Soft Cakey Sugar Cookies

Topped with creamy vanilla buttercream and colorful sprinkles, these soft cakey sugar cookies are like sweet cupcakes in cookie form. They’re flavored with vanilla and a hint of almond and are terrific for birthdays or other festive celebrations. Plus, they’re easy enough for kids and young children to help in the baking fun.

sugar cookies topped with pink buttercream and sprinkles on a cooling rack

Today’s soft cakey sugar cookies have all the sweet flavor of sugar cookies, but they’re light, airy, and tender. They’re not quite like fan-favorite Lofthouse cookies sold on grocery store shelves, but they’re pretty close in terms of sweetness and texture.

If you love cakey-style cookies, you’ll also appreciate these homemade black and white cookies, these fresh and zingy lemon ricotta cookies (easily one of the best soft cookies we’ve ever had), and our blueberry muffin cookies.


Tell Me About these Soft Cakey Sugar Cookies

  • Texture: Thanks in most part to the sour cream, these cookies bake up fat, soft, tender, and fluffy. The vanilla buttercream on top is smooth and creamy, while the sprinkles add a little texture contrast.
  • Flavor: These cookies are buttery and sweet with a subtle tang. The hints of vanilla and almond add another layer of flavor.
  • Ease: There’s no rolling pin or cookie cutters required, which makes this recipe a bit less technical than traditional sugar cookies. This dough is pretty sticky, so I recommend a medium cookie scoop for easier baking and less mess.  
  • Time: The dough comes together quickly, but you’ll need to chill it in the refrigerator for 1 hour before shaping and baking. Chilling is a must. In our recipe testing, we tried reducing the chill time down to 30 minutes, but the cookies were noticeably flatter. 1 hour of chilling helps guarantee a thick cookie that holds its shape in the oven.

sugar cookies topped with pink buttercream and sprinkles on a cooling rack

side view of a sugar cookie with a bite taken from it topped with pink buttercream and sprinkles on a cooling rack

The Magic of Sour Cream

The secret to a cakey cookie is moisture. The more moisture in your cookie dough, the softer, fluffier, and more tender it will taste. Butter is your best friend and eggs help with that moisture component, but we need an additional liquid-y solid or wet solid to help. Use sour cream.

  • Sour cream adds much-needed moisture you need in the cookie dough.
  • It creates an intensely creamy cookie with rich flavor. 
  • Sour cream also prevents the cakey cookie from becoming too dry.

For the best flavor and texture, use full-fat sour cream. You can use light sour cream in a pinch, but avoid the fat-free version.

cookie dough in a glass bowl with a cookie scoop

drop style sugar cookie dough on a baking sheet before baking

soft sugar cookies on a baking sheet after baking

Buttercream Options

These puffy sugar cookies are good on their own, but better when they’re all dolled up with frosting. We used this vanilla buttercream tinted it with dusty rose gel food coloring. If vanilla isn’t your favorite, try chocolate buttercream, strawberry frosting, or even lemon buttercream. These sugar cookie cakelettes are a blank canvas for a variety of frosting options. 

Nothing says a party like sprinkles, so be generous when you crown your cookies with the colorful toppers. We often use these naturally colored rainbow sprinkles.

pink buttercream frosting in a glass bowl

soft sugar cookies with pink buttercream and sprinkles on a blue and white plate

Favorite Sugar Cookie Recipes: A Sweet Comparison

While this recipe is for cake-style sugar cookies, we have many other varieties published on the site. Here’s a breakdown of our favorites:

  • Sugar CookiesThese are our classic cut-out sugar cookies with soft centers and crisp edges. This dough is meant for shaping with cookie cutters.
  • Chocolate Sugar CookiesThis is the chocolate version of the cookies linked above.
  • Drop Sugar CookiesThese boast a very chewy texture and are loaded with sprinkles. (Or you can leave plain.) There’s no rolling pin or cookie cutters required.
  • Brown Butter Sugar CookiesThese are similar to the drop cookies linked above, except they are flavored with rich brown butter.
  • Cream Cheese Sugar CookiesThese drop style cookies are made with cream cheese. They’re thick, rich, and tangy. We often top them with cream cheese frosting.
  • Soft Cream Cheese Cookies with Nutella GlazeThese cut-out cookies are super soft and tangy. You can use your favorite shaped cookie cutters.
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sugar cookies topped with pink buttercream and sprinkles on a cooling rack

Soft Cakey Sugar Cookies

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 13 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
  • Yield: 36-40 cookies
  • Category: Cookies
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

These soft cakey sugar cookies are topped with creamy vanilla buttercream and sprinkles. Full-fat sour cream is the secret to their tender softness.


