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


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 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

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

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. 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

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!

716 Comments

  1. Hi Sally!

    Can I use salted butter in this recipe if I’m out of unsalted?

    Thanks!

    1. Sure can! Make no other changes to the recipe– keep the added salt. 🙂

  2. Hi Sally, I accidentally added the egg to the butter first instead of the sugar. Will this have an impact on the texture of the cookie?

    1. Hi Dee, it will, yes. The cookies won’t be as fluffy and may taste a little dense without the butter and sugar properly creamed before the egg.

  3. Hi Sally, I was just wondering about how many cookies will this make?

    1. Hi Sharon, The number of cookies this recipe yields depends on the size of the cookie cutter you use. I can easily get 24 using a large 4 inch cookie cutter but it really depends on the size and shape.

  4. Hi Sally, I don’t have the mixer (the white triangular one) you showed on the video, is it ok if I use a whisk.

    1. The whisk attachment on a mixer? That should be ok but if the dough starts getting too sticky you might have to finish mixing it by hand.

  5. Christine Dauphin says:

    Hello Sally, can I freeze the dough?

    1. Sure can! See the freezing instructions in the first recipe note.

  6. Sally,
    When I creamed the sugar and the butter together, it did not come out creamy. It was fluffy but lumpy. Can I melt the butter before creaming? I have a feeling its why my dough came out dry.

    Thank you.

    1. Hi Susan, make sure your butter is softened to room temperature and not cold– keep beating the sugar and butter together until the mixture is creamy and relatively smooth. Also, make sure you’re spooning and leveling the flour. Your dough could be dry because there is too much flour and/or because the butter is too cold. I do not recommend using melted butter.

  7. If I have medium eggs should I add 2 or 1?

    1. Hi Dove! I recommend just using 1 medium egg. 2 medium eggs is too much.

    2. Hi Sally,
      These cookies are A M A Z I N G! I love them and try not to make them too often… I have a hard time eating just one. Haha
      Thank you!

  8. Teresa Goodrum says:

    Hi Sally,
    I would love to make your sugar cookies.
    I want to decorate them for Hanukkah.
    Which icing do you recommend ?
    I would like to make the icing to make some blue cookies and some white.
    Thank you ,
    Teresa

    1. Hi Teresa! Either icing works, it just depends what you’re looking for. Something easier that takes longer to dry or traditional royal icing. 🙂

  9. Hi Sally,
    It worked the second time!!!!! Room temperature! Thank you so much for your help.
    Susan

  10. Melissa Claudio says:

    When using your Easy Icing recipe does the corn syrup have to be cold or room temperature?

    1. It doesn’t matter– usually corn syrup is stored at room temperature, so that’s likely best.

  11. This recipe is great ! My cookies are amazing ! Store bought quality ! Loved it !

  12. I’m not much of a baker but these were so easy to make and turned out fantastic! They only spread a little, and were crunchy on the outside but soft and chewy in the middle. Just perfect!

  13. My son really wants to make Santa shaped cookies for Santa. I think he’d prefer buttercream-type frosting instead of royal icing so he can decorate with sprinkles. Which of your frosting recipes might you recommend, and how much should I make to go with this sugar cookie recipe? (If this was in one of the comments and I missed it, I apologize!) Thanks!

    1. Hi Susan! I recommend my vanilla buttercream. 1 batch will be enough for this amount of sugar cookies.

    2. I use canned frosting. Let set and perfect!

  14. Haven’t tried the recipe yet but plan to later today. What is your opinion of “air” cookie sheets? Kitchen store going out of business, so I bought one at reduced price but haven’t used it yet. Do you put parchment paper on one of these?

    1. Hi Cathy! I don’t use the air cookie sheets, but you wouldn’t have to line them with parchment when baking cookies on them.

