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!

716 Comments

  1. These were so good I had to make a second batch before Valentine’s Day! The 1/4 tsp of almond extract was a winner in my book. Question – the royal icing on my second batch is a bit crisp – not slightly soft to bite into like my first batch. Any idea what I could have done incorrectly on batch number 2?

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed these, Katie! For your second batch it’s possible that you simply applied it thinner than the first one, or even just that it dried longer before you ate them.

  2. Delicious! Made mini heart cookies to share at work. Everyone loved the flavor. It was a spur of the moment decision the night before to make them, so I used canned frosting to speed the process…but was still a big hit. I will be keeping this recipe to use again!

    1. I’m so glad they were a hit, Jody!

  3. This was so much fun on Valentine’s Day with my grandchildren. I used Miyoko’s vegan butter, and needed to add a few extra tablespoons of flour, but the cookies turned out very pretty, soft and delicious. Thank you!

  4. the first time I made these cookies, they turned out perfectly. This second time, for my son’s birthday party, they’ve spread out all over the place. I didn’t do anything differently.

  5. Hi Sally ! I was wondering if I could add maybe 2 ounces of cream cheese to this recipe? Would I need to remove 2 oz of butter? Thank you in advance!

    1. Hi Tonija, Try my recipe for Soft Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies. I think you will love them!

  6. Question:
    I’m from the UK and looking to make this.. by ‘all purpose flour’ does that just mean plain flour?
    For meringue powder does that mean ‘egg white powder’?

    1. Hi Aimee! Yes, plain flour is all-purpose flour. Egg white powder is not the same as meringue powder. Egg white powder can replace egg whites while meringue powder includes ingredients in meringue such as cornstarch and sugar.

      1. Thank you so much for responding! I can’t seem to find meringue powder or if I do it has to be from online which is a fortune.. do you know a different way to do the royal icing with egg white powder or other ingredients? Sorry new to this and don’t want to spend a fortune as just want to give them a go x

    2. Hi Aimee,
      I’m also in the UK. You can buy “royal icing sugar” at the grocery store (I’ve bought it at Tesco and Waitrose so far). It is powdered sugar with meringue powder in it. If I recall correctly, the price is about the same as icing sugar.

  7. Made these cookies several times you guessed it everyone loves them, have a batch in refrigerator. My grandson informed me I could make on Sunday, ship on Monday and he will have them on Tues. So this will be a nice surprise for him and his college roommates.

  8. Hi Sally, I’m looking forward to trying this recipe. Being Irish, I thought I might make these for St Patrick’s day. I recently purchased a shamrock shaped cookie cutter, however it’s rather large at 41/2”X 5” approx, will the large size effect the end result? I’m guessing that I will have to adjust the cooking time also.

    1. Hi Ellen! You’ll have slightly fewer cookies in the batch and the cookies may take a couple extra minutes. They’re done when they are lightly browned around the edges. Enjoy!

    2. I did the exact same thing – large shamrock cookies and had to bake 12 minutes. They were perfect! I brought them to work today and everyone went crazy for them!

      1. Thank you Kaelin, I really appreciate your response to my query.

  9. Joelle Bradley says:

    (I may have overlooked, but I cant find it) Can we gather and re-roll scraps? How many times?

  10. Hi Sally,
    I use these cookies all the time because they’re amazing! But I wanted to know, if I wanted to make these into cookies n cream style cookies, what quantity of oreo crumbs do you think I would add?

    1. You would have a difficult time rolling out this dough with large chunks in it. I don’t recommend it. How about my Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies and use Oreo pieces instead of chocolate chunks (or half Oreo half chocolate chunks)?

      1. oooh ok I was thinking of putting oreos in the food processor to grind them finely and then add it in, but I guess you’re right they could be chunky…
        Thank you!

  11. Love this recipe! How long does the royal icing take to set? I will need to stack them for travel and do not want to ruin the designs??

    1. Hi Julie, It dries to the touch in an hour or two, but if stacking for travel I usually give them a full 24 hours to dry just to be sure! Keep in mind drying time depends on how much water you use, how thick you apply the frosting, and the humidity level in your house.

  12. I tried this recipe and sent to nursery for my son’s 4th birthday. They really enjoyed its perfect taste.

    Today i made pumpkin bread… it was so good also.

    We are in Korea so i made some adjustments on sugar by half… still my husband and my son can’t stop eating kkk

  13. Christine Alles says:

    Awesome recipe. Made mini cut out cookies with my 3 and 5 year old grandsons. They could easily use the mini cookie cutters. Was like playing with play dough to them. We just added some sugar sprinkles instead of icing. They came out perfect with a bit of reduced baking time. Yummily and addictive.

  14. Thank you! I followed your directions perfectly, and appreciated the video on the frosting consistency. Next time, I’ll make it a little less thin, but that was my error. The taste, and detailed instructions were so very awesome! Great results!!

