This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.

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
clock clock iconcutlery cutlery iconflag flag iconfolder folder iconinstagram instagram iconpinterest pinterest iconfacebook facebook iconprint print iconsquares squares iconheart heart iconheart solid heart solid icon
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. 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!

  2. reallybecame my favorite sugar cookie recipie

  3. Have made these a couple of times now. They are good and the results are professional. The first time I made the mistake of adding more flour during mixing because it seemed too moist but that resulted in dry cookies. Second time I didn’t do that and they were great.

  4. I love this recipe. I do have a question. How long is the dough good for if you leave it in the refrigerator?
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Ashley, you can leave the dough in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

      1. Thank you. So if it was in the fridge wrapped for 5 days I should throw it away?

  5. I LOVE this sugar cookie recipe! I have 1 question – Can I double the recipe?

  6. Amazing cookies! How long will these stay fresh after baked/decorated?

    1. Hi Janice! 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.

  7. Quick question: Can I halve this recipe? I am making star-shaped cookies for my son’s Court of Honor ranking to Star in Scouts, but I don’t need a TON of cookies. If I must, I can freeze half of the dough, but I would rather make half at a time. Thank you! I am a devotee of Sally’s Baking Addiction, so there is no other recipe for me!!! 🙂

    1. Hi Amma! Yes, you can halve this recipe. Thank you so much for making and trusting our recipes!

  8. Will this royal icing be ok made in humid conditions in Texas? Or does the recipe for it need to be tweaked in any kind of way. Thank you!

    1. Hi Robin, the royal icing may take longer to set in humid conditions – just keep that in mind! No changes needed.

  9. I have rolled the dough but due to family emergencies, not sure if I have time to even cook the cookies. Was wondering if you’ve ever froze the dough, then thawed later to make the cookies (wrapped tightly, of course)

    1. Hi Kassi, we don’t recommend it. Margarine has a different makeup than butter. If you do want to use margarine, we recommend using a recipe that is specifically formulated to do so. Let us know if you give these cookies a try!

    2. I use margarine for this all the time due to allergies and it always turns out great!

    1. Hi Mary, you can double the recipe, but we find that when attempting to triple (or more) it’s easy to overwhelm your mixer.

  10. Just completed my cooking session, all turned out really well, very pleased as hate wasting stuff, even got enough to go in the freezer, thanks x

  11. Sally, I’m not trying to make you feel better but this recipe is absobloodylutely amazing. The way you explained is like you’re speaking in person.Its the best sugar cookie recipe I’ve ever seen.

  12. Love this recipe and I am attempting to make a 3D cookie by draping cut out dough over backside of muffin tins. do you think this dough will withstand this?

    1. Hi MB, we haven’t tested it ourselves but it seems like that should work. Let us know what you try.

  13. I’ve made this recipe 4 times now, each time I get amazing compliments! A few people asked me if I’d sell cookies and decorate for events (mind you, I only ever bake simple things for fun and for family). I declined but I still make these any chance I get! Decorating with the royal icing recipe was very easy and turned out great! I add homemade vanilla extract to the cookies and the homemade really makes a difference. I also add a tiny bit of salt to the icing to balance out the sweetness a little. It’s still sweet, but not hurt your teeth sweet. I know I can always trust the recipes on Sally’s Baking Addiction to produce an amazing product the first time, every time!

  14. Hey Sally, I’m a big fan. I made these cookies over Christmas and they were wonderful.

    But last week I tried again and the dough was completely different! It was way too sticky and when I took it out of the fridge after a day of chilling, it stuck to the parchment paper (which was floured like crazy) and was so crumbly I couldn’t make it work.

    I tried again yesterday and got the same result. I feel like a baking failure.

    The only thing I can deduce is that it is quite warm in my kitchen now (as opposed to around x-mas time). Would that affect the dough to such an extent that it’s so sticky I can’t roll it out? (Or when I do roll it, most of the dough sticks to the roller and I have to scrape it off)
    Do you have any additional tips as to what to dough when the dough is extremely sticky? (A Tablespoon of flour does not do the trick in my case).

    I’d like to redeem myself.

    1. Hi Mads! Are you starting with proper room temperature butter? It will likely be much cooler than room temperature in the summer – you can read more about that in this post. It makes a big difference!

