Welcome to Sally’s Cookie Palooza. If you’re new to this website, my annual Christmas cookie palooza hits right after Thanksgiving. It’s a huge cookie fiesta as we countdown until Christmas. 10 new cookie recipes in a row, unapologetically full of all the butter, sugar, sprinkles, and chocolate you could imagine. Time to switch gears on your rolling pins from pie crust to sugar cookies!
We’re kicking off with Snowman Cookies!
Start with my sugar cookies recipe and cut into holiday shapes. Any shape or size holiday cookie will do—I chose snowmen and snowflakes. But mostly snowmen because they’re so darn cute! Since the cookie shape is completely up to you, I really want you to focus on working with royal icing. I know decorating cookies with royal icing can be intimidating, but here’s what I’ve learned: set your expectations appropriately. Don’t expect to create a fancy intricate design if this is your first time. Start small and go from there. A lot of the decorated sugar cookies I create are extremely simple. And of course, don’t limit them to one time of year! Valentine’s Day cookies, Easter cookies, and Halloween cookies are all equally festive during their holiday seasons.
But again, you have to start somewhere. You CAN do this. Watch me make the cookies, shape the cookies, and decorate them:
Sugar Cookie Steps
- make cookie dough
- divide in two pieces
- roll out cookie dough
- chill rolled out cookie dough
- cut into shapes
- bake & cool
Whenever I decorate sugar cookies, I always begin with a quality homemade sugar cookie recipe. A recipe that I can always depend on, so all I have to “worry” about is decorating. My go-to sugar cookie recipe produces soft sugar cookies with slightly crisp edges. It starts with butter and sugar creamed together. Add 1 egg and vanilla (sometimes almond extract, yum!), then flour + baking powder + salt. That’s it. Only 7 basic ingredients.
My Sugar Cookie Trick
Notice in the video that I roll out the dough BEFORE chilling it in the refrigerator? That’s my trick! Why? The dough is so much easier to roll out before it’s chilled. But why are we chilling it? So the cookies keep their shape when baked. Wait, why divide in 2? Because it’s difficult to roll out a huge mass of dough. Dividing into smaller sections makes rolling out more manageable.
Roll out the doughs until to about 1/4 inch thickness. I like to do this directly on a silicone baking mat. Why? Because you have to chill the rolled out dough in the fridge. And you can’t really pick up a mass of dough you rolled out on the counter, right? Nor can you cut into shapes when the dough is this warm. So roll out on a nonstick surface that you can literally pick up, put on a baking sheet, and place in the fridge. So… make dough, divide in 2, roll out, chill. Got it?
After the dough is chilled (you’ll have two of these rolled out doughs ↑↑), cut into shapes.
Then bake them.
Let’s Talk Royal Icing
Now let’s make royal icing. There are many ways to prepare royal icing and my favorite method is with meringue powder. Meringue powder takes the place of raw egg whites, which is found in traditional royal icing recipes. Both create a very sturdy and stable icing that hardens quickly on top of cookies. It’s awesome. Meringue powder eliminates the need for raw fresh eggs, but still provides the EXACT same consistency. You can find meringue powder in some baking aisles, most craft stores with a baking section, and online. I just buy it on Amazon in the 8 ounce container. Super inexpensive and it lasts me awhile.
This royal icing is just 3 ingredients: confectioners’ sugar, meringue powder, and water. The trickiest part is landing on the perfect consistency. Sometimes I need more water, sometimes I need less water. But the wonderful thing is that you can manipulate the icing to get the proper consistency by adding more water or more confectioners’ sugar. It’s awesome.
You can also use this easy cookie icing for decorating the snowmen cookies, but it’s difficult to pipe fine detail since it’s just a really thick glaze (unlike royal icing, which is quite sturdy). This icing doesn’t set/dry as quickly as royal icing and it’s not as easy to decorate with. That being said, sometimes it’s just the more convenient option! So give it a try if you prefer. (It will dry in about 24 hours, where the royal icing recipe below dries in about 1-2 hours.)
Let’s Decorate Snowman Cookies
Like I mentioned above, I’m not a super fancy cookie decorator. Whenever I decorate sugar cookies, I grab a couple basic piping tips: a thin Wilton #1 tip and a wider Wilton #4 tip or Wilton #5 tip. I use the wider tip for big designs, outlining, and flooding. The white snowman’s body and red scarf are done with this wider tip, as well as the snowflakes. I use the thinner tip for smaller detail like the snowman hat, eyes, buttons, and nose.
For coloring the icing, I strongly recommend gel colors. I prefer Americolor’s color kit. I’ve had this for a year and haven’t even made a dent in most colors. It’s a GREAT set to have in your kitchen!
Snowman Cookie Decorating Tips
- Start small—don’t attempt super intricate designs if you’re a beginner.
- Take your time. Don’t expect to rush through it!
- There will be some uglies. There are always some uglies. 🙁
- Have fun. Invite friends or family over, grab your kids, or host a cookie decorating day. Make an afternoon or evening of it. Make some chocolate chip cookies to munch on while you work!
- Don’t stress! It’s just a cookie!
Have fun decorating; I can’t wait to see your cookie creations!
