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Classic Sugar Cookies

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Super soft sugar cookies that won’t spread and are perfect for decorating with icing. This easy recipe comes together quick and only needs a handful of ingredients.

decorated sugar cookies on grey plate

It’s cooking decorating season and I’m celebrating with a tried and true classic sugar cookie recipe! It’s a simple recipe that takes no time at all to whip up. And needs minimal time to chill before rolling and cutting into shapes.

These cookies are so soft and tender, they practically melt in your mouth. I don’t know about you but I just love a soft sugar cookie.

I like my cutout cookies to be on the thinner side but you can make yours thicker if desired. Keep in mind the thicker they are, the fewer cookies the recipe will yield.

The dough is also sturdy enough that the cookies won’t spread too much during baking. It’s the worst feeling to spend time cutting out cookies with intricate patterns only to have them bake into unrecognizable blobs. That won’t happen with my recipe!

Decorate the cookies with my best tasting sugar cookie icing and you’ll have a festive treat for any holiday celebration.


Why this recipe works

  • Powdered sugar is used in combination with granulated sugar to help keep the cookies soft. The use of powdered sugar comes from my shortbread cookies.
  • Butter and egg are the fats used to give a rich buttery flavor to the cookies.
  • The ratio of flour to butter and sugar is what gives the cookies their soft texture. They also hold their shape and don’t taste dry.
close up of classic sugar cookies cut out in stars, candy canes, Christmas trees

I adore sugar cookies. They are simple, sweet, and have a subtle hint of vanilla. For the very best flavor use pure vanilla or my homemade vanilla.

The simplicity of the recipe is also enticing. The dough whips up in just a few minutes and only requires about an hour of refrigeration before rolling to make cutout cookies.

These cookies are so perfect on their own. They don’t need frosting. But, they bake up sturdy with flat surfaces for decorating. They’ll also stay soft for days and hold up well when frozen.


Ingredients

Let’s go over what ingredients you’ll need to make the best homemade sugar cookies.

  • Flour: A standard all-purpose flour is best and baking powder is the leavening agent needed.
  • Sugar: Powdered sugar and granulated sugar work together to keep the cookies soft and moist.
  • Fats: Unsalted butter gives the dough a rich buttery flavor and egg binds everything together.
  • Flavoring: Vanilla extract adds extra flavor while salt balances the overall flavor profile.

How to make sugar cookies

I experimented quite a bit before getting the fabulous results with this recipe.

Note: This is a cut out sugar cookie recipe! But you can roll the dough into balls instead of using cookie cutters. Roll the cookie dough balls in granulated sugar and flatten them to ¼ to ½-inch thick with the bottom of a drinking glass.

close up of decorated Christmas sugar cookies

Step 1: Make the dough

The dough comes together in a matter of minutes. Just make sure the butter and egg are at room temperature before you begin. Set them out about one hour ahead of time.

Combine the flour and baking powder in a small bowl. Stir with a whisk until well incorporated.

Cream the butter, granulated sugar, and powdered sugar together with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy. Beat in the salt, egg, and vanilla until well combined.

process shots showing butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla being mixed together

Add all of the flour mixture and mix on low speed just until incorporated. Don’t overmix the dough as this will cause the cookies to be tough.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm. This should only take about one hour.

process shots showing flour being mixed into sugar cookie dough and disks of dough wrapped in plastic wrap

Step 2: Roll and cut out shapes

Once the dough has chilled long enough to firm up, it’s time to roll it out.

Very lightly flour your work surface and roll the dough out to about ⅙ – ½ inch thickness. The cookies pictured are ⅙-inch thick. I like using this rolling pin for rolling out cookie dough. It has guides to help get the dough to the desired thickness.

If you make thicker cookies, you’ll have fewer cookies. Also, thicker cookies may take a couple of minutes longer to bake.

Use a 3-inch cookie cutter to cut desired shapes out of the dough.

Gather scraps, reroll, and continue cutting. If the dough gets too warm, it may become difficult to handle. Just pop it in the fridge for a few minutes until it firms back up.

sugar cookie dough cut out with cookie cutters

Step 3: Bake the cookies

Place the cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake them for 10-12 minutes at 325°F. The lower temperature prevents the cookies from turning brown but it takes a few extra minutes for them to bake through.

Remember if your cookies are thicker, they will need to bake a little longer.

Let the cookies cool on the pan for about 5 minutes then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

tray of unbaked sugar cookies next to tray of baked sugar cookies

How to decorate sugar cookies

While these cookies taste amazing on their own, you may wish to decorate them for a holiday or fun celebration. Here a few ideas to get you started.

Add colored sugar or sprinkles. You can sprinkle the unbaked cookies with colored sugar or sprinkles just before baking.