Ingredients

  • 3 cups (375g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks; 235g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (300g) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (240g) full-fat sour cream, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • vanilla buttercream and sprinkles for decorating*

Instructions

  1. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl using a hand mixer or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and granulated sugar together on high speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the eggs, sour cream, vanilla extract, and almond extract. Beat on medium-high speed until combined. The mixture may look curdled; that’s ok. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer on low speed, mix in the dry ingredients until combined. The dough will be very thick, creamy, and silky. Cover dough tightly with aluminum foil or plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour and up to 2-3 days.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. (Always recommended for cookies.) Set aside.
  4. Remove cookie dough from the refrigerator. Measure cookies to be 1.5 Tablespoons each. I recommend this cookie scoop. Arrange 3 inches apart on the baking sheets.
  5. Bake for 13-14 minutes or until a cookie springs back when lightly poked with your finger. (That’s how I test them!) Remove from the oven and allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
  6. Prepare frosting (I use this vanilla buttercream) and spread onto each cooled cookie. Garnish with sprinkles, if desired.
  7. Frosted cookies will stay fresh covered at room temperature for 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead Instructions: You can chill the cookie dough in the refrigerator for up to 3 days (see step 2), but you can also freeze it for up to 3 months. Allow to thaw overnight in the refrigerator before baking. Unfrosted cookies freeze well for up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before frosting and serving.
  2. Special Tools: KitchenAid Stand Mixer | Cookie Scoop | Silpat Baking Mat | Baking Sheets | Cooling Rack | Americolor Pastel Kit | Naturally Colored Sprinkles
  3. Sour Cream: Sour cream is a key ingredient in these cookies. For the best flavor and texture, I strongly recommend full-fat sour cream, but in a pinch light sour cream can work. Do not use fat free. Plain full-fat yogurt can be substituted. I don’t suggest subbing the sour cream with a liquid.
  4. Why Room Temperature? All refrigerated items should be at room temperature so the batter mixes together easily and evenly. Read here for more information. It really makes a difference!
  5. Pink Frosting: In these photos, I tinted the buttercream with 1 small drop dusty rose gel food coloring and topped with these natural color rainbow sprinkles.
  6. Be sure to check out my top 5 cookie baking tips AND these are my 10 must-have cookie baking tools.

138 Comments

  1. These are soooooo good. I’ve been working at home since mid-March, and since then we are now on our 4th batch of these cookies. My mom lives with me and is going through cancer treatments, and sometimes she doesn’t want to eat meals…but she will gladly eat these cookies.

    1. For your mama, these are great. I made these for my mom to snack on during chemo because they helped kick the nausea (and they are phenomenal!!) A bit late but prayers for recovery.

      https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/soft-gingersnap-molasses-cookies-4-ways/

  2. Do these cookies need to be frosted?

    1. No, you can skip the frosting if you wish.

      1. Hi Sally… do these cookies work in a molded cookie pan . For instance I have individual Easter eggs in a pan. If not, could you recommend a recipe that would be better?
        Stefanie

  3. I am in awe how every single one of your recipes that I try turn out amazing! I feel like I have unlocked a magical recipe box! These were soft, cakey, just sweet enough and golden brown. Your trick to poke them and see if they bounced back worked perfectly.
    My mom tried one of these and said “these are so much better than the ones I made, you’re a great baker.” I can’t take any of the credit, it’s all your recipes! Thank you so much for taking the time to experiment and test so that we can all enjoy the delicious product!

