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The BEST Cut-Out Sugar Cookie Recipe!
These sugar cookies are easy to make, taste fantastic, and hold their shape when baked.
I may not be the best cookie decorator, but I am an expert cut-out sugar cookie maker.
What makes a good sugar cookie recipe?
- A good sugar cookie recipe is one that you can depend on each and every time you make it. No matter which cookie cutter you use, these sugar cookies will hold their shape. You don’t have to worry if the design is intricate or detailed, you’re going to love the results.
- Also, the cookie should taste rich and buttery, not too sweet, bland or flavorless. Our sugar cookie uses includes both vanilla and almond extracts. This simple combination elevates the flavor making it interesting and memorable.
- If desired substitute the almond extract with peppermint, coconut, or even lemon extract. Be sure to use plenty of vanilla, too!
- In addition to the rich creamy butter, our recipe calls for one ounce of cream cheese. This adds a nice tang to the flavor and helps perfect the texture of our sugar cookies.
- Finally, the best test for a good sugar cookie is to taste before decorating or icing. These cookies are great eaten plain and unadorned.
Can this cookie dough be made ahead?
This cookie dough requires at least 8 hours of refrigeration before being rolled out. However, once mixed, the cook dough can be refrigerated for up to three days before being cut and baked.
Can you freeze this cut-out sugar cookie recipe?
Cut and baked sugar cookies freeze beautifully! Seal the undecorated cookies in an airtight container and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature and decorate as desired.
How long will these cookie last once decorated?
Undecorated cookies will keep at room temperature for at least a week. Cookies decorated with a simple water glaze also keep well at room temperature for a week. Cookies glazed with a milk or cream based icing should be kept in the refrigerator, but also stay fresh for about a week.
If the icing is allowed to set completely before packing, these cookie ship well, too. That makes these a great holiday gift for loved ones!
How to make Sugar Cookies Recipe
You’ll need the following ingredients to make these cookies:
- unsalted butter, room temperature
- cream cheese, softened
- granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- vanilla extract
- almond extract
- all-purpose flour
- baking powder
The cookie dough comes together in minutes:
- Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, beat together the room temperature butter and cream cheese in a large bowl. Add the sugar, then the egg and extracts.
- In a second bowl whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder and salt.
- Add half the flour mixture to the butter and sugar. Once blended, add the remaining flour mixture.
- Divide the dough in half and form each into a thick round. Seal in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to 3 days.
- Once you have chilled the dough, roll one half to the desired thickness.
- Cut out shapes using a sharp cookie cutter and place on baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Bake, cool and decorate with your favorite sugar cookie icing!
I always loved moms sugar cookie recipe, but they spread just a little more than I wanted.
These sugar cookies aren’t stiff or hard to eat, and don’t soften too much after they’re decorated.
Our granddaughter Jayden loves to decorate cookies during Christmas. Since she loved it so much, I thought it’d be fun to make cookies with her for her 3rd birthday. Then, I got an idea to create a cookie bouquet with the cookie flowers.
I took some of the decorated cookies and “glued” cake ball sticks on the back with a little royal icing. Next I added florist style styrofoam blocks to a watering can for stability, and a little Easter basket grass to cover.
Jayden wasn’t sure about eating cookies that came on a stick. But, once I removed the center of the flower and the stick, she was happy to eat the cookie. 🙂
These cookies are the perfect consistency for creating your own cookie bouquet!
We use a simple powdered sugar glaze to decorate.
Make small batches
I usually make this glaze in very small batches adding more sugar if needed to thicken, or boiling water too thin. Once the desired consistency is reached, pipe a thicker line around the edges of the cookie to create an outline. The remaining glaze is thinned slightly with hot water, then pipped to fill in the decoration.
During the holidays when I make these cookies for the kids to decorate, I make the glaze a little thicker and spread it on with a knife. The iced cookies are handed off to the kids to be sprinkled. The thicker glaze is a little less messy.
Our family loves this simple glaze icing because it adds the right amount of sweetness without being thick and overpowering. It also dries beautifully preserving the decoration – bonus!
For the honey bee cookies we used a dip-able glaze.
The tops of the cookies were dipped into a glaze made with powdered sugar, milk, and food color.
Beat together powdered sugar and a little milk or cream to create a dip-able icing. Hold the cookie with two fingers on the edges, top facing down. Dip the entire cookie top into the bowl of icing, then allow the excess to drip back in the bowl. If the icing is too thick, add more milk, if it is too thin, add more sugar.
Place the cookie icing side up on a wire rack and allow it to set completely before decorating. Or, if adding sprinkles, decorate while the glaze is still wet.
