The Best Sugar Cookies

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 even published them in my cookbook, too! I’ve made them at least 38577 times (that’s a lot of butter), so I figured it’s time to share new recipe tips, a video tutorial, and more helpful information.

Sugar cookie success is in your near future. I can smell them baking already!

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

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 10-12 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. 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 Glaze Icing: You can find my easy glaze icing recipe paired with my Christmas sugar cookies. This icing is 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’s thinner than royal icing and 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. 🙂

decorated sugar cookies on a baking sheet

Sugar Cookie Tips & Tools

Before I leave you with the recipe, let me suggest some useful sugar cookie tools:

  • Cookie Sheets
  • Rolling Pin
  • Food Coloring: Liquid food coloring can alter the consistency of the icing, so I recommend gel food coloring. For the pictured cookies, I used a few drops of dusty rose and 1 drop of sky blue.
  • Piping Tips/Squeeze Bottle: If you’re using royal icing, I recommend Wilton piping tip #4 for outlining and flooding. This is a wonderful basic piping tip to have in your collection. If you’re using my easy glaze icing, I recommend using a squeeze bottle.
  • Piping Bag: If you’re using royal icing and a piping tip, you need a piping bag.

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 4-inch cookies
  • 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

  • 2 and 1/4 cups (281g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (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 Glaze 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 Tablespoon more 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. 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.
  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 my easy glaze 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 and 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 glaze 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

My FAVORITE Cut-Out Sugar Cookies! Soft centers, slightly crisp edges, and room for lots of icing and sprinkles!
These are the SOFTEST cookie cutter cookies. My go-to recipe!
These are the BEST cookie cutter cookies. My go-to recipe!

758 Comments

  1. I always come to your page when I feel like baking something delicious but I decided to comment until today. YOU ARE AMAZING! 😛 I love everything you do and it makes me LOVE baking everyday a bit more 😛 A baking lover from Guatemala 😉

  2. I made these last weekend and they were perfect, just as you described. I’m going to be posting my experience with them and the icing you suggested soon on my blog! Thanks!

  3. About how many cookies does this recipe make, I need to make a lot of cookies, so want to try and make sure I have the right amount of ingredients.. also do you recommend doubling the batches, or  making each batch on it’s own?

    thank you so much! 

  4. Just wanted to say THANK YOU!!  Your recipe saved my rear! I had a sugar cookie project and the original recipe I was using just kept causing more problems. I mixed up your recipe at11:30 pm last night. Chilled it over night and by 9:15 this morning I have 3 dozen beautifully cut cookies to decorate!!  Thank you SO very much for posting this!!!!

  5. I’m figuring out what one can put together in a Xmas baking tin.  I’ll do a brownie and a coconut bar, and would like something else festive to go in there.  It has to be soft, right?  Cause the other things are soft.  And it can’t be peppermint or another strong taste cause then they will all blend.  Would a sugar cookie be ok?  thanks

  6. I am sad to say that at 32 years old and a mother, I am still an EXTREMELY novice baker. I made these with my limited baking tools and skills and they are so close to perfect, it’s almost scary! My husband, who doesn’t really like sweets, loved these because they are not over the top sweet (this was without icing of course, but I’ll tackle that one another day). Thank you Sally!!

  7. This recipe is awesome! My cookies turned out absolutely perfect! They held their shape, they tasted great, I couldn’t be happier that I stumbled upon his recipe! 🙂

  8. Renee Blakeley says:

    Just wondering if it would be ok to substitute almond emulsion for the extract? I’ve seen almond emulsion in other cookie recipes and have already purchased it… would it be a 1:1 substitution?? Thanks!!

    1. It’s not usually 1:1 as emulsions have a more pronounced flavor. I would personally use the same amount since I love the flavor of almond emulsion, though you can just add a drop or so.

  9. I don’t remember ever doing cut out sugar cookies growing up just the premixed stuff…but I don’t like the premixed stuff anymore, I’ve been making all my goodies myself this year! Well I have a baby who was born on the 14th of December and we all know how those Christmas birthdays are…well I made these yesterday so we could decorate them today and the recipe was easy enough and the rolling of the dough, I just rubbed a little flour on my rolling pin when it started to stick to it which wasn’t very often or very much so I did something right with your recipe.  But seriously the taste the experience and they turned out so beautiful…I plan on making this recipe every year for my youngest daughter’s birthday…thought it would be an awesome Christmas birthday activity to do as a family or for a small birthday party involving a few extra kids (just imagine the sprinkle mess though! Lol). My oldest 2 thought it was a wonderful idea! Thank you so much, this was the first and only sugar cookie recipe I’ve tried and I am super happy with it you did awesome! 

