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
  • 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


cookie cutter sugar cookies

soft cut-out sugar cookies

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.

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 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

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 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

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.

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
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. Stack the pieces, with parchment paper or a light dusting of flour between the two, onto a baking sheet, 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. Remove one of the dough pieces from the refrigerator and using a cookie cutter, cut 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

Some of the links above are affiliate links, which pay me a small commission for my referral at no extra cost to you! Thank you for supporting Sally’s Baking Addiction.

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!

269 Comments

  1. 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!

  2. 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

  3. I’m really looking forward to trying this recipe! I know there have been some questions about freezing the dough but I didn’t actually see instructions. Is it better to roll out and freeze the raw dough cookie cutouts without baking? I thought baking, freezing, and then defrosting might change the texture. I’d like to make the dough now and then bake next week but didn’t know how best to make these ahead of time.

    1. You can freeze the cookie dough before rolling for up to 3 months. Then allow to thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then bring to room temperature for about 1 hour. Then roll and continue with the recipe as directed.

    1. When I measure out 280g for flour it only comes to 2 cups instead of the 2-1/4. Is that okay or should I add the additional 1/4 cup? New baker so I’m confused

      1. Weighing flour is always the most accurate! It’s easy to pack the flour into the measuring cups and use too much – for this reason I always recommend spooning the flour into the measuring cups and not scooping.

  4. Hi Sly
    I’ve made these several times now and they are always a hit. Could I add cocoa powder and decrease flour to turn these into chocolate biscuits?
    Also thinking of adding different flavoured icing like orange with choc biscuits or raspberry

  5. I’ve made these cookies a number of times and they always turn out amazing. I was wondering, what proportions of lemon extract or zest, if any, would be good to make these a lemon flavor? Would I use less vanilla or almond? I’d like to pair the lemon flavored cookie with a lavender royal icing. Thanks so much for all you do!

  6. I just needed to comment to say these are by far the best, most fool proof cut out sugar cookies I have ever made. I offered to make cookies for a bridal shower over the weekend, and since I swear by Sally’s chewy chocolate chunk cookies (best chocolate chip cookies ever) I decided to try this one. About 30 seconds into creaming the butter and sugar the motor on my hand mixer died. I freaked out because I knew I didn’t have time to remake another (double) batch after buying a new mixer the next day. It took a lot of elbow grease but even mixing by hand these came out amazing! Everyone loved them… so thank you so much for this recipe. It is now added to my list of go-to’s 🙂

  7. Silly question, but if one wanted crispier sugar cookies can these just be baked longer? I made these at Christmas and I love love love rolling the dough out, then refrigerating!

  8. How do you think they would be without the almond extract (which is amazing) and try some with lemon extract? Or do you have a great lemon cookie recipe. I love everything lemon and it screams SPRING!

  9. Easy to work with dough, great flavor, and held shapes perfectly. Will use this recipe every time for cutouts:)

  10. Hi Sally,

    I’m making these cookies on a Wednesday and will need to bake and ice them all today time wise. They are for a party Sunday and I really want them to be fresh and soft until at least Monday. Can I freeze them with icing for a few days or would refrigerating them until Sunday keep them soft?

    Also, which icing is easier for a novice baker to decorate with, the icing with this recipe or your royal icing? Thanks!

    1. Hi Shannon! For a novice baker and decorator, I recommend my easy glaze icing (which is included in this recipe). Though this royal icing sets MUCH faster! I recommend freezing the cookies after the icing sets, then placing on the counter to thaw out and warm to room temperature before serving.

  11. First: Happy Birthday! Hope all your wishes come true. I SO agree with article. I have given up on making cut outs for all occasions except for Christmas. The frustration just wasn’t worth the effort. All the rolling and cutting goes to waste on a poor recipe. That being said, tomorrow I will test bake this recipe (a trial run). I have faith in your advice, but am out of practice. Because we are having Easter cookie this year!!! And all the rest of important occasions from no now. Thank you for your Birthday gift to all us frustrated bakers! Barb

  12. Have you ever used Crisco or other fat rather than butter? I’ve got a friend with a dairy allergy kid and I’m hoping to find a recipe she can eat!

    1. Hi Claire! You can use shortening in place of butter. Some readers have even used Earth Balance brand vegan butter with great results.

    2. Hi Sally,
      I made this recipe twice already and it came out amazing both times! I don’t usually like sugar cookies and I enjoyed these. I was wondering if You think I could add some spices like cinnamon or something to change it up a little?

      1. Absolutely! I love adding 1/2 – teaspoon cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, or a combination of nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, etc. Coconut extract or lemon extract are wonderful too!

      2. One more question lol. Did you think an orange flavored marshmallow fondant would taste good with the cookies if I added the cinnamon? Or is that weird? Thank you

  13. Love these cookies!
    I was looking for a recipe to make spring cookies with my kids and feel so lucky to have found this one – thank you Sally!!

    Rolling out the dough before putting it in the refrigerator to chill is genius! I had to work a small miracle in my ‘small’ German fridge to fit it in but it was totally worth it: the kids could get right to cutting out shapes without first watching Mom attack a solid monster of cold dough with a rolling pin!

    Only had one small problem: I had stacked two sheets of rolled dough on baking paper and when I took them out they were stuck pretty well to the baking paper. I couldn’t get the top layer off without risking a breakage so we had to carefully cut out shapes from the top layer while it was still sitting on the other one. A little tricky, but we managed.

    I don’t know if it’s my baking paper that was the problem, or that I had to leave it in overnight, but next time I will also put a layer of plastic wrap between them. 😉

    Delicious and easy cookies!!

  14. Hi Sally. I’ve had great success with this recipe when I made it in winter. Turned out just perfect. Now I live in a very hot location weather wise. As I’m making this again I’m having trouble keeping the butter at ‘room temp’ which is to say as soon as I start mixing it it seems to start melting and the resultant dough is very runny. Any tips for baking with butter in the heat? Thanks!

    1. You can try placing your mixing bowl in the freezer before you begin making the batter so that the bowl is cold when you begin!

  15. If I use this for your cinnamon roll cookie recipe, do I have to chill it, roll it into rectangles, spread it with the filling and let it chill again? Or is it enough chilling it one time in the end? 😀

  16. I have made these cookies several times and they’re always a hit! So delicious!! I do feel like the puff up a bit and lose their shape somewhat. Do you have any idea what could be causing this? Thanks!

    1. I’m so glad you enjoy them, Ashley! Make sure that your dough is cold going in the oven. You can place the pan of cut out shapes in the fridge before baking them to make sure they are cold after you cut them!

  17. I made these for the first time today and they turned out amazing. However for the party I’m making them for nut allergies are a concern. If I take out the almond extract should I add an extra 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract or just take it out completely

    1. Hi Beenie! You can use brown sugar instead of white sugar. Same amount. The cookies will have a lovely flavor!

    1. Hi Jodie! I don’t have any experience baking with gluten free flour but other readers have reported back that they use it successfully in cookie recipes. Let me know if you try it!

  18. Sally,
    This is my go-to recipe for cut out sugar cookies. I’ve been baking more recently since I started getting serious about decorating the cookies with royal icing. With the warmer weather, I am getting some spread. Can I eliminate or decrease the baking powder?

    1. Hi Ruth! I’m so glad you enjoy these sugar cookies– thank you! I don’t recommend reducing the baking powder in the dough. Adding 2-3 extra Tbsp of flour will help. Also, make sure those shaped cookies are cold going in the oven.

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