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Cut-Out Sugar Cookies

cut out sugar cookies
The Perfect Sugar Cookie Recipe!

In this post you will receive all of the information you need to make the ultimate cut-out sugar cookies.

If someone gave me a nickel for every single one of these Cut-Out Sugar Cookies I’ve made over the past 8 years I would be a wealthy woman, indeed. Talk about the perfect sugar cookie!

This is an original recipe. I came up with it over a period of months of trial and error with other recipes that simply didn’t work for me.

Sugar Cookies Perfect for Every Occasion

This sugar cookie recipe has made its way to hundreds of homes over the years and has been enjoyed by brides, grooms, graduates, toddlers, elderly, and everyone in-between! It’s a sturdy but soft sugar cookie, unlike most traditional traditional recipes. Best of all, it’s easy to make and so fun to decorate with my Easy Royal Icing!

Whether you’re making Christmas cookies, Valentines cookies, or Halloween cookies, this cut-out sugar cookie recipe is perfect every time! If you’re looking for a soft sugar cookie that holds its shape, you’ve found it!

I Threw Away a Lot of Bad Cookies

I’m not exaggerating when I say that it took me months to come up with this sugar cookie recipe. I tried some that fell off their edges, some were too soft, others were too hard, some were too sweet, others came close, but weren’t quite right. Then one day I decided to substitute powdered sugar for some of the granulated sugar.

Bingo!

The Magic Sugar Cookie Formula!

I finally hit on the magic formula. Just soft enough to melt in the mouth, just firm enough to cut flat and hold its shape (no matter which cookie cutter I chose or how tiny the design), just sweet enough to be nibbled on without icing, but not too sweet once the royal icing was added.

And, unlike many recipes, this one only calls for one (extra large) egg, which helps the texture, as well.

. . .if I do say so, myself! You know how sometimes you’re at a wedding or shower and you’re given a gorgeous cookie as a take-home treat, but it doesn’t taste very good? Well, you will never say that about this cookie. It’s absolutely delicious, especially once that royal icing goes on!

This Sugar Cookie Recipe is Magic. . .or Almost!

So, what does this magic formula look like? Let’s start with the ingredients. They’re basic and probably hiding in your fridge and pantry at this very moment!

INGREDIENTS FOR CUT-OUT SUGAR COOKIES

  • salted (yes, salted) butter (room temperature)
  • granulated sugar
  • powdered sugar
  • extra-large egg (room temperature)
  • all-purpose flour
  • baking powder
  • vanilla extract
  • almond extract

That’s it! All things you probably have on-hand! And best of all, this easy-breezy sugar cookie dough comes together quickly.

How Many Sugar Cookies will This Recipe Make?

This depends on your cutters but I usually count on about 25-30 for medium cutters. This batch made 27 hearts.

Ready to Try my Cut-Out Sugar Cookie Recipe?

Even if you’ve never made Cut-Out Sugar Cookies before, you can do it today. No, really! They’re that easy.

How to Make Cut-Out Sugar Cookies

Start by making sure you’re working with room temperature butter. Cold butter will cause problems in your dough.

If you need a quick tip to get it to soften, here it is! Stand the butter stick up on its side and put a hot glass over it for a few minutes. Side note: I use salted butter but you’re welcome to use unsalted. You will need to add a pinch of salt to the recipe, though.

how to soften butter
How to soften butter

It’ll soften right away! Take your butter and add it to your mixing bowl. (A stand mixer works best for this recipe, as the finished dough is very firm!) Cream the butter until it lightens in color and is fluffy.

softened butter
Softened butter

Now it’s time to add your sugars. I usually put both in at once.

cookie dough in mixer
butter and sugar, mixed

Now, add that egg. I usually put the extracts in at this point, too. I think it blends in better before adding the dry ingredients.

butter and sugar whipped
Yummm!

Time to Add the Dry Ingredients to the Wet Ingredients!

If you’re working with a hand mixer you’ll have quite the workout! I use my stand mixer with the paddle attachment.

Add the dry ingredients and mix well at a low speed so the flour doesn’t come shooting out of the bowl! (This is when the stand mixer comes in handy!)

cookie dough
cookie dough

SIDE NOTE: I know you’re asking, “Do I sift this flour before adding it?” I don’t, y’all. That might be because I’m a little on the lazy side. Or, it might be because I’ve found that this cookie simply doesn’t need it. Sometimes I will put the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and whisk them together but usually I just dump it all right in. That’s how I roll.

