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. Hi Sally, I can’t wait to try these! On icing the entire top of cookie say with a base color, do you use squirt bottle and spread? Thank you
    Glenda

    1. I use the squirt bottle to spread it around, yes!

  2. This recipe is wonderful! I am so happy that I found it. I have wanted to bake my own cookies that tasted as good as the ones I buy at local bakery. THANK YOU! These are fun to make and this is a great recipe. The only change we make to it is to TRIPLE the almond…..amazing results. I am sharing this with any who ask. So far, my cookies are a hit. This is a novelty for me since my husband does the majority of the cooking.

  3. Hi Sally

    -I’ve made a few of your recipes over the years so when I had to make cut out sugar cookies for my daughter in laws shower I knew exactly what website to go to -yours!
    They came out perfect and everyone loved them. thank you !!!

  4. Hey Sally,
    I plan on freezing these (to enjoy with my bridesmaids on my wedding morning!) I see you suggest thawing in th refrigerator. Do you mean the frozen dough or the frozen baked cookies? I normally just let the frozen baked cookies defrost in a plastic baggie on the counter.

    1. Hi Kelly! Both– I always like to thaw in the refrigerator to avoid excess condensation.

  5. Any substitute for the almond extract to make this recipe nut-free?

    1. Add a little more vanilla extract in its place.

  6. Laurie Lehman says:

    I made these last year and we loved them!  Question though.  

    If I make the dough late on a Friday and refrigerate; is it ok to then not bake until Sunday?

    Also if you make the frosting a day ahead and refrigerate how do you get back the consistency needed to use?  Just warm to room temp and or add more liquid and remix a bit?

    Thanks and love your recipes!

    Laurie

    1. Hi Laurie! Great questions. You can make the dough, roll it out, and chill it until Sunday. I would make sure you cover it in the refrigerator with a piece of parchment. Remove from the refrigerator and continue with the recipe on Sunday. For the icing, just let it sit out on the counter until it’s the consistency for piping with the squeeze bottle. Shouldn’t take long.

  7. A couple of questions 

    How far ahead can I make
    the dough 
    The icing
    And are these cookies soft ? Like loft house cookies? 
    Thanks and merry Xmas , 

    1. You can chill the cookie dough for up to 2 days. You can also freeze the cookie dough before rolling for up to 3 months. Then allow to thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then bring to room temperature for about 1 hour. Then roll and continue with the recipe as directed. The icing I wouldn’t make until you are going to use it. And yes, the cookies are very soft! 🙂

  8. Is it ok to use salted butter?

    1. Absolutely. Just leave the salt out of the cookies.

  9. How long do theese cookies last or how far ahead can I make them and then hand them (fristed) as gifts? 

    1. Hi Barbara! I find they stay soft for about 5 days at room temperature. Unfrosted cookies freeze well up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

  10. Hi Sally!  I’m wondering if this icing will stay gooey or if it will harden?

    1. It doesn’t become hard, but it does set. It’s definitely a soft glaze.

  11. Thank you!  These are super yummy and turned out perfectly.  

  12. Amazing recipe! Took forever to find the right one. Thanks a ton! Question: what can you use instead of a squeeze bottle?

    1. Piping bags/tips work! Or a zipped-top bag. You can cut a small corner off the bag and pipe the icing on.

  13. Hi, I was wondering if the corn syrup in the frost is mandatory for the recipe? I usually don’t have corn syrup in my pantry.

    1. The corn syrup makes the icing nice and shiny 🙂 You can leave it out if you’d like.

      1. Would this simple icing recipe be good enough for a group of middle school girls to decorate cookies with designs/names? Or is it necessary I follow the royal icing recipe for that?? Thanks so much for the detailed instructions throughout by the way!!

      2. You can use this one!

  14. I made these for Christmas and they were fantastic and so delicious!  Dough was easy to work with and the icing too!  I added a tiny amount of Creme Bouquet flavoring in icing along with the vanilla mentioned. These will be on my baking list for many years to come!  Thank you for a great recipe, they were a hit!  Oh, and like the previous commenter, I also love the sprinkles you used in the white cookies…which ones did you use?

  15. Help! I made the dough last night and chilled it rolled out between parchment paper in my fridge. I’m trying to separate the 2 rolled out doughs but it’s breaking. After chilling for not even a day does it get too cold? Do I need to let it sit out for a few minutes to relax so it can separate? My kids are patiently waiting to cut them out.

