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!
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!
How do you make the best Sugar Cookie Recipe?
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!
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!
Make the Sugar Cookie Dough
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!
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!
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.
Chill the 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!
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 freeze sugar cookie dough?
Yes! You can freeze the dough in one of two ways:
- 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!
- 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!
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 ¼ to ½" thick. Choose a thickness that suits your tastes, thicker cookies will be softer!
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!
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)!
Kids' crazy cookie
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!
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!
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!
Make the Sugar Cookie Frosting
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.
Add food coloring!
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.
Now that you have a plethora of cooled cookies and some beautiful frosting colors, it's time to decorate! I recommend following these steps:
- Outline the sugar cookie shape with frosting
- Fill it in (mostly)
- Use the tip to spread the frosting to the "bare" areas
- 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!
- Transfer to a large baking sheet or wire rack to set.
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!
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.
Cut Out Sugar Cookie Recipe: Ingredients
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!
Sugar Cookie Recipe Ingredients
- Salted butter. Using butter gives these cookies the absolute best taste and texture! They literally melt in your mouth! I like using salted butter because it helps balance out the sweetness of these sugar cookies! You can use unsalted butter, you may just need to add a touch more sea salt!
- Granulated sugar. I bake with organic cane sugar, but regular granulated sugar works perfectly! I do not recommend using brown sugar or many substitutions for the sugar in this recipe!
- 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!
Sugar Cookie Frosting Ingredients
- Powdered Sugar. there is no substitute for the powdered sugar in this sugar cookie frosting recipe! It's critical!
- Milk. Any milk works well in this recipe! I typically use 2% or whole milk. If you only have half and half or heavy cream on hand you could use those, however you will likely need to increase the amount!
- Light Corn Syrup. If you want beautiful, shiny tops that harden perfectly you really cannot leave out the corn syrup in this recipe. It's a must!
- Vanilla extract. Any extract will do! I think vanilla tastes the best!
- Gel Food Coloring. I only pull out the food coloring for special occasions, like birthdays (to make my kids their favorite cakes using this vanilla frosting recipe) and Christmas. But we have enough people in our family that I always have food coloring on hand! And I ONLY ever use 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.
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The Best Cut Out Sugar Cookie Recipe
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).
To decorate without frosting (only do this if you want to add sprinkles to the sugar cookies without using 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 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.
*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.
- 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!
Can you freeze sugar cookies?
- Yes! Decorate 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.
More of our favorite cookie recipes:
- Classic snickerdoodles!
- The BEST Chocolate Chip Cookies EVER!
- The Best Soft Peanut Butter cookies
- The BEST Oatmeal Cookies Ever!
- The BEST Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies (EVER)!
- Soft & Chewy Gingerbread Cookies
- Flourless peanut butter blossoms
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