  4. Is there something I can substitute for the almond extract?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Brooke, You can just leave out the almond extract completely (though I really do recommend it for best flavor!). No need to replace with vanilla extract, though you certainly can for extra vanilla flavor.

  5. Hi Sally! Do you think i can replace the sour cream in this recipe with pumpkin?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Avery, We haven’t tested that exact substitution. You may wish to try these pumpkin cookies (feel free to omit the cinnamon chips) or any other of our pumpkin cookie recipes.

  6. These are SO GOOD!! I wanted to make funfetti cookies to ship to my daughter for her birthday. These looked more appealing to me than the other funfetti cookies on the site (more cake like; good for a birthday), so I made these as written and added a LOT of sprinkles at the end of mixing. They are absolutely delicious. ♥️

  7. Can’t wait to try these! Do think these would work in a large letter or number mold for a stacked cookie cake?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Donna, I’m sure it would although we have never tested it. Let us know if you try it!

  8. Question, with many of my cookies I scoop them, put on cookie sheet to chill and then bake. I have found frequently the dough is easier to scoop soft and helps me get consistent sizing. Do you think that would work with these cookies? Thanks! Happy and healthy holidays to all!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sheryl, This doug is very soft before chilling. You can scoop it before chilling but you will likely need to re-roll each ball after chilling so that it holds its shape better.

  9. Followed recipe exactly.
    These were nothing like the Lofthouse cookies. They were more like sweet biscuits. Unfortunately, a waste of ingredients and time.

  10. Hi Sally. If you wanted to turn this cakey sugar cookie recipe into a chocolate one, would you just ad 3/4 cups cocoa?

  11. Hi! I want to try out your recipe and I was wondering what I can do to leave out sour cream?

  12. these cookies are very addictive!

  13. Hi sally, im going to try this recipe tonight. But i just wanted to say how amazing your recipes are. Every single one i try it turns out amazing! If i ever have someone ask me to make something ive never made before i can always trust that your recipe will turn out amazing! Thank you for all you, you truly help thousands of people. ❤

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Thank you so much for making and trusting our recipes, Mikaiya. Hope you love these cookies!

  14. Hi Sally, these cookies are absolutely delicious and one of my ultimate favorites! I’m planning to try different flavors, starting with chocolate. How much cocoa powder should I put in for these cakey sugar cookies to get that rich chocolate flavor? Do you suggest any other ingredients to go with it?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Danielle, we haven’t tested a soft chocolate sugar cookie, but let us know if you try anything!

  15. Lonnie Threatt says:

    I have been using this recipe for at least a year now recently made some gluten free for a friend and I won’t make them any other way now they taste so good with the gluten free flour amazing recipe thank you so much

  16. Does the frosting harden up a bit? Trying to see how these would be to travel with and don’t want to end up with a mess!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jill! The frosting sets and the cookies are definitely stackable, but the frosting will still get a little sticky from the pressure of the cookies on top of one another.

  17. Jane Hornung says:

    These are the best cookies I’ve ever made. Everyone raved about them. Great recipe!

  18. My grandmother, who was born in 1875, used to make sour cream cookies when I was little (1950s) and these are very similar. So glad to find this recipe, it’s great!

  19. Hi,

    Looking forward to making one of the many delicious sugar cookie recipes you have linked. Wondering – is this recipe one that would work well with a royal icing as opposed to the butter cream?

    My goal is to make round sugar cookies (not cut outs) decorated with royal icing.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Dorothy! Yes, royal icing would be great on these cookies – you may want a slightly thicker royal icing to prevent it from sliding too much down the sides of the rounded cookies. Let us know how they go!

  20. Hi Sally,
    I can’t run to the store any time soon, would it be fine if I only used 1 stick of butter, or should I just wait on these?
    Thank you so much,
    Klailea

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Klailea! You could halve all the ingredients for a half batch or wait until you have enough butter to make a full batch. Hope you love these cookies!

  21. Wondering if I could reduce the amount of sugar?

    1. I made it with less sugar and they turned out more like a biscuit than a cookie. Still good but different.

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