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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. Just like when you’re making chocolate chip cookies, 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 Cookie Icing: This easy cookie icing is ideal for beginners. It’s 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 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. These are the exact products I use and trust in my own kitchen:

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 3-4 inch cookies 1x
  • 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

Scale
  • 2 and 1/4 cups (281g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled), plus more as needed for rolling and work surface
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (1.5 sticks or 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 Cookie 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 easy cookie 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. 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 cookie 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

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. This is the best sugar cookie recipe I’ve ever made they are so good! Thanks Sally!

  2. I gave my grandson a container of these cookies. He was so excited to get his very own cookies. He immediately took one out and when he was finished he looked up at me and said “gramma that was sooo good! Thank you!” He is 5. Great recipe Sally ♡♡

    1. Hi Linda, vanilla sugar would be wonderful in these cookies, but we still recommend using vanilla extract as well. Hope you enjoy them!

  3. I never cared for sugar cookies but my kids and grandchildren love them, so, i tried these. Wow! The BEST sugar cookie I’ve ever tried, they’re great. I’ve made them several times, sometimes adding some grated lemon rind, and they’re always wonderful, especially with SALLY’S royal icing.

    1. Hi Suzy, absolutely. Dough can be frozen for up to three months. See recipe notes for more details.

  4. Thanks for the sugar cookie recipe and icing recipe. My cookies were a hit and were enjoyed by all! I have never been to successful with sugar cookies and icing until now with these tips. Much appreciated!

  5. This icing is dull. There is no shine to it. It also tastes bad. I made a beautiful batch of cookies that tasted delicious. I used your recipe and they were the best tasting cookies I’ve ever made until I use this icing. Yes, I flavoriit with vanilla. Very disappointing!!

  6. I’m going to try to make these for my daughter’s rehearsal dinner. Wish me luck! Haha

  7. I was woefully disappointed in this recipe. I am a dedicated Sally fan and have tried many, many of the recipes. This is the first time I’ve felt compelled to leave a comment because I was so disappointed. I thought this tasted more like a shortbread and not a sugar cookie. It wasn’t sweet at all, in my opinion. For a not very sweet cookie it was alright, I guess.

    1. Same feeling. I followed recipe and these cookies taste blah. So disappointing with out come, my kids won’t eat them

    2. I’d agree with this, it was nice enough to eat, but very much like eating shortbread. I might try additng chocolate to it rather than icing as it doesn’t taste like a sugar cookie to me.

  8. These are the best, but is it possible to add a bit less baking powder? Mine are still spreading a bit.

    1. Hi Reese, 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. We don’t recommend reducing the baking powder any.

  9. When our 6 yr old grand daughter stays over….THIS is the cookie recipe we make! It’s perfect in every way! Easy to make, tastes amazing, and the recipe makes enough to share, but not too many that we are overloaded with cookies! We’ve done them as Xmas shapes, hearts for Valentine’s Day and now egg shapes for Easter! Thanks for this awesome recipe!

  10. I have made the recipe as is for both Christmas and Valentine’s day for my coworkers, I’m thinking of adding lemon extract for Easter but not sure if I need to decrease the vanilla extract.

    1. Hi Renee! You can add 1 tsp lemon extract without any other changes. Enjoy!

  11. Family and friends love these delicious cookies! Plus they are fairly easy and fun to make! I have made them many times and always perfect! So happy I came across this recipe a couple of years ago.

  12. This was my first time trying to make these cookies. I used margarine instead of butter. The problem i ran into is my dough was brittle as it wanted to crack and break apart while rolling. The finished product was a little on the dry side which could be 1 of 2 things: my egg and margarine were from the fridge when i started and possibly too much flour. Im going to try to do this again and let the margarine sit on the table overnight and maybe add extra margarine to see if it comes out more moist. Baking is fun because its always trial and error. It wasnt really a fail they are still good, but think i could make it a bit better by following the butter guidelines. Should of read that the day before.

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

  13. First time ever leaving a review for a recipe, but this one is soooo good I had to!! I had never made homemade sugar cookies until 2020 when everything shut down…including the school that I taught at. With my extra time I decided it would be a great time to try. Surfing the web I was so fortunate to find this one. One batch and I vowed that I will NEVER use box mix again!! This recipe makes the absolute best cut out cookies around…Easter, Halloween, Christmas any season or reason. I added the optional almond extract which bumped up the flavor. My husband and son say they are the best ever…even better than his Mom’s/Grandma’s, but I don’t tell her. If in doubt give it a try. One taste and it will be your only sugar cookie recipe too!!

