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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 cookies were sooo easy to make!!!!!!!! the only thing was that i had to use 2 eggs but other than that my family loved them thank you so much for sharing this recipe!

    1. Hi! I made these and followed the instructions to the letter! They worked perfectly!! You need to make sure your dough is really chilled before cutting or they will spread. I doubled the recipe so while I worked in a portion the rest stayed cool! Mt daughter was super happy that she was able to help me make these fir her class party for Halloween!

  2. Great cookie next time i make these i might try different flavor essence like lemon.

    1. I just finished making the lemon flavored ones! Oh my gosh! Delish! I definitely recommend lemon flavor….y u m.

      1. The Best Sugar Cookie Recipe!

        I have been using this recipe for years and it is a keeper. I follow it 100%, it’s truly perfect. I pair it with Sally’s Royal icing recipe and I get much praise.

        Thank you for the amazing recipe. All the happy testers and recipients thank you too!

  3. I made these and they expanded! Is that normal? I followed the recipe to a T and chilled…?

    1. Hi Hann, 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, like you mention. If it’s getting warm while cutting out the shapes, just place your cut out cookies back in the refrigerator before baking. Also, if your oven has hot spots, rotate your cookie sheet about half way through bake time to promote more even baking. Hope these tips help for next time!

  4. hi! i love this recipe but whenever I make it the cookies end up becoming hard after cooling. Why is that?

    1. Hi Malia, it sounds like your cookies may be slightly over baked. Try shortening your bake time by just a minute or two for a softer cookie. Be sure to spoon and level your flour as well, so as not to add too much flour which can also dry out/harden the cookie. Hope this helps for next time!

      1. I find that weighing the ingredients on a digital scale brings about the desired results. Digital food scale are very nice, as you can choose U.S. measurements, as well as metric!

    2. I made these for the first time and they are crunchy. Should I try making them thicker?

  5. I’ve made these several times and they’re soooo yummy!!can I make these GF??

    1. Hi Ashley, we haven’t tested a gluten free version of these cookies, but let us know if you do!

  6. I really like this receipe. Not overly sweet and they stayed soft even a few days later. Made them without the almond essence.

  7. These look amazing, I can’t wait to make them for my daughter’s birthday party this weekend! Question: what is the purpose/benefit of rolling out the dough BEFORE chilling? I’ve always chilled dough prior to rolling.

    1. Hi Krista! We like to roll the dough out before chilling since the dough can be very hard to roll out once chilled. That way, we can also cut out the cookies when the dough comes straight from the refrigerator, and colder dough keeps its shape better, too.

  8. I’ve been using your recipe for over 3 years now and never have had a problem until recently. For some reason my dough doesn’t want to come together while its in the mixer. I’ve had to knead it by hand and then it stays. I’ve also added a bit more flour and still get the same effect. It then becomes too sticky/greasy. Ive tried different brands of butter, let it sit out no more than 1 hour for room temp. I measure the flour by spoon and level it too. Still get the greasy dough. do you think its the baking powder or something with the butter? I do let the dough sit for 3 hours or overnight before rolling out and again something thing. Any suggestions?

    1. Hi Patty, Be sure that your butter (real butter, not margarine) is room temperature and not too soft. That may be less than an hour depending on the temperature of your kitchen. Here is what room temperature butter means.

  9. I’ve loved the recipes I’ve made so far! Can this recipe be used to make a gingerbread house? We prefer sugar cookies to gingerbread. Thank you!!

  10. I LOVE this recipe. I made it again but accidentally added 1/4 tsp baking soda. What will happen when I bake them?! Panicking

  11. Pros: -easy to make
    -easy to shape
    -limited ingredients

    Cons: -needs another egg
    -followed the recipe exactly(flour measured just right, baked properly) quite dry

    I made this recipe two times to make sure it was correct and both times the batches came out dry
    -needs more/different flavour maybe

  12. Hi! Can I change the granulated sugar for powdered sugar? I do this recipe every year for Halloween and Valentine’s day, and I was wondering if changing the sugar could make the cookies softer.

  13. How early can I make these for a child’s birthday I am planning to ice them with fondant.

    1. Hi Bron, Plain or decorated cookies stay soft for about 5 days when covered tightly at room temperature.

  14. Finally, I made sugar cookies that didn’t spread. I’ve tried so many recipes that just didn’t work for me and this one did. My pumpkins look like pumpkins, my candy corn looks like candy corn. Everything stayed cohesive. And the cookies are great! I need to work on my rolling thickness and I found that 2 different pans (both light colored but different) has vastly different cook times; some Nordicware from Costco only baked for 8 minutes but my silver cookie sheets needed 10-11. So something to keep in mind. But otherwise, great! I took care to keep the cookies very chilled before baking.

