Best Cut Out Sugar Cookie Recipe

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The Best Cut Out Sugar Cookie Recipe! They are soft, chewy and hold their shape perfectly! Plus an easy sugar cookie frosting that tastes great and hardens with a beautiful shine! 

overhead view of Cut Out Sugar Cookies laying flat on a surface. Two green Christmas trees, two red and white stockings and two white stars with sprinkles.


Making cut out sugar cookies has been our family’s holiday baking tradition for 30 years! As far back as I can remember, every December we’d get together with our cousins and make Christmas cookies, and I have carried on the tradition with my five kids!

However, since starting this tradition with my own family, I have tested dozens of sugar cookie recipes without landing on the perfect one…until now. I tweaked my mom’s sugar cookie recipe (which is a little on the crispy side for my personal preferences) and created this perfect sugar cookie recipe!

These cut out sugar cookies are soft and chewy (thanks to the use of butter and two eggs), insanely delicious and hold their shape beautifully. I also created a sugar cookie frosting recipe that tastes great, hardens with a beautiful shine and makes enough to frost 3 dozen cookies.

This is a comprehensive post sharing all my tips on how we make this sugar cookie recipe! From chilling the dough to letting my kids make their own “crazy cookie” with the scraps, you’re about to dive into 33 years of sugar cookie baking experience, so grab some coffee and settle in! 

overhead view of a white, round plate with three rows of sugar cookies on it. The left row is five red and white stockings, the middle row is six green Christmas trees with sprinkles and the left row is seven small white stars with sprinkles.

Let’s chat about the ingredients in this sugar cookie recipe! I honestly do not recommend making substitutions, as I have tested and tried this recipe many times and believe I have landed on the absolute best mixture and ratio of ingredients!

cut out Sugar Cookie Recipe ingredients labaled
  • Salted butter. unsalted butter is a good substitute.
  • Granulated sugar. use white sugar or organic cane sugar
  • Vanilla extract. Please always use pure vanilla extract (not imitation) for the best results. You could substitute 1 tsp of the vanilla extract with another extract (almond, lemon, etc.) to give the sugar cookies a different flavor.
  • Eggs. Make sure your eggs are fresh and at room temperature! To get them to room temperature fast, simply put them in a bowl of warm water.
  • All-purpose flour. If your flour is a little lumpy you may want to sift it. You can use pastry flour or bread flour with great results as well! You could also use all-purpose gluten-free flour!
  • Whole Milk. heavy cream and half and half are good substitutes.
  • Light Corn Syrup. If you want beautiful, shiny tops that harden perfectly you really cannot leave out the corn syrup in this recipe. (Or make vanilla frosting or vanilla buttercream frosting.
  • Gel Food Coloring.. I suggest using gel food coloring! The colors are vibrant and it doesn’t effect the texture of the frosting.
    • These AmeriColor Gel Food Colors have become my absolute favorite! I LOVE the squeeze bottle because they are not messy and don’t dry out. 
front view of a cut-outsugar cookie with a bite taken out of it

How to Make Sugar Cookies

I’m going to walk through the process of making these cut out sugar cookies with you step-by-step! Making them is definitely a process. And although there are many steps, they are all simple! In my opinion, making this sugar cookie recipe a lasting tradition with your family is 100% worth it! Don’t forget to watch the video.

Sure you could buy pre-made sugar cookies to decorate…but my kids absolutely love helping make the dough! From mixing to rolling to cutting, every step is exciting for them and creates lifelong memories.

The first step in this sugar cookie recipe is making the dough, which is simple and completed in 5 minutes! Start by creaming the butter and sugar together. Then add eggs and vanilla and beat again. Make sure all your ingredients are at room temperature! 

I recommend using a standing mixer or hand-held mixer to make this sugar cookie recipe for the best results! 

two overhead photos showing how to make sugar cookies -left shows butter and sugar before creaming, the right photo shows eggs and vanilla added to the creamed butter and sugar

Next, add dry ingredients and beat, starting on low speed and increasing to medium, until the dough forms. Please note, the dough at this stage will be soft and pliable. It may seem a touch too soft, but don’t be worried, after chilling it will be just perfect!

How to Measure Flour

I measure flour by scooping and leveling. I found the best results with this method using 2 ¾  all-purpose flour (depending on the size of my eggs). Measured in grams with this method the amount of flour is 371 grams. 

