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. Sally, your website is just mind-blowing. I have been visiting it for a long time, but the WORK you put into the design, the pictures, the science of baking, the clear and intricate steps–and not to mention the best-of-the-best recipes that you come up with–is just hands-down a masterpiece to visit everyday. THIS is THE website all bakers should reference. I can see why America’s Test Kitchen checks in with you for their Boston Cream Pie recipe. What you do–being a mom, a wife, a baker, an innovator, a website designer, an artist/photographer–and whatever else you can cram into 24 hours–deserves so much more than a mere recognition of “thanks!” I am truly impressed by you. Your talent, genuineness, hard work, and brilliance shine through with every post you meticulously create for the rest of us to absorb. Most importantly, I can tell you care how your recipes are being interpreted and tried by your loyal followers. I truly believe you want each of us to have a successful and fulfilling experience in this pasttime you so thoroughly enjoy. Thanks again for all you do. I could never even make a quick bread.

    1. Amanda, thank you from the bottom of my heart for this incredibly kind and supportive comment. I read it to my husband saying that it’s the kindest comment I’ve ever read. There’s a vast amount of work that goes into each blog post and I truly love every aspect of it. I’m elated that my passion and dedication is evident to my readers but what’s most satisfying is that readers take the time to ask questions, leave reviews, and bake my recipes. I couldn’t ask for a more positive and uplifting community! Thank you again!

  2. These cookies look amazing!! Do you have any ideas how to put these on a plate and wrap in cellophane without the cream getting messed up?

    1. Hi Bracha, Buttercream won’t every dry hard enough to cover tightly with plastic wrap but you might be able to get away with using cellophane and gathering it on top and tying much like a gift basket (so it’s not really touching the top of the cookies) if that makes sense?

  3. I made these last night after seeing them on Sally posted them a few days ago. I love cakey cookies so I was excited to try them. I cannot express how delicious these cookies are! They are so soft and the flavors are awesome. One of the best cookies I have ever had or baked!

  4. Made these this weekend, made the dough Friday and refrigerated it until Monday when I baked the cookies. I used King Arthur Flour Princess Flavor instead of Almond extract. I got nothing but rave reviews. They just melted in your mouth! So perfect. Will be using this recipe again and hopefully mastering making more uniform dough balls so my cookies are all the same shape!

  5. These cookies look wonderful! Just was wondering, do they need to be stored in the fridge to prevent the frosting from going bad at room temperature?

    1. Hi Kate, Frosted cookies will stay fresh covered at room temperature for 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

  6. Jen Cathey says:

    I LOVED making these cookies!! Do you have a really great container large enough to hold all these cookies that won’t smoosh the frosting??? I love frosted cookies but always have such a hard time storing them without destroying them.

    1. I don’t! I sometimes just use a plastic Tupperware (the larger and not deep size). They never last that long here but if you find a good one let me know!

  7. I made this recipe last week. The cookies were amazing – everyone loved them!! And I really enjoyed them myself. I did find them a bit hard to scoop, so I ended up with a lot of weirdly shaped cookies. Maybe next time I’ll leave it in the fridge longer to get more evenly shaped cookies when I scoop them out. But great taste! If you are reading this, I definitely recommend serving and eating at room temperature, because the taste is better compared to eating straight out of the fridge (though it is still very tasty directly from the fridge).

    I tried to make your vanilla buttercream recipe, but I did not like how it tasted. There was a very apparent aftertaste that was not very pleasant. So instead I just bought a jar of store bought vanilla icing and mixed it in with some cream cheese. It tasted great with these cookies! thanks sally!

  8. Hi Sally. I made these cookies yesterday and they turned out great. Exactly like a cakey sugar cookie. I did not make the buttercream. I just covered them with powdered sugar. Thanks for another great recipe.

  9. Can these be made as bars? Does the recipe need to be altered if done that way?

    1. Hi Kim! I’m sure it can be. Let me know how they turn out!

  10. Absolutely outstanding cookies! They were soft, sweet, and delicious. I followed the directions exactly and made the buttercream icing that was suggested. My 4 yo granddaughter and 2 yo grandson helped me make these. They loved them and were so proud of the delicious cookies they made. Thanks for sharing this recipe.

  11. I used my scale to measure & everything was at room temperature when I made this batter last night at 7pm and refrigerated it until 11am. The dough was super sticky & didn’t want to come off the cookie scoop, so the cookies didn’t come out very round. The cookies didn’t spread evenly; some were bigger than others. And, strangely, one of the cookies sort of exploded on the pan. It flopped to the side and ran into the other cookies leaving behind a pool of burnt butter. I took a picture. Why in the world would one cookie have a problem?

    1. Hi Laura! When that happens, it’s usually a lump of butter that hasn’t been mixed into the cookie dough. Happens to me with any cookie recipe too.

  12. I would like to take these somewhere and I’m wondering if the frosting “sets” after a while so they could possibly be stacked on top of each other.

    1. Hi Victoria! 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.

  13. These cookies are heaven! I’ve made a soft bake cookie before that didn’t turn out well, and these are far superior. I’m making them with green frosting and rainbow sprinkles for St. Patrick’s Day!

