Christmas Sugar Cookies with Easy Icing

These are my absolute favorite cut-out Christmas sugar cookies! My recipe for sugar cookies promises flavorful cookies with soft centers and crisp edges. You’ll enjoy this easy glaze icing, too. It’s a wonderful alternative to royal icing and makes decorating hassle-free!

Holiday Cut-Out Sugar Cookies with Easy Royal Icing Recipe by sallysbakingaddiction.com

Let’s kick off the holiday baking season with a Christmas cookie classic. Nothing beats Christmas sugar cookies made from scratch and I know you’ll love this particular recipe. We’re using my classic sugar cookies and dressing them up for the holidays.

Holiday Cut-Out Sugar Cookies with Easy Royal Icing Recipe by sallysbakingaddiction.com

Trust me when I say this is a sugar cookie recipe you need to try. It’s taken me awhile to find that perfectly soft-centered, yet slightly crisp edged recipe. The cookies maintain their cookie cutter shape in the oven and have a nice flat surface for decorating. There’s no crazy ingredients, so this recipe is easy and approachable for everyone.

Since you may already be familiar with my sugar cookie recipe, I’m using today to focus on the icing.

Holiday Cut-Out Sugar Cookies with Easy Royal Icing Recipe by sallysbakingaddiction.com

I love royal icing, but it can be pretty particular sometimes. You need a very precise consistency in order for the royal icing to pipe and set appropriately– it definitely requires patience.

Easy Glaze Icing

But you can create gourmet decorated sugar cookies without even using royal icing! Use my easy glaze icing instead. You need confectioners’ sugar, water, vanilla extract, and a touch of corn syrup. The corn syrup makes the icing nice and shiny, while the ratio of confectioners’ sugar to water keeps it thick. The icing dries hard and slightly crunchy, so you can easily stack these Christmas sugar cookies and travel with them.

To make decorating a breeze, use a squeeze bottle. They’re a little easier than piping tips.

This is a recipe that requires planning ahead. First, the cookie dough needs to chill. Chilling is a mandatory step. Before decorating the baked cookies, make sure the cookies are completely cool. If they are not completely cool, the icing will melt. To completely harden on top of the cookies, the icing needs at least 24 hours to set. If you love sugar cookies, but aren’t up for decorating with icing, you’ll enjoy my stained glass window cookies instead.

Holiday Cut-Out Sugar Cookies with Easy Royal Icing Recipe by sallysbakingaddiction.com

Christmas Sugar Cookies Video Tutorial

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candy cane and snowflake sugar cookies with icing

Christmas Sugar Cookies with Easy Icing

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 2 hours
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes
  • Yield: 24 medium cookies
  • Category: Cookies
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Cut-out Christmas sugar cookies with crisp edges and soft centers. My icing recipe is so simple, making decorating hassle-free!


Ingredients

Cookies

  • 3/4 cup (170g) unsalted butter, slightly softened to room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg*
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional, but makes the flavor outstanding)
  • 2 and 1/4 cups (281g) all-purpose flour (spoon and leveled)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Easy Icing

  • 1 and 1/2 cups (180g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon light corn syrup*
  • 22.5 Tablespoons (30-38ml) room temperature water
  • pinch salt*

