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

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

403 Comments

  1. These look great, and I’m excited to see a royal icing recipe that leaves out the egg white powder since I didn’t feel like trying to find it and having to buy it. Haha.

    I have one question: during the 24 hour icing “set” time, are they okay sitting out on the counter or must they be stored flat in an airtight container? Thanks!

  2. Love this! Plan to use your tips to tweak my fave recipe. 🙂 Question – what type of squeeze bottle are you using to put on the frosting? I have little helpers and want to be sure we’ve got enough of everything on hand. Thanks so much – I love to bake and your blog is so inspiring!

  3. Hi Sally,

    These look amazing.. I can’t wait to make them
    But I was just wondering if I make the dough ahead of time and freeze the unbaked dough if that would be okay? I have done it with other cookie recipes but I’m not sure how it would work with this dough

    Thank you.

  4. I tried making sugar cookies very similar to this last year and when I iced them the cookies became soft brittle and couldn’t be handled without breaking. Any tips?

  5. These look so delicious! I’m currently living in Finland and want to make a batch of American Christmas cookies for our holiday party next week. This looks like the perfect recipe to showcase the traditional sugar cookie with colored icing 🙂 I can’t wait!

  6. I love you for this. I am always seeking the perfect cut out cookie…the closest I have gotten is one I added cinnamon to but the consistency of the cookie was too hard in my opinion. I cannot wait to try your recipe! Interesting regarding the frosting…I can never get mine to set up so it is always a sticky mess. Again, can’t wait to try your version – so gorgeous!

  7. Hi. I’m making sugar cookies and cupcakes for my daughters birthday and will ask the kids to decorate them as an activity.
    I would like to know how long can I keep this icing for ? If I make it in the morning and the party doesn’t start tip two in the afternoon, is that even possible ? I have icing bottles I’m going to pour the icing into.
    And also can I use the same icing on cupcakes?
    Thanks

  8. The one additional extract I have is on this. (Vanilla is a given right?) Awesome! Can’t wait to try it. My guys live for the brown sugar cookies and we needed a cut out sugar cookie recipe so I came here first. Can’t wait to try them.

  9. I’m compelled to leave a comment as these sugar cookies are THE BEST I have ever made, and I’ve tried a ton of recipes. Delicious and easy to work with, they’re my new go-to and have received rave reviews from friends, family and co-workers. Not only are Sally’s Sugar Cookies amazing, but the Snickerdoodles are too.

    Two for two and looking forward to trying out more!

  10. I love your tip of corn syrup in the icing! I definitely need to try that. I’ve never wanted to make “real” royal icing because of the egg part… And I totally wish cut-out sugar cookies were part of our Christmas traditions, but I accidentally stopped that before it ever started. We made them one year, decorated and everything, and then my mom put the plate on top of the refrigerator so our golden retriever wouldn’t jump on the counter to eat them. Well I took down the plate, snuck a cookie, and tried to put it back, but… I’m short. And didn’t quite push it far enough back on the top of the fridge. So when Mom opened the fridge, the plate had been delicately balancing on the door and came crashing down. Needless to say, the golden retriever got his fair share of cookies from the kitchen floor… And we haven’t baked those cookies ever since!

  11. I use this Icing recipe all the time. Around the holidays I like to use rum extract instead of vanilla. It gives it a great holiday feel.

  12. How many cookies were you able to make with this recipe? I know that you said it depends, but I’m trying to make a guess on how much dough I need to make. Thanks!

  13. What a great idea to use squeeze bottles! My kids (ages 7 & 3.5) absolutely loved baking and decorating these. Much easier than our usual method of using piping bags! Thanks for another delicious and fun recipe, Sally!

  14. Hi Sally! Made these today and they tasted fabulous; this is the first time I’ve ever iced cookies though and I think I failed, hah. After chilling both the cut cookies and the icing, and putting it in squeeze bottles, it fell off the cookies, mostly. I did substitute cold milk for the room temperature water though (instinct, it’s what I’ve used for frosting cinnamon rolls before). Could that have been what made them too thin? I suppose I should know baking logic, but I don’t. Here’s a link to a picture of the finished product:

    http://i1273.photobucket.com/albums/y405/nahte91/IMG_0116_zps25305110.jpg

    1. I feel milk prevents the icing from “setting” and becoming hard, so I would avoid it. Water is best. However, I don’t think milk is the issue here. Was your icing thick? It has to be very thick. Add more confectioners’ sugar if it is not thick. Thin icing will melt off and spread.

  15. These look awesome! I can’t wait to make them!
    I used your icing for my gingerbread cookies and they turned out AMAZING!
    Thanks for such awesome recipes!

  16. Hi Sally,
    I love your blog! I stumbled on it by accident and I’m so glad I did. My question is concerning these cookies, I have to prepare cookies for a Christmas Eve swap and I know you said the frosting needs to set up for 24 hours. How far in advance should I make the dough and the icing in order to have these ready for Christmas Eve? Also, I love lemon sugar cookies, would you suggest lemon extract instead of the almond or lemon zest? Thanks and keep the recipes coming!!!

    1. You could make the dough and icing on the 22nd, cover each tightly, then bake and decorate on the 23rd. Let the icing set overnight and they’ll be ready for the 24th. OR you can make the dough and icing, chill both, and bake/decorate all on the 23rd.

      1. The pan has Christmas/Holiday Shapes on them! I was just wondering how much the cookies expand so that they don’t overflow when I bake them?

        Thank you so much Sally! Your site is the only site i refer to when I bake!

  17. 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!!!

  18. Cute cookies! I’m going to try the squeeze bottle technique this year! Hubby helps frost, and well…I appreciate his help and company! Question: is it ok to just leave the frosted cookies uncovered on the table overnight to dry?

  19. 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 🙂

  20. These look amazing! I made them today and I think I might have rolled the dough a bit thin cause some of them were a bit burned, but other than that they were wonderful! I’m freezing them tonight and defrosting them on the 22nd, frosting them on the 23rd so they’ll be ready Christmas eve. But I’m not sure how to freeze cookies, as I’ve never done so before. Any tips? 🙂

    1. Hi Carolina! Unfrosted cookies freeze well up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator. I always freeze in a large zip-top bag or a tupperware container.

  21. 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 the powdered vanilla (sold in small packets, like the baking powder) it’s great and very popular actually in Europe 🙂 It’s sort of like very vanilla sugar and great for baking/desserts. You’d use half a packet as it can be quite strong for a small amt of icing. Just go with the taste test… hope this helps 🙂 

  22. Oh. My. Word. Sally, you are pure genius and this sugar-cookie-cutout-challenged mom thanks you! This was easy (after I figured out how to get the slightly crumbly dough into balls), and rolling before chilling is completely awesome! The boys had a blast cutting out Star Wars and Avengers shapes – did I say boys?

  23. 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.

  24. I used cheap plastic paint brushes to paint the icing on the cookies. It seems to work well for the kids to decorate them easier.

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