How to Make The Perfect (Soft) Cut Out Sugar Cookies

* If you follow me on social media, you know that all of November I will be posting cookie recipes in a series called, 30 Days of Cookies. That’s 30 recipes to develop, make, photograph, edit, and write in 30 days. For a roundup of all posts, you can visit the 30 Days of Cookies Archive page. Today is Day 29 of 30 with these Perfect Cut Out Sugar Cookies. Follow along on Instagram for behind the scenes cookie-making-madness and be sure to link up your own cookie recipes, using the hashtag #30daysofcookies.

A few weeks ago, I had a guest blogger feature her favorite cut out sugar cookie recipe. So today, I’m sharing my family’s favorite cut out sugar cookies. I’ve actually posted this sugar cookie base recipe a time or two  before with various decoration ideas, but because it really deserves a little more attention, I’m featuring it again in a little different way. Recently, I’ve gotten the urge to “redo” old posts with better pictures, because I feel like a lot of my favorite recipes are featured in a bad light (like, literally. Terrible lighting). But because it’s kind of fun to see how blogs progress, I suppose I’ll leave them. If you ever want to look back at the days when I didn’t know how to use my camera (still learning), go right ahead. Just please wear a blindfold. Anyway, I’m really excited for today’s post because not only is this a family favorite recipe, but I’m also going to give you a few tricks to the perfect sugar cookie. And yes, I carved words into cookie dough.

Perfect Cut Out Sugar Cookies | Design Eat Repeat

So what makes this such a great cut out sugar cookie recipe? Well, there are two factors that I think make cut out cookies “work.” The first thing is the dough. You need a dough that isn’t going to break, crumble, or stick while rolling & cutting. I’ve made plenty of cut out cookies in my day that turn into big blobs when they’re intended to be Christmas trees. They stick to the counter because the dough isn’t sturdy enough, and just like that, your five-pointed stars turn into two-pointed cat ears. No bueno. This sugar cookie recipe cuts out perfectly so that you can ensure those gingerbread men don’t lose their arms this holiday season.

Perfect Cut Out Sugar Cookies

The dough is made with powdered sugar, which makes it super soft and a complete cookie-dough-eating-worthy-snack. I typically don’t promote eating raw cookie dough (on public forums), but in this case, I don’t think I hold back from telling you to try it. It’s crazy soft, has a hint of almond, and is just all-around addicting. If you don’t actually have any left to make cookies with, I won’t judge.

Perfect Cut Out Sugar Cookie Recipe | Design Eat Repeat

The second thing that makes the perfect sugar cookie is how thick you roll out the dough. If you roll it too thin, you’re going to have a crunchy cookie that breaks easier when cutting them out. Roll them too thick and you’re going to have trouble getting the cookie to bake evenly. A few months ago, I came across The Cookie Thing, which is a simple (but genius) tool for rolling out doughs to the perfect thickness. It comes with four sets of boards in different widths, letting you decide how thick or thin you want the dough. It’s been sitting in my craft corner for a few months now and I was eager to try it out for holiday sugar cookie season.

How to Roll the Perfect Cut Out Sugar Cookies | Design Eat Repeat

I’m more excited to bring this nifty tool home in a few weeks because it will relieve me of some of my cookie-rolling duties. Let’s just say that some people in my house haven’t quite mastered the perfect sugar cookie thickness, which results in crunchy cookies. With The Cookie Thing, all the guessing is over and the fam can finally stop asking me if they rolled the cookies thick enough. You’d swear I was Martha Stewart with the demand of questions during the annual holiday baking weekend. Heck, the family might need this more than ever, because after 30 days of cookies, I may just take the year off and take a weekend-long nap instead of participating in our annual Christmas baking day.

Great gift idea for bakers! Roll cookies or pie crusts the perfect thickness using this nifty tool…The Cookie Thing! Perfect Cut Out Sugar Cookies | Recipe at Design Eat Repeat

I rolled the dough using the 3/8″ thick boards, cut them out, and baked them on a parchment-covered baking sheet for 8 minutes. Depending on the size you cut them out, you may need to add or subtract a minute or two from the baking time. The smaller cookies are usually done in 8 minutes, while the larger ones are closer to 9 or 10. The trick with these cookies is to take them out when you see a tiny, tiny bit of browning around the edges. The cookies may look underdone after 8 minutes, but they will continue to bake on the hot pan outside of the oven. This allows them to be fully baked on the inside, while still having a soft outside.

Perfect Cut Out Sugar Cookie Recipe

After cooling, these are ready to frost and decorate with your favorite frosting. Tomorrow, I’ll be capping off 30 Days of Cookies with a easy royal icing recipe + a fun holiday decorating idea. So, if you like reindeer & printables, then you may want to peek on in.

