Sugar cookies are one of the best treats for any occasion, but they can be a challenge to make. Search for cut out sugar cookies recipe on the internet and you’ll literally find millions of options – but it’s still way too easy to end up with dry, tough sugar cookies. And no one wants that!
After years of analyzing and testing sugar cookie recipes, I’ve finally found the recipe that works every time with great results! Best of all it’s so simple, you can easily pull together a batch of these goodies in an afternoon.
What Makes this the Best Cut Out Sugar Cookies Recipe
- The same dough can be adapted for soft sugar cookies or crisp sugar cookies
- The cookies hold their shape – even with intricate designs like snowflakes,
- They’re delicious on their own or baked with sprinkles on top, but are also the perfect surface for our favorite easy sugar cookie icing.
What You’ll Need:
- All purpose flour
- Baking powder
- Ground cloves
- Table salt
- Unsalted butter
- Granulated sugar
- Vanilla extract
- Almond extract
- Sprinkles and/or frosting
Why we chose these ingredients:
All Purpose flour is readily available, and has a lower protein content than other baking flours, which helps to reduce cookie spreading.
Granulated sugar crystallizes more than powdered sugar and helps to create those crispy edges we all love.
Unsalted butter allows you to control exactly how much salt is in you recipe.
Almond extract and ground cloves are optional, but give the cookies a warm flavor that is perfect for the holiday season.
To make things even easier for you, I created a simple photo guide below. For all measurements and a more detailed guide, check out the recipe card at the bottom of this page.
Step 1 – Whisk together the flour, baking powder, cloves, and salt. Set aside.
Step 2 – Cream the softened butter and granulated sugar together on high speed until completely smooth and creamy, about two minutes.
Step 3 – Add the egg, vanilla extract, and almond extract (if using) and beat on high speed until combined, about one minute.
Step 4 – Add half dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix on low until combined. Repeat with remaining dry ingredients. Dough may be crumbly. If necessary, you can knead the dough with your hands a bit to help it stick together.
Step 5 – Separate the dough into two medium sized balls. Place each ball between two sheets of parchment paper. Press down gently to create a disk of dough between the sheets.
Step 6 – Roll the dough balls into 1/4 inch sheets. (see tips below for adapting the thickness to create crispier cookies) Place the dough sheets on a cookie pan and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
Step 7 – Preheat your oven to 375˚F (190˚C). Use cookie cutters to cut your chilled sugar cookie dough into your desired shapes. Re-roll scraps to cut out additional shapes if desired. (Make sure to keep the dough well chilled before baking.)
Step 8 – Place cut out sugar cookies on parchment lined baking sheets 1-2 inches apart. Bake until the edges are golden in color, about 5-10 minutes.
Step 9 – Remove the cookies from the oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet for 5. Move the cookies to a cooling rack to completely cool before decorating.
Essential Tips and FAQ:
Don’t skip these tips – read them before assembling to avoid any potential mistakes.
Make sure your butter is softened to room temperature
You want the butter to be soft enough that it gives when you press on it, but not to the point of melting.
I have successfully softened butter in the microwave by keeping it to 10 second intervals at a low temperature, but it’s very easy to accidentally end up with melted butter.
Finish the dough by gently kneading with your hands.
Overworked cookie dough contributes to tough cookies.
You can use your electric mixer to combine the wet and dry ingredients just until the point when they are combined. However, the dough will likely still be crumbly.
At that point, I like to massage the dough by hand to help it come together.
Roll the cookie dough between two sheets of parchment paper
Most cut out cookie recipes call for rolling the dough on a floured surface. The problem with that is that the extra flour gets worked into the dough, making your cookies dry, bland, and tough.
That’s why I like to roll out my cookie dough between two sheets of parchment paper. (You can also use wax paper or plastic wrap if that’s what you have)
To make it easier to roll, press down on the top piece of parchment paper until the dough ball underneath is slightly flatteened into a fat disk. Then continue rolling the dough out with the rolling pin on top of the parchment paper.
This way you’re not messing with the proportions of dry and wet ingredients. (You’re also keeping your counters and rolling pin cleaner…which is a huge win in my book.)
Bake similar sized cookies together
It’s best if all your cookies are roughly the same size on each sheet. This will help make sure they bake up evenly.
Otherwise, if you mix small cut out cookies with large cut out cookies on the same sheet the small cookies will end up overcooked and tough, or the large cookies will end up underbaked.
How to Keep Cookie Dough from Spreading
There’s nothing worse than following a cut out cookie recipe only to find that they’ve spread out into one giant cookie mess. It’s like your hard work was for nothing.
Here are a few quick tips to make sure your cut out sugar cookies always keep their shape:
- Bake at a higher temperature. At lower temperatures, the butter and sugar have more time to melt and spread. In our tests, we found that the sweet spot was right at 375˚F. This helps the cookies ‘set’ their shape before they finish baking.
