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. These are so addicting. I gobbled down three instantly after icing them. Ridiculously easy to make, simple, tasty cookies. I also love the size of this batch. A lot of cookie recipes use like 5 cups of flour and make enormous quantities. This was perfect for our family.

  2. Hi! I am going to make these for a cookie decorating party with kids. Can I triple the recipe all at once without issue or do I need to make it 3 separate times? Thanks!

    1. Hi Courtney! For the best results, I strongly recommend making 3 separate batches of cookie dough.

  3. I’m excited to try this out, my dough is chilling now! This may be a silly question, but once I cut the cookies out, can I use the extra dough edges to reshape for more cookies? Thanks!!

    1. Yes, absolutely! Re-roll them and if you find they are getting too soft you can put them back in the refrigerator to firm back up. Enjoy!

  4. Hi! First the flavor of these cookies was superb, and the icing was perfect consistency for decorating, but unfortunately the cookies spread into unrecognizable blobs when baking. I believe I followed everything to a T. Any ideas as to why it happened or suggestions to prevent? Thanks!

    1. Hi Erin, be sure that your dough is cold when going in the oven. If you are cutting out shapes and the dough has been sitting for a while, don’t be afraid to pop the already cut out shapes back in the refrigerator so they are cold going in the oven! Also, see this post (especially #s 4, 5, and 6): https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/tips-for-cookie-spreading/

  5. Hi Sally! Can I cut these out and then freeze the already cut-out dough for a few days before baking? Thank you!

    1. Absolutely!

  6. I made the cookies but we aren’t icing them for two days. Where should I store them? Is it ok that I have them in the fridge?

    1. The sugar cookies are great covered tightly either in the fridge or at room temperature. 🙂

  7. Do these cookies spread when baking?

    1. No! As long as the dough is properly chilled they don’t spread and hold their shape perfectly!

  8. Hi SALLY I love this recipe and made it throughout the holidays however I want to attempt writing on the cookies or doing patterns. What icing recipe can be used so the writing and patterns comes out nice and not runny etc. kindly advise as I want to attempt for Valentines. Thanks much

    1. Hi Ree! For BEST results with piping words/writing, I recommend my royal icing.

  9. How long does it take for this icing to set? I’m doing a cookie decorating project for VDay and I need icing that will be ready in an hour.

    1. Up to 24 hours. It won’t be set in 1 hour, though my royal icing sets in the refrigerator in about 1 hour.

  10. Hello! I’m making the sugar cookies for a birthday party and having the guests decorate them themselves. Would it be best to use the royal icing or the glaze icing?

    1. Hi Emily, either is fine! The glaze icing (included with this recipe) doesn’t yield precise icing details like traditional royal icing does. Both are pretty easy to make and work with. Depends on how intricate the decorating will be! I talk about the differences in length in my original sugar cookies post.

  11. Can you add fresh lime or lemon juice to this icing?

    1. Hi Irene! You can definitely substitute some of the water with fresh lemon or lime juice.

  12. Hi sally! First time making these! Do these cookies need icing? Or can I go without?

    1. Hi Taylor! The cookies are delicious without icing but of course won’t be decorated- either way they are wonderful 🙂

  13. krysta Wolfangel says:

    I made these cookies with my two young kids this evening. I made a half batch because I only needed to make one dozen cookies. These are very good for what they are, a cutout sugar cookie. The butter flavor is good and my cookies did not spread or misshapen in the oven, which is good because the cookies we made from a tracing of my baby son’s hands. The cookies are exactly as described: crunchy boarder and soft-is middle. The kids are going to frost them tomorrow for a cookie competition! My husband made Sallys chocolate sugar cookie recipe for the same cookie competition and it is an insanely good cookie! Thanks! See ya!

  14. I just made these cookies- haven’t frosted or tasted them yet however I must say this was the easiest and quickest rolling and cutting out ever! I followed the recipe to roll the dough out first then refrigerate it- inwill always do this in the future, thanks.

  15. Corn syrup is not readily available in the UK, is there anything similar here I could use?

    1. Honey would be great!

  16. Hey! When you refrigerate the dough, do you cover it or only roll it onto the baking sheet.

    1. You can lightly cover it, yes.

  17. Hi! If I wanted to Melt chocolate for icing the cookies, would you suggest just melting chocolate By itself or melting chocolate with heavy cream like a ganache? Would either be preferable for making the chocolate more likely to dry on the cookies? Thanks!

