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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!

Christmas cookies with cookie icing and sprinkles

Let’s kick off the holiday baking season with classic decorated Christmas cookies. 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.

Trust me when I say this is a sugar cookies 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 while baking and have a nice flat surface for decorating. There’s no crazy ingredients, so this recipe is easy and approachable for everyone.

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.

Use This Easy Glaze Cookie Icing Instead

But you can create gourmet decorated sugar cookies without even using royal icing! Use my easy glaze icing instead. The recipe is included below and I also have an easy cookie icing page dedicated to it. You need confectioners’ sugar, water, vanilla extract, a touch of corn syrup, and a little salt. 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.

decorating snowflake Christmas cookies with squeeze bottle and icing

candy cane Christmas cookies with red and white icing

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.

snowflake and candy cane sugar cookies

Christmas Sugar Cookies Video Tutorial

Craving More Christmas Cookies?

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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 3-4 inch cookies and 3/4 cup icing 1x
  • 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

Scale

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
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (omit and replace with water for stark white icing)
  •  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 together in a medium bowl. It will be very thick. If you lift the whisk and let the icing drizzle back into the bowl, the ribbon of icing will hold shape for a few seconds before melting back into the icing. That is when you know it’s the right consistency and ready to use. If it’s too thick (sometimes it is), whisk in 1/2 extra Tablespoon of water. If desired, add 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.
  9. Let icing dry/set: Feel free to enjoy cookies before icing completely dries. Icing dries in 24 hours. 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 slightly speed up the icing setting. Once the icing has dried, these cookies are great for gifting or for sending.
  10. Cover and store decorated cookies for up to 5 days at room temperature or 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. This icing is enough for very minimal icing decoration on 2 dozen cookies. Icing recipe can easily be doubled. See Easy Glaze Icing page if desired.

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.

stick of 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.

3 images of sugar cookie dough ball, rolled out sugar cookie dough, and cut out snowflake and candy cane sugar cookies

Bake until the edges are very lightly browned.

stack of snowflake sugar cookies

Make the icing as directed in the recipe above. 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. At this point, you can color the icing if desired or just begin decorating.

2 images of dry icing ingredients in a glass bowl and icing in a glass bowl

A squeeze bottle makes things easy. Have fun!

squeeze bottle piping white icing onto snowflake sugar cookies

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Such great cookies!! I make the dough and roll it out one day and then cut, bake and decorate the next day. Perfect! Love the icing in the squeeze bottle trick – works like a charm. My oven runs true and I bake these for 11 minutes. Thanks, Sally and team – this is my go to sugar cookie recipe!

  2. These are The Best sugar cookies I have ever tasted. I splurged this holiday season and bought unsalted Amish butter. I also added two teaspoons of malt. I’m conviced that these cookies would be delicious with other unsalted butters and without the malt. But, the ones I made are delicious…I just baked them a couple hours ago, and I’ve akready had three. For the glaze, on some I used golden syrup and on others I used rasberry curd – both watered down to make them more of a wash, and then I left some just as they are. BTW, I used the NordicWare cookie stampers.

  3. Thank you for the idea of rolling out the dough between parchment paper before chilling. This saved me time and clean up. Normally I use a flour dusted pastry cloth with a flour dusted pastry stocking on the rolling pin. Continually dusting with flour and re-rolling tends to make the dough tougher. I didn’t have to wash the pastry cloth and stocking and my counter wasn’t dusted with flour. I just had the throw away the parchment paper. Thank you again. I was so happy I shared this with some baking buddies.

  4. Hi Sally,
    Thank you so much for this easy to follow recipe with your tips sprinkled throughout. I noticed my dough came out more clumpy this time. The flour I bought was presifted. Do you think this could have been why? Thank you.

  5. Thank you these are delicious and easy! The trick with the parchment paper is the best! Happy Holidays!!

  6. Thank you thank you thank you sharing this of the most perfect cookie I’ve ever made thanks to you!!

  7. Hi! Excited to try these cookies, is there a frosting recipe that can be used instead of icing? I know it’s harder to decorate, but my sister prefers frosted cookies to iced ☺️

  8. My cookies absolutely failed. Spread along the whole pan into a pancake and was so sticky to roll out it was horrible

    1. Hi Nicole! We find the process detailed above to the best way to roll out these sugar cookies, as the cold dough can be difficult to work with. But you certainly can roll after chilling if you prefer.

  9. Hi Sally,

    I just made these with my kids and they look delicious!! This is maybe a dumb question but we iced them and I know they need to dry for a day. Do I leave them on the counter ( uncovered) for 24 hours or put in the fridge?

    Thanks!!!
    Andrea

    1. Hi Andrea, Yes, that’s correct– leave out on the counter as the icing dries. Enjoy!

    1. Hi Haylee, We don’t recommend almond flour as it has very different baking properties and is not a 1:1 swap. We haven’t tested it, but you might have success experimenting with a gluten-free all-purpose flour like Bob’s Red Mill or Cup4Cup. If you give anything a try, we’d love to know how it goes for you!

  10. These are the best cookies exactly the way the recipe reads. However, we have a kid who developed a dairy allergy. Can I replace the butter with plant based butter?

  11. This recipe has been a breeze. First sugar cookie recipe to actually turn out right. And the royal icing fantastic!!
    Thank you so much Sally. You are my go to for recipes.

  12. These cookies turned out awesome. This will be my go recipe for sugar cookies and the royal icing.

  13. Have you tried swapping the almond extract for lemon juice? My husband is obsessed with all things lemon. I love the consistency of your dough.

    1. Hi Melissa! Instead of almond extract you can use lemon extract. It would be difficult to get the lemon flavor to come through with lemon juice without adding too much moisture to this dough. Hope he loves them!

  14. Did anyone else have an issue of this recipe only yielding 12 cookies? I’m confused why it states 24. I rolled it out to 1/4” measured and strategically placed the cutters to yield the most.

    1. Hi Chris, Thank you for trying this recipe. How large were your cookie cutters and did you re-roll the scraps after you cut out your first 12 cookies? Our cookie cutters are between 3 and 4 inches depending on the shape and after you cut out the first 12 or so, re-roll whatever dough is left and cut out more shapes.

  15. I made these yesterday and they were fantastic. The hint of almond flavoring is a wonderful addition to a classic cookie. Thanks

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