    1. Hi Erica! Let it sit out on the counter to soften up a bit. That’s what I do when it begins to crack.

  16. Hi
    I love this recipe ! Can I add chocolate chips or nuts to this recipe ?

    Thanks

    1. You can try it with mini chocolate chips or chopped nuts! Enjoy!

  17. Hi sally!

    Your recipe calls for letting the dough chill after all of the cookies have been cut out, would you recommend layering the cookies on one aluminum tray separated by parchment paper? I have a very small freezer but would like to follow the recipe as closely as I can.

    1. Hi Lauren! I actually cut the dough into shapes after chilling. What I’m instructing here is to roll out the dough, then chill, then cut into shapes. I simply roll out the dough on parchment paper or silicone baking mats, place on a baking sheet, then chill.

  18. What is the best way to use different colors of the easy glaze? I want to do American flag sugar cookie using the easy glaze. Do I need to let each color dry before adding the next color?

    1. Hi Cheryl, yes. To avoid colors bleeding, it’s best to let each color set before adding the next.

  19. Theresa Robinson says:

    This sugar cooky recipe turned my love-hate relationship into a lovely long lasting favorite family keeper! Tried for years unsuccessfully until I found this a few years ago. Thank you for the added family memories we share making these! I now have a need to reduce the sugar for a family member with diabetes. I am afraid to deviate too far from this recipe of perfection but am wondering if anyone has tried these with 1/2 xylitol to 1/2 sugar?

  20. I made these last week and they’ll be my go to sugar cookies from now on. Delicious!! I have them in the freezer( after my husband and I taste tested them 🙂 ) Yum!! I’ll be frosting some soon. I’m nervous to decorate as I’ve never done that before. I’ll be trying Santas before I take some up to the Grands.
    Thanks so much Sally!! Love your blog!

  21. Can you swap the flour out for gluten free floor by Cup4Cup?

    1. Hi Jennifer, I haven’t personally tried it but let me know if you do!

  22. Hi Sally, love all your recipes! Quick question, i am taking these cookies to a play date for the children to decorate. I will bake the cookies the night before. Could i make the frosting the night before as well? And have it ready to go in a bag or bottle? Thanks! Vandana

    1. Sure can! Just leave the easy glaze frosting covered on the counter or in the refrigerator overnight. If refrigerated, bring to room temperature before decorating. Thank you!

  23. how long will the icing stay pliable in the container if I leave it at room temp? I don’t plan on icing them for another 3 weeks?

    1. Only a few days.

  24. Christan Humphries says:

    Hello! I love this recipe and use it every year. This year, I’m having a cookie decorating party where I’ll provide cookies for all of the guests to decorate together. Just wondering if you’ve ever frozen the cookie dough? I’d love to get everything ready ahead of time if possible.

    1. Hi Christan! Yes, you can freeze the cookie dough. See my make ahead tip.

  25. I used your recipe tonight and my cookies came out so awesome! Thank you so much for the sugar cookie and frosting recipe.

  26. Sheila Bennett says:

    Do you have a secret for getting the icing in the squeeze bottles? Seems as though it may be difficult to get something thicker than water into it.

    1. It’s thin, so it’s not too trick. I just use a spoon.

  27. They look lovely! How long do you think they will last for?? I want to make them with my kids to take to school for their friends. Just wondering how many days before I can make them??

    1. Hi Gemma! I find these sugar cookies stay soft for about 5 days covered at room temperature.

  28. My granddaughter & I just finished making a batch of these cookies. This is my keeper! They backed up firmly, but the taste, oh my! I LOVE the concept of pre-rolling BEFORE refrigerating, such a time-saver & super easy. Thank you Sally once again for your trustworthy recipes & helpful tips! We had a wonderful afternoon of making cherished memories which is what cooking is all about! Merry Christmas!

  29. My grandchildren are allergic to tree nuts – do you have a suggestion on eliminating the almond extract? Thank you, LeeAnn

    1. Hi LeeAnn! I recommend substituting the almond extract with the same amount of vanilla extract. So you will use 2 and 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract.

  30. I have a question about freezing the dough. What is your reason for not rolling out the dough when freezing? I like the idea of freezing rolled out sheets of dough and letting them thaw slightly before cutting. Would like to know if you have tried this method and what the result was. Thanks!

    1. Hi Jillian! You can freeze the cookie dough either way– already rolled out OR as a whole. I suggest freezing as a whole since many may not have room in the freezer for sheets of rolled out cookie dough. 🙂

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