    1. Thank you so much for your kind review! We’re so thrilled you love this sugar cookie recipe.

  14. I think this is the best sugar cookie I have made yet…easy and comes out perfect every time! I can always count on your information to be successful

  15. A-MAZ-ING. I get nothing but comments on how great my cookies are! The almond flavor seals the deal.!!

    1. Hi Mariah, Yes! If you stamp the cookie dough, 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 Michele! This recipe yields about 24 3-4 inch cookies.

      1. Hi, is there any way that I could make these sweeter? Thank you.

    1. Hi Vian, you sure can. If it’s helpful, you can use this dough along with our gingerbread house tutorial — you will want to at least 1.5x the sugar cookie dough to ensure you have enough to work with.

  16. I am :
    * 60 years old
    * a guy
    * first time making cookies

    Great, I already have three strikes !!

    I have two questions before I take on this job:
    1- I will be using an intricate cookie cutter (a very good one of a microscope). How thick will the dough need to be?

    2- Do you have a recipe for red and black (company colors) icing?

    I will report back when I have completed the assignment.

    1. Hi Mike, we recommend rolling this dough to about 1/4 inch thick. Here’s our recipe for royal icing that can be colored using gel food coloring to reach your desired colors. Let us know how they go!

  17. This is a great recipe to use! So versatile to make your own flavors of yummy sugar cookies. But can you use this recipe as is and replace the all purpose flour with gluten free and it work just as well?

    1. Hi Lynn, we haven’t tested this recipe with gluten free flour, so we’re unsure of the results. Let us know if you do give anything a try!

      1. So… it worked great! I used King Arthur Gluten Free Measure for Measure flour and you couldn’t really tell a difference with the dough. The cookies did the same as is if I was using all purpose flour. Now, the dough didn’t get gummy after a few times of having to re-roll to make more cookie cuts but it all worked out and even tasted great. Although I could tell the difference but it was still yummy.

  18. Hi Sally! I’m new to baking and I decided to start with this recipe! The cookies are delicious.
    Q. I want to to substitute the flour for Almond Flour, are there any measurement adjustments to the recipe for that?
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Vivienne, we’re so glad you enjoyed these sugar cookies! We haven’t tested these cookies with almond flour — it has very different baking properties than all-purpose flour and would require quite a bit of adjustment to the other ingredients. If you decide to do any experimenting, we’d love to know how it goes!

  19. I love this recipe. I have someone requesting I use vegan butter. Any recommendations for this?

    1. Hi Deb, we haven’t tried this recipe with vegan butter, but we’d love to know if you give anything a try.

  20. I am a chef. And I am constantly disappointed with online recipes. Saying things like these “cookies” are fantastic. And despite following those recipes perfectly… it comes out like gritty wet sand. These cookies are the only ones I’ll ever be using from now on for royal icing… I have tried many many many recipes. This recipe is a relief! It’s forfeits, and so easy to change the flavors. ! If need cookies, these are it! Thank you for creating it

  21. This recipe is dangerously perfect. Amazing as is, and amazing as a base for other flavors. Today I added 2 teaspoons lemon extract and 2 tablespoons poppy seeds for a lemon poppy cookie!

  22. Just made these cookies for a bridal shower at work. I’ve made many sugar cookies over the years and this was by far the best recipe, great tasting, perfect light crunch, soft inside, perfect smooth surface for decorating. This will be my go to recipe from now on. I followed the recipe and rolled out the dough before chilling it, I’ve never done this before and it worked great. I used good quality vanilla and added almond extract. Received compliments from coworkers.

  23. I love this recipe and use to not spread very much. But for some reason here recently they have been spreading terrible. I measure the flour correct and also let chill over night most times. Iv tried upping my oven temp bc I roll thick 3/8 and I also tried to add extra flour and am still having troubles. Any other recommendations to stop the spreading?

    1. Hi BobbiJo, to keep the dough from spreading, it’s very important to use proper room temperature butter and to keep the dough cold when working with it. Refrigerating the dough before baking will help the cookies hold their shape as well.

      1. While I loved this recipe, it tastes much more like a shortbread.

    2. Hi Bobbi Jo,
      I found that adding 1/4 teaspoon of cornstarch to the recipe kept the cookies from spreading. They turned out quite perfect!

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