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

1435 Comments

  1. I love this recipe!! I bake these for every occasion including Valentines Day, Easter, Halloween and Christmas! They are so fun to decorate and the royal icing goes perfectly with them. Turns out great every single time!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Thank you so much for this sweet review, Shelby!

  2. My favorite recipe for these! Can it be doubled or should I make a batch at a time?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Stacy, You can double this recipe. Enjoy!

  3. This recipe is AMAZING! I was able to look super professional with swan shaped cookies at my daughter’s birthday party! ☺️

  4. Hello Sally,
    Thank you for the great sugar cookie and royal icing recipes!!
    Tried your recipe for the first time last year & have been using it ever since.
    I also tried making it using Gluten Free Flour and it was good, the texture was a little more granulated but still delicious.
    Thank you Sally

  5. Best Recipe for the perfect sugar cookie!!
    Thank you!!

  6. Perfect perfect perfect! My husband is so picky when it comes to sugar cookies. He was obsessed with these

  7. jennifer franklin says:

    Can the cookies be bake without parchment paper or silicone? Would I grease the pan?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jennifer, you can give them a try without parchment paper or silicone, but we’d highly recommend using them. They cookies may get stuck to the bottom and break when trying to remove them (and we don’t want that to happen after all the hard work to create them!). We also don’t recommend greasing the pan either. Hope this is helpful!

  8. Yummy ! I usually like to try new recipes but not this one ! I’ve made these cookies for a few years now. I double the recipe as they never last long 🙂 It starts out tough to roll out but once the butter warms up it works great. I always put a bit of flour on my surface so they don’t stick and ruin the shapes we made. The remaining dough I put back in the fridge to stay cool between cooking. I make mine a bit thinner and cook for 8-10 min . Thank you !!!

  9. Great recipe, love the almond addition! And the rolling out then chilling best thing ever! So much tidier and easy, wish I’d known trick this sooner!

  10. I am a true novice baker and these turned out great, my daughter loved making them, and they’re delicious

  11. wendy jacques says:

    Love these and the tip to roll first and then refrigerate is the key! The only thing was the icing seemed right as per your video but when using it it was quite runny and so we couldn’t get nice crisp edges and colors would run together. We worked with it and our cookies ended up looking very good but would do differently next time.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Wendy, so glad to hear you enjoyed these sugar cookies! For next time, feel free to add more confectioners’ sugar to thicken up the icing a bit, or let the colors dry before adding additional colors. Hope this helps!

  12. I really enjoyed making these. I am an experienced baker, but not with sugar cookies. We have really enjoyed them.
    The first batch I added orange zest of one large orange and about .5 tsp of orange extract. My husband loved the orange flavour, with vanilla Royal icing they taste like a Creamsicle . Today’s batch i made as written, with the almond extract . Haven’t tried one yet, but they smell amazing.

  13. This was my first time baking sugar cookies and they turned out very tasty. I used gluten-free flour and 3 1/2 cups measured 340 g. I decorated the cookies with the royal icing and they were a total hit! To be honest, they were the best sugar cookies I’ve ever had! 🙂

    1. Just FYI, I did not use parchment paper, silicone sheet nor greased the baking sheet. The cookies came out just fine!

  14. Rafaela Feresin says:

    I used Pamela’s gluten-free flour and they turned out amazing!

  15. Love these! But my cookies always seem to burn on the bottom any tips?

  16. Clara Byrne says:

    I made these into peep and chick shapes for Easter, and they are an enormous hit with everyone! I chilled my dough discs overnight, and I added in 1/4 teaspoon of almond extract. Three others texted me afterwards to tell me how perfect the cookies were! If you’re someone on the hunt for the best cutout sugar cookie, look no further.

  17. Love this recipe in every way! Easy, to follow step-by-step instructions and absolutely delicious! The Royal icing adds the right amount of sweetness without being too hard. It sets quickly and great for freezing. Everyone who has eaten the cookie loves the texture and taste. This is the recipe I’ll use for any occasion that calls for tasty cookies!

  18. My cookies taste like flour instead of being buttery and I measured ingredients by grams. Any recommendations as to what I might have done wrong or can tweak to address this?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lora, Any chance you made any ingredient substitutions or changed the recipe in any way? It’s also possible that you used too much flour to roll out the dough and you are tasting the flour on the outside of the cookies (which is an easy fix for next time!).

  19. I have made these twice and i spoon and level the flour and bring it together with my hands the second time they were easier to roll out but the dough still kept crumbling. The taste was good though

    1. I think you should invest in a scale. She graciously gave the weights of each ingredient, its so much easier than measuring with cups. I’ve tried both ways, and theres too much flour when I spoon and level it vs when I weigh it out.

  20. hi sally! is the baking powder a must in this recipe? i need to make cookies that don’t puff up or spread at all. ty 😉

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sonny, yes, the baking powder is key in this recipe. They don’t really spread or puff up all that much (not like regular drop cookies). If you take a look at the photos in the post, you’ll see they’re fairly flat!

