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. These cookies tasted great but they all baked a little differently some were hard as a rock and some were really gooey in the middle, do you have any ideas on what went wrong?

    1. Your Oven Probably Has HOT SPOTS Which is Why She Recommends Rotating the Tray while Baking. I Always Rotate Around 5 or 6 Minutes Into the Baking Time and They Come Out Great!

  2. I want to try the icing recipe but I’m wondering if it will hold in the heat after it completely harden? Want to bake these cookies for a girl tea party out in the yard.

  3. Your step by step recipe was a blessing!  1st time cookies for high school seniors were perfect. Used longhorn head cookie cutter (mascot). THANK YOU for sharing your gifts!

  4. Thanks so much.  Have been making cutout cookies for years, but didn’t have theingrediants for the icing I usually make on hand and your recipe does.  Awesome.  Making wildlife cookies for a friend in a nursing home.

    1. One extra large egg is equivalent to two extra small eggs, so you can just use one extra small egg instead for half the recipe. Everything else you can halve using a calculator. Hope I helped! 

  5. Hello! Wondering if margarine would work instead of butter? Im currently outside of US and real butter is outrageously expensive. Thanks!

  6. Hey Sally! These cookies look very wonderful and I was wondering, if I leave out the icing because my family aren’t huge fans of it, should i add more sugar to the cookie dough?

  7. I’ve made these cookies now a few times. They are my go to sugar cookies, never fail and never any left. Wish I could add a picture.
    Christmas time again will be making soon.

  8. Hey Sally!!!

    I was wondering if I could leave out the almond extract because it overpowers the taste sometimes in other cookies I’ve tried, will this happen?

    Thank you!!!

  9. I made this recipe a few weeks ago for the first time and they were a hit at a fundraiser/bake sale! The chilling is absolutely necessary and helps the cookies hold their shape so well, and the icing is beautiful. I cannot wait to make them again for Christmas! I’ll definitely double the recipe.

  10. Oh my goodness! These look absolutely amazing. There’s this bakery near me that makes amazing sugar cookies….but I bet yours tastes better 🙂 Anyway, I’m allergic to almonds so I was wondering if there’s some substitute to the almond extract or if I could just leave it out altogether?

  11. I’ve searched for the perfect frosting recipe for sugar cookies and found it with your easy icing! That icing is great; can’t wait to make more sugar cookies with it. Thanks Sally.

  12. These were DELICIOUS! I forwarded the recipe to my sister and she dropped them off at my house a few minutes ago! Who says you can’t have cookies in the morning!?

  13. Hi Sally, I wanted to share my experience in making these. I chilled my rolled-out dough overnight in the fridge, just as described in the recipe, and laid a piece of parchment paper on the top piece. When it came time to remove these from the fridge & begin using cookie cutters, the parchment papers were badly stuck to the dough. It wouldn’t have been a problem if the two dough slabs weren’t stacked, as I could have just turned a slab over and peeled off the paper. But this way, the hardened dough prevented me from being able to separate the layers. I ended up needing to tear apart the top layer and re-roll. Not the end of the world but sorta defeated the purpose of chilling. Maybe I needed to leave them sitting out for a little after removing them from the fridge? At any rate, these came out really nicely despite the momentary frustration. I discovered I’d prefer to roll them a bit thicker than I did.

    A question: is this the type of recipe where one could add cornstarch for a softer cookie? Or would that change the texture or flavor too much?

    Thanks again for a delicious recipe–my first time making scratch sugar cookies.

    1. Hi Trixie! Thanks so much for your feedback. For the cornstarch– this is a precise amount of flour (dry) to butter (wet) BUT 1 teaspoon of cornstarch should be OK if you’re looking for a slightly softer cookie.

  14. Hi Sally. I made this recipe and they were delicious! I had some trouble with the dough though. It was crumbly and hard to roll out. Any ideas what I may have done wrong? Thanks for all your delicious recipes!

  15. Hello Sally,
    I just discovered your blog and I have been reading a few of your recipes with much interest. Baking is also one of my favorite things to do. I started about two years ago. When I was little I helped my mom when she was baking. During the Christmas holidays we always made sugar cookies in the shape of snowflakes.
    My favorite thing to make are cupcakes, cookies and cakes. When my best friend Els and I are together we always bake. We even have a Facebook group where we post photos of our creations. We made a Halloween cake, Unicorn cookies and all sorts of cupcakes. We don’t only bake, but we also love to make deserts like chocolate mousse and tiramisu.
    Last year for my birthday I received a big box with baking essentials like cookbooks, an apron, a mixer, … This year for my birthday I got a stand mixer.
    With all this equipment and your great blog, I feel really inspired to bake as much as I can. Maybe in the future, who knows, I can start a blog myself and post some of my favorite recipes.
    In the meantime, I’m looking forward for some new posts on this blog.
    Emma

  16. Hello, I really want to make these cookies, but I only have salted butter on hand. If I leave out the extra salt in the recipe and use salted butter, would the cookies still turn out the same ?

  17. Hi Sally! I am a huge fan of your blog, and bake one of your recipes from it at least once/week. I am SO EXCITED to try these sugar cookies. Last year was my first time trying sugar cookies from scratch, and although they tasted good, they didn’t look as pretty. Your suggestion to use squeeze bottles is GENIUS! Do you a tip on the best way to get the icing from the bowl into the bottle?

  18. Hello!! I am looking forward to making these for Christmas parties but what if I just have a regular mixer and no paddle attachment? Will it work the same?

    Thank you!!

  19. Howdy! Thanks so much for sharing 🙂 Do you have any idea what these would taste like with cream cheese icing?
    I got a recipe from my grandma for sugar cookies with cream cheese icing. I remember them tasting so delicious but couldn’t get good results with her recipe. Maybe you might have some insight as to what I could do to not get such sticky dough or puffy cookies. You also may have better luck with it or could get some inspiration from it.

    I was just given an ingredient list and no directions but of course I followed your tips and basic cookie logic.

    Nana’s (difficult) Cookies:
    1 cup sugar
    1/2 cup butter
    2 beaten eggs
    1 tsp vanilla
    3 cups AP flour
    3 tsp baking powder
    1 tsp salt
    1 cup cream

    bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes

    Some food for thought 🙂

      1. I would say maybe less baking powder. I think that is what is making them more puffy than you would like. Also maybe a little more butter might help as well.

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