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 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


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 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

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. 🙂

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!

696 Comments

  1. I thank you Sally for your quick response. Happy holidays

    1. Kathleen Kupke says:

      Thank You Sally
      I have been trying to make sugar cookies for many, many years. Always a disaster! 2019 is the year of the sugar cookie xoxox
      This was the best recipe. Perfect cookies. PERFECT SHAPES hahaha. It was all about rolling out and refrigerating. I’m 51 so this has been long overdue. merry Christmas

  2. Veronica Tripp says:

    Fantastic!! Thank you

  3. Hi! Just wondering if I could add some cocoa powder to the dough to make marbled cookies?

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Sarah, Cocoa is a complicated ingredient and it’s not an easy swap with flour, so I don’t recommend just adding it to this recipe as is. I do have a chocolate sugar cookie recipe that you can make then marble the two doughs together – that would be really fun!

      1. Thank you again! And happy holidays 🙂

  4. Can I make the royal icing ahead of time and refrigerate until the following day to use?
    Is it easier to store in the refrigerator in piping bags or bowls?
    Thank you!

    1. Hi, Jill – Yes, you can leave it in the fridge for a day. Either piping bags or bowls will work!

  5. Sally, First if all have A Merry Joyful Christmas
    I would like your recipe for a thin icing to decorate my cookies.
    Thank you

    1. If you look in the blog post above there are two different icings that you can use for these cookies. Either royal icing or my easy glaze icing – both are great options!

  6. These + your royal icing were PERFECT! I have never gotten the royal icing right in the past, but this was the year!!

    These were delicious!! THANKS!

    1. So happy to hear that, Michelle!

  7. Hi Sally!!
    Your cookies look adorable, I’m wondering if I can use this cookie dough as a base for both rolled/cut cookies AND simple sprinkle drop cookies.

    Basically combining the Soft Frosted Sugar Cookie recipe and this one (in terms of process not ingredients). Let me know what you think, thanks so much for always making delicious recipes! (I made your peppermint bark today – AMAZING)

    1. Hi, Christine! I’d recommend following my Drop Sugar Cookies with Sprinkles recipe. Thank you for making my recipes!

  8. We are still in the process of baking and making the glaze, but got the chance to try one and it was sooooo good! Thank you Sally! I’ve been obsessing over your page <3

    1. Thank you so much, Lesley! I’m glad you loved this recipe!

  9. Am i able to cut this recipe in half?!! what happens with the egg?

    1. You can cut it in half. For the egg I recommend cracking it into a separate bowl, mixing it, and then only using half (about 2 TBS).

  10. Sally did it again! These are the best sugar cookies! I love the extra flavor from the almond extract. I just frosted them using the “my favorite royal icing” recipe and they look great! I kept my dough in overnight because it wasn’t ready at the 2 hour mark.

  11. Kathleen Kupke says:

    Thank You Sally
    I have been trying to make sugar cookies for many, many years. Always a disaster! 2019 is the year of the sugar cookie xoxox
    This was the best recipe. Perfect cookies. PERFECT SHAPES hahaha. It was all about rolling out and refrigerating. I’m 51 so this has been long overdue. merry Christmas

  12. If you are short on time can you skip the chilling or will that affect it? Thanks

    1. Hi Olivia, Chilling the dough is imperative for this recipe. Without chilling the dough will be too sticky to cut out and the cookies will melt into puddles instead of holding their shape.

  13. Hi Sally! I love your site and how you teach. I am commenting specifically about the videos and the number of commercials. I am not sure that you realize just how many are being shown. During your 5 min cookie recipe video and your 3+ min frosting video, 12 ads popped up, interrupting your instruction. I know ads are probably necessary in keeping your content available, but I do not think you intend it to overwhelm and take over your mission.
    Thank you so much for your great recipes! Blessings to you!
    Marta Nelson

    1. Hi Marta! Are you watching on Facebook? I have no control over how often those ads are circulating at this time. On my website, however, there is only 1 ad that plays and there should always be a Skip Ad button that displays shortly after it begins. Where are you watching them? Thank you so much!!

  14. Shirley Brown says:

    These are truly the best sugar cookies I have ever made and eaten! Good job Sally!

  15. Is there a way to contact the person who made this recipe? I’ve been using it a few years now and absolutely love it but the last two times I’ve made them I’m having extreme difficulty with the dough. I really don’t want to have to look for another recipe as this one tastes so good!

