It’s been quite awhile since played around with sugar cookies, so I started testing out a different recipe concept this summer. During my mad scientist recipe testing days (science safety goggles, white lab coat and all) I rediscovered, while making a batch of Oreo cheesecake cookies, that adding cream cheese to cookie dough changes everything.
And I mean everything.
Sugar cookies, both drop sugar cookies and cookie cutter sugar cookies, are one of my favorite varieties to bake. I credit this mostly to the fact that there is usually sprinkles and frosting involved. But they’re really just an all-around crowd pleasing cookie. They’re pretty on display, the first to go at bake sales, kids love them, and you can go bonkers with frosting/sprinkle color combinations. I think, above all else, we can agree that sugar cookies are QUEEN of the cookie world. We bow down to you, in all your sprinkle crowned glory!
There are so many ways to make sugar cookies and adding cream cheese is most definitely my new standard. Adding cream cheese produces a richer, softer, and creamier sugar cookie, just like it does in these strawberry & cream cookies and maple walnut tassies. And, it also adds a little tang. If I had any qualms with sugar cookies, it would most definitely be that they are too cloyingly sweet. Especially when you add a heap of frosting on top! Don’t get me wrong, these will surely spike an energy crash like the best desserts do—but they won’t give you a toothache.
In addition to cream cheese, let’s add a little almond extract. Now, you can definitely leave this out but I have to tell you that almond extract turns a good sugar cookie into a great sugar cookie. I swear by this ingredient! A little goes a long way, so I only use a scant 1/2 teaspoon in the dough. It smells heavenly too.
One thing I love about this cream cheese sugar cookie dough is that you don’t need to chill it for too long. Only about an hour. So these are definitely one of my quicker sugar cookie recipes. The dough is quite sturdy once it’s whipped up, so chilling for hours and hours just isn’t necessary.
How odd that I just told you I reduced the sugar and now I’m going to tell you to roll the cookie dough in sugar. I really only roll the cookie dough balls in sugar for a little extra sparkle. It’s completely optional, so feel free to skip this step. You could also roll directly into sprinkles or sanding sugar. I won’t fight you on either!
One thing I don’t want you to skip, however, is slightly flattening the cookie dough balls before baking. My first few test batches were a bunch of mounds. They tasted like pure dough inside (and not in a good way) and certainly weren’t winning any beauty contests. Once I began flattening them, things got much tastier. And prettier.
I chose a cream cheese frosting for decorating. Mostly to complement the cream cheese flavor in the actual cookies and partly because it isn’t as sweet as, say, vanilla frosting or royal icing. Since we don’t need too much of it, I reduced the ingredients down from my original cream cheese frosting recipe. Love this stuff. ↓ ↓
Cream Cheese Sugar Cookie Recap
- Cream cheese makes the cookies oh-so-soft and tender.
- Almond extract helps yield the best-tasting sugar cookies, I swear.
- The cookie dough only needs to chill for 1 hour, give or take.
- Perfectly sweet without reaching toothache status.
- Cream cheese frosting makes the perfect crown for these cookie queens.
- I don’t actually wear safety goggles when testing recipes.
Cream cheese turns good sugar cookies into GREAT sugar cookies! These cookies are soft, tender, and chewy with incredible flavor.
- 3 cups (375g) all-purpose flour (spooned & leveled)
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (16 Tbsp; 226g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 2 ounces (57g) full-fat brick cream cheese, softened to room temperature
- 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- optional: 1/2 cup granulated sugar for rolling
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 4 ounces (113g) full-fat brick cream cheese, softened to room temperature
- 1/4 cup (4 Tbsp; 56g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 2 cups (240g) confectioners’ sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together until combined. Set aside.
- In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and cream cheese together for 2 minutes on high speed until completely smooth and creamy. Add the granulated sugar and beat on medium high speed until fluffy and light in color. Beat in the egg, vanilla, and almond extract on high speed. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.
- On low speed, slowly mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until combined. The cookie dough will be thick. Cover dough tightly with aluminum foil or plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour and up to 3 days.
- Remove cookie dough from the refrigerator. If the cookie dough chilled longer than 3-4 hours, let it sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes. This makes the cookie dough easier to scoop and roll.
- Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. (Always recommended for cookies.) Set aside. Pour the 1/2 cup of granulated sugar into a bowl.
- Scoop and roll balls of dough, about 1.5 Tablespoons of dough each (I like using this medium cookie scoop). Roll each ball into granulated sugar then place on the baking sheets about 3 inches apart. Using the back of measuring cup or drinking glass, gently press down on each (see photo above).
- Bake the cookies for 13-15 minutes, or until very lightly browned on the edges. My oven has hot spots and yours may too- so be sure to rotate the pan once during bake time. The baked cookies will look extremely soft in the centers when you remove them from the oven. Allow to cool for 5 minutes on the cookie sheet. Transfer to cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.
- Make the frosting: In a medium bowl using a handheld mixer or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter together on medium-high speed until creamy and no lumps remain, about 2 minutes. Add the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla extract. Beat on low speed for 20 seconds then increase to high speed until everything is completely combined and the frosting is creamy. Taste. Add a pinch of salt if frosting is too sweet. Spread on each cooled cookie, then decorate with sprinkles.
- Cookies stay fresh covered at room temperature for up to 3 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
- Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: You can make the cookie dough and chill it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Allow to come to room temperature then continue with step 5. Baked unfrosted cookies freeze well for up to 3 months. Unbaked cookie dough balls freeze well for up to 3 months. Bake frozen cookie dough balls for an extra minute, no need to thaw. Read my tips and tricks on how to freeze cookie dough.
- Special Tools (affiliate links): Glass Mixing Bowl | Whisk | Electric Mixer (Handheld or Stand) | Baking Sheets | Silicone Baking Mats or Parchment Paper | Medium Cookie Scoop | Cooling Rack
- Cookie Cutter Cookies: I’ve gotten some questions about using this dough for cookie cutter cookies. Here is the cut out cream cheese sugar cookies with Nutella glaze recipe.
- Be sure to check out my top 5 cookie baking tips AND these are my 10 must-have cookie baking tools.
- Read here for more about the importance of room temperature ingredients.
- Adapted from funfetti sugar cookies supreme.
Keywords: cream cheese sugar cookies
I started this recipe from my funfetti sugar cookies. I added cream cheese, but removed the extra egg yolk. Fat replacing fat—it worked! I was all out of cream of tartar, so I swapped in baking powder for the baking soda and cream of tartar. The 1 and 1/2 teaspoon amount worked wonderfully here. Since the cookies were so soft in the first test batch (from the cream cheese), I took out the cornstarch completely. Still so soft and tender.