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.

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

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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 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

424 Comments

  1. I made the cookies but we aren’t icing them for two days. Where should I store them? Is it ok that I have them in the fridge?

  2. Hi SALLY I love this recipe and made it throughout the holidays however I want to attempt writing on the cookies or doing patterns. What icing recipe can be used so the writing and patterns comes out nice and not runny etc. kindly advise as I want to attempt for Valentines. Thanks much

  3. How long does it take for this icing to set? I’m doing a cookie decorating project for VDay and I need icing that will be ready in an hour.

  4. Hi sally.thank you for your vanilla sugar cookie ,it’s always my go to recipe.i have question for this icing.i am going to make and decorate baby shower cookies (one day ahead of her travel )in big batch with this icing for a friend who s carrying the cookies and driving for five hours in car.this icing won’t melt in travel right ? And how to store these in transit? Pls help.(this is my first time making this recipe.)

    1. The icing won’t melt but be sure they are fully dry before packing them to travel! I would wait at least 24 hours after they are made to stack them. You can layer them in a cookie box or Tupperware container with a sheet of parchment paper between the layers.

  5. Hello! I’m making the sugar cookies for a birthday party and having the guests decorate them themselves. Would it be best to use the royal icing or the glaze icing?

    1. Hi Emily, either is fine! The glaze icing (included with this recipe) doesn’t yield precise icing details like traditional royal icing does. Both are pretty easy to make and work with. Depends on how intricate the decorating will be! I talk about the differences in length in my original sugar cookies post.

  6. Can this easy icing recipe work for drop baked chocolate chip cookies…not as smooth of a surface? I want to add some edible cookie toppers so I need a smooth surface.
    Problem is that my son will want my choc chip cookies and not sugar cookies.
    Thanks for your advice.

    1. Hi Jami, This, or any type of royal icing, will take on the texture of the surface under it. If he is set on chocolate chip cookies you can try a thicker buttercream on top (would be very sweet) or even try slice and bake recipe – I have several if you use the search bar on the top of the page – which would give you a smoother surface.

      1. Thanks for the tips!
        It’s for his Marine Corps Boot Camp graduation so I was “thinking” of attempting cute USMC themed icing

  7. Hi Sally!

    I followed your recipe last Christmas with brilliant results, the mixture makes so many! I’ve tried it again this year but it’s come out extremely sticky rather than a dough, do you know why this might be? The other thing I can think of where is went wrong is using spread instead of a block of butter?

    1. Hi Rhiah, The problem is definitely that you used a butter spread instead of a stick of butter! A lot of spreads are largely oil and they all usually contain water. If you switch back to real butter you will get the same results as last year 🙂

    2. I have a question – when I mixed this batter (having followed all directions and no substitutions), the dough was simply a bowl full of soft crumbles. I had to pack it together by hand to make it look like traditional cookie dough.

      It did roll out just fine and is in the fridge.

      Did I do something wrong? Or do you think they will turn out ok?

      1. If you were able to roll it out, then you should be just fine. Make sure you aren’t packing the flour into the measuring cup– it’s ideal to spoon and level it in.

    1. I made these cookies with my two young kids this evening. I made a half batch because I only needed to make one dozen cookies. These are very good for what they are, a cutout sugar cookie. The butter flavor is good and my cookies did not spread or misshapen in the oven, which is good because the cookies we made from a tracing of my baby son’s hands. The cookies are exactly as described: crunchy boarder and soft-is middle. The kids are going to frost them tomorrow for a cookie competition! My husband made Sallys chocolate sugar cookie recipe for the same cookie competition and it is an insanely good cookie! Thanks! See ya!

  8. My daughter made these and they all ran together. Can’t give any stars for that.

    I’m thinking not enough flour is in this recipe? Anyone else have any issues. Thought this was supposed to be an easy recipe. Very finicky.

    1. Was the cookie dough chilled? After the dough is rolled out it must chill for at least 1-2 hours and up to 2 days. If the shapes are taking a long time for me to cut out or I’m re-rolling the dough a lot, I actually put the cut out shapes back in the refrigerator so that they are cold going in the oven!

    2. Sounds like your dough wasn’t chilled properly. Just made these for the first time and chilled my dough overnight. Came out beautifully and I baked my cookies pretty close together, no running at all. Thanks Sally I use your site for literally every one of my baking needs. Love your precise directions

  9. Hi Sally,
    I’m about to embark on a big cookie project. My kids and I have a decorating party the day before Christmas but there are babies and all and I thought I’d make the cookies ahead of time before the icing and decorating. I have a good deep freezer. Can I make the cookies on Dec 8 and freeze them till 12/23 or 12/24?

    1. Yes! The cookies freeze well for up to 3 months. To thaw, thaw in the refrigerator or at room temperature. Have a great time with the decorating party!

  10. I just made these cookies- haven’t frosted or tasted them yet however I must say this was the easiest and quickest rolling and cutting out ever! I followed the recipe to roll the dough out first then refrigerate it- inwill always do this in the future, thanks.

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