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These thick, soft, bakery-style Cut Out Sugar Cookies are a fun and festive addition to your Christmas cookie tray! Every mom (or grandma) should have an easy sugar cookie recipe that she can whip up in minutes with just a handful of simple ingredients. This is truly the best sugar cookie recipe ever! Cut out a batch and have fun decorating these sweet treats with your loved ones!

Cookie tin full of the best sugar cookie recipe

How to Make Sugar Cookies | 2-Minute Video

The Best Sugar Cookie Recipe

For years, I searched for an easy sugar cookie recipe that would yield perfectly thick, soft cut-out cookies that don’t spread in the oven. Ultimately, I adapted a recipe that I found in Country Woman magazine to create these bakery-style treats that are absolutely the best! They’re easy to make ahead, they’re perfect for sharing with friends and neighbors, and they’re a kid-friendly treat that always delivers loads of holiday cheer. My boys love decorating these fun holiday shapes, largely because they’re a vehicle to pile-on as much icing, sprinkles and candy as possible. The classic sugar cookie recipe is a holiday tradition that you’ll want to save and enjoy for years to come!

Are sugar cookies supposed to be soft?

While some folks might prefer thin, crispy sugar cookies, we think that a perfect sugar cookie recipe should be firm enough to hold its shape without spreading in the oven, but also soft and supple with a tender crumb. When you sink your teeth into these cookies, you get a bit of chewy resistance and a flavorful explosion of butter, vanilla and a hint of almond extract.

What thickness should sugar cookies be?

Thick, soft sugar cookies are the ultimate bakery-style treat! To ensure a thick, puffy and soft baked cookie, you’ll roll the dough to ¼-inch thickness. This is thicker than many cut-out cookie recipes, but it’s the best way to achieve that ideal texture.

Overhead shot of a tray full of frosted sugar cookies

How to Keep Sugar Cookies from Spreading in the Oven

Here are a few of my best tips to prevent the cookies from spreading:

  1. Roll First, Then Chill. I learned this process from America’s Test Kitchen, and it’s genius! Roll out the cookie dough before chilling, while it’s still soft. After the discs of dough have hardened and chilled, you can cut out the cookie shapes and bake them immediately. Rolling the soft dough is much easier than rolling a hard ball of chilled dough, and the cookies go into the oven while they’re still very cold and firm (thus preventing spreading).
  2. Chill the dough. It’s very important that you chill the rolled dough for at least 1-2 hours before cutting. If you re-roll the scraps and cut out additional cookies, chill again just before baking to make sure that the dough is nice and cool.
  3. Room Temperature Butter. If your butter is too warm, the dough will be sticky and difficult to roll. Leave your butter out overnight to make sure that it’s right at room temperature before making your dough.
  4. Enough flour. The total amount of flour required for this dough can vary (often by the humidity in the house, the season, and the way that you scoop and measure the flour). If you don’t have enough flour in your dough, the cookies are more likely to spread. While rolling, add small amounts of additional flour, as necessary, to make sure that your dough doesn’t stick to your hands, parchment paper, or rolling pin.
  5. Don’t Overmix. Whipping the wet ingredients too much or overmixing can add excessive air to the dough, causing the cookies to collapse and spread in the oven.
  6. Line the Baking Sheets. Spraying the baking sheets with cooking spray or greasing with butter or lard creates a slippery surface that causes cookies to spread. Instead, line the baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats for “grip.”
  7. Cool Baking Sheets. Never place cookie dough on warm baking sheets.
Overhead image of soft sugar cookies decorated with frosting and served on a white plate

How to Make Cut Out Sugar Cookies from Scratch

This easy and delicious cookie dough comes together in just minutes! You’ll need to be patient while it chills in the fridge, but the end result is well worth the wait…

Ingredients

  • All-purpose flour
  • Baking powder
  • Salt
  • Butter
  • Granulated sugar
  • Eggs
  • Vanilla extract
  • Almond extract

Step 1: Mix Dough

Cream together the butter and sugar; add the eggs, vanilla and almond extract; and finally mix in the dry ingredients until a soft dough forms. The texture of the dough is very similar to Play-doh!