See Your Snowman (and other shapes) Sugar Cookies!
Many readers tried this recipe as part of a baking challenge! Feel free to email or share your recipe photos with us on social media. 🙂Print
Snowman Sugar Cookies
- Prep Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 12 minutes
- Total Time: 4 hours, 45 minutes (includes cooling)
- Yield: 20 (4-inch) cookies
- Category: Cookies
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
Christmas sugar cookies are so much fun to decorate! Here’s how to make adorable snowman sugar cookies for your holiday cookie trays.
- 2 and 1/4 cups (281g) all-purpose flour (spooned & leveled), plus more as needed for rolling and work surface
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup (1.5 sticks or 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)*
- Royal Icing
- red, black, and orange gel food coloring
- 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 2nd 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 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 snowman cookie cutter, cut into shapes. Re-roll the remaining dough and continue cutting until all is used. Repeat with 2nd dough 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 3 inches apart. Bake for 11-12 minutes, 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.
- Decorate: Prepare Royal Icing. You’ll need 3 small bowls: one for red icing, one for black icing, and one for orange icing. Spoon 1/4 cup of icing into each bowl. The rest of the icing will remain white. Stir red food coloring into 1 bowl until you reach your desired shade. Stir black food coloring into another bowl until you reach your desired shade. (I find that black always dries darker so stop adding coloring when you reach a dark gray.) Finally, stir orange food coloring into the last bowl until you reach your desired shade.
- Fit a piping bag (reusable or disposable) with Wilton piping tip #5 or piping tip #4. If you only have 1 of these piping tips, keep the tip on the outside of the bag by using a coupler so you can easily transfer the piping tip to the bag of red icing because you need the same tip for the red scarf. Spoon white icing inside the piping bag. Decorate cookies with white icing by piping a border around the edges and then filling it. (Leave room for the black hat!) Allow to set. I put the baking sheet in the refrigerator to speed it up.
- Meanwhile, fill more piping bags with remaining colors of icing. You need Wilton piping tip #1 for the black hat, eyes, mouth, and button. You also need it for the orange icing, so if you only have 1 tip, use a coupler so you can easily transfer the piping tip to the bag of orange icing. You need Wilton piping tip #5 or piping tip #4 for the red scarf.
- Once the white icing sets, pipe the scarf with red icing. Then pipe the hat, eyes, and buttons with black icing. Pipe the nose with orange icing.
- Icing will completely set in about 2-3 hours at room temperature. Enjoy cookies right away or wait until the icing sets to serve them. Once the icing has set, these cookies are great for gifting or for sending. Plain or decorated cookies stay soft for about 5 days when covered tightly at room temperature. For longer storage, cover and refrigerate for up to 10 days.
- 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 as directed in step 5– no need to chill for 1-2 hours, 45 minutes should be plenty.
- 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.
- Special Tools (affiliate links): Electric Mixer (Handheld or Stand Mixer) | Rolling Pin | Snowman Cookie Cutter | Silicone Baking Mat or Parchment Paper | Cookie Sheet | Cooling Rack | Americolor Food Coloring Kit | Piping Bags (Reusable or Disposable) | Couplers | Wilton #1 Piping Tip | Wilton #4 Piping Tip
- Snowflake Sugar Cookies: I used this snowflake cookie cutter, the Wilton #4 piping tip, a big blue sprinkle bead in the center, and sprinkled white sparkling sugar on top.
- Room Temperature: 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.
- Be sure to check out my top 5 cookie baking tips AND these are my 10 must-have cookie baking tools.
Keywords: Snowman Sugar Cookies
Reader Comments & Reviews
I measured ingredients in grams using the same scale you use, followed everything to a T… I did have to add more flour because the dough was too soft, but I found it to be a little bland, had to add extra salt (I did do vanilla and 1/2 tsp almond which the almond was great!) and the dough was just very difficult to work with even after chilling for 2 hours. The cookies didn’t seem to rise AT ALL, usually my cut outs rise or puff up some, but these didn’t look much different after baking 🙁
Hi Christina! These cookies are meant to hold their shape when they bake so they maintain the perfect cookie cutter outline. Thank you for giving the recipe a try!
These are delicious and easy to make. I haven’t tried the royal icing component, however. So I cannot speak to that but the cookies themselves are easy and addictive.
Hi how do I make the royal icing without meringue powder? I’m from the Uk and can’t find any
You can search for a traditional royal icing recipe that uses egg whites, or our simple cookie icing!
I made these and they were a winter hit!
Sally I was wondering if i can replace the almond extract with lemon extract and how much should i add?
Definitely! Instead of the almond extract, try using 1 teaspoon of lemon extract.
OMG I made a new batch with 1tsp vanila extract and 1tsp lemon extract. It was the perfect ratio! Thanks for sharing these recepies <3
If I made the cookies on Saturday, but won’t serve them until Friday (plans changed!), should I freeze the undecorated cookies or can I just seal them and refrigerate for a few days?
Hi Steven! Plain or decorated cookies stay soft for about 5 days when covered tightly at room temperature.
