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cream cheese sugar cookies topped with cream cheese frosting and sprinkles

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 that adding cream cheese to cookie dough changes everything.

And I mean everything.

overhead image of cream cheese sugar cookies

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!

cream cheese sugar cookie dough in a glass bowl with a hand mixer

cream cheese sugar cookie dough in a glass bowl with a measuring spoon

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. And, above all else, it 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.

I even tested this dough with cookie cutters. Making a couple slight adjustments, you can turn this dough into cut out cream cheese sugar cookies with Nutella glaze and raspberry sugar cookies.

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.

using a measuring cup to press down the tops of cream cheese sugar cookie dough balls on a silpat baking mat

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 frosting in glass bowl with hand mixer

overhead image of cream cheese sugar cookies topped with cream cheese frosting

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 sugar cookies topped with cream cheese frosting and sprinkles

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cream cheese sugar cookies topped with cream cheese frosting and sprinkles

Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 1 hour, 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours
  • Yield: 24 cookies 1x
  • Category: Cookies
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Cream cheese turns good sugar cookies into GREAT sugar cookies! These cookies are soft, tender, and chewy with incredible flavor.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 3 cups (375g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 2 ounces (55g) block 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 (110g) block cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (60g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 2 cups (240g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • sprinkles

Instructions

  1. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together until combined. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl using a hand-held 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Scoop and roll balls of dough, about 1.5 Tablespoons of dough each. 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).
  7. 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.
  8. Make the frosting: In a medium bowl using a hand-held 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.
  9. Cookies stay fresh covered at room temperature for up to 3 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Notes

  1. 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. Click here for my tips and tricks on freezing cookie dough.
  2. 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.
  3. Check out my top 5 cookie tips before beginning. It includes how to prevent cookies from over-spreading and why room temperature makes a difference.
  4. 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.

sprinkle sugar cookies topped with vanilla frosting and sprinkles

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. I am going to give these a try! How do you make the icing look so perfect? All neat in a circle??

  2. I made these this past Thursday evening and I loved them! I was a little worried that I may eat the entire batch myself the next day, so I sent them to work with my husband Friday morning. He texted me at lunch and told me that the entire batch was already gone. He said 3 different people told him these were the best sugar cookies they’d ever had! On a side note, I also made your whole wheat banana bread last week, replacing the walnuts with equal parts dried cranberries and slivered almonds. It was so popular that I’m headed to the kitchen right now to make another loaf for a friend who raved over it. Thanks for the great recipes!

  3. Hi Sally, my dough turned out dry and crumbly. Also, when I tried to flatten, they stuck to the bottom of the glass. What did I do wrong?

    1. I’d say to chill the cookie dough for a little longer to prevent the sticking, but that could make the cookies even more crumbly. Did the baked cookies tasty crumbly or dry? Did you follow the recipe exactly?

  4. Made these, and they tasted great!! However, you mentioned above that they are soft – mine were definitely crisp, dry, and crumbly. I didn’t notice anything go glaringly awry when I was making them, and I don’t mind the crisp texture, but… did I do something wrong?

  5. OH My GOD ! These cookies are SUPERB !!! I made them for Christmas and I am sorry I didn’t double the recipe ! Only a few people got to taste these cookies, because I kept eating them ! They are outrageously good !

    The only thing I did differently (I hate messing with your recipe) but I was freezing these after icing them and I was afraid the icing would be too soft and the cookie icing would get messed up in the freezer even though I put them in the fridge first. I added just a tiny bit of corn syrup to the icing so it would harden (not too much since I didn’t want the icing to be overly sweet). I added just a tiny bit extra cream cheese to the icing for the same reason. I absolutely will make these again and again. You are an awesome cookie baker ! I made 3 of your recipes and they were all great ! (Molasses, chocolate chip (yummo) and these). Thank you !

  6. The first sugar cookies I’ve ever made, and I just made my 3rd batch! Sugar cookies aren’t big where I’m from, and the ones you buy at the supermarket do not compare to the exciting flavours, soft crumbs and slightly crispy outside of this cookie right here! Do not label these as a plain old vanilla biscuit and move on – they’re totally worth it. The combination of vanilla, almond and cream cheese come together to make a magical flavour combo I can’t describe. love

  7. Thanks a ton Sally for all the good work! Mine turned out fab in terms of taste and texture! But they did not flatten out much during baking in terms of the difference in your pictures after pressing them down and the final product. Any suggestions on what can be done about this. I also used a steel measuring cup like yours. Thanks!