Sugar cookie dough in a stand mixer

Step 2: Roll Out

Divide the dough into 2 equal portions. Place each portion on a piece of lightly floured parchment paper or on a silicone mat. Roll to ¼-inch thickness.

Rolling out homemade sugar cookie dough

Step 3: Chill

Stack the discs of dough on a baking sheet (separated by parchment), cover tightly with plastic wrap, and chill for at least 1 hour (or until firm).

Process shot showing how to chill homemade easy sugar cookie recipe

Step 4: Cut Out Cookie Shapes

Once the discs of rolled out dough are nice and cold, use your favorite cookie cutters to create the desired shapes. Transfer the shapes onto lined baking sheets.

Process shot showing how to make sugar cookies

Step 5: Bake

Bake in a 375 degree F oven for 8-10 minutes. The cookies are done when the edges are just starting to brown, but they’re still fairly soft in the center. They will firm up as they cool, so be careful not to overbake them or the cookies will become hard. Cool completely before decorating.​​​​​​​

Baked cut out sugar cookies on a baking sheet

How to Decorate Sugar Cookies

Frosted sugar cookies are the sweetest holiday treat! Set out an array of decorations and let your kids get busy. There’s no right or wrong way to do this! I’ve included a simple recipe for a great cookie icing, but you can also use frosting, store-bought tubes of icing, or a simple dusting of colored sugar or sprinkles. Outline the cookies with white icing or fill in the entire cookie for maximum sweetness — whatever you prefer.

Overhead image of cut out sugar cookies on a wire cooling rack

Sugar Cookies Icing

This basic cookie icing is just a classic combination of confectioners’ sugar, milk, vanilla extract and corn syrup (for shine). It typically firms up in about 30 minutes, but may take up to a few hours to set if you lay it on thick. Leave the icing white, or divide it between smaller bowls and tint it with food coloring. For detailed designs, place the icing in piping bags or Ziploc plastic bags (and snip off one corner).

More Fun Decorations

  • Red, white and green sprinkles are always an easy, festive touch and will stick nicely to your icing before it sets.
  • Red hot cinnamon candies make great buttons, ornaments, holly berries, or reindeer noses.
  • Mini chocolate chips create perfect little eyeballs on reindeer, Santa shapes, or gingerbread men.
  • Candy eyeballs are also a cute way to create a face.

When to Add Sprinkles

There are two ways to get sprinkles or colored decorating sugar to adhere to the cookies. If you’re icing the cookies, add the sprinkles or sugar while the icing is still wet. The icing will set and the sprinkles will be stuck to the cookie. If you’re not planning to frost the cookies, add the sugar or sprinkles to the cut-out cookie dough before baking (pressing gently to help the sprinkles adhere). The sugar will bake into the tops of the cookies and will stick when cooled.

Plate of cut out sugar cookies with hot cocoa in the background

Storage

Store the cut out sugar cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Make Ahead

Prepare the dough up to 1 day ahead, roll out the discs, and chill in the refrigerator overnight. Alternatively, you can freeze the dough discs for up to 1 month. Thaw the dough in the refrigerator overnight and then proceed with cutting and baking.

To bake the cookies in advance, allow them to cool completely, wrap tightly, and freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw on the counter at room temperature before decorating.

Can you freeze frosted sugar cookies?

Yes, you can freeze the cookies after icing and decorating, too. Be aware, though, that the quality of the icing or decorations may not be quite as good when thawed. It can run, thin, or get smooshed.

Serving Suggestion

Set out a tray of cut out sugar cookies and offer a warm mug of hot cocoa, mulled cider, eggnog, or tea on the side. It’s the ultimate cozy fireside treat!