- Make sure your cookie dough is cold as it goes into the oven. This also helps to reduce the amount of time that the butter and sugar have to melt. I like to put my tray of cut out cookie dough in the refrigerator for a few minutes before baking.
- Don’t overdo it when creaming the butter and sugar. Whipping too much air into your butter and sugar will make your cookies collapse and spread.
- Bake on parchment paper. More fat in your cookie recipe = more spreading. And even a layer of grease on your pan will make your cookies spread more. Parchment paper not only prevents spreading, but it also keeps your pans cleaner. Win win!
How to Adapt the Cookie Dough
This cookie dough will make thin and crispy sugar cookies and sugar cookies with slightly crisp edges and soft centers. Here’s how:
For crispy sugar cookies – Roll your dough closer to 1/8 of an inch and bake until the edges are a golden brown.
For sugar cookies with softer centers and slight crisp edges – Roll the cookie dough no less than 1/4 of an inch thick and bake until the edges are just starting to brown.
How long will the cookies last?
These sugar cookies stay fresh at room temperature for for 3-5 days if they are stored in an airtight container.
If you’re decorating your sugar cookies (we like this easy sugar cookie icing), make sure the icing is completely hardened before stacking. You may also want to place a piece of parchment paper or wax paper between the layers to prevent sticking.
Can you freeze sugar cookie dough?
Absolutely! Wrap your rolled sugar cookie dough discs tightly in plastic wrap and covered with foil before placing in the freezer. (I like to free the discs on a cookie sheet first to make sure they maintain their shape)
When ready to bake allow the dough to thaw at room temperature before cutting, cooling, and baking according to the recipe.
Giving your cut out sugar cookies away as gifts? Don’t forget to add a cute printable tag to your tin or favor bag so everyone will know that you made these amazing cookies.
If you liked this cut out sugar cookies recipe you’re going to love these tasty treats:
- Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe – My favorite cookie of all time, tested and perfected over 9 years
- Double Chocolate Chip Cookies – This chocoholic friendly recipe bakes up with a slightly crispy exterior and sweet, tender center. Don’t forget to check out the adaptations for this recipe to make three kinds of cookies with just one dough.
- Soft and Chewy Almond Macaroons – Always a favorite, almond macaroons are perfect when you’re looking for a small batch cookie.
- Lemon Cake Mix Cookies – No chilling necessary, and full of bright, citrusy flavor.
Or you can check out all my dessert recipes right here.
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup butter, softened to room temperature and cubed
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 egg
- 2.25 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 teaspoon almond extract
- Sugar Cookie Icing and Sprinkles
- Whisk together the 3 cups all purpose flour, baking powder, cloves, and salt. Set aside.
- Cream 1 cup softened butter cubes and 1 cup granulated sugar on high speed until completely smooth and creamy. About 2-5 minutes.
- Add 1 egg, 2.25 teaspoons vanilla extract, and 3/4 teaspoon almond extract (if using) and beat on high speed until combined, about one minute.
- Add half dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix on low until combined. Repeat with remaining dry ingredients. Dough may be crumbly. If necessary, you can knead the dough with your hands a bit to help it stick together.
- Separate the dough into two medium sized balls. Place each dough ball between two sheets of parchment paper. Press down gently to create disks of dough between the sheets.
- Roll the dough balls into 1/4 inch sheets. (see post for adapting the thickness to create crispier cookies.) Place the dough sheets on a cookie pan and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
- Preheat your oven to 375˚F (190˚C) and prepare cookie sheets with parchment paper. Use cookie cutters to cut your chilled sugar cookie dough into your desired shapes. Re-roll scraps to cut out additional shapes if desired. (Make sure to keep the dough well chilled before baking.)
- Place cut out sugar cookies on parchment lined baking sheets 1-2 inches apart. Bake until the edges are golden in color, about 5-10 minutes.
- Remove the cookies from the oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes. Move the cookies to a cooling rack to completely cool before decorating.
Remember, the step-by-step photos and FAQ in the recipe post are there to help you if you feel stuck at any point.
- We like to decorate our cookies with this easy sugar cookie icing and some pretty sprinkles.
- You want the butter to be soft enough that it gives when you press on it, but not to the point of melting.
- Make sure your cookie dough is cold as it goes into the oven. I like to put my tray of cut out cookie dough in the refrigerator for a few minutes before baking.
- It's best if all your cookies are roughly the same size on each sheet. This will help make sure they bake up evenly.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 117Total Fat: 6gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 19mgSodium: 84mgCarbohydrates: 15gFiber: 0gSugar: 7gProtein: 1g
__________________________________ The nutrition information provided above is estimated using an automated calculation system. Actual nutrition will vary depending on brand and measurements used in your recipe. To obtain the most accurate representation of the nutrition information for any given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information using the actual ingredients you used in your recipe.
This post was originally published on December 8, 2014. It has been updated with step-by-step photos, helpful tips, and a complete recipe