    1. Hi Nicole, I’m the creator of this recipe. Could you explain a little more so I can help troubleshoot? You can also email me directly [email protected]

  16. Can I chill this recipe first and then roll out?

    1. Hi Becky! I don’t recommend it. The dough is pretty hard after chilling and cracks/breaks as you roll it out. Best to follow the order of instructions listed.

  17. Can I use this recipe for log cookies, just slicing them and baking them in rounds?

    1. Yes, that works for this recipe.

  18. Great sugar cookies! I love the idea of rolling the dough out and then putting it in the frig. I did the same with a pie crust. Love!

  19. I’ve been making these for the past couple weeks! A couple things: yes, roll out dough first; I make mine a little thicker about 1/4”—I find the faster you cut then cold and get them in the oven the better!!!! I bake for 14 mins exact and they are tender and crisp on the edge. The frosting is best applied the next day as I store the cookies over night in the cookie tins lined with wax paper.

  20. This is definitely what I was looking for in a sugar cookie.
    Stays soft and moist and flavour is amazing.

  21. I just made the cookies, tomorrow I will decorate. So far very happy with the results. I tried a recipe from the perfect cookie book and i tried twice, both times were a disaster that resulted in the dough getting thrown out.

    My question is, how do I store the undecorated cookies?

    1. Hi Wilka! I usually store them in a tightly covered container at room temperature until I’m ready to decorate.

      1. Wilka Vincent says:

        Thank you, Sally.
        Delicious cookies!
        I had trouble with the icing, maybe being too thick, but with practice, I’ll get it and the taste of the royal icing was great too.

  22. I just made this cookies omg they are perfect my husband loved it , great flavor awesome .!! Thank you very much Sally

  23. Will this recipe also work for stamped cookies/will the cookie keep the impression or will it just rise and bake out?
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Tiffany, I used this recipe to make stamped snowflake cookies and they came out beautifully! You can see them in my post on Sugar Plum Fairy Cupcakes (I used the cookies on top of the cupcakes).

  24. This look so so so so good.
    I love sugar cookies the flavor of a suger cookie is so AMAZING.
    When I eat a cookie I think of so many thing like the thickness, or softness.
    And the flavor I can’t wait to make this
    THANK YOU SO MUCH SALLY FOR HELPING ME GET THROUGH 2019 AMD NOW 2020 WE ARE ALL GOING TO LEARN NEW THING THIS YEAR OF 2020 FROM SALLY
    Thank you Sally

  25. Rebecca Goodwin says:

    I used this recipe for the first time this Christmas. These were fantastic! I did add a little of the almond extract. So yummy and will definitely be my go-to recipe for sugar cookies now. Thank you!!

  26. These cookies (and your recipe for Royal Icing) completely transformed our holidays! I usually make my great-great Grandmother’s sugar cookies (with cream of tartar) but they aren’t good for making shapes or for icing. I made your recipe for the first time for Christmas this year and they were perfect! They even survived a plane trip from the Midwest to California without breaking, and the flavor was spot on. I cannot wait to try your other recipes!

  27. Hello– I plan on trying this recipe for a party. I was wondering how long they stay good.
    Meaning, how long in advance of the party can I make them?
    They look delicious!!

    1. 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. For freezing instructions see the recipe notes!

  28. Hi! I made this recipe and, I will be honest, I didn’t expect much in the way of flavor. But believe me, I have been SHOWN! I should never have doubted you! I do have one question, the first few cookies that I frosted turned out great (royal icing, your recipe) but the next few were so globby and hard to work with, and then the frosting spread out WAYYY too much and fell over the sides! I don’t know what I did wrong!

  29. Hi Sally, I tried baking these cookies and my cookies ended up losing the shape and ended up like a puddle, the heart ended up looking like a round circle and the edges were not crisp (sharp) it ended up round….what am I doing wrong my dough too thin? Am I adding too much baking powder?

    1. Hi Vicky! I’m happy to help. Make sure the cookie dough is sufficiently chilled. There is plenty of flour to soak up the butter, so over-spreading shouldn’t be an issue unless the dough is not chilled OR the dough is rolled too thin. Make sure you keep it on the thicker side.

  30. Thank you Sally for this incredibly easy and delicious recipe. I am 72 and decided 2020 was the year I would learn to bake. Fortunately I found your site and all your tried and true tips. The videos are so instructive and easy to follow and I am enjoying using my art skills in decorating.
    As a newbie, rolling dough before chilling….brilliant
    Adding almond extract…..should be mandatory
    Meringue powder instead of egg whites……success for me
    Following your directions faithfully….well, thats the key, isn’t it?
    You are a wonderful teacher. Thank you.

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