Dipping a cut out sugar cookie in a Santa mug full of hot chocolate

Tips for the Best Frosted Sugar Cookies

  • Almond Extract. I have a friend who is a professional sugar cookie baker. She decorates the most intricate, beautiful, personalized cookies and sells them for weddings, holidays, birthday parties, and more. Kelly adds a good amount of almond extract to her cookie dough and it gives them such a delicious, unique flavor — so I borrowed that idea! I like ½ teaspoon in this recipe, but you can cut it back to ¼ teaspoon if you prefer a more subtle taste. You can also omit the almond extract altogether and substitute with additional vanilla extract.
  • Keep the dough cold to prevent the cookies from spreading in the oven. Chill for at least 1 hour before cutting and baking, and then if you re-roll the scraps, chill again in the freezer or fridge for about 10 more minutes before baking.
  • Don’t overbake the cookies. Watch for the cookies’ edges to just start to turn a slightly darker color. The insides of the cookies should still be soft when they come out of the oven. They will firm up as they cool, resulting in that great soft texture that we’re looking for. Overbaking the cookies will yield dry, hard or crunchy cookies.
  • Easy Decorating. I’ve provided a simple powdered sugar icing recipe that you can use for decorating the cookies; however, you can substitute with any cookie frosting or icing that you like. For more intricate designs, try a royal icing. If you want a thicker, richer frosting (but not as much detail in your designs), try a vanilla buttercream frosting. And for a convenient shortcut that’s easy for the kids to use, I like the different colored tubes of Betty Crocker Cookie Icing that you can purchase in the baking aisle at the grocery store.
Cookie tin full of cut out sugar cookies in Christmas shapes

More Christmas Cookies You’ll Love

Close up square featured image of soft cut out sugar cookies

Soft Cut-Out Sugar Cookies

4.78 from 18 votes
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Chilling Time 1 hour
Total: 1 hour 25 minutes
Servings 3 dozen cookies (in various sizes and shapes)
Calories 94 kcal
The only sugar cookie recipe you'll ever need! These easy bakery-style treats are soft, thick and perfect for decorating.

Ingredients
  

  • 2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup salted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract (or reduce to ¼ teaspoon for a more subtle flavor)

Icing (Optional):

  • 3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 3-4 tablespoons milk
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Gel food coloring, optional

Instructions

  • Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.
  • In a separate large bowl, use an electric mixer to cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing to combine. Add vanilla extract and almond extract; mix until incorporated.
  • Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture; mix on low until a soft dough forms.
  • Divide the dough into 2 equal portions. Place each portion on a piece of lightly-floured parchment paper or a lightly-floured silicone mat. With a lightly-floured rolling pin, roll the dough to about ¼ -inch thickness. Use more flour if the dough seems sticky.
  • Lightly dust the top of the dough with flour, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1-2 hours (or overnight).
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line 2-3 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.
  • Carefully remove one portion of the dough from the refrigerator. Use cookie cutters to cut the dough into desired shapes. Arrange the shapes about 2-3 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.
  • You can re-roll the dough scraps to cut out additional cookies, but you will need to chill the cut-out dough on the baking sheets in the fridge or freezer for at least 10 minutes before baking. This will give the dough a chance to firm up again so that the cookies don’t spread in the oven.
  • Bake for 8-10 minutes, or just until lightly browned. Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before decorating.

To Prepare Icing (Optional):

  • Combine confectioners sugar, 2 tablespoons of milk, corn syrup, and vanilla extract in a medium-sized bowl and stir until combined. If icing is too thick, add more milk, about a teaspoon at a time, until the icing is thick but spreadable. If it’s too thin, gradually add more powdered sugar until it reaches the desired consistency. Use gel food coloring to tint the frosting, if desired. Pipe or spread onto the cooled cookies and then allow the icing to firm up and set before packaging (this may take a couple of hours).

Video

Notes

Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.
To Make Ahead:
Prepare the dough up to 1 day ahead, roll out the discs, and chill in the refrigerator overnight. Alternatively, you can freeze the dough discs for up to 1 month. Thaw the dough in the refrigerator overnight and then proceed with cutting and baking.
To bake the cookies in advance, allow them to cool completely, wrap tightly, and freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw on the counter at room temperature before decorating.