Instructions

  1. Make sure you have allotted enough time (and enough counter space!) to make these cookies. The cookie dough needs to chill, the cookies need to cool completely, and the icing needs 24 hours to completely harden. If enjoying right away and hardened icing isn’t a concern, you’ll only need about 4 hours to make these.
  2. In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until creamed and smooth – about 1 minute. Add the sugar and beat on high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 or 4 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Add the egg, vanilla, and almond extract and beat on high until fully combine, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.
  3. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. Turn the mixer down to low and add about half of the flour mixture, beating until just barely combined. Add the rest of the flour and continue mixing until just combined. If the dough still seems too soft, you can add 1 Tablespoon more flour until it is a better consistency for rolling.
  4. Divide the dough into 2 equal parts. Roll each portion out onto a piece of parchment to about 1/4″ thickness. Stack the pieces (with paper) onto a baking sheet, cover lightly, and refrigerate for at least 1-2 hours and up to 2 days. Chilling is mandatory.
  5. Once chilled, preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Line 2-3 large baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. The amount of batches will depend on how large/small you cut your cookies. Remove one of the dough pieces from the refrigerator and using a cookie cutter, cut in shapes. Transfer the cut cookie dough to the prepared baking sheet. Re-roll the remaining dough and continue cutting until all is used.
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until very lightly colored on top and around the edges. Make sure you rotate the baking sheet halfway through bake time. Allow to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before icing. No need to cover the cookies as the cookies cool.
  7. For the icing, whisk the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, corn syrup, and 2 tablespoons of water in a medium bowl. It should be quite thick. If it is much too thick, add 1/2 Tablespoon more water. If it is much too thin, add 2 more Tablespoons of confectioners’ sugar. If you drizzle a little of the icing with the whisk, the ribbon of icing will hold for a few seconds before melting back into the icing. That is when you know it’s the right consistency and is ready to use. If desired, add liquid or gel food coloring. You can pour some icing into different bowls if using multiple colors. If not decorating right away, cover the icing tightly and keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
  8. Decorate the cooled cookies however you’d like. Squeeze bottles make decorating so easy. You may enjoy right away or you can wait 24 hours for the icing to set and harden– no need to cover the cookies as the icing sets. Once the icing has set, these cookies are great for gifting or for sending. I find they stay soft for about 5 days at room temperature and up to 10 days in the refrigerator.

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. Egg: Room temperature egg is preferred to be easily dispersed in the cookie dough. Good rule of thumb: always use room temperature egg if recipe calls for butter at room temperature or melted.
  3. Corn Syrup: This is what gives the icing fabulous shine. You may leave it out if you aren’t concerned about shiny, glossy icing.
  4. Salt: I know salt isn’t a typical ingredient in cookie icing, but my taste testers and I preferred that little pinch of salt. I use about 1/8 teaspoon. OR you can add 1/4 teaspoon of salt to the dry ingredients in the cookie dough. I like it better used in the icing, though.
  5. Be sure to check out my top 5 cookie baking tips AND these are my 10 must-have cookie baking tools.

Keywords: christmas sugar cookies, cut out sugar cookies

How to Make Christmas Sugar Cookies

Start with room temperature butter. You should be able to press your finger into the stick of butter and make an indent easily, without your finger sliding anywhere. Firm, but not cold.

Room temperature butter

The cookie dough is relatively soft and thick. I compare the cookie dough to the consistency of play-doh. Before chilling the cookie dough, roll it out. Yes, roll the cookie dough out before chilling! With all of my recipe testing, I learned that this method is so much easier than chilling the cookie dough as a whole and then trying to roll out a cold chunk of dough.

To make rolling easier, divide the sugar cookie dough in half– it’s easier to roll out smaller sections of dough. Roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thickness on parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Place on a baking sheet and chill in the refrigerator.

After chilling, cut into shapes with cookie cutters.

Holiday Cut-Out Sugar Cookies with Easy Royal Icing Recipe by sallysbakingaddiction.com

Bake until the edges are very lightly browned.

The BEST Holiday Cut Out Sugar Cookies Recipe

Whisk all of the icing ingredients together. If you drizzle a little icing off the whisk into the bowl, the ribbon of icing will hold for a few seconds before melting back into the icing. That’s when you know it’s the right consistency.

Easy Royal Icing

At this point, you can color the icing if desired or just begin decorating.

A squeeze bottle makes things easy. Have fun!

Holiday Cut-Out Sugar Cookies with Easy Royal Icing Recipe by sallysbakingaddiction.com

EASY holiday sugar cookies! This is my go-to recipe because it is so straight-foward and simple!
Holiday Cut-Out Sugar Cookies with Easy Royal Icing Recipe by sallysbakingaddiction.com

473 Comments

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  1. Hi Sally! I was wondering if I could substitute the corn syrup with something else maybe honey?

    1. Hi Grace, The corn syrup is what gives the icing fabulous shine. You may leave it out if you aren’t concerned about shiny, glossy icing. I don’t recommend using anything in it’s place.