  15. Love the recipe, how long can the dough be stored in the fridge and safely used?

    1. Glad you love it, Kate! We recommend chilling the dough up to two days. For longer storage, the dough freezes perfectly – see recipe notes for details.

  16. I don’t usually leave reviews but I felt I needed to in your case. I’m also a lifelong avid baker and have many tried and true recipes but I’m always looking ideas to better. Usually when I try recipes. I have to tweak the ingredients or instructions but not in your case. I’ve been following your blog for about a year now and I have found your information to be thorough, accurate and achievable. I always bake something when I’m going to an activity where I can share the goodies (so I don’t eat them all myself!) and your recipes ALWAYS receive high praise. Thank you for being a source of dependable deliciousness.

    1. Thank you so much for making and trusting our recipes, Julia! 🙂

  17. These are fantastic perfect crisp and softness. I do have a question you probably gets asked frequently. I don’t buy unsalted butter for the most part. I just use salted butter I have on hand and don’t use salt. I’d like to know your opinion on this. Thanks

  18. This recipe was great! I do have a question though. when I mixed the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients it was to dry. I ended up adding a bit of milk. Any tips for next time? The cookies still turned out great though. Thanks

    1. Hi Kiwi, how did you measure your flour? Be sure to spoon and level, or use a food scale if available, to ensure just the right amount of flour. Even just a bit too much can dry out baked goods. Thanks for giving these cookies a try!

  19. Lovely recipe! I added a little lemon zest and they came out delicious!

    Also for the second half of dough, I cut out all my shapes and then froze them (initially on a cookie sheet but transferred them to an airtight container) I’ve just baked a batch from frozen at 160°c for 15 mins and they’ve come out perfectly!

    Thanks for the recipe Sally, this one’s a keeper!!

  20. I made this cookies for my birthday but was wondering if you could add food colouring to the cookie itself and what step you would add it! the cookies I made turned out delicious and only lasted the first 30 min! thanks for the recipe!

    1. Hi Annabel, definitely, you can add a few drops of food coloring to this dough at if desired. You can add it after you add the dry ingredients in step 3. We recommend gel food coloring for best results.

  21. Do you have to roll out before refrigerating? Can you wrap the fresh made dough, refrigerate and then roll and cut when ready to bake? Some kids will be baking and I wanted them to be involved in the rolling of chilled dough.

    1. Hi Amy, you can do that, just allow the dough to warm up a bit outside of the refrigerator before attempting to roll. Otherwise, it will be too hard.

  22. This recipe did not work for me AT ALL. I usually use another recipe for sugar cookies, but decided to try this one instead. The dough was so soft and sticky that even after adding tablespoons and tablespoons of flour and chilling the dough, it still was unusable. My measurements were to the gram but all in all a disaster

    1. Hi Sarah, thank you so much for giving our recipe a try. There is a fix! The butter you’re using to cream with the sugar may be too warm, making the dough too sticky. Make sure the butter is cool to the touch. You could even try removing it from the refrigerator just 20 minutes before beginning.

  23. I made 115 of these cookies for my mom’s retirement, and they were a hit! I pop the cut out cookies in the freezer for about 10 minutes before baking, and I haven’t had any issues with spreading.

    1. How many batches of dough would I need to make 100 cookies, circles, roughly 8cm diameter.
      I’m excited to give this recipe a try!

    1. Hi Sarah, 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. Oh, thank you for the explaination ! I will make this yummy cookie !

  24. Hi Sally. So, I have a order for 48 dz cookies due next week. I prep my dough, and froze my unbaked cookie cutouts.On my last batch, I noticed pigments of butter in my dough and I also forgot to add the salt and baking Powder in that last batch. Will that batch be a waste? I placed them in the freeze safe containers wrapped tightly with saran wrap and foil. Will I have to throw that batch away?

    1. Hi Sonja, Since that batch is already made and cut out, it wouldn’t hurt to bake one cookie and try it for yourself to see how it turns out.

  25. My daughter has a dairy allergy? Can I swap in the dairy- free butter sticks I usually use or are there special considerations? Thank you!

    1. Hi Nicole, We haven’t tested this cookie recipe with a butter replacement, but let us know what you try!

Leave a Review!

Your email address will not be published.

Recipe rating

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.