Nutrition

Serving: 1cookie (not including optional icing or decorations)Calories: 94kcalCarbohydrates: 13gProtein: 1gFat: 4gSaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 19mgSodium: 70mgPotassium: 26mgFiber: 1gSugar: 6gVitamin A: 131IUCalcium: 9mgIron: 1mg
Keyword: Best Sugar Cookie Recipe, Cut Out Sugar Cookies, Easy Sugar Cookies
Course: Cookies
Cuisine: American
Author: Blair Lonergan
blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

Read More

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Comments

  1. How much powder sugar in the icing???. it didn’t say unless u meant 2 cups. I make great xmas cookies and always willing to try a new soft cut out. Thanks, jane

    1. Hi, Jane! There’s a full recipe at the bottom of the post, which includes all of the specific measurements for the icing. It’s 3 cups of confectioners sugar, sifted. Enjoy! 🙂

      1. Hello! I was just wondering if the cookies are the ones in the picture 🙂 This is my first time making sugar cookies and I want them to look exactly like that

        1. Help? I made these and they taste like a mouth full of gritty salt! I followed the recipe, froze them, and baked the cut outs. There was still a bit of spreading, luckily I just made circles. Something about the salted butter AND large amount of salt is… yuck? Like the lingering flavor in my mouth is salt despite the sweet sugar icing! Any recommendations… like nixing the salt…

          1. Hi, Marissa! That’s strange — I’ve never heard anyone complain that they’re salty or gritty. I’m wondering if maybe you used too much salt by accident? You can certainly play around with the measurements and see if you prefer them with less salt or with the unsalted butter, but then I would think they would be lacking flavor. Totally up to you, though!

          2. 5 stars
            These are delicious! I came across this recipe last year and used it for Christmas cookies.I got a new stove and had to play with the temp and time. I also roll them out on powdered sugar vs flour. Thank you for sharing!

      2. 5 stars
        I made heart cookies and frosted them for Valentine’s Day. Every single recipient raved about them. These are sooooo delicious and simple to make. I just rolled out the dough for grandsons to make some this afternoon!

      3. 5 stars
        My go to recipe! But just wondering how long will they last in the fridge? I have a party coming up can I make them 5-6 days ahead ? And just leave them in the fridge ? Also Would it be better to put them in the fridge with no icing ? Or can I decorate and than store in the fridge ?

        1. Hi, Isabel! I would freeze them undecorated, and then thaw them and ice them a day or two before you plan to serve them. That way you’ll know that they’re at their best!

    2. These are soooo powdery and the texture is way too dry for me. Followed the recipe exactly and am super disappointed.

      1. I’m sorry they didn’t work for you, Tyler. It sounds like something went wrong along the way, because they definitely shouldn’t come out dry or powdery.

  2. 5 stars
    These were the best sugar cookies I’ve ever tasted! The almond extract really adds flavor and the cookies stayed in shape perfectly while also being soft! I’ll use this recipe from now on.

  3. 5 stars
    I’ve looked for years and tried many recipes.These are the best and easiest I’ve ever made. They really do stay soft inside.

  4. 5 stars
    I have such a hard time with sugar cut out cookies and these were wonderful! Thank you so much for sharing. I’m beyond happy and their tasty too!!

  5. Wanting to bake some valentines cookies with this recipe. Does the icing harden up well enough that you can stack the cookies? Also, does the icing recipe work with liquid food coloring?

    1. Hi, Alix! Yes, as long as you don’t lay it on super-thick, the icing hardens nicely (it might take up to a few hours to set, but it will). The liquid food coloring will work, but it’s not as concentrated as gel coloring so you need more. If you’re adding more liquid to the icing, you may need to balance that out with additional powdered sugar to get it to the right consistency. Enjoy!

  6. Good morning. I’m planning on. Making this recipe this morning. I was wondering about playing around with emulsions along with the vanilla? Have you ever tried adding this instead of the almond extract?
    Ty

  7. 5 stars
    Thank you My cookies came out wonderfully. I actually like this recipe better than the one I learned in school. Lol. I will upload the other pictures by 07/24/2021.

    1. Hi, Marg! Yes, I think the shortening will work. It will give the cookies a different flavor, but it should still be a 1:1 swap. Let me know if you give it a try, since I’ve never tested the recipe with anything other than butter. 🙂

    1. Hi, Ann! I’m not that familiar with high altitude baking; however, I found this really helpful chart from King Arthur Flour, which outlines their recommendations: https://www.kingarthurbaking.com/learn/resources/high-altitude-baking

      I would start with those tips, such as increasing the temperature by 15-25°F, cooking for a shorter amount of time, etc. I hope that they work out for you, and maybe other readers at high altitude can offer suggestions as well!

