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: 28 hours
  • 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

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.

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

395 Comments

    1. The icing here is literally “the icing on the cake” for me as well. I have tried so many icing recipes that have fallen short. Never have added room temp. water before and I’m eager to give it a while. Haven’t done the whole corn syrup thing either. Stunning cookies Sally, what beautiful visual appeal. I find in my family that cutouts are the most requested dessert this time of year (and for me the hardest to make!!!) Can’t wait to make with my girls =)

  1. They are so perfect!!! Wow, so impressed! I really never do cutout cookies because they require rolling out dough AND icing them. Two things that I just, well, am not the most patient person for 🙂 I would gladly take a dozen off your hands though 🙂 Pinned! They’re the perfect kickoff to your cookie-palooza!

  2. Oh, yay! I loved your cookie-a-day run last year, and now it can become a holiday tradition! These are beautiful. I’m going to make a Chanukah version. My kids will love them!

  3. These look super adorable, Sally! 😀 Good tip on rolling out before chilling btw! Wish I had known this before. I can’t even tell how often I had a hard time rolling out chilled cookie dough to nice smooth (!) and flat ^^” I’m not really a star at iced cookies before either (I know, OMG!). I think I’ll give it another go this christmas and let you know how it turns out (or tag you on an IG-photo) ^^

    1. Hi, I was wondering how many cookies does one recipe make if I’m using small cookie cutters? I will probably be similar size to the one in the picture.

      Thank you
      Kelly

  4. You can never have too many recipes for Christmas cookies. These look so perfect and adorable Sally! I love them and thanks for all the effort you go to in making recipes easy for all of your readers!

  5. I’m SO excited for the cookie-palooza! I’ve been anxiously awaiting your cookie recipes so I can start planning out my holiday baking…but I loved so many of your recipes last year too, how will I choose?!

    I LOVE sugar cut out cookies…my mom and I make them every year and we usually do the Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix (which is still great) but I’d been hoping to talk her into homemade this year. We also do that same icing recipe but have never done the water added so we’ll have to try that this year.

  6. Woohooooo! I love the Cookie Palooza!!! Can’t wait for the cookie madness! And these soft sugar cookies are what I’ve been searching for for years. I was always on the look for a sugar cookie that’s soft but keeps its shape and this looks like a winner. Pinned!

  7. I use a lot of different ingredients the cookie police would throw me in jail if they found out. Good thing I’m like Santa Clause and keep my cookie eating habits during the hibernation months of winter. Haha! But on a serious note, these cookies are cute! Our family makes an AP Cake cutout cookie, but my mother mentioned an old-fashioned sugar cookie recipe should be tried out. So, you save the day again! 😉

  8. I’ve been baking for the purposes of buttering up professors at my new school O:) These seem perfect. As a rookie though I have what I hope is not a stupid question: how do I know how much food coloring to use?

  9. I want to make your cookies. Patience usually doesn’t allow me to attempt this type of baking. It seems to be something that even I can handle. I don’t have any cookie cutters. Do have any suggestions on size and/or shapes? I love the blue and white cookies. I’m psyched to make these for my grandchildren.

    1. I would just use any shapes you and your grandchildren would like. I prefer to make medium size cookies, about 3-4 inch cookies, because they are easier to decorate.

    2. You can hand-cut these into Xmas trees and candy canes pretty easily. Even MORE easy, find a 3 inch wide glass or coffee mug and use this to cut circular cookies. Once decorated, these become decorative (and edible) Xmas bulbs, similar to what you might hang on the tree. You can go crazy with colors and decorations doing these!

    1. Thanks Rebe– make sure to read the recipe which includes the times. I use a KitchenAid stand mixer, but a hand mixer is fine too.

  10. I’ve made your sugar cookies before but made my own icing which didn’t really turn out the best! I live in England and can’t seem to find corn syrup….Is there anything else which I could use instead? Love ur website btw!

    1. You can try using golden syrup instead. I am British but live in the US and use corn syrup in place of golden syrup in British recipes, so I think it might work the other way round too!

  11. Sally I’m so happy your cookie palooza for this year has started. I loved last years. My favorite cookie recipe on this planet came from it- the raspberry thumbprints! 🙂

  12. Hi Sally,

    I would like to try this recipe but am not a fan of icing. Is the icing key to the flavor of the cookies, or would they taste delicious also plain or with just sprinkles?

  13. These look great! I am a huge cookie fan. I use a very similar to glaze my cookies, and it works great every time! I think it tastes better than typical royal icing too. ALso, you can easily switch up the flavors, almond extract, lemon juice, whatever you’re in the mood for. 🙂

    1. Awesome! I was curious to know if you tried Almond Extract in the Icing Sally? I would really like to try this cookie recipe, but I know my family will notice if the icing doesn’t have almond in it.

  14. Wow these are so pretty! I love that the icing does’nt have egg white or meringue powder- both things that are hard to find for me. I already have the little squeeze bottle so, I can just get a couple more and make these cookies!

  15. Ah, Sally, these cookies are gorgeous! You started your cookie palooza with such a showstopper, I can’t wait to see what more you’ve got in store for us! 🙂

  16. Thank you Sally, This is just another Awesomness Recipe for the season from you. I took your chocolate chip recipe last year, and used it for the base of our family’s traditional superaddicting Mint Chocolate Chip / coloured candied peel, cookie, and when I showed up with them I was afraid I might be burnt at the stake for heresy, But They got rave revues and will be repeated again this year. I regularly make 2-4 batches of 72 each depending on whose dieting 😉 I have high hopes for this latest recipe, it looks so simple, just like the recipes I grew up with.

    Cheers, Gramps

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