How to Make The Perfect (Soft) Cut Out Sugar Cookies
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Serves: 18-24 cookies (depending on the size you cut them out)
Ingredients
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened (*Read Tips below)
  • 1½ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda (*See note below)
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
Instructions
  1. Cream the butter and powdered sugar together with an electric mixer. Once mixed, add the egg, vanilla, almond extract, and baking soda. Once incorporated, add the flour in one cup portions. When the flour disappears, transfer the dough onto a floured surface. Knead the dough until it forms a solid ball. If dough is sticky, add additional flour while kneading. Cover and refrigerate dough for 1-2 hours. (For more intricate cut out shapes, I highly recommend this refrigeration step. For regular circle cookies, refrigerating is not as important, but will result in a cookie that does not spread as much.)
  2. Next, on a floured surface, use a rolling pin to roll the dough out to ⅜ to ½ inch thickness. The thinner you go, the faster they will bake & the crispier they will be. I like them to be thick and soft, so I keep them around ⅜ inch thick and use a 2.5 inch circle cookie cutter or wine glass rim to cut them out.
  3. As you are cutting them out, transfer them to a parchment paper covered cookie sheet, leaving about 2 inches between them (to allow them to spread).
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until the edges are very lightly browned. Do not worry if they look underbaked, as they will continue to bake on the hot cookie sheet after it comes out of the oven.
  5. Cool and frost with a vanilla icing of your choice. Have fun with colors & decorations to make these match any occasion.
Notes
Check out a great royal icing recipe for simple & easy frosting.
* A few readers have commented that their cookies puffed up quite a bit during baking. The cookies WILL raise a little, but should not be “puffy.” Because the raising of baked goods can vary based on altitude, I recommend referring to King Arthur’s altitude adjustment guide prior to baking. Although I have never had a problem with these puffing up (I live in the Midwest), this is something to consider in other regions.
* Tips on Butter: Use real butter, not margarine or shortening. Butter should not be melted, just slightly softened. After removing the butter from the fridge, I typically pop it in the microwave for 10-12 seconds to slightly soften. If butter is melted too much, the cookies will spread, resulting in skewed shapes.

Do you have a go-to sugar cookie recipe that you stick with every year? Since doing 30 Days of Cookies, I have a few other ones that would foot the bill, but I’m not sure I’m going to be able to convince the family to branch out from this one. But I guess now that they can make these themselves with the new rolling pin gadget, I may just let them do all the sugar cookie dirty work while I go take a two-day nap under my heater blanket. Hibernation season has officially begun.

* Update: Susan, creator of The Cookie Thing, has been gracious enough to share a code for 25% off The Cookie Thing until January 1st. Enter promo code BAKER at checkout, to receive 25% off your entire order!

Comments

    • says

      Nope, it does not need to be chilled! I’ve chilled it before, but it always makes it a little harder to roll since you have to re-knead the dough to soften it. It works great rolling right out of the bowl :)

  1. Jessy says

    How far ahead can you make these cookies? Does it matter if they haven’t been frosted yet for storage reasons. I’m trying to mass produce so I need to know how fat out I can start making cookies. Thank you!

    • says

      Hi Jessy! I’ve made these cookies up to a month ahead of time & just store them (unfrosted) in the freezer. Then when they are time to serve, just let them thaw, frost, and you’ll be good to go! I’ve also frozen these after frosting them & that works too, depending on the type of frosting you use. But I like to hold on decorating so that the frosting doesn’t smudge in the freezer. Hope this helps!

  2. Annette says

    do you have a frosting recipe you an suggest to decort. I’m looking for something that is easy to work th and kid friendly for family decorating. Thanks!

    • says

      Yes, I do! This Royal Icing recipe works great for more fancy decorating. It may be a little too messy for kids to spread since it’s a runny frosting & not quite a thicker “spreadable” one. We’ve also frosted these cookies with premade frosting before and they work great (I sometimes microwave the frosting for a little bit before decorating). I’m also making these cookies again today & am going to experiment with another frosting recipe, so stay tuned!

  3. Beth says

    Have you used vanilla extract in place of almond? I’m just curious on the taste difference.

    • says

      No I haven’t, but I’d be curious too. The almond extract gives the cookie a hint of flavor that (I think) make the cookies taste so good. If you try it with vanilla, I’d love to hear what you think!

    • AmieJo says

      I don’t personally like almond flavor in anything, its just weird to me. I don’t ever use it as a result. You can add the vanilla and add more vanilla in place of the almond and it won’t hurt. It will just have a milder flavor. You can usually taste the vanilla just a bit. I trade it out whenever a recipe calls for almond flavor. And MELISSA, thanks for the cookie recipe! I lost my good book with my old recipe in it! It was perfect as well, no rising in the oven so the shapes were off or anything. I am looking forward to using this one. Thanks for sharing!

      • says

        Thanks for chiming in, AmieJo! I’m a almond extract fan, but now I’m even more curious what these would taste like using only vanilla! Like you said, it would just be a milder flavor. Enjoy the recipe & hope you come across that lost cookbook!

  4. Sara says

    I just made a batch of these delicious cookies. The dough is incredibly smooth and fluffy and easy to work with. I live in Southern California (close to sea level) however and I’d recommend cutting the baking soda by a third or in half as these little beauties rise a good deal.

    • says

      So glad to hear you loved them! Thanks for posting the tip about the altitude adjustment. I rarely think about that since I live in the Midwest, but that is a great thing for all you sea-levelers to take note of! I appreciate you checking back in with the results!