  8. Hello! I’m excited to make these this year, but wondering if I use regular table salt or can I use the kosher salt I already have?

    1. Hi, Stevie! I’ve always used table salt, but you can use kosher salt as well. I would use a bit more kosher salt, though, since table salt tends to be “saltier.” Hope that helps, and enjoy!

  9. Hi! I’m trying this recipe tomorrow and was wondering about how many cookies does one batch make? I have average sized cookie cutters. I’m also in Mexico with loads of humidity so hopefully this does not cause any trouble. Thanks for your help!

    1. Hi, Janine! I’m not sure how the humidity may or may not impact the cookies. If it’s like biscuit-making, you might need to add a little bit of extra flour to account for more moisture in the air. I would stick with the recipe as written, and then adjust if the dough feels too wet or sticky.

      I typically get about 3 dozen cookies in various sizes and shapes out of one batch. That includes some much smaller cookies, though. If you’re using a mid-size cutter for all of the cookies, you’ll like get fewer. Hope that helps, and enjoy the treats!

    1. Hi, Roger! You can definitely give that a try! Granulated sugar will ultimately make the cookies more crisp, while brown sugar keeps them moist and soft. You might add a small amount of one or the other, see how you like it, and gradually work up from there.

  10. 5 stars
    Kuddos to you! My mom made the best ever sugar and date/nut filled cookies every Christmas without fail. She chilled the dough, and the next day cookies appeared. Her biggest challenge was keeping my brother and I out of the dough. I have been trying for 45 years to make a good sugar cookie. Always, always they spread and were so thin. I’ve said so many times this is the last time. Her recipie takes 6 -7 cups of flour, yours was a smaller recipie so I decided to try it. The chilling tips made a lot of sense. Success! I dug out my mom’s recipie and again success. I am beyond thrilled to have found your tips which no doubt has made a huge difference. Why my mom didn’t have difficulties I do not know. My cookie sheets stay in the fridge in between cutting to oven, rotating trays. Thank you so much for sharing your cookie skills.

    1. That’s amazing, Debbie! It makes me so happy to know that these ideas helped you successfully recreate your mom’s recipe. Have a merry Christmas!

  11. Excited to see how these turn out, but is there any insight into why I had to almost double the amount of flour to get it to the right consistency? I didn’t stray from the recipe for any of the other measurements but after mixing in all the dry ingredients I was left with a very runny dough until I added almost another 2 cups of flour. Then it looked exactly like the picture! Still pushing forward anyway.

    1. Hi, Kay! I’m not sure why you’d need quite that much extra flour. Sometimes you need to add extra if your environment is particularly humid, but other than that I don’t know. Hope they turned out well!

  12. 5 stars
    These turned out great! I was out of almond extract so I subbed orange extract and it added a perfect subtle hint of orange.

  13. 5 stars
    I made these for Christmas this year and this is now my favorite sugar cookie recipe. Recipe was easy to follow and came out perfectly and they really did stay perfectly moist and delicious. This has been added to my recipe box! Thanks!

  14. 5 stars
    These are absolutely delicious. I made these for our neighborhood Valentine’s Day party. They were a hit. I obviously had to double the recipe and had no issues. I also halfed the recipe and used a 1-to-1 gluten free baking mix and they were equally perfect. I also made them dairy free. If you’re making them dairy free I found they need to chill a bit longer than the minimum. But seriously, if you follow this recipe, you’ll have the best soft cookie. Thank you.

    1. Thank you, Amber! Great tips about the gluten-free and dairy-free options. So glad that they were a hit! 🙂

  15. 5 stars
    Used this recipe for Christmas cookies 2021, Valentine’s Day 2022, and again this weekend for Easter! For anyone who prefers unsalted butter like me, adding an extra 1/4 teaspoon salt levels it out 🙂

  16. 5 stars
    This recipe produced the kind of sugar cookies that I’ve been seeking to make for YEARS! I’ve tried so many recipes! Thank you for sharing this one! I made 4th of July cookies today with buttercream frosting and they are a delight, if I do say so myself.