  15. Can I add food dye to the dough?

    1. You can! I recommend gel food coloring instead of liquid since you won’t have to add ad much for brighter colors.

  16. Robin Thompson says:

    I am baking sugar cookies for this weekend and love all your helpful tips. Can you tell me approximately how many cookies this recipe makes? I need #60 (regular size cookie cutter).
    Thank you!

    1. This recipe yield approximately 24 4-inch cookies. It doubles easily!

  17. These were really good. With the almond extract, they almost tasted like a combo of a sugar cookie and marzipan. I like the rolling out then chilling. I popped it in the freezer for about 5 minutes and it worked great to cut shapes. The excess, I rolled into balls and smashed into colored sugar. They were great, too. My husband ate 3 when they cooled. I had to put them away!

    1. I’m thrilled you enjoyed them so much, Jessie!

  18. I am an EXTREMELY picky baker and have been let down time and time again with baking blogs carelessly throwing up recipes that look amazing, only to find that the quality is poor. I have made several of Sally’s Baking Addiction recipes now and am blown away with her attention to detail while recipe testing. Every single recipe has delivered on what she has promised and these sugar cookies are EXACTLY what you want a decorated sugar cookie to be. I wait in anticipating for the next holiday just so I have an excuse to take out my cookie cutters and go to down on my double (sometimes triple) batch of these! Please do yourself a favor, make these cookies, and everything else she posts! Well done Sally!

  19. I made a batch of these biscuits for my daughters baby shower with rolled fondant icing on top. I’m not really a baker and rarely make baked goodies but wanted to have a go at making these instead of the huge cost of buying them. My daughter and myself were so impressed and all the ladies thought they were professionally made. They tasted amazing. They definitely keep their shape while cooking. Definitely a recipe to keep.

    Thank you sally

  20. Charlotte Hanlon says:

    These cookies were great!! It took almost the whole day but it was worth it! I doubled the recipe. So we had too many cookies to decorate!! They were delicious!

  21. Wishing I would have doubled this recipe! Delicious!

  22. Hey, Sally. Um, may I use brown sugar instead of white sugar in the dough? And will I have extra icing left if I double both recipes?

    1. Hi Emily, Unfortunately brown sugar will not work in this particular recipe as it is much too soft. You might be interested in these Chewy Brown Sugar Cookies.

  23. annette balzer says:

    I followed the recipe to a “T” twice and the dough is crumbly. I can’t roll out. Can you help?

    1. Hi Annette! The flour may have been over-measured. This is a slightly crumbly dough, but comes together when you roll it out. Make sure you spoon and level it instead of scooping (or weigh it). The more you work with the dough (re-rolling scraps) the more it comes together. I hope my video tutorial is helpful.

  24. Hi Sally! I have maybe a silly question, haha. How do you roll out the dough on parchment paper without the parchment paper moving all over my counter as I roll? it’s possible to do it, I just found it difficult. I had to get my husband to hold it down for me to make it easier. Didn’t know if you had a trick up your sleeve for this.
    Love your recipes and always recommend you to friends!

    1. Hi Erin! If I hold the rolling pin itself– not the handles– I have a much better grip on things and the parchment paper doesn’t slide around as much. It’s what I usually do!

  25. Can you use Gluten free flour in this recipe?

    1. Hi Shelley, I haven’t tested these cookies with gluten free flour but let me know if you try it.

      1. So i tried the recipe last night and used half GF self raising and half GF plain flour and 1 teaspoon of xanthum gum, everything else was the same except i did not have almond extract so because the dough was still quite soft and sticky i added 2 tbs almond flour and it worked out great, taste is yummy and no issues. Thanks

  26. I’m not much of a baker but these cookies look delicious and I’m going to make them this week. I however, only have the beater attachments and not the paddle attachments for my hand blender. With this coronavirus situation I would rather not go out to
    get one. Would a regular beater attachment work okay?
    Thanks !

    1. Hi Erin! Yes, a regular beater attachment will work perfectly. Happy cookie baking!

  27. Lindsey Hicks says:

    I haven’t finished making these yet but I have a question. Am I truly supposed to roll these out to a 1/4 inch? I divided my dough in two, rolled it out to a little thinner than 1/4 inch and when I placed my egg shaped cookie cutter (which is 3.75″ long and 2.5″ wide) it looks like I can get 4 cookies out of this, scraps not included. So that’s putting me at 8-10 cookies for this recipe. I’m wondering if I should roll it out much thinner?

    1. Hi Lindsey! I’ve made these more times in the past 10 years than I can count and trust me, keep re-rolling the scraps. You’ll get a lot more cookies!

  28. Hey , Would I be able to replace the baking powder with baking soda?

  29. Seriously perfect! Made these for valentines gifts to co-workers and one gal told me the cookies were so good I should start selling them haha! Followed the recipe exactly for both the cookies and royal icing. Making again right now for some Easter treats! I will never need another sugar cookie recipe! Thanks so much sally!!

  30. Great recipe. My 11 year old made them (under my supervision) and they were delicious. We rolled them a little flat cause I prefer them crispy rather than chewy. Made them with the royal icing using pasteurized egg whites in lieu of meringue powder and they were excellent.

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