came out perfectly. I decided to quadruple it this time and weighed the flour based on the weights given in the recipe, and I noticed that the dough was sticky and needed more flour. So I did the math and the recipe ended up needing about 300 more grams of flour (when quadrupled) than what this recipe called for. Next time I will just measure it out with cups because that seemed to be more accurate.

  6. I love these sugar cookies!! I have made the recipe several times and always get rave reviews from people. I like to flatten the dough into a disc shape, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough for a couple of hours. Then I quickly roll it out to desired thickness on parchment paper and cut into shapes and transfer shapes to parchment lined baking sheet. The dough can soften fairly quickly, so work quick. Cookies are perfect each time! I often double the recipe

  7. I must be the only one that cannot get the dough not sticky. I follow the recipe, however the dough is just tacky. I’m not sure if I’m not creaming the butter and sugar long enough. When I add the egg and vanilla it almost seems to curdle. What am I doing wrong??

    1. Hi Andrea, combining egg and vanilla with creamed butter + sugar can result in a curdled mess if the temperatures of those ingredients vary significantly. Make sure everything is at room temperature. Once you add the dry ingredients, though, the dough comes together just fine. Make sure you’re using enough flour. You can add another Tablespoon or 2 if the dough is just too sticky.

  8. I’m a novice home Baker. I’m stepping put of my comfort zone because, while I can cook, I never was a very successful baker. My daughter has just turned eight and is determined to be a great Baker when she grows up. Weve been baking together, and this is our very favorite recipe. The cookies turn out so perfect every batch and we have a blast decorating them..thanks for the recipe, the inspiration and the great memories!

  9. This is definitely a delicious and beautiful cookie. Last year I tried a couple of different sugar cookie recipes and nothing tasted as good. I did add the 1/2 tsp almond extract and you are right, that made the flavor fantastic.
    I also made your royal icing recipe and while I like the somewhat softer consistency, I did not like the flavor, which was essentially just sugar. I’m going to pitch that batch of icing and make another one, adding vanilla and a tad bit of salt to see if that improves the flavor so it doesn’t detract from the delicious cookies. Do you ever add flavorings to your royal icing, and if so what do you find works well?

    1. I personally do not add flavor to my royal icing, but yes it’s incredibly sweet! You can certainly add any flavor you wish, vanilla, almond, or anything else – just be sure it’s oil free – and try mixing it with the water before adding it to the sugar and meringue powder.

  10. Good Morning – ok been told this recipe is a great one – the reviews tell me so. My question is: I plan on putting 6 cookies to a bag and giving them away so people can decorate them. Freezing the cookie and thawing at room temperature and than decorating – can this be done?? And am I correct on the directions of thawing them out before decorating- also can they be frozen again after they are decorated?
    Thank you and have a great day

    1. Hi Germaine, Yes you read correctly! You can bake the cookies and freeze them and then let them come back to room temperature before decorating. I would be afraid if they were RE-frozen again after they were decorated they wouldn’t taste as fresh.

  11. Sally, do you think these cookies would hold their shape if I rolled them with an embossed roller? I’m trying to find cookies that will keep embossed details. These look like they’d taste fantastic!

    1. Yes! Many readers have done that with this recipe with luck. I haven’t personally tried it, but would feel confident doing so.

  12. After 60 years of searching for the Best Sugar Cookie recipe, I found it on your site…your recipe is amazing and I tossed out all other sugar cookie recipes. It is exactly as you describe it and just perfect!

  13. Hi Sally!

    I’m planning on using this recipe for some Halloween cookies and am so excited! However I’m wondering if you have a suggestion for a butter substitute (blasphemy, I know). My boyfriend is very lactose intolerant so I’ve used Earth Balance spread successfully in other recipes but have also heard of people using things like coconut oil in place of butter. Have you heard of anyone substituting butter in this recipe?

    Thank you!!

  14. I just want to let you know that last night I made these cookies and also your royal icing recipe and they turned out amazing! I had been reading some comments saying the icing was too sweet and such, but I disagree. Everything about the cookies and icing was a perfect texture and flavor. All of my guests raved about my Halloween cookies. Thank you so much for the amazing cookie/icing recipe!!

  15. Oh my goodness I made these sugar cookies today and they turned out great! This is going to be my new sugar cookie recipe, thank you so much!

  16. Was wondering if you have tried these with Gluten Free flour? I am going to try them today with King Arthur AP GF flour. Will report back.

    1. Hi Jodi, you can simply leave the almond extract out. Or, if desired, you can add a little more vanilla extract in its place. Either way is fine. Still plenty of vanilla flavor.

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