      1. thank you so much for your prompt response!!! and yes, the pics speak for themselves…no modification needed 😉

  21. Hi Sally, I love your website! I’ve been a fan since the very beginning.
    I am thinking of using this recipe to make “linzer cookies” and would like to know if I should adjust the baking time and if its okay to make the recipe ahead.
    I have already prepared your raspberry pistachio linzer cookies and wanted to add this recipe to the cookie tin I’m assembling.
    Thank you!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Noor, these should work just fine as a linzer-type cookie. You might choose to roll them a bit thinner to account for stacking the cookies in the final product. You can make ahead by chilling the dough for up to two days, making completely and storing at room temperature (5 days) or in the fridge (10 days), or by freezing (see recipe notes for details). Let us know how they turn out for you!

  22. I love this recipe, it has since become my go to and i make it often however, I’ve had trouble in terms of the cookies not keeping their shape. it isn’t overly dramatic as in the overall shape is there, but i’ve noticed for example that when i cut circles, one side might spread to make it a subtle oval shape or when cookie cutters are used, the end result is bigger than that of my cookie cutter, making cookies inconsistent and bigger than the size of the fondant i cut out – which is frustrating as I’ve tried many methods to try combat this.
    Any tips to help?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sam! We’re happy to help. With sugar cookies, it’s always best to work with chilled dough. As you work with and re-roll scraps, the dough can start to get warm and the cut outs may start to lose their sharp edges a bit. Feel free to stick your dough back in the fridge at any time to help cool it down. We sometimes like to put the cutout shapes back in the fridge right before popping them in the oven. As always, make sure your butter is not too warm before creaming it together with the sugars. Here’s a bit more on what room temperature butter really means. Finally, using a good, sharp cookie cutter helps too. Hopefully these tips are helpful for next time!

  23. Cayla Labarge says:

    Hi there! I made this dough an it was perfect when I rolled it out an put it on the pan for the fridge . but it came out of the fridge rock hard an it seems it should be softer an easier to work with . What would cause this ?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Cayla, that’s completely normal since it contains solidified butter. If it’s too hard, let it soften at room temperature for a few minutes before shaping. Enjoy!

      1. Cayla Labarge says:

        Great I was worried I had did something wrong! Thank u for the quick response

      2. Hi Sally
        Love this recipe!
        I want to make them for my 2year olds birthday party- was wondering if I could substitute the granulated sugar for coconut or date sugar? Trying to make them more toddler friendly. Would that work?

      3. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        Hi Crystal! We’d love to help but we are not trained in baking with sugar substitutes. For best taste and texture (and so you don’t waste your time trying to adapt this recipe since it may not work properly), it may be more useful to find a sugar cookie recipe that is specifically formulated for using coconut or date sugar. Hope you find one you love!

  24. I’m thinking I should definitely double this recipe! My cookie cutters aren’t super big, so I didn’t get 24 cookies!

    1. Same! For 3 in diameter and 1/4 in thickness i get like 10 cookies! I always double the batch!

  25. Hello! If I use salted butter will the make a difference in texture, taste, ex. I have a ton of salted butter I need to get rid of.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Seirra! If using salted butter you can reduce the added salt in the cookie dough from 1/4 teaspoon to 1/8 teaspoon. Happy baking!

      1. Thank you !!!!

  26. Just made these, and they are delicious! I added the 1/4 tsp of almond extract per your recommendation, and I can just taste it without it being overwhelming. This will be my go-to recipe for sugar cookies!

  27. Melinda WIlson says:

    Hello Sally! I have been baking sugar cookies for years, a recipe My Grandma always made…But my cookies always spread..I was looking for a trick technique to prevent this… This worked out perfectly for me! The trick was rolling the dough then putting it in fridge prior to baking!! My cookies came out Perfect! Then I used your royal icing and I weighed all the measurements given, I had no issues with the frosting! They sat out over night and I layered with parchment into a container and they are currently in flight on thier way to my granddaughter in AZ!!! She’s going to love them! Thank you for the tips and tricks!!! Wish I could post a picture of my first creation! It was also my first time using the same food coloring gel you had!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      We’re so happy these cookies turned out for you, Melinda! Hope your granddaughter loves them!

  28. Will it be okay if I make the dough one night then roll/bake the next day? Is there anything I should do differently if I do it this way? Excited to try this recipe!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Maggie! The best way to make the dough ahead of time would be to roll it out first, see step 5 – you can refrigerate for up to 2 days. Enjoy!

  29. I cant find the measurements for the ingredients. I checked on the YT video which is where I found them last time but it’s not there.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Amanda! You can find the full list of ingredients, measurements, and directions in the light gray recipe box towards the bottom of the page. Or, click the pink “jump to recipe” button at the top of the page to be taken right there. Hope this helps!

  30. Hi sally. I wanted to half this recipe to make only a few cookies. Is there any way to half the egg? Thank you!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Naz! Our general rule for halving an egg is to crack it open, beat the yolk and white together with a fork, measure the volume (should be a few Tbsp), then use half.

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