It’s Time to Chill the Sugar Cookie Dough

I always put my dough in a zip-lock baggie and flatten it, then let it chill for a while. If I have the time I put it into the refrigerator for about half an hour. I’ve learned, though, that the freezer works, too. I limit my freezer time to 10 minutes or so. You want it to be cold, but not solid (or it will be hard to roll).

If you don’t have freezer bags, just wrap in plastic wrap or place in an airtight container. Make sure the dough is not exposed.

Just Roll with It!

(Hint: This happens to be the name of my baking devotional: Just Roll With It!)

It’s time to roll out your dough.

I confess, I got busy making my royal icing (colored with gel food coloring, of course) and left my dough in the freezer for about 20 minutes, so it was a little hard to work with (and left wrinkles in the top after rolling). I didn’t really care, since I knew I would be covering these with royal icing, but if you plan to skip the decorations you’ll want to pay more attention to the time!

How I Roll out my Cut-Out Sugar Cookies

Some people use a floured surface, which is fine, but I’ve discovered the “doubled wax paper” method works best for me and leaves behind zero mess!

Ready to roll sugar cookies
Ready to roll sugar cookies

I set out a piece of waxed paper (not parchment), put down my guides (doubled paint sticks, in my case), plop the dough inside, and toss another piece of waxed paper on top.

How far apart you space your guides will depend on two things: the length of your roller and the amount of dough you’re attempting to roll out at one time. Make sure you’re working on a smooth rolling surface.

Let’s Roll!

If your dough is the right consistency, this part will come together seamlessly. If it’s too soft, you’ll end up with cookies that spread in the oven. If it’s too firm (as was the case here) it’s tough to roll and will create wrinkles, as I said above. I always used my longer rolling pin (which is technically a fondant roller) because I like to space out my guides.

(Full disclosure: I thought about uploading different pictures that looked perfect, but decided my mess-up might work to your advantage, so I left these in place. We learn from trial and error, after all! And sugar cookie icing is the bomb! It’s perfect for covering up messes!)

How to Bake Cut-Out Sugar Cookies

Start by preheating your oven to 375° Fahrenheit (177° Celsius). While the oven is warming, get those cookies onto your parchment paper lined cookie sheet.

I use Nordic Ware pans and pre-cut parchment paper sheets. This is my go-to parchment paper choice and I wouldn’t change it for anything! (Hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!)

How to Space Your Cookies

I space out my cookies, on the off chance that they spread once baked. (Ideally, they won’t grow much! This will depend on whether they’re chilled enough.)

cut out sugar cookies
Unbaked heart cookies

Put the remaining dough in a bag and refrigerate for up to a week or freeze for up to two months.

Put them in the oven right away!

If you let them set out too long the top looks wonky after baking. This has happened to me in the past, where I prep several trays and leave them until time to go in. They soften too much, spread once baked, and look odd. So, colder/firmer is better.

Place in pre-heated 375-degree oven…

And bake for 10-11 minutes. You want a tiny bit of color on the bottom but these cookies can’t over-bake or they won’t be as soft when you bite into them. (Hey, there’s a “perfect” time for cut-out cookies and a lot of that will depend on your oven. I happen to be working with a gas convection oven, which I love. In my oven the bigger cookies take 11 minutes and smaller ones are usually 10.)

Note: Some people prefer a crisp cookie with a golden brown bottom. I usually pull mine out a minute or so before they reach that point.

Here’s what my Cut-Out Sugar Cookies Look Like When Baked

Here’s what my cookies look like after they come out of the oven. As you can tell, I was still paying a price for letting my dough chill too long, but (as I said) I didn’t care because I knew these cookies would get painted with my Easy Royal Icing.

baked sugar cookies
Baked heart cookies

Chill sugar cookies on a wire cooling rack. This is critical. You can’t ice these cookies warm.

cookies cooling on wire rack
Cookies cooling on wire rack

Prep Your Decorating Station

decorate sugar cookies
Icing sugar cookies

You could cover these cookies with buttercream icing, of course. I’ve got a Dreamy Buttercream Frosting recipe that would work great. But, most folks go a completely different route with sugar cookies. They use royal icing. Some people call it sugar cookie frosting, but it’s perfect for these easy cut-out sugar cookies! With this versatile icing you can paint your cookies all different colors!