How thick should the dough be for a good sized cookie?
Looking for a chocolate sugar cookie recipe?
TIPS and suggestions for Cut-Out Sugar Cookie Recipe success:
- Substitute additional vanilla for the almond extract if desired. Vanilla beans or vanilla bean paste is also great in these cookies.
- Use good quality butter, softened at room temperature.
- If the cookie dough starts to split or crack when rolling out, it’s just a little too cold. Let it rest another minute to warm and try again.
- After rolling scraps a few times, the extras may become a little too soft to use. Place the dough scraps on a plate in the refrigerator for a few minutes before rolling again.
- The bottom of the cookie should be lightly browned and just starting to show color around the edges.
- Don’t put unbaked cookies on a hot cookie sheet until ready to bake. It will cause them to spread too much. I love using a rimless baking sheet so I can slide parchment paper on and off the pan easily.
- Baking time will vary depending on the size, thickness and width of the cookies. Test a few cookies for proper baking times before making an entire pan.
- Baked, cooled cookies can be frozen for up to 3 months. You can even thaw and then refreeze plain, unfrosted cookies with good results.
Glaze and decorate:
- For a simple icing or glaze we use a mixture of powdered sugar, vanilla and boiling water, milk or cream. Mix until smooth and spread on the baked, cooled cookies. You can also dip the tops of the cookies into the icing for a smoother coat.
- Add more sugar or water as needed for desired consistency. Make icing in small batches as it dries quickly.
- You can easily double the recipe and cut out different shapes for the current and the next upcoming holidays. Make Christmas cookies and Valentine’s hearts at the same time. Freeze the hearts for later!
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Cut-Out Sugar Cookie Recipe
- 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (226g)
- 1 ounce cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar (222g)
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon almond extract (optional)
- 2 ¾ to 3 cups all-purpose flour (352g to 378g)
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- In a large mixing bowl beat butter and cream cheese together with an electric mixer until well blended. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the egg, vanilla and almond extract and beat until combined.
- In a small bowl whisk together 2 ¾ cups flour, baking powder and salt. Add half the flour mixture to the butter and sugar and blend on low until incorporated. Add the final half of the flour mixture and beat until a soft dough forms. Add up to 1/4 cup additional flour if needed, 1-tablespoon at a time until the dough is soft and no longer sticky. For best results, do not exceed a total of 3 cups of flour.
- Gather the dough into a ball and cut in half. Press one half of the dough into a thick round and wrap in a large piece of plastic wrap. Repeat with the remaining half of the dough. Refrigerate the two discs for at least 8 hours, or up to two days.
- When ready to bake, remove one disc of cookie dough from the refrigerator and allow it rest at room temperature for 15-20 minutes for easier rolling. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
- Roll out the dough on a well floured, clean work surface to ¼-inch thick. Using a cookie cutter, cut the dough into the desired shapes and place the cookies 2-inches apart on a cool baking pan. Repeat until the pan is full. Bake for 8 to 12 minutes (depending on the size and thickness of the cookies) or until very lightly browned around the edges and bottom. For best results, do not over-bake! Cool on the pan for 3-4 minutes then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Frost the cookies with your favorite glaze, royal icing or buttercream.
- Substitute additional vanilla for the almond extract if desired. Vanilla bean paste is also a great option for these cookies.
- When rolling out the cookie dough if it starts to split or crack, it’s just a little too cold. Let it rest another minute and try again.
- After rolling scraps a few times, the extras may become a little too soft to use. Place the scraps of dough in the refrigerator for a few minutes before rolling again.
- Do not put unbaked cookies on a hot cookie sheet until ready to bake. It will cause them to spread.
- DO NOT OVER-BAKE! The bottoms should be very lightly browned and just starting to show color around the edges. Baking time will vary depending on the size and width of the cookies.
- Baked, cooled cookies can be frozen for up to 3 months. I’ve even thawed and refrozen plain unfrosted cookies with good results.
- GLAZE: For a simple glaze we use powdered sugar, a drop or two of vanilla and boiling water, milk or cream. Mix until smooth and spread on cooled cookies. Add more sugar or liquid as needed for desired thickness. I make this in small batches as it dries quickly.
- To decorate the cookies I use a small batch of Royal Icing. Wilton makes a good meringue powder with instructions for Royal Icing on the container that is very easy. No egg whites needed!
Originally published March 2011, updated June 2020
For historical purposes – here’s Mom’s original sugar cookie recipe:
- 1 pound butter, room temperature
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 5 cups all-purpose flour