  8. First sugar cookies I’ve ever made, and they’re sooo delicious (saying this as someone who’s generally not very into sugar cookies). I totally forgot to flatten until they were halfway done baking, so I just popped them out a couple minutes early, flattened them, then stuck them back in to finish baking. Turned out perfectly anyway!! I rolled a few in rainbow nonpareils instead of granulated sugar and they’re adorable 🙂

  9. Delicious!  I considered just omitting the almond extract (because half the cookies are heading to a nut-free classroom), but decided to substitute lemon at the last minute and I’m so glad I did!  The flavor is both rich and bright, and just perfect for the little hints of spring we’re starting to see.

  10. These turned out sooo delicious. Soft and flavorful, just as promised!! Thank you again for a wonderful recipe!

  11. I have made a few of your different sugar cookies and just love these ones! If I wanted chocolate sugar cookies could I just add  Cocoa powder or would it mess with the recipe and not work ? 

    Thank you for your time and amazing sweets! 

     

    1. It would be a completely different recipe for chocolate. Cocoa powder is such a strange ingredient and would require a little testing– it’s not an easy 1:1 switch with flour sometimes!

  12. Awesome recipe, was wondering if I could add 7 ounces of almond paste to this recipe? Thank you 🙂

    1. Hey Lily! That would require some recipe testing as it would alter the entire texture of the cookie. You’d likely need more dry ingredients to compensate. But please let me know if you try anything!

  13. Hi Sally! Are these similar to the Lofthouse-style cookies? My kids go nuts over those, so I decided I want to try to make something similar from scratch for Christmas this year. Either way, these look so yummy and have such glowing reviews, I think I’ll have to try them!

    1. Hey Alison! These cream cheese sugar cookies are extremely soft, but they aren’t as cakey as Lofthouse cookies.

    1. Add a little extra vanilla in its place or replace with another extract if you’d like. Lemon is great!

  14. Once these are done are they stackable? I’d like to package them up some how to pass out as gifts.

  15. Hi Sally. Hope you and your family had a wonderful Christmas. Since I wasn’t cooking yesterday, I made these cookies. This recipe is a keeper. I’m actually making them again today to give to a friend.

  16. Being that these cookies have cream cheese in them, do they require additional refrigeration after they have been baked?

    1. Hi Kimm! Not after baking. Here are my recommended storing instructions: Cookies stay fresh covered at room temperature for up to 3 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

  17. These cookies are amazing! I remembered at 9:30 pm that I had signed up to bring Christmas cookies to my kids preschool, and so I didn’t have time to refrigerate the dough, or make the icing. I made mini cookies (half size) and rolled them in granulated sugar (with cinnamon and nutmeg) prior to baking. 9 minutes in the over and these creamiest and most delicious concoctions were ready! Thank you, Sally. Everyone thinks I’m a super mom and it’s because of you 🙂

  18. Hi Sally,

    Have you ever made sugar cookies with a plain butter cream frosting (no cream cheese)? Or is that too over powering.

  19. Sally, I adored these cookies! They are absolutely delicious! The addition of almond extract is excellent! Totally took the cookies to a whole new level. We brought them to a potluck at church and every single one was devoured! I will definitely make these again, they’re now my go-to drop sugar cookie recipe! The addition of cream cheese is fabulous, too!

  20. Hi Sally,

    Thank you for this recipe! These cookies are delicious! The cookie itself is not too sweet so the cream cheese frosting is the perfect compliment. I made them for work and everyone loved them.

    On another note, have you ever thought about making a chocolate chip shortbread cookie recipe? I had one at a bakery today and it was perfect. I noticed you did not have a recipe listed. I’m sure if you considered publishing a recipe, it would be a hit! Thanks!

  21. These are amazing! Love the tang of the cream cheese! They are so easy too. Do you think they would work with a lemon cream cheese icing?

    1. Yes, definitely! Add a little lemon juice and/or lemon zest to the frosting. So good and perfect for summertime!

  22. Hi Sally,
    Made these today,gave me 40 medium sized cookies. These were great even without almond extract and frosting. But had to increase time baking time by 5minutes,since the first batch was undercooked in the middle. Still tasted good.

  23. Hi! I want to bring these somewhere on the train without destroying the icing. Any suggestions as to how to transport them? I like them because I make little music notes out of chocolate and put them on top and bring them to opera rehearsals for the cast. But I wonder if there’s a carrying option better than one layer on a foil covered cookie sheet.

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