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

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

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

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

Christmas Sugar Cookies Video Tutorial

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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


Cut-out Christmas sugar cookies with crisp edges and soft centers. My icing recipe is so simple, making decorating hassle-free!



  • 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*


  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.


  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

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

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


  1. Hi Sally! As always, Thank you for a great recipe! This is my husband and I’s first year hosting christmas at our house and I planned to do cookie decorating with my nephews (4&2) and neice (1)! Your icing recipe saved the day! I’m going to make it up this week – I bought those squirt bottles at Joann and now I won’t have to rush to make everything (or buy them – so expensive!) on Xmas 🙂 I always make my William Sonoma sugar cookie recipe, but will have to try yours soon! You never disappoint!

    Also happy first married christmas! Have a wonderful holiday!

    Also making your monkey bread for Xmas morning!!!!

  2. Loving your cookies!they are so beautiful. I’m going to try them for a party on the weekend. Any tips on keeping the cookies fresh? I have to make them on Thursday but the party is on Saturday.

    1. My mom always taught me growing up to put a piece of bread in with the cookies, it is the best trick ever! The cookies suck the moisture out of the bread and into the cookies, softest cookies ever. Keeps them nice and soft for days.

  3. We make Christmas cut out cookies every year and I try different recipes from time to time. This is not our favorite tasting icing for cookies. It does not have that nice buttery flavor we were hoping for (way too much sugar flavor) but does go on smoothly.

    1. Do you think adding a flavored extract to the frosting would make it taste better? Just wondering in case we don’t like the frosting.

  4. 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.

  5. this is a wonderful recipe! Used it with the icing for my office gifts this year. The pics & details make it so user friendly. Thx so much!

  6. We had a ton of trouble getting the icing into the squeeze bottles we bought after reading this post. Any tips on how to get the icing from the bowl into the bottle? Perhaps ours was a little thick, but I wanted it thicker rather than thinner based on your instructions. Thanks!

  7. I stored my sugar cut out cookies with my persimmon cookies overnight and now they are soft. Can I re-bake them a little to crisp them up?

    thanks….l like your web site info!!


  8. hi, i cant wait to try this.. im a first-timer. just a quick question. if i were to make the cookies today, can i keep them in an airtight container till christmas, which is next week thursday?

    thanks a bunch! 🙂

    1. No, the two are not interchangeable in this recipe. You’d likely have to do some testing to use baking soda and include an acidic ingredient for it to react.

  9. I’m making cutout cookies for the first time in years, and I was wondering how well these hold their shape after baking? I really need the crisp lines to hold up (I don’t want Yoda to look fat/ lumpy), but ideally still have tasty cookies.

    1. They hold their shape almost perfectly! I have never seen a recipe work like this one does! As Sally says, just make sure the dough is cold. When I made this recipe with my kids, you could definitely see a difference between the first batch I baked and the second which was warmer after sitting out for sprinkle adding. 

  10. I love your recipes! We always make sugar cookies and frost them, but rarely are we 100% happy with the result. I’m going to try the roll out and chill method you mentioned. Thank you for all the wonderful recipes you share!

  11. 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.

  12. can the icing be used for popcakes? I am struggling with having a smooth dippable icing that will set up hard. I have not been successful with other frostings or candy melts so far. I Wondered if it would slide off the cake before it dried?

  13. I love these cookies!!! I believe the 2 biggest secrets to them are almond extract to get that great flavor & underbaking them! I underbake all cookies, so they are chewy! The frosting was good, very user friendly.

  14. Tried this recipe today…delicious!! Easy to make and the frosting isn’t too sweet. I will keep this recipe handy. Can these cookies be frozen?

    1. Yep. FREEZING: unfrosted cookies freeze well up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Frosted cookies do not freeze well at all.

  15. Afternoon, just about ready to make your cookie recipe. My son is excited! One handy tip we discovered when placing cookies on the pan to bake was to turn the baking pans upside down. Place parchment paper on the pan, lightly flour it and then roll the dough out. Cut out the shapes and peel away the excess dough leaving behind the cut out cookies on the pan. Bake and presto no transferring necessary! It made for an easier and more enjoyable first time experience 🙂
    Merry Christmas

  16. 1st time using this recipe today. I had to slowly add water because there was too much flour, however, any person who bakes bread knows that local weather can affect the moisture. I added a tiny bit at a time, ended up needing 1/8 of a cup. Then they were PERFECT! Love love love this recipe. I love that it’s not too sweet, so when you ice them it’s the perfect amount of sugar.

  17. 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 🙂

  18. Hi Sally! I was going to make these cookies, but then I saw the “roll before chilling part”. And now i’m wondering, what am I supposed to do with the leftovers of the rolled dough after I’ve cut different shapes from it? Because normally I would take all the leftovers, roll them in a ball and roll out again, and then continue cutting shapes. BUT if this dough has to be chilled to cut it, how is it possible?

    1. you can re-roll scraps. if they are quite soft and warm from working with it, you can re-chill those shapes/scraps of dough for 20-30 minutes.

  19. Sally…you are a genius! I have been baking for many years and never thought to roll out the cookie dough before chilling…duh…
    The cookies were delicious and beautiful. The edges were so sharp and I could actually see the shape – sometimes my cut out sugar cookies looked like sugar cookie blobs. Thanks for your recipes and tricks of the trade (you really can teach an old do new tricks!).

  20. Sally after a lot of experimenting for my daughter in laws baby shower, I was ready to give up because of the Royal Icing. Then saw your site and decided to try one more time. They turned out awesome!
    The shower is in 6 days. I’m going to individually bag tomorrow. What would be the best way to store them?
    Thank you so much. I’m putting your site in my favorites.

  21. 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!!

  22. 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?


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

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I’m Sally, a cookbook author, photographer, and blogger. My goal is to give you the confidence and knowledge to cook and bake from scratch while providing quality recipes and plenty of pictures. Grab a cookie, take a seat, and have fun exploring! more about Sally