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.
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), pumpkin cookies, 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.
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.
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. Or if you’re looking for a less sweet option, you might top these cookies with our whipped frosting. 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.
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 Cookies – These are our classic cut-out sugar cookies with soft centers and crisp edges. This dough is meant for shaping with cookie cutters.
- Chocolate Sugar Cookies – This is the chocolate version of the cookies linked above.
- Drop Sugar Cookies – These 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 Cookies – These are similar to the drop cookies linked above, except they are flavored with rich brown butter.
- Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies – These 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 Glaze – These cut-out cookies are super soft and tangy. You can use your favorite shaped cookie cutters.
Soft Cakey Sugar Cookies
- 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
These soft cakey sugar cookies are topped with creamy vanilla buttercream and sprinkles. Full-fat sour cream is the secret to their tender softness.
- 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*
- Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Prepare frosting (I use this vanilla buttercream) and spread onto each cooled cookie. Garnish with sprinkles, if desired.
- Frosted cookies will stay fresh covered at room temperature for 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
- 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.
- Special Tools: KitchenAid Stand Mixer | Cookie Scoop | Silpat Baking Mat | Baking Sheets | Cooling Rack | Americolor Pastel Kit | Naturally Colored Sprinkles
- 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.
- Why Room Temperature? All refrigerated items should be at room temperature so the batter mixes together easily and evenly. Read here for more about the importance of room temperature ingredients.
It really makes a difference!
- 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.
- Be sure to check out my top 5 cookie baking tips AND these are my 10 must-have cookie baking tools.
Keywords: cakey sugar cookies
Reader Comments & Reviews
Is there something I can substitute for the almond extract?
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.
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!
Do these cookies need to be frosted?
No, you can skip the frosting if you wish.
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?
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.
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.
Delicious! I like to make these cookies with different colored frostings and sprinkles to be festive depending on the time of year.
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 !
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.
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!
Perfect! They should be called “Heavenly Sugar Cookies”
Do you think you could roll out the dough and use a cookie cutter for these awesome cookies?
Hi Kimberlee, These cookies won’t hold the crisp edges of a cookie cutter. Instead use my sugar cookies recipe.
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
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!
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 ?
Hi Annelie, I recommend making my maple brown sugar cookies. You can replace the pecans for walnuts.
Can you freeze these cookies with icing on them?
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.
Thank you Sally for your quick response!
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!
Hi Emily! You can definitely use low fat plain yogurt here. The cookies may not be AS soft– but still pretty cakey and light!
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
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?
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!