    • says

      You sure can. I’ve doubled it a few times before. The only issue is that doubling may fill up your mixer, making it harder to stir. But once you mix it up, just divide the dough in half and roll one half at a time. That way, you don’t have a huge ball of dough to try to roll out at once!

  5. Cara says

    I just saw this post via Pinterest. The main photo with the cookie dough and the text carved into it, is very creative. Really. Great work to whomever came up with the idea was then executed it. Well done!!

    • says

      Thank you, Cara! It was a fun one to concept & execute. Let’s just hope no one was looking in my windows as I was carving letters into cookie dough, because that would have been awkward. Haha

  6. Jan White says

    I roll out my sugar cookies in a mixture of half four and half powedered sugar. That way the dough doesn’t get too floury and you can use all of the dough and it tastes great!

  7. Michelle says

    I’m curious if you can use the colored sugar to decorate these cookies. My kids like using that!

  8. Beth says

    Hi,

    I am wondering what the adjustment would be for high altitude I am at about 8000 above sea level

  9. Lauren says

    These cookies are amazing!! They are easy and beyond delicious; I’m gonna have a hard time staying out of them until Christmas! As someone else mentioned, I’m not a big fan of almond extract so I left that out but otherwise followed the recipe and they really are perfect sugar cookies :)

    • says

      It should! I would test a few first before baking the whole batch, just to see if they hold the shapes they are supposed to. The dough rises a little when baking, so if you have a cavity pan with intricate shapes, I’m not sure if it will hold those details very well. If you try it, report back and let me know how it works!

  10. Susana says

    The recipe doesn’t have whether you rolled the dough out on flour or powdered sugar, but I see it in your comments, that you like to use powdered sugar, just making sure that is what you prefer for these in particular?

    • says

      More often than not, I use flour for rolling. But either one will work. If I see that the dough is a little sticky, I prefer to use flour.

  11. Diana says

    These cookies were super easy to make and that cook up beautifully. I can’t wait to share them with my students!!!

  12. Melissa says

    In other sugar cookie recipes I add some nutmeg to it because I think it gives it a great taste. However, I have never made cookies with almond extract but I love the idea! I just want to make sure the almond extract and nutmeg will go good together. Do you think it would be okay to add some nutmeg to this recipe?

    • says

      Hi Melissa! I think adding nutmeg would work just fine! The almond extract isn’t too strong of a taste in the cookies, so I don’t think the two flavors would compete too much. I’m curious how it will work, so be sure to report back with how they turn out!

      • Melissa says

        The nutmeg worked perfectly in this recipe. The cookies are absolutely delicious! I just sprinkled the nutmeg in and kind of tasted it as I went. I made these cookies for valentines day but I cannot wait until christmas next year because I know they will be a big hit!

  13. Leilani says

    Thank you so much for the recipe. Everyone loves them. I made them for Every holiday since Christmas! My co-workers look forward to see how I will make them next and just love the taste. I have made them in Tree shape, Spiral, small
    round, and Hearts. I also made them into cups and added strawberries and whipped cream. Those went over so well a friend asked me to make them for her. :) Thank you for the recipe, I don’t usually like sugar cookies…but I love these.

  14. Ana says

    Oh thank you! this only website is priceless!! I´ll bake cookies today for the first time! And I can use all this good information!
    thank you, greetings from Chile!

  15. Alexandra says

    I am planning my sister in-laws baby shower and was jJust wandering how far in advance could I make these and have them till be fresh tasting.

    • says

      Hi Alexandra! They are best within 2-3 days of making them. If you want to make them more then 2-3 days in advance, you can bake them and freeze them (unfrosted). Then, when it’s time to serve them, you can thaw them and frost!

  16. Anele from south africa says

    Hi, i adjusted the recipe by replacing the almond extract with lemon essence. It tastes great and also makes for an awesome alternative. Thanks for the recipe

  17. Alicia Borden says

    I use this recipe when I make my fruit pizza for my Pampered Chef recipes. Sometime I make individual cookies and top them, and sometimes I just roll it out as one big one. The toppings I use is strawberry/ banana yogurt mixed with vanilla yogurt. I spread that out evenly over the cookie base, then top it with whatever fruits my hosts want to use. I prefer strawberries, bananas, crushed pineapples. Then I sprinkle crushed walnuts over the top. It is so delicious. I also omit the almond extract when doing this.
    If anyone wants pictures I can share them. Also, if anyone close to the kokomo indiana area I would be extremely happy to make for a party you can host.

  18. Karla says

    I started using Almond extract when I ran out of vanilla one time and have switched , but I also like to add butter extract with it to give it a richer flavor. Excited to try this recipe for graduation open house.

  19. Andrea says

    This is a perfect recipe and great instructions. I have never been able to get a cookie to hold its shape. I was so happy with how they turned out. Thank you for sharing your recipe and tips.

    • says

      I usually bake up the extra dough & freeze them unfrosted. But if you want to freeze the raw dough, I’d suggest cutting out the shapes before freezing so you don’t have to thaw a large chunk of dough later on.

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