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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. These biscuits taste amazing but I can’t get them to hold their shape.
    The second time I tried, I added 1/4 teaspoon of corn flour, made sure the butter was room temp, chilled the dough and even popped some of the cut outs in the freezer for 10 mins before going in the oven to see if this made a difference. Some spread and some spread slightly less. I only did 4 to a tray. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason why some spread and some didn’t spread as much but none held their shape totally unfortunately. I really want to do these as my wedding favours as the biscuit itself is absolutely delicious, but they need to hold their shape to match the fondant cutout going on top.

    1. Hi Olivia, 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. The best tip is to make sure your dough is cold going in the oven, like you mention. We also recommend sticking to the recipe as written for best results. The addition of corn flour may be impacting the spread. Finally, it’s possible your oven has hot spots that cause some to heat more/less than others. You can try rotating the sheet half way through bake time to ensure even baking. Hope these tips help for next time!

  2. I’ve made two batches of these cookies and they both seem crisp. Any suggestions? Thanks!

    1. Hi Kaci, simply reduce the bake time if you try the recipe again. For how long did you bake them?

      1. Can I use almond flour instead of almond extract?

      2. Hi Mary Lou, we don’t recommend almond flour in this recipe. You can leave out out the almond extract if you don’t have it.

  3. I had your cookie recipe at a birthday party. We all loved them. I am making them for a party. I’m using a 3inch cookie cutter. I need 20 cookies. Would one recipe be enough? Or should I do two batches?

    1. Hi Alexis, this recipe yields about 24 3-4 inch cookies, so one batch should be enough. Happy baking!

  4. These cookies are delicious and were a hit at my party! We used the almond essence. Do you think I could try using honey? (For a Winnie the Pooh theme)

    1. Hi Melissa, we haven’t tested these cookies with honey, but one thing you could try is making the easy glaze icing with honey instead of corn syrup, and using that to decorate the cookies. Let us know if you try it!

  5. My first batch was beautiful, so I went ahead and made a giant double batch of the mix with expensive ingredients, unfortunately this batch spread like crazy, I don’t know why -I follow the recipe to the letter, room temperature butter, everything. These just spread completely out of shape, and here I am weeping into my beautiful 3-D printed Custom Cookie Cutters. They taste nice, but not OK for ice biscuits.

    1. Did you chill the dough long enough? I like to chill it for several hours. This gives me time to clean up all the mess and relax for a bit before I start the cutting and baking process. I have made 5-6 double batches and never had any that didn’t hold their shape. They should go into the oven pretty cold.

      1. Yes I did, I think maybe it’s because I’m at high altitude. But they really spread a huge amount.

      2. Ok, I’m trying this again. This will be my sixth try. I’m going to slightly reduce the baking powder as I am at altitude .
        (About 5700ft above sea level)
        willing to keep trying because they taste amazing.

  6. Absolutely the best (of many) recipes I have tried. I follow as written, taking care to slightly underbake. By the time they cool they are perfect. Thanks for the recipe!

    1. Recipes like this one, where you chill and roll out the dough, don’t take solid additions like nuts or dried fruit very well as they tend to fall out with the dough is being rolled flat and mess up the shape of cookie cut with cookie cutters. Drop cookies, like a chocolate chip cookie recipe without the chocolate chips or even just a generic drop cookie recipe would probably be a better fit with those additions.

  7. What a wonderfully easy and delicious recipe! Our 3 ½ year-old granddaughter and DIL were coming for a visit and we wanted to create special moments with Grandma and Grandpa as well as foster the love of baking. This recipe didn’t disappoint! She loved cutting out cookie shapes and we decorated the cookies with edible writing pens. Of course, she wanted to eat all the cookies immediately but we said she could eat the broken cookies and the rest would go home with her. At first I was baffled why several cookies kept breaking. Did I do something wrong with the batter or baking? After a minute or so, we caught on. She would take a cookie, hold it under the kitchen table to break it and then show us it was broken so she could eat it! We all had a good laugh! Thank you for helping us create wonderful family memories with these cookies!

    1. What a precious story to have shared. You gave me a good laugh too! Got to love how smart those little ones can be.

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

  8. These are my GO-TO cookie! Better than any other sugar cookie on the planet.

    Question: what would you recommend if I wanted to make this a pumpkin spice cookie? Maybe pumpkin isn’t possible because of the moisture, so maybe just a spice cookie? 2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp each of nutmeg, cloves, and ginger?

    1. Hi Brooke! A teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice is excellent in these cookies. Let us know if you try it!

  9. Any recommendations to make these egg free? I can’t find an egg free cut out cookie recipe that compares anywhere. Thank you! I absolutely love your recipies.

    1. Hi AS, we haven’t tested these cookies with an egg substitute, but there are many out there you could try. Please report back with your results if you try something! You could also try making these shortbread cookies, which are egg free and have a similar flavor.

  10. I did a trial run of this recipe for an in-home date night I have planned with the hubby at the end of September to kick off halloween month and these came out perfect! I did add 4 teaspoons of brown sugar to get a more chewy texture since I didn’t have molasses on hand and only cooked them for 6-8 minutes (my oven runs 25F over the preset temp) and they turned out perfect! Sturdy enough to decorate and hold any icing you put on them but so soft and chewy even a few days later.