The dough should not be “sticky.” I have gotten comments that the dough is sticky. This should NOT be the case. It should easily be formed into two round discs. If the dough is sticky it could be that your eggs were larger than normal and added more moisture to the dough. I recommend adding more flour 1 TBS at a time until the dough is soft but not sticky. 

two overhead photos showing how to make sugar cookies - The left shows the dry ingredients being added. the right photo shows the final Cut Out Sugar Cookie dough

Next, separate the dough into two equal portions and form them into flat, round discs. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and chill!

This sugar cookie recipe needs to chill for at least two hours! You can chill it overnight too! If you are chilling longer than 2 hours I recommend putting the wrapped dough discs in an airtight container or ziplock bag to ensure no air can get to it and dry it out!

two overhead photos showing how to make sugar cookies, forming dough into discs and wrapping with plastic wrap

Roll the Dough

After two hours, or when you are ready to complete this sugar cookie recipe, remove one dough disc from the refrigerator. Place it on a well-floured surface and roll until it’s about  1/4 to 1/2″ thick. Choose a thickness that suits your tastes, thicker cookies will be softer!

two photos showing how to make sugar cookies - rolling out the dough

Cut out Shapes

Next, use your favorite cookie cutters to cut the rolled sugar cookies into shapes! For this post I chose a Christmas theme, because it’s our favorite time of the year to make this sugar cookie recipe! However, they are perfect for every holiday! 

After you roll & cut the sugar cookies you will have some scraps leftover. You absolutely can (and should) re-shape the dough into a flat disc, roll it out and cut more shapes. You can roll and cut the dough 3 times (two re-rolls), before it’s not a good idea anymore. That means, with the two discs you can roll and cut 6 times total (3 for each disc)! 

two overhead photos showing how to make sugar cookies, cutting them out into Christmas shapes

I take whatever is left after the third roll and form it into one or two thicker circle cookies. Then I bake them and let those be my kids “crazy cookies!” They each get one to decorate however they want (read: as many mini chocolate chips and sprinkles as they can fit on the surface)! 

Once their “crazy cookie” is set, I let them eat it! It’s a fun way for them to get to enjoy the fruits of their labor, while still saving most of the cut out sugar cookies for our holiday celebrations or to give as gifts! 

Decorate Without Frosting

If you don’t want to frost the sugar cookies, you can still decorate them with sprinkles before baking! Simply use a pastry brush and brush the unbaked sugar cookies with a little bit of milk or cream. Then decorate with sprinkles, which will stick to the milk/cream! Bake and you’ll have cute cookies without the mess of frosting! 

two overhead photos showing how to make sugar cookies, cutting them out and putting them on a baking sheet

Bake and Cool

Use a very thin spatula to transfer the cut out sugar cookies from the floured surface to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper! To keep these sugar cookies soft, bake them until they are puffed and just barely set. They should not brown or they will become crunchy!

Let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for about 3 minutes, then use a spatula to transfer them to a wire cooling rack to cool completely!

overhead photo of cut-out sugar cookies in Christmas shapes on a wire cooling rack

How to Prevent Sugar Cookies from Spreading

There are many reasons sugar cookies could spread, here are a few and how to prevent them: 

  • Bake cookies on parchment paper: Sometimes greasing a baking sheet can cause sugar cookies to spread. Instead, use parchment paper to prevent sticking and help the cookies keep their shape. 
  • Don’t let the dough get warm. Notice the dough needs to be chilled for at least 2 hours. Keep the dough cold until you put the cookies in the oven. 
  • Don’t overwork the dough. You can get two rounds of “rolling” from this sugar cookie recipe before the dough becomes warm and overworked. I usually do one round of cutouts, re-roll the scraps, and then use whatever is left to make a fun cookie for the kids (instead of trying to make cutouts).
  • Check your oven temperature. Get a cheap thermometer to be sure your oven is “really” 350 degrees F. Not all ovens heat to the temperature they display. Know your oven. If it’s baking lower than it’s set to it could cause the cookies to spread. 
  • Use fresh ingredients. If your eggs or baking powder are not fresh the cookies could spread. Be sure to use fresh ingredients. 

Freeze Baked, Undecorated Cookies

If you’re baking lots of sugar cookies for the holidays or for a cookie decorating party, you can freeze the baked cookies before decorating! Store them in airtight, freezer-friendly containers. If you’re stacking the cookies, separate the layers with parchment or wax paper! 

up close overhead view of a cut-out sugar cookie shaped like a Christmas tree on a cooling rack

Now, its’ time to make the sugar cookie frosting! I love this recipe because I have tweaked it to be perfect! It stays “wet” long enough for my kids to decorate all the cookies, but it still hardens (so the cookies can be stacked on a cookie tray) with a beautiful shine! 

