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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. The cookies are great!! For the Royal Icing, are you supposed to sift the powdered sugar before you measure it or measure it and then sift it? I can’t find any direction on your videos or any of your links and I’m trying to follow directions!

  2. Hello!
    First time making sugar cookies !
    I followed directions 100%
    When I divided the dough onto parchment paper it seems very crumbly … is this normal?
    I patted it down as much as I could and placed in the fridge to chill… how long should chilling be?

    Thank you

    1. Hi Ashley! How did you measure the flour? Make sure to spoon and level (instead of scooping) to avoid packing in too much flour into your measuring cups – or use a kitchen scale. You can read more about properly measuring baking ingredients in this post. A crumbly dough can still be workable – try to bring it together with your hands. It should also come together as you roll it out. Chill the rolled-out dough for at least 1-2 hours and up to 2 days (see step 5).

  3. This recipe is great and I use it every year for my cookies for the holidays! Just an extra tip if you’re keeping the cookies at room temperature…if you put a slice of bread in the container with the cookies, the bread will get hard and keep the cookies soft. Just a little something that I learned from my mom when my dad was overseas with the US Navy. We would send him care packages around the holidays and with his cookies she put in a metal tin, she always put a slice of bread so his cookies wouldn’t be hard as bricks by the time they got to the ship. It was funny because some of the other guys noticed that my dad‘s cookies were always soft and they wanted to know what the secret was. When my dad told them it was simply a slice of bread in the package, they all told their wives to please do the same lol

  4. I have made these many times and absolutely love them! I now have to make a batch that is Gluten free. Can I substitute the flour? Any tips/tricks? Not used to GF baking…Thanks so much for such complete recipes x x x

    1. Hi Carlotta, 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!

    1. Hi Katla, this recipe takes about four hours total, to include prepping, chilling, baking, cooling, and decorating. If you don’t want to do all those steps at once, there are plenty of ways to do this recipe in steps. See make ahead options in the recipe Notes and further detailed notes in the written recipe for more!

  5. As the holiday season begins again and I pull this recipe out (again!) — it stays on my counter through the new year! — I had to write and say thank you. This recipe is a staple in my holiday baking and in the cookie decorating kits I make for friends and family. Thank you Sally!

  6. Hi Sally
    I have noticed that some sugar cookie recipes add cornstarch. Suppose to make a more tender cookie. What is your thought on this?

    1. Hi Rhonda, We do not add it this recipe as the cookies are very soft as written without spreading. We do add it to other cookies like our chocolate chip cookies to keep those extra soft!

  7. These are the BEST sugar cookies I’ve ever eaten or made!!!
    I’m wondering if ithe recipe would work in a shaped cookie pan as well?

    1. Hi Olivia, This dough recipe multiplies well as long as your mixer can handle the volume.

  8. Is there something I can substitute for the egg? I love this recipe but one of my cousins is allergic to eggs.

    1. Hi Melissa, we haven’t tested an egg-free version of these cookies, but let us know if you give anything a try. If you’re interested, here are all of our egg-free recipes.

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