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: 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 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

424 Comments

  1. hi. im from south africa and recently tried this recipe for my sons birthday. i had his initials n his age cut out n the kept there shape beautifully. they did get soft in the tin,,, then again i would shrug it off to climate… but once left out the crisped again. thanks for the awesome recipe.

  2. Hi, this recipe looks great and I want so badly to bake these as thank you presents for some people. The problem is that I don’t have 24 hours to let the icing harden! Is it possible to ice the cookies, then cover them up and put them in the fridge to speed up the hardening? Thank you!

  3. 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!

  4. Hi Sally,

    I made this recipe last night. I followed the directions, rolled the dough out then chilled it overnight (covered).

    However, because I rolled it too thin ( I realized this after) I had to re-roll the dough out after taking it from the fridge to the right thickness.

    My dough was a bit crumbly and hard to form into a nice ball (it was crumbly before i put it in the fridge too, but i managed to roll it out)

    I baked the cookies, watching them carefully—they turned Golden brown underneath, but the tops remained white (I was hitting 12 min in the oven and the top were not changing color. Also, the cookie was hard (crisp) when I bit it, but was ok on the inside. I would still eat it, but wold have liked it to be slightly softer–taste wise it was great though!

    Did overkneading and rolling the dough cause my cookies to not brown on top, but still be hard. I was careful about not mixing the flour too much when incorporating it in the batter–not sure if I beat the butter and sugar too much either

    I would like to make another batch again, but don’t know where I went wrong.

    Any input would be much appreciated. Thank you.

    1. I wonder if you overmeasured the flour at all? This would create a crumbly dough. Overkneading, overheating, or over rolling does not prevent browning on top. Did you have the cookies on one of the bottom racks in your oven?

      1. I don’t think I over measured the flour as I did the spoon and level method (instead of my usual scoop and level method)

        I put two trays in top and bottom but they were fairly centered

        Hmm–not sure what else it could be—but I am trying it right now and will back one tray at a time on the centrerack and see how it goes! Thank you for your response!

      2. So I just made another batch. I think part of my problem was that I didn’t cream the butter, and then butter and sugar properly. (I didn’t know how to tell when the butter and sugar was creamed properly! But I looked it up and that helped a lot!)

        The dough was also not so crumby this time around! Easier to form in to a ball and roll out!

        I cut my cookies slightly thicker than yours. They took longer to bake—I did end up underbaking them slightly (Not raw, but just so they were softer.) I figured they’d con’t to cook as they cooled and they have and have hardened slightly since removing from the oven a few minutes ago. (I was also petrified of having them rock hard in case I overbaked them as I have done in the past!!) They did’t have that golden brown look yours had, but I tasted it and they are done but soft (at least right now!) Now onto the decorating!

        Thanks so much for your helpful tips and response! 🙂

  5. Hello,  I am wondering if I would be able to cut ready made icing into shapes needed, a week in advance please?
    If I cut them and place them in an airtight container separated using some parchment paper, would this also be ok?

    I would appreciate what you think, as I have so many little things to do and don’t want to ‘panic’ the day before!

    Many thanks,
    Vee.

    1. You can cut and decorate the cookies a week in advance. Though the cookies will not be as soft. You can separate the cookie layers with parchment, yes.

  6. Hello again Sally,
    Thank you for your very quick reply.

    I’m sorry, but I didn’t put my queries clearly!!    I have actual icing that I would like to do in different shapes and sizes.
    Will it be ok to make these icing cut outs, say tomorrow, to place on the cookies in a weeks time please?  I know your cookies will be fine made earlier, but will the coloured icing stay ok for the week!?

    Sorry to be a nuisance and many thanks, Vee

  7. Hello! Does this icing “behave” like royal icing made with meringue powder? For example, would I be able to do wet on wet techniques, or brush embroidery or the marbling effect, etc. like I can with royal icing? I really want a better icing for my cookies than royal icing. I love that this recipe dries hard but is still tasty!!! 

    1. It’s not quite as stable and easy to work with (as far as delicate decorating goes) as royal icing made with meringue powder.

  8. I followed the directions to a tee, except for one thing. I put half a teaspoon of almond extract into it as well. I turned out wonderful! Thank you for this recipe.

  9. Can these cookies be made and frosted and placed in cello bags (heat sealed) and last two weeks for a wedding coming up?

  10. 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. 

