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. Hello, can I use oat flour instead?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Bianca! We wouldn’t recommend it. Oat flour is very different from all-purpose flour and would require additional recipe testing to be certain of the results.

  2. I am new to baking and I so appreciate how in depth this recipe and additional instructions were! I followed the recipe as closely as I could, and my cookies were delicious but a bit dry. Is there an ingredient I could adjust to combat that for my next round? Or perhaps I just need to bake them for less time? Any advice would be greatly appreciated, thank you for this recipe!!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kelsey! If your cookies were a bit dry, it sounds like they could simply be over baked — try removing them from the oven a minute or two earlier next time. Also be sure to use the spoon and level or weight method to measure, so that there is not too much flour in the cookies, causing them to dry out. We’re glad to hear you enjoyed this one!

  3. Hi Sally, I was wondering if this recipe can be doubled or even tripled? I need to make a large number of cookies and was wondering if I were to double the recipe, would it mess everything up?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Katelyn, You can double the recipe! We find that when attempting to triple it’s easy to overwhelm your mixer.

  4. Hi Sally!

    Love the recipe! Can you add things like sprinkles or x-small chocolate chips?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Genna, You can definitely add sprinkles or mini chocolate chips to this dough before rolling it out. (Do not use regular size chocolate chips or big sprinkles as they are too large.) We recommend beating in 3/4 cup after you mix the wet and dry ingredients together. You may need to use a little arm muscle (or very sturdy cookie cutters) to cut through the mini chips / sprinkles. Keep that in mind when shaping. Enjoy!

  5. Can I use this dough for sliced or drop cookies instead? I thawed the dough ahead of time and I am now short on time and energy but need to bake it tonight 😀

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi June, you can use them for a slice and bake cookie. They won’t spread enough as drop cookies — but we do have a drop sugar cookie recipe if you ever need it in the future!

  6. Can these be made gluten free? If so, would it be 1:1 substitute with KA gluten free flour? These are delicious, and I want to make some for a friend who can’t have gluten.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Meredith, we haven’t personally tried it, but many readers have reported success using 1:1 gluten free flour substitutes. If you give it a try, we’d love to know how it goes!

  7. Sophie Foster says:

    Ms. Sally (or anyone who has the answer),
    How would you recommend making chocolate cookies using this recipe? Like, how much flour would you take out and substitute for cocoa powder?
    Blessings,
    Sophie Foster

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sophie, we actually have a Chocolate Sugar Cookies recipe for just that — we’d recommend following that recipe instead!

      1. Sophie Foster says:

        Ms. Lexi,
        Thank you! That was extremely helpful. I also appreciate how quick your response was.
        Blessing,
        Sophie Foster

  8. Hey, I do not have lemon extract but would love to make this recipe with a lemon flavor. I’m planning on rubbing the sugar with some lemon zest to incorporate a stronger lemon flavor. Since I don’t have extract, can I add lemon juice instead? If so, how much? Also, would it be weird to add almond extract along with the lemon zest sugar? Love this recipe, used it many times in the past!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi TJ, you can certainly try with lemon juice — start with the same amount as you would with the extract. It won’t be as strong, but you don’t want to add too much extra liquid to the dough. You can also add a tablespoon of lemon zest to the dough for a stronger flavor. We don’t typically leave the almond flavoring in with the lemon version, but if you enjoy those flavors together, you can!

  9. Can I use a cookie stamp with this recipe? At what step would I use the stamp so that the design doesn’t disappear after baking?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Joyce, If you stamp the cookie dough, then chill the stamped cookie dough shapes right before baking– they’ll definitely hold their shape. We suggest chilling the shaped cookies for 1 hour prior to baking. We’ve used this recipe to make stamped cookies before and they came out beautifully!

      1. Hi

        I was wondering should I put the cookies straight into the oven after chilling them in the fridge for an hour? Or take them out a few minutes earlier and then put it in the oven?

  10. How do you measure your cookies? I made this recipe and the cookies themselves were great. However, I used a rolling pin to get 1/4 inch thickness as suggested and I only got 20 cookies that are less than 3 inches in diameter. Very disappointed in the number of cookies it made based on what the recipe yeild states. And yes, I used all the scraps, there was no dough left over.

  11. Hi, is there anyway to make this recipe without eggs? Thank you!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Payal, we haven’t tested an egg-free version of this recipe, but let us know if you do!

  12. Hi Sally, just want to say that this recipe is so good!! I made it twice and you can never get enough of these cookies! They are perfect fo any occasion. Also all your recipes are really good, love that!!

  13. I did not enjoy these at all the dough itself was dry and hard to work with… I tried a different recipe and it’s way better
    Pretty disappointing because i always usually look at your recipes and love them but not this time..