  15. I have been baking cookies for 60 years and these are the best sugar cookies I have ever made.

  16. Heyy I had a doubt. After cooling the dough(overnight) it became really hard. How am I supposed to use it after that?

    1. Hi Lavanya, did you roll out the dough prior to chilling? That helps so that we’re not trying to roll out cold dough. If the dough is too hard to work with, let it sit at room temperature for a short bit to warm up so that it is workable. If it becomes too soft again during the rolling and cutting process, pop the cut out cookie shapes back in the refrigerator before baking. Hope this helps!

  17. made this cookie dough up last night and put it in the refrigerator over night. Came home today rolled it out and cut my cookies.I didn’t get to many because i used big cutters.They turned out great. I love that they keep their shape so well .my great grands are coming this weekend to decorate them.I know they will have fun. Thanks for the recipe.

  18. My family loved this recipe! Would it be possible to use cookie stamps on this dough or would it not hold the imprint?

    1. 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. I used cookie stamps and they were perfect coming out of the oven

  19. Hello! I’m going to try this recipe tomorrow! How would you store the cookies overnight before decorating?

    1. Hi Liana, you can cover them tightly at room temperature overnight.

      1. The cookies turned out great. We recently have dairy allergies in the family. What can I use instead of butter?

      2. Hi Dianna, we haven’t tested it ourselves, but you might try a plant-based butter instead. The results may be different. Let us know if you give it a try!

  20. Do the cookies taste any different or does the texture change if
    I freeze them? I am looking to prep as much stuff in advance as possible for my daughter’s birthday.

    1. Hi Sharon, these cookies freeze well! See recipe notes for freezing instructions. Enjoy!

  21. This is the best tasting recipe ever, however my cookies keep spreading. I do roll them out thicker (3/8). Could that be the cause for spreading? Other than that the dough is cold when going in and the butter is too. Any advice to help with spread? Thank you!!

    1. Hi Monica, You mentioned that your butter was cold but just triple that it’s really room temperature which is 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, like you mention. If it’s getting warm while cutting out the shapes, just place your cut out cookies back in the refrigerator before baking. Also, if your oven has hot spots, rotate your cookie sheet about half way through bake time to promote more even baking. Hope these tips help for next time!

    1. Hi Kat, we haven’t tested it ourselves, but you might try a plant-based butter instead. The results may be different but let us know if you give it a try!

  22. So do they expand in the fridge well chilling ??? Might be a stupid question but..

  23. This really is 1 of the best recipes I used,I did have to add more flour but it didn’t effect the flavor at all,I make ALOT of cookies and this will be my go to sugar cookie recipe from now on,crunchy edges perfect center,not sickening sweet.I made a small batch last night 8 cookies,I had 1 left this morning,

  24. Delicious cookie!… I’ve made a lot of cookies thru the years but love the flavor of adding the almond extract also…Definitely will be using this recipe again!… Thank you for sharing

  25. This is the most amazing soft sugar cookie recipe ever my family and friends eat them as fast as I can make them so if you want the perfect sugar cookies use this recipe.

    1. Hi Sarah, 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.

  26. Loved the recipe! Very easy to follow and the dough made awesome cookies 🙂

  27. I don’t have room in my refrigerator to roll and chill overnight. Can I chill overnight after mixing and then roll the next day?

    1. Hi Robin! The dough will be quite hard after chilling overnight and difficult to roll out. You could let the cold dough sit at room temperature for half an hour or so, roll out the dough, then cut out the cookies. Make sure to chill the cookies again before baking since your dough won’t be as cold.

  28. Hi! I’ve been using this recipe for awhile now… but dealing with some spreading- I do cut dough at 1/2 inch- so you think that maybe omitting the baking powder or at least cutting it back some would help? Or maybe cutting some butter back- what are your thoughts?

    1. Hi Sonya! We don’t recommend omitting or reducing the baking powder or butter. 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. If it’s getting warm while cutting out the shapes, just place your cut out cookies back in the refrigerator before baking. Also, if your oven has hot spots, rotate your cookie sheet about half way through bake time to promote more even baking. Hope these tips help for next time!

      1. All time favorite sugar cookie recipe. I use almond extract.

        Can this recipe be tripled?

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

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