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

1443 Comments

  1. Hi!! I made these cookies for the first time today and they a little dry. I followed the recipe. Any suggestions why they might be dry? This is my first time at trying sugar cookies.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Beth, Too much of your dry ingredients could dry out your cookies. Be sure to use the “spoon & level” method. Do not scoop the flour out of the container/bag with your measuring cup because you could end up with 50% more than you need (or weigh!). Also be sure not to over-bake the cookies!

      1. Love this recipe. It’s my go-to!

        I want a bake a double batch. Can I just double the recipe? Or do I need to make 2 single batches?

      2. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        Hi Kieran, you can double this recipe. So glad you enjoy it!

  2. Hi I made your sugar cookies and they are wonderful. I put them in a airtight container and put them in the fridge. Should I bring them to room temperature before I decorate them with royal icing?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Cyrena! Yes, we recommend decorating the cookies at room temperature. Enjoy!

  3. I feel like I owe you commission lol! I have been using this recipe for my bakery and decorated cookies. The only change I make is lemon extract instead of almond, most of my clients never know if someone has a nut allergy. My children’s school also have a strict no tree nut policy. Thank you so much for making this recipes! I wouldn’t be so successful without it.

  4. I’ve used this recipe for a while and the taste is amazing but I always have spreading issues. Any suggestions? Thanks!!!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Liz, 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.

      1. Thank you for your quick response! Now I’m puzzled- I always chill it overnight, weigh my flour and roll 3/8”. Does baking powder go “bad” or do you think that could be something to consider?

      2. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        Make sure you’re starting with room temperature butter – it’s much cooler than most think and can have a big impact on cookies spreading. Here’s more on room temperature butter. The best tip is to make sure your dough is cold going in the oven, if it’s getting warm while cutting out the shapes, just place your cut out cookies back in the refrigerator before baking.

  5. Timothy Fuller says:

    This was the driest dough I’ve ever made. The scraps were unusable with how dry it was. If 0 stars was possible I’d give it to this recipe. Followed it to the letter. 0 substitutes 0 deviance. Got 9 cookies out of all the dough because it kept turning into a crumble instead of clumping together like dough should.

    1. chinchilla says:

      You probably just did it wrong. You should read over everything carefully next time. Read the tips too!!! use the spoon and level method.

  6. Sally,
    These are the best sugar cookies…hands down. I made onesies for a shower, bunny’s for Easter and now donuts for my granddaughters 1st birthday. Thanks for all the tips and hints.

  7. Maddie’s Mom says:

    Another perfect recipe. Easy and I love the almond extract too!

  8. Sophia Johnston says:

    These cookies are great! I’ve made them four times now for birthday parties and they are always a hit! Thank you, Sally!

  9. Linda Guzman says:

    Which butter do I use there’s a lot of them but with different taste I just wanted to see which one was best

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Linda, you’ll want to make sure you’re using sticks of unsalted butter (not spreadable butter found in small containers). They typically come in packages of four sticks (2 cups) of butter and can be found with the other dairy products at your local grocery store. Hope this helps!

    2. Hi Linda. Just a fellow baker chiming in here. I find that there is a difference in butters. I much prefer European butter for baking because it has a lower moisture content, and because it has a more distinct flavor. My fave is Kerrygold, but unless you get it on sale it’s kinda pricey. Other good ones are Plugra and President. Your local stores may have other brands as well. Just make sure you choose sweet (unsalted) butter. BTW, if you go with President, be sure to note that a bar is 7oz, not the 8oz that we usually expect to find. Good luck!

  10. Hi i love this recipe i have made a few batches now and they have turned out great.
    I was just wondering could I use this to make a big cookie 1? Thankyou

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi C, You can use this recipe for one large cookie! The bake time will be longer so just use your oven light to keep an eye on it and be sure to let it cool completely before trying to move it so that it doesn’t break. Hope it turns out well for you!

  11. I really liked these cookies. I used maple flavor… so good… my question is that I want to make these cookies a month or so before I need them… do I ice them before or after I freeze them?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Mercedes, either way will work just fine. If you decide to ice them before freezing, wait for the icing to set completely before layering between sheets of parchment paper in a freezer-friendly container. To thaw (either way), thaw in the refrigerator or at room temperature. So glad these were a hit for you!

  12. Jeff Bezoz says:

    I am planning to make these cookies for a bake sale this weekend. The proceeds of the sale will go to helping LGBTQ+ youth. I am very excited and after reading all the positive reviews others have left, I’m sure they will turn out great! Have a nice day.

    1. You rock, Jeff! Keep up the good work.

  13. Hi any tips on rolling out the dough…. my dough seems very sticky.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Make sure to use plenty of flour!

  14. Hi,
    I’ve made these cookies a couple of times now and they’ve always worked out perfectly. So thank you for a great recipe.
    Curious – do you know roughly how many calories would be in any one cookie?
    Thank you!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Cat, We don’t usually include nutrition information as it can vary between different brands of the same ingredients. Plus, many recipes have ingredient substitutions or optional ingredients listed. However, there are many handy online calculators where you can plug in and customize your exact ingredients/brands. Readers have found this one especially helpful: https://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-calculator.asp

  15. Debra Q Markowitz says:

    Hi! Your cookies are gorgeous. Your recipe uses more egg to flour than the one I typically use, but I’m going to give yours a shot. I’m baking party favor cookies for the upcoming weekend and I’m trying to judge how much dough I need to make. I need 30 cookies. My cutter is approximately 3.5X3.5. Have you ever done the math to figure this out? An approximation is fine. I won’t hold you to an exact number!
    Thanks so much

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Debra, we usually get about 20-24 4 inch cookies from this recipe. We would make 1.5x the recipe to ensure you have enough. We would love to hear how they go!

      1. Thanks! I’ll keep you posted.

  16. Amanda Lazur says:

    Hi there B I just made this recipe and added more flour because the dough remained too sticky. Can I keep adding a tbsp of flour ? Did I mess it up by adding 3 more? It was very sticky and would be sticking to my fingers

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Amanda! Make sure your butter isn’t too warm. If so, the dough will be too sticky. You can add a little more flour so it’s easier to roll or you can chill the dough for 30 minutes before rolling out and chilling again.

  17. Hello, can I make the dough 3-4 days in advance of when I need the cookies?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Celeste, we recommend using the refrigerated dough within 2 days. For longer freezing instructions, see recipe notes for details.

      1. Celeste Morrison says:

        Thanks for the quick reply. I must have missed the freezing instructions in the notes. I’ll go back and look.

  18. Hi, I plan on using this recipe for a 1year old birthday party. The customer wants 4 dozen cookies as well as other baked goods. If I make them ahead of time and freeze them, will it affect the taste at all? Also if I freeze them with the icing on it, will it cause the icing to crack or become discolored?
    Thanks!!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Christina! We’ve frozen these many times before and it doesn’t impact the taste. You can certainly freeze them with the icing as well. For extra protection, you can place a sheet of parchment paper between the cookies so the icing doesn’t get bumped or dented. Of course, be sure they’re fully dried before placing in the freezer, too!

  19. Super easy – I just made these with my 3 year old and they are SO delicious! Perfect flavour and texture. That little bit of almond extract recommended really hits the spot! She loved decorating them once they cooled.

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