  14. This is the only sugar cookie recipe I use so I felt like I should write a review after using it for over 2 years. It’s a great recipe and I’ve always gotten rave reviews. A few notes- I mix everything in my stand mixer and I don’t roll out the dough before I put it in the fridge since I don’t have enough space. Some good flavor combos I’ve found are lemon cookies with lavender or rose icing (I use the actual flowers), spice cookies (cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg) with orange icing, and the traditional vanilla and almond cookie with almond icing. If you’re worried about the cookies puffing up, I’ve never had an issue but you can use a fork to make holes since they’ll be covered by icing. A plus recipe!

  15. Hi, this recipe is so easy to make and the cookies turns out really very well every time. Just wondering if I cover the cookies with fondant for how long can they last? Both at room temperature and in the refrigerator or the freezer?

    Thank you!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Aash, we don’t decorate with fondant, but it’s usually best practice to keep fondant goods at room temperature. So, the cookies with fondant should last well for up to 5 days at room temperature. If you’re going to refrigerate or freeze the cookies, we’d recommend adding the fondant after they’ve been brought to room temperature and right before serving, if possible. Hope this helps!

  16. I’ve used this recipe to make cookies for every occasion. I like trying out different flavors. The cookies are also easier than I thought to prepare. Thank you, Sally!

  17. I have made these several times and everyone LOVES them! I’m making them again for my mom who is in a nursing home. Every time she gets them she comments on how good they are and my grandchildren eat them very quickly, one after another! I find them very easy to make and I like rolling the dough out and then refrigerating it. So much easier than my traditional recipe that came from my mom! Thank you for such a great recipe!!

  18. Nikie Yang says:

    hi sally, i was just wondering if brown sugar could replace white sugar? or would it change the texture?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Nikie, 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 instead.

  19. Audrey Jane says:

    I can wait to try this out this Friday for a friend! I’m going to seperate the dough and colour to make a marble effect! I also want to try this recipe with a shot of instant coffee to flavour!
    This recipe is so similar to the one I remember doing with my Nan. Unfortunately can’t get the recipe.

  20. Everything I have made from your site is wonderful. These and your browned butter chocolate chip cookies are just amazing. Thank you.

  21. Probably a dumb question, but could you frost these with buttercream?

  22. Hi Sally, I followed your instructions step by step as I never baked these cookies before. And I am so happy with the result. The texture is so perfect and love that they are not too sweet. Thank you so much, this recipe is a Keeper!

  23. Amanda Smoyer says:

    How many days on average do they last without freezing??

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Amanda, 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.

  24. I love these cookies, but I have no idea how you get 24 out of one batch. I make these exactly per the directions, using a 3” cutter and 1/4” thick, and I get barely 14 out of one batch. And I use every scrap!

    1. Hi Teresa, so glad you enjoy these. Depending on the shape, I suppose some cookie cutters just require more dough than others. I’ve been making these consistently for about 7 years now, honestly must be over 200x at this point, and it’s always closer to 2 dozen using every single scrap of dough. Sorry for the issue. This cookie recipe doubles easily if you ever need more cookies.

      1. Teresa Giesselmann says:

        It’s ok! Not really an issue—I do double it. I was just curious!
        These really are SO good though…I’ve used this recipe exclusively for graduation orders I have done & they always get raves!

  25. As always Sally your recipe and clear instructions have never failed me – THE BEST sugar cookies, and so much fun to ice!

  26. I’ve been using this recipe for almost a year now, but today I realised there is a step where it needs to refrigerated for 1-2 hours before putting into the oven. Is this step crucial? Love from Australia

  27. Sheryl Weber says:

    Can you freeze after you put on the icing? If you keep in fridge will the stay well in a clear cellophane bag or should I do that last minute- I’m making for favor for a baby shower ?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sheryl, yes, you can freeze these cookies with or without the icing on them for up to three months. We prefer to package cookies right before they’re needed, but either method will work!

  28. I know I left a comment a few months back, but I just can’t help myself.
    Sally, I would LOVE to meet you. You are , by far, the best baker in the world!
    I have tried out at least a dozen different sugar cookie recipes, for cutouts, and yours is MY favorite by far! Yours is the only one I will use from here on out. No joke. They bake up beautifully, the taste is even. Meaning, it’s sweet and savory which leaves no aftertaste, and there’s a slight crunch to the texture. I’m in love!!
    I bake them up, freeze them and practice my royal icing writing and decorating. I’m getting there! Thank you Sally! Your the best!
    Wish I could leave a photo..

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      You are so sweet to leave this kind review, Hyedi! We’re so glad you love these cookies.

  29. Hard cookies

  30. Hello. Can i use margarine instead of butter?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kissa, We don’t recommend margarine in this sugar cookie recipe.

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