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: 28 hours
  • 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

Some of the links above are affiliate links, which pay me a small commission for my referral at no extra cost to you! Thank you for supporting Sally’s Baking Addiction.

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

395 Comments

  1. 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.

  2. I just made a batch of these sugar cookies. They are sooooo delicious. I tried sending you a pic on instagram, but not sure you got it. I’m new to Twitter and Instagram

  3. Sally, I was reading the notes and got a little confused. So if I put a pinch of salt in the icing, do I omit it from the cookie recipe? And vise versa? 

    1. You got it! Otherwise the whole cookie would be a little too salty. So either 1/8 in the icing or 1/4 in the dough. Your choice!

  4. Are any of your recipes for crisp cookies?  I live with someone who does not like soft cookies!

    Also, do you have a recipe for Spritz cookies?  My mother’s recipe disappeared after she died, and I can’t seem to find one that has the taste and texture of them.  I would want to make them with a cookie press.  

    Thanks!!  Love your site!!

    1. Hi Jan! Most of the cookie recipes on my website are the softer variety, but by simply baking for a minute or 2 longer than the recipe states, you will get a crispier cookie. Including these sugar cookies. My spritz cookie recipe is in my newest cookbook if you have a copy. Thank you so much!

  5. Hi Sally, 
    I don’t own a hand mixer with paddle attchment or a stand mixer. Do you think this recipe could come or with mixing by hand? 
    Thank you!

  6. 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. My dough was very cry and crumbly. I added the exact amount of flour, leveled. It doesn’t seem like I have very much dough either and I doubled the recipe. What could I have done wrong?

  8. Hi Sally, 
    Is it possible to skip the egg from the cookies or replace it with any other ingredient as we do not consume eggs? If yes, then please guide me. Thank you 

    1. I’m not very seasoned in egg-free sugar cookie baking, but maybe another reader will have a suggestion for egg-free sugar cookies. Thank you for asking!

  9. Thanks! I used the icing recipe to frost a pound cake I bring to a Christmas gathering. I sliced the cake then drizzled the icing over the top. I sprinkled red and green sugar on the icing. 
    Looks festive. Tastes great. 

  10. Hi! Do you have any suggestions for a butter-free version of these cookies? LOVE the cookies as you wrote the recipe for but wanted to try to make them for a more dietary restricted group. 

  11. 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! 🙂

    1. It’s great idea, but the icing really needs to be completely airtight so that it doesn’t dry out and if it sits for more than a day it will most likely need to be stirred up again before using.

    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.

  12. Hi Sally,

    I would like to make these cookies shaped as candy canes and dip them in melted white chocolate sprinkled with crushed candy canes instead of using icing. Do you think those flavors would mix well with the almond extract? or should I switch it to peppermint extract?

    1. I think it’d be great with the almond extract, but for extra peppermint flavor, I would swap out the almond and use peppermint. I think that’d be a nice touch especially since they are candy cane shaped.

  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. 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!!

  14. I’ve had so much fun making your cookies with my kids (5 and 3) this week! The plastic squeeze bottles worked so great for the easy icing. I didn’t mess with food coloring and relied on sprinkles for color. The hardest part was explaining to the kids why the dough HAS to chill!! I look forward to baking-with-kids tips in your recipes as Noelle gets older. In the meantime, I hope you have a beautiful Christmas with lots of time to snuggle that baby.

  15. I love how you decorated your all white frosting cookies at the bottom of this post. What sprinkles did you use? They are just so pretty.

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