  10. Thank you, thank you, thank you. These are awesome, came out perfect. Great tasting, kept their shape perfectly, and soft. No need to look any further, this is my go to sugar cookie recipe for life!

  11. I have made these cookies multiple times and always get rave reviews! I follow the recipe exactly and they are amazing! Thank you for a great recipe!

    1. So glad you enjoy the sugar cookies! Thanks Anne!

  12. Hudson Valley Baker says:

    Sally’s recipie has made me into a sugar cookie decorator! I really disliked sugar cookies before I found this one. I have made this recipie for my niece’s school events using a combination of princes cake, vanilla, butter, orange and lemon extracts –small amounts at a time, tweeked to taste. They are always a hit! We even won a very prestigious plastic trophy one year for the top selling cookie at a bake sale fund raiser lol!!!

  13. Do you recommend the icing included in this recipe, or the royal icing for sugar cookies?

    1. Either work! Depends if you feel like making traditional royal icing 🙂

  14. Could you use this recipe for pinwheel cookies

    1. Definitely!

  15. I read through comments about finished cookies staying soft for 5 days at room temp. I am decorating cookies today for a party tomorrow night, but I want to bring some cookies to a party in a week. Should I just save uniced cookies in the freezer and decorate them next week, or can I store them in the fridge decorated for next week?

    1. Hi Jenny, If the party isn’t for a week I would freeze the unfrosted cookies and then follow the directions to thaw and decorate before the party! Have fun!

  16. Can you assist me with a gingerbread cookie that I can cut out Asap.

    Many thanks.

    Danya

    1. Hi Danya! Here are my favorite gingerbread cookies.

  17. Can I freeze the dough?

  18. Hi Sally,

    I have a question. I’ve read cake flour makes good cookies. Do you suggest it too or suggest sticking with all purpose flour?
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Laura! I fear that cake flour won’t be sturdy enough for these cookies to hold their shape. But you can definitely test it if you’re curious!

  19. Do you have to use a paddle mixer?

    1. The paddle (or “flat beater”) are best. If using a hand mixer, the regular beaters work just fine!

  20. Kris Van Hauen says:

    These are the best cut out sugar cookies I’ve ever made or tasted! My hubby is crazy about them! I’ve baked three batches this Christmas season.

  21. I just made put the cookies to chill and am just now realizing how much vanilla extract were in these and am starting to stress out.. why is there so much vanilla extract? Is 2 teaspoons really right? Wondering if I need to remake these…

    1. Yes, 2 teaspoons is the correct amount of vanilla extract!

  22. My first-ever time making cut-out sugar cookies from scratch and oh.my.goodness, they are amazing! Made these and the chocolate sugar cookies, both came out perfectly. The icing was easy to work with, too. Stacked them without any issues and sent them to my husband’s work for a coworker’s birthday, but kept some home to give tonight to Santa. Happy holidays, Sally!

  23. Hi Sally! Will these work with a cookie stamper? Which of your other recipes might also work with a stamper in your opinion?

    1. Hi Noaya! If you stamp the cookie dough, then chill the stamped cookie dough shapes right before baking– they’ll definitely hold their shape. I suggest chilling the shaped cookies for 1 hour prior to baking.

  24. I used orange extract and my family kept raving about them for weeks. Love this recipe!!

  25. I have made these sugar cookies several times and we LOVE them. Really delicious. Have been thinking of trying to substitute part white whole-wheat flour for all purpose flour. Do you think that would work?

    1. I tried using whole wheat flour when I made this dough into mini animal cookies and it unfortunately didn’t work at all. Let me know if you give it a try!

  26. Hi Sally! These look really good and I am hoping to make them soon in the next week; I was wondering if I could add a little cinnamon to the dough? I thought that might give a great addition of flavor! And if I wanted to do a white chocolate glaze, how much white chocolate should I melt down to ice the total amount of cookies in this recipe? Thanks! Love your recipes and blog!

    1. Yes, cinnamon is an awesome addition to this dough. I do it all the time for extra flavor. I recommend 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, like I do here: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/animal-cracker-cookies/

      For a white chocolate drizzle or topping, I recommend about 8 ounces of white chocolate, melted.

  27. Thanks for the quick reply, Sally! Will tell you how they turn out!

  28. This recipe is by far the best sugar cookie I have ever made. They keep well. I bake ahead and freeze then frost when I need them. I always double it because they disappear so fast

  29. Kellie M Groza says:

    By any chance do you have the dietary information for this recipe, calories, carbs etc.?
    Thank you!

  30. Hey Sally! Absolutely love this recipe, but want to know if you have ever made it gluten free? Let me know! Thanks so much!

    1. I haven’t personally tried gluten free flour in these but let me know if you try it!

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