Begin by mixing the milk, vanilla and corn syrup into the powdered sugar. Start with 3 TBS of milk and increase it if necessary to achieve your desired consistency. 

two overhead photos of a glass bowl. the left shows milk being added to powdered sugar and the right shows a hand stirring the sugar cookie frosting.

Add Food Coloring

If you want to make festive colors, add gel food coloring to the frosting. These squeeze bottle gel food colors are my all-time favorite and I highly recommend using them.

Put in Piping Bags

For Christmas I make red, green and white frosting and separate the colors into multiple disposable decorating bags (usually two for each color). We usually have our friends over to decorate, and I like to make sure all the kids can use a bag of frosting at the same time. 

two front view photos. the left shows a hand squeezing green food coloring into a bowl of white sugar cookie frosting. the right photo shows a hand mixing the green frosting with a blue spatula.

Decorate

Now that you have a plethora of cooled cookies and some beautiful frosting colors, it’s time to decorate! I recommend following these steps:

  1. Outline the sugar cookie shape with frosting
  2. Fill it in (mostly)
  3. Use the tip to spread the frosting to the “bare” areas
  4. Add sprinkles! If you plan on adding sprinkles, mini chocolate chips, etc., be sure to do so before the frosting begins to set! I usually frost two cookies, then add sprinkles! 
  5. Transfer to a large baking sheet or wire rack to set.
front view of a hand using a decorators bag to put green frosting on a tree-shaped sugar cookie

Let the Sugar Cookies Harden

Letting this sugar cookie recipe set is absolutely critical! If you touch the frosting before it has hardened you will make fingerprints in it and it will lose its luster. I recommend letting them set overnight before trying to stack them, or for at least 3 hours. 

You can speed up the hardening process by putting the cookies in the refrigerator. Or, if it’s a very cold December day, I usually set the cookies outside!

overhead view of a green Christmas tree sugar cookie with sprinkles

FAQs about Cut-Out Sugar Cookies

How do you store decorated sugar cookies?

Once the frosting is hardened, store the sugar cookies in an airtight container at room temperature. If you are stacking them, I recommend separating the layers with parchment paper or wax paper.  They hold up well on a cookie tray, just be sure to wrap it well in plastic wrap! 

How long do decorated sugar cookies stay fresh?

These sugar cookies stay fresh at room temperature for 2-3 weeks, as long as they are stored in an airtight container and not exposed to air! 

Can you freeze decorated sugar cookies?

Yes! They last up to two months in the freezer as long as they are stored in an airtight container and/or wrapped very well.

Can you freeze sugar cookie dough? 

Yes! You can freeze the dough in one of two ways: 
1) Freeze the wrapped discs of dough in an airtight, freezer-friendly container. When you’re ready, thaw the dough in the refrigerator overnight, roll and bake! 
2) Freeze cut cookie dough. Place cut cookie dough on a baking sheet and wrap it tightly with plastic wrap, cover it with foil and place it in the freezer. When ready to bake, let the cut cookies thaw at room temperature! 

How long do you chill sugar cookie dough?

This sugar cookie recipe needs to chill for at least two hours! You can chill it overnight too! If you are chilling longer than 2 hours I recommend putting the wrapped dough discs in an airtight container or ziplock bag to ensure no air can get to it and dry it out!

Can you re-roll the sugar cookie dough? 

After you roll & cut the sugar cookies you will have some scraps leftover. You absolutely can (and should) re-shape the dough into a flat disc, roll it out and cut more shapes. You can roll and cut the dough 3 times (two re-rolls), before it’s not a good idea anymore. That means, with the two discs you can roll and cut 6 times total (3 for each disc)! 

overhead view of a white, round plate with three rows of sugar cookies on it. The left row is five red and white stockings, the middle row is six green Christmas trees with sprinkles and the left row is seven small white stars with sprinkles.

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The Best Cut Out Sugar Cookie Recipe

Laura
The Best Cut Out Sugar Cookie Recipe! They are soft, chewy and don't spread! Plus an easy sugar cookie frosting that tastes great and hardens with a beautiful shine! Making these easy decorated sugar cookies has been our family's holiday baking tradition for 30 years!
5 from 1034 votes
Course cookies, Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 32 4″ cookies
Calories 111.3
Prep Time25 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Chilling time1 hour
Total Time1 hour 45 minutes

Ingredients 
 

Sugar Cookies:

Sugar Cookie Frosting

Instructions 

Make the Sugar Cookies:

  • Cream together butter and sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer.
  • Add vanilla and eggs and beat until combined.
  • Add flour, baking powder and salt and beat until combined.
  • Divide dough into two equal portions.
  • Shape each piece of dough into a round, flat disc and wrap tightly with plastic wrap.
  • Chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Line two to four large baking sheets with parchment paper, set aside.
  • Remove one sugar cookie dough disc from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for 5 minutes to soften slightly.
  • Place sugar cookie dough on a floured surface and roll to ½” or ¼” thickness (thicker = softer cookies).
  • Use your favorite cookie cutter shapes and cut out the dough and place them 1” apart on the prepared cookie sheets.
  • Repeat until all the dough is used. You can gather and re-roll the dough scraps two additional times (3 times total).