    1. Hi Sam! Use 4 ounce baking chocolate bars that you find in the baking aisle. I recommend Bakers or Ghirardelli brands. Just chop them up fine and melt them in the microwave or double boiler. No need to mix with heavy cream or anything.

  18. Hi I made these cookies and was wondering if I could frost them with your cream cheese frosting from this recipe: Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies

    Thank you!

  19. Hello Sally!
    Do you need to roll the dough out before chilling or can you wrap in saran wrap to chill and roll out afterward when you are ready to cut them out?

    1. Hi, Karyl! I recommend rolling the dough out before chilling. Divide the dough into 2 equal parts and roll each out to about 1/4″ thickness. Stack the pieces (with with parchment paper) onto a baking sheet and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1-2 hours. When ready to bake, take out the dough and you can make the shapes, re-rolling the dough to about 1/4″ as needed. Hope this helps!

  20. I’d like to step away from my store-bought frosting comfort zone and try this icing. Will it work to ice them, then have my kids decorate them with sprinkles and whatnot, or do they start to set too fast? Thanks!

    1. Hi Jacki! They take awhile to set (about 24 hours fully), so you can frost them and have the kids decorate with sprinkles.

  21. Love your recipes Sally.
    If I want to add cardamom…what measure so you suggest?

    1. I recommend about 1/2 teaspoon.

  22. Jessica McNeace says:

    The recipe is perfect and the tip to roll out cookie dough and then chill is absolutely genius. Thank you very much, you made my holiday less stressful.

  23. Best sugar cookies ever! I used buttercream frosting, but next time will try your icing recipe. I found that the thinner I rolled them, the better I liked them. Thanks so much!

  24. Hi Sally! I was wondering if I could substitute the corn syrup with something else maybe honey?

    1. Hi Grace, The corn syrup is what gives the icing fabulous shine. You may leave it out if you aren’t concerned about shiny, glossy icing. I don’t recommend using anything in it’s place.

  25. Now I realize what’s been missing all my life: rolling out the dough and THEN chilling it. Amazing! Even young kids can make perfectly shaped sugar cookies with this dough, and it makes them so happy that they can do it so well themselves. Thank you!

    1. Love this recipe! I substituted the sugar with Trulia, making them diabetic friendly. My mom is just hooked on these.

  26. Diane Amoroso says:

    Is this the recipe I would use for painting details on a cookie with food safe brushes. I like an icing as close taste wise to buttercream as possible but need thin consistency for the painting. Thank you!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Diane, It depends on the finished look you are going for. When painting on cookies I usually use white royal icing, let that fully dry, and then make a “paint” with gel food colors mixed with a drop of clear alcohol (or clear vanilla) to paint the white surface. You could certainly try to paint with this easy icing if you wish but we haven’t tried it.

  27. I have a question. I like the idea of using corn syrup in the frosting to give them a shine which I never did that. My question is by adding corn syrup to the sugar glaze will it make it sweet?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Linda, This icing is very sweet on it’s own 🙂 The corn syrup is what gives the icing fabulous shine but you may leave it out if you aren’t concerned about shiny, glossy icing. We are only adding one teaspoon so it’s not enough to change the taste.

  28. Hi I wondered if you could answer a question for me – can this icing be prepared ahead of time and kept for later use? For instance if made 2/3 days before using then kept in a small squeezy bottle in the fridge would that keep? Thanks

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Carla, If not decorating right away, cover the icing tightly and keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

  29. Can this icing be put in heat sealed piping bags for kids cookie decorating kits without separating?

    1. Yes, absolutely. You can make it ahead, divide between piping bags and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before piping.

  30. Hi Sally, I have always used this cookie recipe and it has always been a success! This Christmas I have to do 400 cookies for the 1st week in December. The cookies are for a company who wish to give as tokens throughout the month of December to their customers. Since it is 400 cookies required for the first week in December, if I start baking and decorating from next week (November 23rd), can the cookies stay at room temperature all through until Christmas? Or would it spoil? Your advice would be greatly appreciated as I do not wish to sell cookies that will spoil especially an order that a company is giving to their customers as tokens throughout the month of December.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Ree, We recommend only leaving the cookies at room temperature for about 5 days and up to 10 days in the refrigerator. You can certainly freeze the cookies for longer storage. See the freezing instructions in the recipe notes for details.

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