  15. Try adding 1/4 more flour,decrease heat by 25 degrees and increase cooking time by 5 mins

  16. Should be 1/4 cup more flour

  17. I want to make the suger cookies, does it contain peanut or nut ingredients?

    Thank you
    Christine

  18. I used this recipe and I am getting people messaging me like crazy asking how I made these cookies. I also used a cookie press to make small holiday shapes which worked out really nice. I had to use full cup of butter instead of a 3/4 cup because the dough was too think to pass through the press. Let me clarify, I used a FULL 1 cup of butter for this recipe in total. I didn’t add an ADDITIONAL cup of butter. 🙂

    My boyfriend was very pleased with this taste, and he hates almond extract and he didn’t even know I put 1/2 a teaspoon! Delicious!

  19. Looking forward to baking these for Christmas! It was those sharp edges that caught my eye.

    Cook’s Illustrated recommends processing sugar (or using super fine) for rolled sugar cookies. Have you tried that? I don’t want to alter the recipe if it means sacrificing those amazing edges.

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Stephanie, You can certainly try it but I have never found it necessary when making this recipe!

  20. Hi Sally,
    I’ve made these cookies last year and they are delicious !!!
    I Want to create a tradition where I will be making them this year with my 2 girls and 2 nieces.

    Question: I would like to do a simple icing for the cookies that allows the kids (3 & 5 year old) to ‘paint’ it on the cookies.
    Could I do a simple powdered sugar glaze ? Since of course they will want to decorate and eat them afterwards.
    I see in your icing recipe you have ‘drying times’ …
    What do you recommend ?
    Thanks in advance !!
    Jazzmin

    1. What a fun tradition to start, Jazzmin! You can either use this royal icing – and it’s totally fine to eat before it’s dry! Or use my simple glaze icing from this recipe post.

  21. Cathy Davidson says:

    Will results be same for doubling the recipe for the cookie???

    1. Yes– I double this sugar cookie recipe often. Divide into 4 portions instead of 2 for rolling out.

  22. Elaine Seaton says:

    Hi Sally! After chilling the dough, do you need to let it warm up a bit before cutting the shapes? I tried another recipe before, and after chilling, the dough kept crumbling when I tried rolling it out.

    1. If it’s crumbling then yes, just a few minutes on the counter should warm it up just enough!

  23. Can I make there’s today and decorate later? I will refrigerate until I can decorate them. I just don’t want them to get hard. We like soft sugar cookies.

    1. Yes! These cookies stay soft for about 5 days when covered tightly at room temperature. For longer storage, cover and refrigerate for up to 10 days and for even longer storage see the freezing directions in the recipe notes!

  24. Hi,
    I am making the cut out sugar cookies and I would like to know which will make the cookies turnout better, using crisco or butter? I want the cookies to be soft. Need Help!

    1. Hi Kay, For the best results stick to the recipe and use unsalted butter. Be sure to roll your dough out to 1/4 inch thick (thinner cookies will not be as soft) and don’t over bake. They are very soft cookies!

  25. Meg Gudanowski says:

    Hi I have two questions the first one is what would happen if I didn’t have unsalted butter and I used regular butter? Secondly are the cookies any good without putting the icing on it can you just sprinkle with sugar?

    1. Hi Meg! You can use salted butter in this recipe with no changes to the added salt. You can also decorate with sugar or powdered sugar.

  26. Pam Desmarais says:

    Absolutely love this recipe!! I made a double batch and used a 3” round cutter. Made 4 dozen.
    This recipe is going in my Christmas Cookie Book.
    Thank you!!!!!!??

  27. I’m out of parchment paper. What will happen if I don’t use it?

  28. I think I must have accidentally put too much flour in as the dough seems a bit dry. Can I add a bit of water, or have I ruined it?

    1. A splash of milk could help moisten the dough again.

  29. Hi Sally, we followed the recipe exactly (and added the extra flour) and the dough is still much too soft and sticky to roll. Any idea what we did wrong? Thanks!

    1. Hi Joanna! Make sure your butter isn’t too warm. If so, the dough will be too sticky. (Check out this post.) You can add a little more flour so it’s easier to roll or you can chill the dough for 30 minutes before rolling out and chilling again.

  30. I have no parchment paper is it going to bake the same on a lightly greased pan??

    1. Hi Lori, is your baking sheet nonstick? No need to grease it. In fact, these are buttery enough that they won’t stick anyway. I wouldn’t grease the sheet.

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