Decorate With Sprinkles Only (No Frosting)

  • Use a pastry brush and brush the cookies with a little bit of milk or cream. Then decorate with sprinkles, which will stick to the milk/cream.

Bake

  • Bake in the preheated oven for 9-10 minutes or until cookies are puffed and just set around the edges.
  • Remove and let sit on cookie sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Repeat with second disc of dough.

Make the sugar cookie frosting:

  • Combine all frosting ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk to combine.
  • Start with 2 TBS milk and increase until your desired consistency is achieved.
  • If using food coloring, separate frosting into smaller bowls and add food coloring to your liking.
  • Place each color in a disposable piping bag fitted with your tip of choice.
  • Once cookies are completely cooled, decorate cookies.
  • Let decorated cookies sit at room temperature for at least 3 hours, or until the frosting is completely hardened. Chilling them in the refrigerator helps speed up the setting process.
  • Store in an airtight container or on a plate wrapped in plastic wrap at room temperature or in the refrigerator.

Video

Notes

How to Measure Flour
I measure flour by scooping and leveling. To ensure perfect results measure flour using a food scale. I found the best results with this method using  2¾  all-purpose flour. Measured in grams with this method the amount of flour is 371 grams. 
*NOTE: The dough should not be “sticky.” 
The dough should not be sticky after the ingredients are mixed together. It should be soft and pliable but not sticky. It should easily be formed into two round discs. If the dough is sticky it could be that your eggs were larger than normal and added more moisture to the dough. I recommend adding more flour 1 TBS at a time until the dough is soft but not sticky. 
To decorate with sprinkles without frosting: 
  • If desired, brush cookies with milk or cream and decorate with sprinkles before baking.
Store
  • Once the frosting is hardened, store the sugar cookies in an airtight container at room temperature. If you are stacking them, I recommend separating the layers with parchment paper or wax paper.  They hold up well on a cookie tray, just be sure to wrap it well in plastic wrap! 
Freeze
  • Decorated sugar cookies last up to two months in the freezer as long as they are stored in an airtight container and/or wrapped very well.
  • Undecorated sugar cookies (baked but not frosted) can last even longer in the freezer. Just thaw them at room temperature before decorating. 
Ingredient Substitution notes.
  • Salted butter. unsalted butter is a good substitute.
  • Granulated sugar. use white sugar or organic cane sugar
  • Vanilla extract. Please always use pure vanilla extract (not imitation) for the best results. You could substitute 1 tsp of the vanilla extract with another extract (almond, lemon, etc.) to give the sugar cookies a different flavor.
  • Eggs. Make sure your eggs are fresh and at room temperature! To get them to room temperature fast, simply put them in a bowl of warm water.
  • All-purpose flour. If your flour is a little lumpy you may want to sift it. You can use pastry flour or bread flour with great results as well! You could also use all-purpose gluten-free flour!
  • Whole Milk. heavy cream and half and half are good substitutes.
  • Light Corn Syrup. If you want beautiful, shiny tops that harden perfectly you really cannot leave out the corn syrup in this recipe.
  • Gel Food Coloring. I suggest using gel food coloring! The colors are vibrant and it doesn’t effect the texture of the frosting.
    • These AmeriColor Gel Food Colors have become my absolute favorite! I LOVE the squeeze bottle because they are not messy and don’t dry out. 

Nutrition

Serving: 1cookie | Calories: 111.3kcal | Carbohydrates: 13.2g | Protein: 1.4g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 3.7g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1.6g | Cholesterol: 27.1mg | Sodium: 89.9mg | Potassium: 19mg | Fiber: 0.3g | Sugar: 6.3g | Vitamin A: 200IU | Calcium: 9mg | Iron: 0.4mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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369 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Can I freeze the dough for later use? I always use this receipe. Everyone raves about my cut out cookies and I have you to thank.

  2. 5 stars
    I’ve used this recipe over and over and it’s never failed! I make one slight alteration which is subbing one teaspoon of vanilla for one of almond but otherwise I follow it exactly and I always get raves! Thank you!