  11. I love your cookie and frosting recipe and information 🙂 I have found this to be way easier for holiday sugar cookies as well. The only thing I have found is the major difficulty of getting the royal icing into the bottles. It’s so thick and it tends to drip all over unless you get a plastic bottle with a wide enough opening on top, which is the key . Would love to hear your thoughts on this. Thanks! 

  12. Thanks for your time in putting together this recipe. I was really excited about it but oh my goodness these cookies turned out way too sweet! I honestly couldn’t even bake the rest of the batch. Why is this so? Did anyone else feel they were too sweet? And this is without the icing as well. I followed the recipe exactly and put in the amount of sugar 3/4 cup mentioned but they are just extremely sweet and really just too intense to enjoy. Don’t mean to be negative but I had to mention this especially if people are looking for cookies to be less sweet. Since sugar cookies usually have icing there really is no need to put so much sugar in the cookies themselves. Perhaps with just that modification in the amount of sugar this recipe would be just right. 

    1. Yep, from experience I’ve reduced the amount of sugar in all her recipes by 50-100g. For this cookie I ended up using only 100g of sugar (and that’s without any icing on them). Other than that her recipes are great, they always turn out as expected. I just can’t handle that much sugar haha.

  13. I love your cookie, scone and muffin recipes.  Your website is my go to place when it comes to baking!  Thanks for all the detailed information and helpful hints.  My desserts are always a hit thanks to you!  

  14. Made a double batch this weekend and they came out perfect! I love measuring by weight for baking. Cookies tasted great without icing (did not use almond extract) and were even better a few days later. I loved the technique of rolling out in parchment (I used waxed paper) before chilling – it made cutting out easy and clean up a breeze (no flour all over my counter, no scrubbing the rolling pin!). The kids decorated with icing (made a double batch, divided, and made several colors) and the results were lovely. May need to make another batch this year!

  15. Thanks Sally, Made 2 batches now. Have 3 more planned for Christmas gifts including a vegan version, hopefully that one works, 😉

  16. THANK YOU for this step-by-step information with tips!!! As a graduate student, baking is NOT my strong suit and cookies are the perfect gift. I had already made my sugar cookies, but am using your icing recipe and definitely saving this webpage for future cookies! 

  17. I have a trick for getting thick Royal icing into a squeeze bottle.  Use a funnel.  Or I use a piping bag.  The empty piping bag can be placed in a jug with the side bits overhanging the edge of the jug.  Then pour the icing into the piping bag.  Hope these tips help.

  18. Ok, I confess I am a terrible baker! But after trying a few recipes on your blog and focusing in on my detail oriented side, I’m attempting these sugar cookies. Ambitious, huh?! They are chilling right now, and I’m hoping they turn out better than the rest of the sugar cookies I’ve tried throughout my life. Your blog has helped me see that following directions to a T (like you have to when baking) can actually be fun. It’s like a science. And your tip for measuring dry goods blew my mind. My family never baked much. I got a C in home ec. For real. When baking I always tried to cut corners, but now I see where I went wrong so many times. Here’s hoping to better baking in 2016! 😀

  19. This icing is the best, but instead of using plastic bottles, I used small paint brushes to decorate! Much easier and more fun! The icing can be thinned if needed with a few drops of water and the “paint” dries quickly if one needs to paint over paint! Or just add some sprinkles before the paint dries! I’m not artistic at all, but was able to create “painted” cookies that my guests rave about! A truly artistic person could create amazing painted cookies!

  20. Wow, these were delicious!! Dough was a bit sticky so it was hard to work with, but next time I’ll just add one more tablespoon of flour. Thanks!

  21. i made these cookies for Xmas and they were awesome. Love the idea of rolling the dough and chilling. So much easier. Came out great. 

  22. Thank you so much for the recipes. My kids have conflicting food allergies and this the first icing recipe I have found that both of them will be able to eat.

  23. I made these cookies for Christmas cookies this year and they are AMAZING! My family was grumpy at first because I didn’t use our traditional cut out cookie recipe but they all decided these are better than the one we have been using for 15+ years! Thanks so much for this amazing recipe!

  24. I’m so ready to make this now then suddenly I found out my mom bought “SALTED Butter” instead of the unsalted one. I wonder if I can just use salted butter and reduce the salt required? Pls, I hope you answer.. I’m planning to give the cookies to a good friend whom I haven’t seen for half a decade. I think she’ll like it! Thank You! 

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

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