  11. This is my new go to sugar cookie recipe! The dough was so simple to make and didn’t spread at all! I can’t wait to try out some of your other flavors with this dough. Thanks so much for sharing and explaining things in detail to give us these delicious cookies!!

  12. Hello,
    Can I use unsalted sweet cream butter instead? Trying to avoid a trip to the store to fetch reg. Unsalted butter. Is there even a major difference in baking between these two?

    1. Hi Vivienne, yes, you can use the unsalted sweet cream butter. In the U.S., sweet cream butter is the most common form of butter found in stores and used in baking. Hope you enjoy the cookies!

  13. Instructions for freezing?
    Do you just prepare and freeze the dough? How long can you keep it in the freezer and what are the instructions for thawing?

    1. Hi Robyn! You can find those details in the freezing instructions in the recipe’s Notes. I hope it’s helpful!

  14. I made this recipe with no substitutions but also no almond. I used cookie cutters that include a press on design and the cookies came out perfectly! No spread at all. They tasted like the Pillsbury cookies they sell at the store that you bake yourself but much better and far less spread.

  15. I tried this recipe and loved it!! Wondering what your recommendations are for preparing a large number of cookies and decorating for a wedding? Can I prep multiple batches at once or should I only do 2 at a time? I was planning on baking and freezing the cookies plain then decorating the day before the wedding. Should I pull the cookies out of the freezer the night before decorating and let them sit at room temp? I want them to stay nice and soft for the wedding and that would be 2 full days out of the freezer. Any tips on best process for this would be awesome! Thanks!

    1. Hi Michelle! This dough recipe multiplies well as long your your mixer can handle the volume. It may be best to stick with a double batch. See recipe notes for our recommended freezing instructions. Happy baking!

  16. This recipe has been my go to! The flavour is 10/10. My question is.. Can I swap out the flour for gluten free flour to make gluten free cookies? Will I still achieve the same dough outcome with minimal spread? Thanks!

    1. Hi Jessie, We are so happy you enjoy this recipe! 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!

  17. I’m so excited for this recipe! I do have one question: how would I utilize different flavor extracts? Would they replace the vanilla and almond entirely? Or would I keep the vanilla and just use the amount that I would use for almond? Thank you!

    1. Hi SB! I would not leave out the vanilla, but feel free to reduce it down if you’re adding a strong extract and you don’t want vanilla to overpower it. I would leave out the almond and replace with 1/2 or 1 teaspoon of another flavor. (Almond is potent, so that’s why you use a little less.)

  18. This is my favourite go-to Sugar Cookie Recipe! I love how almond extract tastes so I always add in an extra drop (or 3!) into the dough and it’s amazing with a glazed topping! I have found it best to get my butter to room temp and then throw it in the fridge for 10 minutes so that it’s colder than I think it needs to be, and I’ve never had issues with spreading at all!!

  19. parties, and have accumulated quite a few different shape cookie cutters now, the only thing that I do differently from your recipe is that I DO NOT refrigerate or freeze the dough. I did the first time, but I’m used to making pie crust, and felt that the dough for me was actually easier to work with room temperature. I DO NOT have any trouble with my cookies spreading. I have had people come over after the party to gather up extra cookies they loved them so much! Just wanted you to know, and thank you so much for the recipe!

  20. I love all your recipes and am an avid baker but I recently moved to Colorado where i’m living at 7,000 feet above sea level and I am struggling to find my passion for baking like i used to have when i lived at sea level. Do you have any suggestions as to alterations for this recipe when baking at 7k feet?????

    1. Hi Lindsey, I wish we could help, but have no experience baking at high altitude. Some readers have found this chart helpful: https://www.kingarthurflour.com/learn/high-altitude-baking.html

      1. Hi Megan, sure can, many readers use fondant on top of these cookies. Enjoy!

  21. I’d like to make a batch but fall-themed. Would you recommend adding pumpkin pie spice to give them a bit of a fall/Chai flavour? Any idea how much I should add/if I need to reduce the almond or vanilla extract?

    1. Absolutely! We love adding 1/2 – 1 teaspoon cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, or a combination of nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, etc.

  22. Hi, I use icing sugar & a bit of water to ice my cookies…I’ve tried a drop of milk too.. after the icing is set I either put them in the fridge or freezer. The icing turns all blotchy and the cookies don’t look very pretty. They are fine if I leave them on the table and covered. It very frustrating…Do you have any suggestions?

    1. Hi Gail, it could be the water that’s creating the blotches. I know you tried milk before, but what about half-and-half or cream? That may work better.

  23. I have been been looking for the perfect sugar cookie recipe & after making your cookies today…I don’t have to look anymore. The cookies held their shape beautifully. There was no spreading. They are the perfect crisp on the outside & soft on the inside. Hands down the best sugar cookie recipe I have ever made!

  24. So happy with this recipe! I followed yours steps exactly and they came out perfect! After trying a few other sugar cookie recipes with no luck, this is my go to recipe now! Thank you for sharing!

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