Frost them. Use my favorite sugar cookie icing, cream cheese frosting, or any of my buttercream frostings.

Tips for success

  • Measure the flour correctly. This is often the reason why recipes don’t turn out as intended. For precise measuring, use a scale. Gram measurements are included in the recipe to make it easier.
  • Use quality butter and vanilla. These are the two main flavors in the cookies and quality will make all the difference.
  • Use parchment paper instead of a silicone mat to line the baking pans. Sometimes those mats can build up with grease that refuses to wash off. This will cause the cookies to spread.
  • Don’t overbake the cookies. This will dry the cookies out and they won’t be as soft. Bake just until set and the edges are pale golden.
cut out sugar cookies scattered on a white background

Storing & freezing sugar cookies

To store: Place the cookies in an airtight container and store at room temperature for up to 5 days. Or in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.

To Freeze: Plain or decorated cookies will keep for up to 3 months in the freezer. Once the icing is dry, layer with sheets of parchment paper in a freezer-safe container. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight or set the cookies out to thaw at room temperature.

This easy sugar cookie recipe can also be made ahead of time! Prepare the dough and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. Keep it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days before baking.

When you’re ready to roll out the dough, allow it to soften slightly beforehand. This will take about 20 minutes at room temperature. If the dough is too cold and stiff, it will crack and break when you try to roll it.

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decorated sugar cookies on grey plate

Sugar Cookies

Yield: 45 cookies
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 12 minutes
Chill TIme: 1 hour
Total Time: 2 hours 12 minutes

Soft, light-textured classic sugar cookies that don't spread and are perfect for cut-outs and decorating. The number of cookies this recipe yields will depend on how thick you roll out the dough and the size of the cookie cutters used.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (260 g) all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¾ cup (170 g) unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup (100 g) granulated sugar
  • ½ cup (60 g) confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Add the flour and baking powder to a medium bowl and stir with a whisk to combine. Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or using a handheld electric mixer, beat the butter, granulated sugar, and powdered sugar together on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  3. Beat in the salt, egg, and vanilla until well combined.
  4. Add all of the flour mixture and beat on low speed just until incorporated. Take care not to overmix.
  5. Divide the dough in half and scoop each half onto a square of plastic wrap. Wrap tightly and smash gently to flatten. Refrigerate the dough for 1 hour or until firm.
  6. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line 4 baking sheets with parchment paper and set them aside.
  7. Working with one disk of dough at a time, roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to ⅙ - ½ inch thickness. Use 3-inch cookie cutters to cut out desired shapes. Gather scraps and reroll until all the dough has been used. You may need to refrigerate the dough periodically if it becomes too soft to handle. Wrap it in plastic wrap so it doesn't dry out.
  8. Place the cookie dough cut-outs 1-inch apart on the prepared baking sheets.
  9. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the cookies are set and the edges are lightly golden brown.
  10. Cool the cookies on the pan for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Once cooled, decorated as desired.

Notes

  1. Measure the flour correctly. This is often the reason why recipes don't turn out as intended. For precise measuring, use a scale. Gram measurements are included in the recipe to make it easier.
  2. Use quality butter and vanilla. These are the two main flavors in the cookies and quality will make all the difference.
  3. Use parchment paper instead of a silicone mat to line the baking pans. Sometimes those mats can build up with grease that refuses to wash off. This will cause the cookies to spread.
  4. Don't overbake the cookies. This will dry the cookies out and they won't be as soft. Bake just until set and the edges are pale golden.

Make-ahead tips

  • Make ahead: After wrapping the dough in plastic wrap, it can be kept refrigerated for up to 3 days before rolling, cutting, and baking. Allow the dough to soften slightly at room temperature before rolling it out or it will be too stiff.
  • Storage: Place the cookies in an airtight container and store at room temperature for up to 5 days. Or in the refrigerator for up to 10 days. (Make sure the icing is dry and layer with parchment paper.)
  • Freezing the dough: Double wrap the dough in plastic wrap and place it in a freezer-safe container or zip-top bag and freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight then allow the dough to soften slightly at room temperature before rolling it out.
  • Freezing: Plain or decorated cookies will keep for up to 3 months in the freezer. Once the icing is dry, layer with sheets of parchment paper in a freezer-safe container. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight or set the cookies out to thaw at room temperature.

Recommended Products

As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 45 Serving Size: 1 cookie
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 63Total Fat: 3gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 12mgSodium: 31mgCarbohydrates: 8gFiber: 0gSugar: 3gProtein: 1g

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet. Since different brands of ingredients have different nutritional information, the values shown are just an estimate.

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11/22/2020 This post has been updated with a new recipe, photos, and copy. If you’re looking for the original Crisco® Sugar Cookies recipe, it can be found on the Crisco® website.

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