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!

christmas tree sugar cookies with icing and sprinkles

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.

cut out christmas tree, candy cane, and snowflake sugar cookies with icing and sprinkles

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.

snowflake sugar cookie with white icing outline and blue icing filling

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.

snowflake and candy cane sugar cookies

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.

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

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.

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

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

A squeeze bottle makes things easy. Have fun!

squeeze bottle piping white icing onto snowflake sugar cookies

175 Comments

  1. Does the cookie dough have to be cold before baking? I know in the past when I’ve had dough at room temperature, they’ve baked flat. Thank you!!!

  2. Hi Sally,
    Looks like a great recipe! I was wondering if I could substitute margarine or shortening for butter (i.e. a dairy free cookie)?
    Thanks 🙂

    1. I do not suggest it.

  3. How do you get your icing sugar so white? After I’ve added the vanilla there is no way it is that white, more of a beige Color.

    1. you can try a clear vanilla extract.

  4. Sally, I’ve tried several of your recipes and they’ve all been a success! A great big THANK YOU 🙂

    I do have some quick questions though on this particular recipe. Here they go-

    1. How do you roll out the dough to a 1/4″ thick? I rolled the dough but noticed that the ends were thinner. Any tips?

    2. After cutting out the cookies and reworking the dough to recut I noticed the dough began to get soft. Should I re-chill the dough and place my cookies back into the refrigerator?

    3. Lastly, do you recommend re-chilling the cookies for a bit right before placing them into the oven to hold a crisp shape?

    Thank you in advance!

    1. Hi Phyllis– (1) roll the dough out slowly with a rolling pin. If the edges are a little thinner, that’s fine. Just don’t cut the thin parts into the cookie cutter shapes and use that excess dough (the scraps) to re-roll. (2) yep, chill the dough if you notice it becoming soft. (3) I don’t find it necessary to re-chill the cut out cookie dough shapes before baking unless they have become extremely soft.

  5. I tried this recipe for the first time over the weekend. The cookies came out great! I didn’t have any almond extract, so I substituted amaretto instead.

  6. Amanda McQuerrey says:

    Great recipe! I was looking for a sugar cookie recipe that was easy to make, roll out and tasted great. This was exactly that! I have pinned this recipe and I’m sure I’ll sure I’ll use it many more times.

  7. Pamela Ferrari says:

    I used the recipe and it was GREAT. Thanks for all the great tips. My family had a good time decorating cookies.

  8. Made this recipe today, and the cookies turned out just fabulous! They were so soft, the perfect thickness and by far the best sugar cookies I’ve made. Thanks for the great recipe Sally 🙂

  9. Austria Azaceta says:

    Hi Sally,
    I wanted to thank you for this wonderful recipe. I made christmas themed sugar cookies in december using this recipe and absolutely LOVED them!! I made some again yesterday but valentines themed this time to send to my brother. I cannot get over how delicious these cookies are!! I follow the recipe to a T & they always come out perfect! And not only do they taste great but they hold their shape SO well….. I’m not a huge almond extract fan but here its just the perfect amount to give them that extra something…. The icing is fantastic as well. It sets up beautifully… I I haven’t colored mine, i just leave it white & use various sprinkles/colored sugars/ etc to decorate. These will be made often in my kitchen!! Thanks again!!

  10. Hi Sally,

    I’ve made this recipe several times from your other post and we all love them and my kids love decorating them. I have only used the icing from the last post that you shared back in 5/2014, but will try this one for Easter.

    Question, I see that I can freeze the dough prior to cooking, so I can make it ahead as a time saver. You also said that unfrosted cookies freeze well. I always do that with our leftovers of sprinkle only cookies for the kids to have a special treat on a normal day, but I am wondering if I can bake the unfrosted/unsprinkled cookies, freeze them, and then take them out next weekend for the kids to decorate? Have you tried that? Not sure if you have any suggestions for the best way to get them back to ideal decorating temperature?

    Thanks!

    1. Taryn, yes you can freeze the unfrosted/unsprinkled cookie and then let them thaw in the refrigerator overnight to decorate.

  11. I hope to make these tomorrow and I’m quite excited to try them! I think the almond extract will be a great addition, and I’ve never seen that before in a sugar cookie recipe. My question: if after baking, I’m not able to ice the cooled cookies right away, is it possible to store them in an air tight container and ice them later? If so, how long can they be stored without being iced and it doesn’t affect the cookie? Thanks!

    1. Yep, just store them in a tight container at room temperature for a few days until you are ready to decorate.

  12. Thank you so much for this cookie recipe. I made them a couple days ahead for my sons 1st birthday.  I froze them and then decorated them with your icing recipe a day before the party. So simple and everyone loved them. The only problem I had was that there were no leftovers for me. Thanks again and I will be making these cookies for Christmas. I sent you the url image of them. Not sure if you can see them. 

  13. Your directions were SO helpful — chilling these discs in the exact width for cutting into shapes is absolutely brilliant.  Also, your icing recipe is superior — I tried to make yours and another website’s side-by-side and there wasn’t any question!  It was especially easy to decorate by filling reusuable squeeze bottles.  Thank you for another wonderful cookie recipe!  I always look forward to trying your cookie recipes.