I have a full post on Easy Royal Icing (complete with decorating techniques) but basically you’ll need to prep an area once your icing is made. I’m going to include a photo below to show you how these 65th anniversary cookies came out, so that you can see what I mean about the wrinkles not mattering.

65th anniversary cookie
65th Wedding Anniversary Cookie

Let’s spend a minute talking about cutters. I have a zillion. No, really. Many are purchased at amazon but a bunch came from Cheap Cookie Cutters. They have an amazing selection.

I plan to do more tutorials about the various styles of cookies but for now, take a look at how ordinary circles and squares can be used to create something unusual and different. (These are all made with the same recipe I listed above!)

Circles!

Squares!

Hearts!

The possibilities are really endless…

…when you have the right cutters and the right Cut-Out Sugar Cookie recipe. In fact, they are so endless that I’ve come up with a list of ways to vary this recipe.

Variations on Cut-Out Sugar Cookies

This is truly the best sugar cookie recipe I’ve found but there are ways to make it even better! Here are some things you can add to this recipe to change things up a bit:

  • cocoa powder (add 1/4 – 1/3 cup to recipe for a chocolate cookie)
  • pecans
  • mini chocolate chips (you can still roll as long as you use the minis)
  • sprinkles
  • lemon zest
  • orange zest and diced craisins
  • peanut butter

My sugar cookie dough is fine in the refrigerator for a week but you can store it for up to 2 months in the freezer in an airtight container.

How to Store the Cut-Out Sugar Cookies

These cookies stay good for about a week if you keep them tightly sealed. You can freeze them after baking but (in my opinion) you’re better off freezing the dough and baking them fresh.

Ah, Sugar Cookies!

I hope you will find this easy sugar cookie recipe useful, whether you’re baking for Valentine’s Day, Christmas, or a birthday, anniversary, or wedding. Have fun! And remember, there are no mistakes in cookie baking/decorating. . .only happy happy accidents! (Remember, you can always eat the evidence!)

By the way, my cut out sugar cookie recipe is perfect for the holidays. Check out my Holiday Sugar Cookie post.

Other Types of Cookies

If you’re not in the mood to roll out cookies but still want something quick and yummy, check out my Perfect Peanut butter cookies! You’ll also find my Mexican Wedding Cookies super easy and quick. And y’all. . .I just uploaded a brand new recipe for a cookie I’d never tasted until today. They’re called S’Mores Kiss Cookies and they sent me over the moon!

I found a yummy-looking cookie recipe on Southern Plate that has snagged my attention. They’re called Dishpan Cookies. Interesting name, right?

Take a peek at South Your Mouth’s Weekend Potluck. There are some fabulous ideas there!

Oh, and check out Full Plate Thursday over at Miz Helen’s Country Cottage. Lots of great offerings there!

Happy Baking!

Feel free to share this recipe with your friends, y’all! It took some time to come up with and I’d love to see lots of people enjoy it!

Cut-Out Sugar Cookies

Cut-Out Sugar Cookies

Yield: 25 - 30 medium cookies
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 11 minutes
Total Time: 41 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks (one cup) salted butter (room temperature)
  • 1 extra-large egg (must be extra-large)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp clear vanilla
  • ½ tsp almond extract
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder

Instructions

    Cream together the two sticks of butter. Add the sugars and egg, mixing well.

    Next, add vanilla and almond extracts.

    In a separate bowl whisk together the flour and baking powder. Add in increments to the creamy mixture, fully combining.

    Chill the dough, and then roll using one of the methods indicated above (roller with detachable rings or doubled paint sticks).

    Bake at 375 for ten minutes or your preference. Don’t over-bake.

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Cathy Peeling

Sunday 30th of October 2022

Omgosh you guys, seriously, how easy are these? Right out of the gate, I dropped 2 and they stayed intact!! I thought when they didn't break, they had to be solid right? Nope, they were soft on the inside and just crispy enough on the outside! My super picky son in a law, who hates everything, loved these! I loved the added flavourful from the almond extract. A sugar cookie that taste good and not sickening sweet, just right!! Thank you for saving me this week Janice!!

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I'm so glad you liked the recipe! Tickled pink!

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