The Best 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!

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! 😉

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. Rather than using egg whites or meringue powder, this recipe uses water 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. 

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Soft Cut-Out Sugar Cookies

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 2 hours
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 hours
  • Yield: 18 medium size cookies
  • Category: Cookies
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

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 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!


Ingredients

Cookies

  • 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 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*
  • 22.5 Tablespoons (30-38ml) room temperature water
  • assorted sprinkles, if desired

Instructions

  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.

Notes

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

534 Comments

    1. When I measure out 280g for flour it only comes to 2 cups instead of the 2-1/4. Is that okay or should I add the additional 1/4 cup? New baker so I’m confused

      1. Weighing flour is always the most accurate! It’s easy to pack the flour into the measuring cups and use too much – for this reason I always recommend spooning the flour into the measuring cups and not scooping.

  1. Hi Sly
    I’ve made these several times now and they are always a hit. Could I add cocoa powder and decrease flour to turn these into chocolate biscuits?
    Also thinking of adding different flavoured icing like orange with choc biscuits or raspberry

  2. I’ve made these cookies a number of times and they always turn out amazing. I was wondering, what proportions of lemon extract or zest, if any, would be good to make these a lemon flavor? Would I use less vanilla or almond? I’d like to pair the lemon flavored cookie with a lavender royal icing. Thanks so much for all you do!

  3. I just needed to comment to say these are by far the best, most fool proof cut out sugar cookies I have ever made. I offered to make cookies for a bridal shower over the weekend, and since I swear by Sally’s chewy chocolate chunk cookies (best chocolate chip cookies ever) I decided to try this one. About 30 seconds into creaming the butter and sugar the motor on my hand mixer died. I freaked out because I knew I didn’t have time to remake another (double) batch after buying a new mixer the next day. It took a lot of elbow grease but even mixing by hand these came out amazing! Everyone loved them… so thank you so much for this recipe. It is now added to my list of go-to’s 🙂

  4. Silly question, but if one wanted crispier sugar cookies can these just be baked longer? I made these at Christmas and I love love love rolling the dough out, then refrigerating!

  5. How do you think they would be without the almond extract (which is amazing) and try some with lemon extract? Or do you have a great lemon cookie recipe. I love everything lemon and it screams SPRING!

  6. Easy to work with dough, great flavor, and held shapes perfectly. Will use this recipe every time for cutouts:)

  7. Hi Sally,

    I’m making these cookies on a Wednesday and will need to bake and ice them all today time wise. They are for a party Sunday and I really want them to be fresh and soft until at least Monday. Can I freeze them with icing for a few days or would refrigerating them until Sunday keep them soft?

    Also, which icing is easier for a novice baker to decorate with, the icing with this recipe or your royal icing? Thanks!

    1. Hi Shannon! For a novice baker and decorator, I recommend my easy glaze icing (which is included in this recipe). Though this royal icing sets MUCH faster! I recommend freezing the cookies after the icing sets, then placing on the counter to thaw out and warm to room temperature before serving.

  8. First: Happy Birthday! Hope all your wishes come true. I SO agree with article. I have given up on making cut outs for all occasions except for Christmas. The frustration just wasn’t worth the effort. All the rolling and cutting goes to waste on a poor recipe. That being said, tomorrow I will test bake this recipe (a trial run). I have faith in your advice, but am out of practice. Because we are having Easter cookie this year!!! And all the rest of important occasions from no now. Thank you for your Birthday gift to all us frustrated bakers! Barb

  9. Have you ever used Crisco or other fat rather than butter? I’ve got a friend with a dairy allergy kid and I’m hoping to find a recipe she can eat!

    1. Hi Claire! You can use shortening in place of butter. Some readers have even used Earth Balance brand vegan butter with great results.

    2. Hi Sally,
      I made this recipe twice already and it came out amazing both times! I don’t usually like sugar cookies and I enjoyed these. I was wondering if You think I could add some spices like cinnamon or something to change it up a little?