  14. Theresa Walker says:

    Hi Sall! I have made these same cookies and they were a great! My nieces love them. So I have a question for you I want to make them a lemon suger cookie, would I have to omit almond flavoring to add lemon juice or can the recipe stay the same?

    1. Hi Theresa! For a lemon version, I recommend replacing the almond extract with lemon extract. You can also add some lemon zest too. The recipe may require a little extra flour if using lemon juice because you’ll need more than 1 teaspoon to supply enough flavor.

  15. These turned out more like flat cupcakes than cookies, not sure what went wrong ‍♀️ Everything else I have tried on this website has turned out amazing though

  16. These look delicious! I used to love the loft house cookies but I don’t eat them anymore bc of all the artificial sugars/flavorings in them, so these would be a perfect thing for me to bake! I would love to bake these today but unfortunately I only have low fat (not full fat or fat free) yogurt. Would that be ok in place of the sour cream? If not how would the texture change? Thank you so much, I can’t wait to try this recipe!

    1. Hi Emily! You can definitely use low fat plain yogurt here. The cookies may not be AS soft– but still pretty cakey and light!

  17. First sugar cookies I’ve ever made! I had a couple of mishaps with these, but since everything I’ve ever baked on this site has been stellar I’m certain it was me not the recipe . Anyway, when I took the batter from the fridge, it was really sticky and not very doughy, and there were still several clumps of butter-sugar in there that hadn’t incorporated. I was concerned but i put some on the pan and baked. oops! They spread like crazy, and two of them completely melted into each other. I was a bit confused because I had refrigerated them for three hours. Maybe my butter was too soft? (I had to warm it a bit in the microwave but it didn’t melt.) After that I thought I was going to have to dump everything BUT I had an idea lol: I put little balls of cookie dough in my muffin pan and make mini sugar cookies! It worked perfectly, the muffin tin cups stopped my dough from spreading and they were soft in the inside and chewy on the outside, perfect! I cooked them in there for 15 mins. I frosted them with the vanilla buttercream, which was delicious but had little chunks of butter in there too, maybe it’s my mixer? I tossed it in the microwave for a few seconds and it was perfect after that. Anyway, I’m so happy to have the mini cookies (it made 48), I bagged them up in twos this morning to give out to customers at our ninja warrior gym. They are so, so delicious- better than store bought, with that perfect hint of almond and perfect texture! Sorry for the long review, I’m just so happy these turned out well! Thank you for all of your amazing recipes- i will be making these again and again!

  18. Sally,
    Can you freeze these cookies with icing on them?
    Thank you.

    Judy

    1. You can! I recommend first freezing them in a single layer on a baking sheet until the frosting is really solid, and then placing them in an airtight container to store in the freezer.

      1. Thank you Sally for your quick response!
        Judy

  19. I wish to make these cookies as a maple walnut cookie with a maple glaze,
    How do I change and adapt this recipe to fit with the right measurements ?

    1. Hi Annelie, I recommend making my maple brown sugar cookies. You can replace the pecans for walnuts.

  20. Like every Sally’s recipe, these turned out amazing. I had some nominal issues with the rack location within my oven but it didn’t change the taste at all! The paired icing was a bit sweet but I bet it’ll be good once it’s hardened a little in the morning!

    I intended to freeze half of the dough for another time, but got too excited about the texture of the first sheet of cookies that I used the second half to do a test bake of folding in mini chocolate chips, dried cherries and PB2. Those turned out amazing, too!

  21. Kimberlee Hill says:

    Do you think you could roll out the dough and use a cookie cutter for these awesome cookies?

    1. Hi Kimberlee, These cookies won’t hold the crisp edges of a cookie cutter. Instead use my sugar cookies recipe.

    2. wow!
      as usual Sally, amazing recipe! I made it as soon as I saw it and boy did it not disappoint thank you so much! my family loved them! <3

  22. Kimberlee Hill says:

    Perfect! They should be called “Heavenly Sugar Cookies”

    Thank you!

  23. I made this recipe today. I used full fat Greek yogurt. These cookies are delicious and even better after you get the icing on. I have a crowd that I sometimes have to fight off before I get to icing, worth it for this recipe. The buttercream was so easy to put together. I have been addicted to the rolled sugar cookies with royal icing but preparing those feels like such a process. I’m so glad I found a new easy fix. Thank you!

  24. Tina Rutkowski says:

    Cookies did not hold mound shape.followed recipe to a t! Had several cookie that had tiny bursts…
    Kinda disappointed in this recipe. First I’ve made of yours to fail. Wouldn’t make these again.
    Love all other recipes.
    I am a seasoned baker.

  25. Well I made these today. I put the dough together yesterday so they chilled overnight , which made it easier to scoop even though this is a sticky dough. I even put the dough back in the fridge between batches so it would stay cold.
    they came out beautifully puffed just like the Lofthouse cookie they are based on. However, I agree with other reviewers. The one cup of sugar is simply not enough. My husband and I tasted a cookie sans frosting and we agreed, not great on its own. I topped them with your simple icing and that did help.
    If I made these again, I would definitely up the sugar content. But the cookies did come out thick and beautiful ! Thanks Sally !

  26. Delicious! I like to make these cookies with different colored frostings and sprinkles to be festive depending on the time of year.

  27. 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/

  28. 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

  29. 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!

  30. 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.

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