  14. Hi Sally! I made your sugar cookies and they are wonderful!! I just wanted to ask about icing and storage. If I ice the cookies this evening (Friday) for a party on Sunday. I will let them dry overnight, then what is the best way to store them until Sunday? Should they be stored on tje fridge?
    Thank you

    1. Glad you love them, Bonnie! Store at room temperature for a day or so– they’re just fine on the counter for that long.

  15. Hi, Sally!!
    Your step-by-step were so helpful!! Can you tell me, how long does the cookie glaze take to dry? 

    1. Glad it helped! Overnight – 24 hours to completely dry.

  16. Hey Sally! These cookies look very wonderful and I was wondering, if I leave out the icing because my family aren’t huge fans of it, should i add more sugar to the cookie dough?

    1. They’re sweet even without the icing 🙂

  17. Hi Sally! Just wondering if there is a way I could speed up the setting time for the icing? Thanks!

    1. Hi Cara! I find the BEST way to speed up the time is to simply use a royal icing instead. Or you can set the cookies in the refrigerator, which helps speed it up 🙂

  18. Hey Sally!!!

    I was wondering if I could leave out the almond extract because it overpowers the taste sometimes in other cookies I’ve tried, will this happen?

    Thank you!!!

    1. It’s not overpowering in these at all! But you can always leave it out if you’d prefer.

  19. I made this recipe a few weeks ago for the first time and they were a hit at a fundraiser/bake sale! The chilling is absolutely necessary and helps the cookies hold their shape so well, and the icing is beautiful. I cannot wait to make them again for Christmas! I’ll definitely double the recipe.

  20. Oh my goodness! These look absolutely amazing. There’s this bakery near me that makes amazing sugar cookies….but I bet yours tastes better 🙂 Anyway, I’m allergic to almonds so I was wondering if there’s some substitute to the almond extract or if I could just leave it out altogether?

    1. You can just leave it out or add more vanilla in its place. Enjoy!

  21. Hi Sally, I wanted to share my experience in making these. I chilled my rolled-out dough overnight in the fridge, just as described in the recipe, and laid a piece of parchment paper on the top piece. When it came time to remove these from the fridge & begin using cookie cutters, the parchment papers were badly stuck to the dough. It wouldn’t have been a problem if the two dough slabs weren’t stacked, as I could have just turned a slab over and peeled off the paper. But this way, the hardened dough prevented me from being able to separate the layers. I ended up needing to tear apart the top layer and re-roll. Not the end of the world but sorta defeated the purpose of chilling. Maybe I needed to leave them sitting out for a little after removing them from the fridge? At any rate, these came out really nicely despite the momentary frustration. I discovered I’d prefer to roll them a bit thicker than I did.

    A question: is this the type of recipe where one could add cornstarch for a softer cookie? Or would that change the texture or flavor too much?

    Thanks again for a delicious recipe–my first time making scratch sugar cookies.

    1. Hi Trixie! Thanks so much for your feedback. For the cornstarch– this is a precise amount of flour (dry) to butter (wet) BUT 1 teaspoon of cornstarch should be OK if you’re looking for a slightly softer cookie.

  22. Hi Sally! I love all of your recipes! Have you ever tried writing with this icing? I’d like to make these into place cards for Christmas but not sure the icing will work well for that. Any idea? Thanks!!

    1. It doesn’t write very well if I’m being honest. Best to use a traditional royal icing.

  23. Hands down the best sugar cookie recipe I’ve found!! I love them, hubby/kids love them, and everyone else who tries them!! I think people invite me to their Christmas parties just because they know I’m bringing a batch of these bad boys lol!! I love the icing as is but this time I added a hint of lemon extract in the icing and it was really good! Thanks so Much for this recipe! ☺☺

  24. I made these cookies exactly as you stated and they came out perfect!! I used a squirt bottle as you suggested and the frosting doesn’t look like it was sloppily put on. I’ll be making another batch of these before Christmas. Thanks for the recipe 🙂

  25. I am making these cookies tonight and the dough is currently chilling in my fridge! I am so excited, I have always liked baking but I really never did it until i found your recipe for cake batter chocolate chip. You’re recipes are always easy to follow, very descriptive (which is so helpful) and always turn out soooo good. Thank you!

  26. Can you refrigerate the dough for days? Or just up to one day only?

    1. I’ve actually refrigerated it for 2 days, but made sure that it was covered with another piece of parchment paper. And the cookies were fine!

  27. Hello Sally,
    I don’t normally comment on the internet and I can’t bake to save my life! This recipe is amazing and the details made me feel like my mom was in the kitchen helping me! (mom passed years ago) My children love the cookies! Thanks for helping me make beautiful and delicious Christmas cookies! I feel like super mom!

  28. Oh my!! These are the BEST cookies! The dough is so easy to put together and to work with. They taste amazing; buttery and not too sweet. They cooked up perfect, just like you said, crispy on the edges with a nice soft middle!! And the icing…oh the icing! It’s the perfect consistency for using a squeeze bottle and yet it sets up firm and glossy so you can stack the cookies or pack and ship them. I’m SOOOO glad I finally found this amazing recipe! Thank you thank you thank you Sally!!

  29. Hadassah Danielle says:

    I just made these yesterday. I made two batches, and I left out the almond extract because I don’t have any. They turned out so beautifully! I love the icing recipe; it sets perfectly and has a nice glossy sheen to it. Your cookie recipes rock!

  30. Best cookies ever! Made them for Chanuka with a stained glass dreidel inside. Baked them for my daughter’s class. Voted the tastiest cookies hands down!

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