  2. Is there a substitute to baking powder?

    1. Hi Connie, I have tried this and it works great!

      To make your own baking powder – some say with fewer metallic undertones than the commercial stuff – mix one part baking soda to one part cornstarch and two parts cream of tartar. For example: 1/4 teaspoon baking soda + 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar + 1/4 teaspoon cornstarch = 1 teaspoon homemade baking powder

  3. does the icing frost 24 cookies

    1. Hi Leah, Yes- this icing recipe is enough to frost 24 medium size cookies.

  4. Now I realize what’s been missing all my life: rolling out the dough and THEN chilling it. Amazing! Even young kids can make perfectly shaped sugar cookies with this dough, and it makes them so happy that they can do it so well themselves. Thank you!

  5. Diane Amoroso says:

    Is this the recipe I would use for painting details on a cookie with food safe brushes. I like an icing as close taste wise to buttercream as possible but need thin consistency for the painting. Thank you!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Diane, It depends on the finished look you are going for. When painting on cookies I usually use white royal icing, let that fully dry, and then make a “paint” with gel food colors mixed with a drop of clear alcohol (or clear vanilla) to paint the white surface. You could certainly try to paint with this easy icing if you wish but we haven’t tried it.

  6. I have a question. I like the idea of using corn syrup in the frosting to give them a shine which I never did that. My question is by adding corn syrup to the sugar glaze will it make it sweet?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Linda, This icing is very sweet on it’s own 🙂 The corn syrup is what gives the icing fabulous shine but you may leave it out if you aren’t concerned about shiny, glossy icing. We are only adding one teaspoon so it’s not enough to change the taste.

  7. Hi I wondered if you could answer a question for me – can this icing be prepared ahead of time and kept for later use? For instance if made 2/3 days before using then kept in a small squeezy bottle in the fridge would that keep? Thanks

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Carla, If not decorating right away, cover the icing tightly and keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

  8. Hello, what do you recommend to add color?

  9. Can this icing be put in heat sealed piping bags for kids cookie decorating kits without separating?

    1. Yes, absolutely. You can make it ahead, divide between piping bags and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before piping.

  10. I’m sorry if this has been asked before, but can this recipe be doubled, so that I can just divide the dough into 4 batches? I’m trying to make a bunch for christmas, and 24 cookies won’t be enough. Thank you!!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Yes, you can double this recipe. Enjoy!

  11. Hi Sally, I have always used this cookie recipe and it has always been a success! This Christmas I have to do 400 cookies for the 1st week in December. The cookies are for a company who wish to give as tokens throughout the month of December to their customers. Since it is 400 cookies required for the first week in December, if I start baking and decorating from next week (November 23rd), can the cookies stay at room temperature all through until Christmas? Or would it spoil? Your advice would be greatly appreciated as I do not wish to sell cookies that will spoil especially an order that a company is giving to their customers as tokens throughout the month of December.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Ree, We recommend only leaving the cookies at room temperature for about 5 days and up to 10 days in the refrigerator. You can certainly freeze the cookies for longer storage. See the freezing instructions in the recipe notes for details.

  12. Tonya Pittman says:

    Hi Sally! I was planning on using your 3 ingredient royal icing recipe to decorateChristmascookies. I noticed you used corn syrup in another icing recipe to make it shine. Will the Royal icing be shiny, and if not, can I add corn syrup to the 3 ingredient recipe to make the decorating pop?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Tonya, Yes! A little corn syrup (1 teaspoon is plenty) adds a lovely shine to royal icing.

  13. Hi sally! Great cookies! Great icing! But… I am still really learning how to frost. I have been using a piping bag for decorating more intricate cookies ( we picked an antique truck with a Christmas tree in its bed) and struggling with the details of the cookies. Any chance you have a video tutorial on tips and tricks of using royal icing for pretty designs? Also do you recommend the royal
    Icing or the glazed icing for the designs? Thanks so much! Love your site!

    1. Hi Christine! I’m so glad to help. You may find the video in my regular Sugar Cookies recipe post helpful. For a more intricate look, use royal icing. See my Sugar Cookies post for lots of detail/listed differences between the two icings.

  14. Hello, can I tie dye these cookies? I’m dying to try it.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Donna, Yes you can add color to both the cookie dough and/or the icing. Have fun!

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