      1. Absolutely! I love adding 1/2 – teaspoon cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, or a combination of nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, etc. Coconut extract or lemon extract are wonderful too!

      2. One more question lol. Did you think an orange flavored marshmallow fondant would taste good with the cookies if I added the cinnamon? Or is that weird? Thank you

  10. In your narrative, it says your icing recipe uses milk and cork syrup. However the recipe calls for water and corn syrup. Could you clarify?

  11. Love these cookies!
    I was looking for a recipe to make spring cookies with my kids and feel so lucky to have found this one – thank you Sally!!

    Rolling out the dough before putting it in the refrigerator to chill is genius! I had to work a small miracle in my ‘small’ German fridge to fit it in but it was totally worth it: the kids could get right to cutting out shapes without first watching Mom attack a solid monster of cold dough with a rolling pin!

    Only had one small problem: I had stacked two sheets of rolled dough on baking paper and when I took them out they were stuck pretty well to the baking paper. I couldn’t get the top layer off without risking a breakage so we had to carefully cut out shapes from the top layer while it was still sitting on the other one. A little tricky, but we managed.

    I don’t know if it’s my baking paper that was the problem, or that I had to leave it in overnight, but next time I will also put a layer of plastic wrap between them. 😉

    Delicious and easy cookies!!

  12. Hi Sally. I’ve had great success with this recipe when I made it in winter. Turned out just perfect. Now I live in a very hot location weather wise. As I’m making this again I’m having trouble keeping the butter at ‘room temp’ which is to say as soon as I start mixing it it seems to start melting and the resultant dough is very runny. Any tips for baking with butter in the heat? Thanks!

    1. You can try placing your mixing bowl in the freezer before you begin making the batter so that the bowl is cold when you begin!

  13. If I use this for your cinnamon roll cookie recipe, do I have to chill it, roll it into rectangles, spread it with the filling and let it chill again? Or is it enough chilling it one time in the end? 😀

  14. I have made these cookies several times and they’re always a hit! So delicious!! I do feel like the puff up a bit and lose their shape somewhat. Do you have any idea what could be causing this? Thanks!

    1. I’m so glad you enjoy them, Ashley! Make sure that your dough is cold going in the oven. You can place the pan of cut out shapes in the fridge before baking them to make sure they are cold after you cut them!

  15. I made these for the first time today and they turned out amazing. However for the party I’m making them for nut allergies are a concern. If I take out the almond extract should I add an extra 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract or just take it out completely

    1. Hi Beenie! You can use brown sugar instead of white sugar. Same amount. The cookies will have a lovely flavor!

    1. Hi Jodie! I don’t have any experience baking with gluten free flour but other readers have reported back that they use it successfully in cookie recipes. Let me know if you try it!

  16. Sally,
    This is my go-to recipe for cut out sugar cookies. I’ve been baking more recently since I started getting serious about decorating the cookies with royal icing. With the warmer weather, I am getting some spread. Can I eliminate or decrease the baking powder?

    1. Hi Ruth! I’m so glad you enjoy these sugar cookies– thank you! I don’t recommend reducing the baking powder in the dough. Adding 2-3 extra Tbsp of flour will help. Also, make sure those shaped cookies are cold going in the oven.

  17. Hi Sally!
    If I wanted thicker cookies, could I roll them out to be 1/2 an inch, or 1/3 of an inch instead of the 1/4 inch? Could I just bake it for longer to achieve the same crispy outside/soft inside? Thanks Sally! Never baked cookies before but definitely going to give it a shot!

    1. Hi Betty! 1/2 or 1/3 inch is great for thicker cookies. Bake for a little longer–until the edges are lightly browned.

  18. Had a craving for sugar cookies in June and wanted to test out the snowflake cookie cutters you used on your sugar plum fairy cupcakes (which I plan to make later this year). Easy. Tasty. Perfect. Going to have a blast making sugar cookies with my toddler come the holidays. Thanks!

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