Are your baking temperatures as stated for a convection oven or conventional oven
Hi Jeannie, All of the recipes on this site are written for conventional settings. Convection ovens are fantastic for cooking and roasting. If you have the choice, we recommend conventional settings when baking cakes, breads, etc. The flow of air from convection heat can cause baked goods to rise and bake unevenly and it also pulls moisture out of the oven. If you do use convection settings for baking, lower your temperature by 25 degrees F and keep in mind that things may still take less time to bake.
I can’t wait to try this recipe, my only problem is , I live in Germany and I don’t know where I can find Meringue Powder. Is that really necessary for the icing or can I use something else instead? My kids would absolutely love these cookies since it will remind them of the Starbucks cookies we used to buy in the USA.
Thank you in advance.
Hi Filiz, meringue powder is necessary for our royal icing recipe, but there are plenty of recipes available that use egg whites instead. You could use the same decorating technique detailed above with a different royal icing. This recipe from Once Upon a Chef looks promising: https://www.onceuponachef.com/recipes/royal-icing.html Let us know if you give them a try!
Best cookie- I have tried a few different recipes and this one is a BOOM!
Is there some trick to keep the parchment paper from becoming part of the dough in the fridge? This is my first cookie flop from this website … the dough was so hard to work with. (Delicious, though!)
Hi Jen, let the dough sit on the counter for 20 minutes or so. As it softens up a bit, the parchment will come loose.
Hi Sally! I tried the Royal Icing Recipe but i did not get the fluffy texture as i can see in the picture. Any idea why?
Hi Jinane, Royal icing actually should not be fluffy – just a nice smooth consistency so that it pipes without showing any lines. Although if you wanted it fluffier you can actually mix it faster to incorporate more air.
LOVE this cookie! By following your directions, they cut out beautiful and sharp. Made 26 snowmen for my grandsons Christmas party. I think the children will be happy! There is a learning curve on the consistency of the icing, but turned out pretty good. The cookie is not too sweet and perfect with the sweetness of the royal icing. Husband gave me a rolling pin a couple years ago that has spacers on either end, so you can get an exact thickness product and it was perfect for this type cookie. THANK YOU for sharing this great recipe!!
Ohhh Sally, what a beautiful recipe.
I have been baking for approx. 37 years. This has to be one of the most delightful cut out sugar cookie recipes I have come across. Made them last night and they are great!
Thank you for sharing.
Making these with little kiddos tmw (minus the royal icing) and wondering, if they’re all cutting at the same time, would the pans of yet to be baked cookies need to go in the fridge while waiting their turn to bake? (I’ve made 2 batches of dough, so 4 sheets) Thanks!
Hi Jillian! Cold shaped cookies always hold their shape better, so if it’s taking a few extra minutes to shape all the cookies, placing them in the refrigerator for a few minutes right before baking is a good idea.
Sally, I made roll-out cookies yesterday for next weekend when I host my co-workers for a cookie decorating evening. Before I started, I remembered this blog post, so I found it and read it. I followed your directions about rolling out the dough, refrigerating it, and then cutting out the cookies. I rolled out the dough on parchment paper, stacked the dough 3 layers high on a cookie sheet, and placed in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
I can’t tell you how much easier this method was than what I’ve done previously!!!! Thank you for the awesome tips!!!!!
I made the snowflake cookies for my Sister-in-law’s baby shower and they were beautiful…but the royal icing never set. It looked just like your video in terms of texture when I put it on the cookies but even after all night in the fridge, the flooded cookies were tacky to the touch. I ended up serving them anyway and was asked what the frosting was because it tasted like fluff! Ha! Any idea what could have happened?
I love all of your recipes–you have inspired me over the last several years!!
Hi Liz, royal icing doesn’t dry well in the fridge. I let them air dry on the counter at room temperature and have never had a problem!
Can you prepare royal icing in advance ? & where is it best stored when made?
Hi Ren, Royal icing can be made in advance. But be sure it’s covered in a very airtight container so that it doesn’t dry out and can be put in the fridge. You will most likely need to give it a good stir and maybe even thin it out a bit before using it!
Just took these out of the oven, they turned out perfectly! I’ve been looking for a sugar cookie that doesn’t spread, and this is my new go-to 🙂
Also a special thanks for listing the ingredients in grams as well as cups and the oven temp in Celsius- as a baker in Europe it’s always frustrating to have to convert every American recipe!
Hi Sally, Can a flavor extract like vanilla or almond be added to the royal icing without compromising its quality? I have had “professionally decorated” cookies w/ royal icing before that had zero or a bad taste. I make sugar cookies every year, but have not done royal icing, but want it to have that same flavor profile with the cookies. Thanks!
Yes you can add some! You might need a bit less water as the flavor adds liquid 🙂
These are the cutest cookies ever — I admire your skill and patience. I’ve never made this kind of cookie before, but those snowflakes and snowmen are an inspiration!
Will adding food coloring to the sugar cookies work? I want to make blue whales, not sure if this will work out ?
Hi Jessica, I would recommend a gel food coloring so that you aren’t adding extra liquid to the batter!
Hi Theresa! I love adding 1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice to the cookie dough to make pumpkin spice sugar cookies. Tastes wonderful!