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

Video Tutorial: How to make Soft Cakey Sugar Cookies

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.

70 Comments

  1. 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. ♥️

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

  3. these cookies are very addictive!

  4. 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. ❤

  5. 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!

  6. 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

  7. 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.

  8. Jane Hornung says:

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

  9. 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!

  10. 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!

  11. 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!

  12. 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.

  13. Hi

    Could I put Blueberries in these??????

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lillian! We recommend you try this recipe for blueberry muffin cookies. Enjoy!

  14. These cookies are delightful! I added some raspberry Jammy Bits (from King Arthur Baking) and let the dough sit in the fridge overnight. They’re wonderfully soft (be careful stacking them; I had a couple break in half because they’re so soft). I’m planning to top them with white chocolate raspberry buttercream, but they’re so good alone that I made a dozen of them with some sparkling sugar; I’ll leave those un-iced.

    I’m impressed. I thought the dough was too soft and sticky to produce fluffy cookies, but I was wrong!

  15. What about making a buttercream iced gingerbread cookie like Lofthouse??? Been looking for a buttercream soft pillowy gingerbread cookie & haven’t found a recipe yet. I LOVE Lofthouse cookies!!! Please create a recipe for a delicious buttercream iced gingerbread cookie like Lofthouse. Thank you

    1. Hi Lori, try these gingerbread whoopie pies. Instead of sandwiching the cookies together you can simply frost them with the frosting. Enjoy!

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