Cut-out Christmas sugar cookies with crisp edges and soft centers. This icing recipe is so simple, making decorating hassle-free!
- 2 and 1/4 cups (281g) all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more as needed for rolling and work surface
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup (12 Tbsp; 170g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 or 1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional, but makes the flavor outstanding)*
- 3 cups (360g) confectioners’ sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (omit and replace with water for stark white icing)
- 2 teaspoons light corn syrup*
- 4.5–5 Tablespoons (67–75ml) room temperature water
- pinch salt*
- optional: gel food coloring & sprinkles for decorating
- 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 set. If enjoying right away and hardened icing isn’t a concern, you’ll only need about 3–4 hours to make these.
- Make the cookie dough: Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- In a large bowl using a handheld or a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on high speed until completely smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg, vanilla, and almond extract (if using), and beat on high speed until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl and beat again as needed to combine.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix on low until combined. Dough will be a bit soft. If the dough seems too soft and sticky for rolling, add 1 more Tablespoon of flour.
- Divide the dough into 2 equal parts. Place each portion onto a piece of lightly floured parchment paper or a lightly floured silicone baking mat. With a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough out to about 1/4-inch thickness. Use more flour if the dough seems too sticky. The rolled-out dough can be any shape, as long as it is evenly 1/4-inch thick.
- Lightly dust one of the rolled-out doughs with flour. Place a piece of parchment on top. (This prevents sticking.) Place the second rolled-out dough on top. Cover with plastic wrap or aluminum foil, then refrigerate for at least 1–2 hours and up to 2 days.
- Once chilled, preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Line 2–3 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Carefully remove the top dough piece from the refrigerator. If it’s sticking to the bottom, run your hand under it to help remove it. Using a cookie cutter, cut the dough into shapes. Re-roll the remaining dough and continue cutting until all is used. Repeat with second piece of dough. (Note: It doesn’t seem like a lot of dough, but you get a lot of cookies from the dough scraps you re-roll.)
- Arrange cookies on baking sheets about 3 inches apart. Bake for 11–12 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges. If your oven has hot spots, rotate the baking sheet halfway through bake time. Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before decorating. No need to cover the cookies as they cool.
- Make the icing: Using a fork, stir the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, corn syrup, and 4.5 Tablespoons (67ml) of water together in a medium bowl. It will be very thick and almost impossible to stir. Switch to a whisk and whisk in 1/2 Tablespoon (8ml) more of water. If you lift the whisk and let the icing drizzle back into the bowl, the ribbon of icing will hold shape 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 it’s too thick (sometimes it is), whisk in another 1/2 Tablespoon (8ml) of water or a little more until you reach the proper consistency.
- If you’re tinting the icing another color, stir in the food coloring. You can pour some icing into different bowls if using multiple colors. When tinting icing, use only 1–2 drops at first, stir it in, then add more as needed to reach your desired color. Remember, color darkens as icing dries.
- Decorate the cookies: You can dip the cookies into the icing or use squeeze bottles or piping bags (reusable or disposable) fitted with piping tips (I usually use Wilton Piping Tip #4). Decorate your cookies as desired. If using the squeeze bottles or piping tips, I usually outline cookies with icing first, then fill in the middle. If adding sprinkles on top of the icing, add them right after applying icing on your cookie.
- Let icing dry/set: Feel free to enjoy cookies before icing completely dries. Icing dries in 24 hours. No need to cover the decorated cookies as you wait for the icing to set. If it’s helpful, decorate the cookies directly on a baking sheet so you can place the entire baking sheet in the refrigerator to help slightly speed up the icing setting. Once the icing has dried, these cookies are great for gifting or for sending.
- Cover and store decorated cookies for up to 5 days at room temperature or up to 10 days in the refrigerator.
- 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 4, divide in half, flatten both halves into a disc as we do with pie crust, wrap each in plastic wrap, then freeze. To thaw, thaw the discs in the refrigerator, then bring to room temperature for about 1 hour. Roll out the dough as directed in step 5, then chill rolled-out dough in the refrigerator for 45 minutes–1 hour before cutting into shapes and baking.
- Make-Ahead Instructions & Storing Icing: If not decorating right away, cover the icing tightly and keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. You can store in piping bags (with clips or rubber bands to seal ends), in squeeze bottles, or covered in bowl or container. Bring to room temperature before using. If icing has thickened up, add a few drops of water and mix in to thin out. Depending how you stored the icing (squeeze bottle/piping bag/container or bowl) shake squeeze bottle to mix/massage piping bag to mix/whisk in bowl or container to mix.
- Special Tools (affiliate links): Electric Mixer (Handheld or Stand) | Baking Sheets | Silicone Baking Mats or Parchment Sheets | Rolling Pin or Adjustable Rolling Pin | Holiday Cookie Cutter Set | Cooling Rack | Squeeze Bottle | Piping Bag (Disposable or Reusable) | Americolor Soft Gel Paste Color Kit | Couplers | Wilton Tip #4
- Room Temperature Butter: Room temperature butter is essential. If the dough is too sticky, your butter may have been too soft. Room temperature butter is actually cool to the touch. Room temperature egg is preferred so it’s quickly and evenly mixed into the cookie dough.
- Flavors: I love flavoring this cookie dough with 1/2 teaspoon almond extract as listed in the ingredients above. For lighter flavor, use 1/4 teaspoon. Instead of the almond extract, try using 1 teaspoon of maple extract, coconut extract, lemon extract, or peppermint extract. Or add 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice or ground cinnamon. If using lemon extract, you can also add 1 Tablespoon lemon zest.
- Corn Syrup: Corn syrup gives the icing sticking power and creates a beautiful sheen on the dried icing. I don’t recommend skipping it, but you can if absolutely needed.
- Salt: I know salt isn’t a typical ingredient in cookie icing, but it helps offset its sweetness. You need just a small pinch.
- Yield of Icing: This amount of icing is enough for icing 2 dozen cookies. You’ll have plenty if you want to divide it and tint the batch multiple colors, too. Icing can easily be halved by halving all of the ingredients. (Still add a tiny pinch of salt.)
- 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