Update: Since posting this recipe years ago, I since tweaked the recipe and reposted a new, more comprehensive tutorial here. If you’re looking for a dough that holds it shape a bit more, I recommend checking that one out!
Today, I’m sharing my family’s favorite cut out sugar cookies. A soft, buttery, sugar cookie dough that is great for 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.
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.
Update: Since posting this recipe, I have a new cut out sugar cookie recipe that I like. (I’m keeping this one on the site because it’s still great & a lot of people have tried and love it.)
- This Recipe: All powdered sugar, more butter = a buttery, slightly flakey texture.
- New Recipe: Granulated Sugar, Less Butter = a thicker, softer, more moist texture (better for more intricate shapes).
Be sure to check out my Christmas Cookie Frosting Guide for my favorite recipe, food coloring tips, and piping tips! And for EASY decorating ideas, check out my 5 EASY Christmas Cookies for Kids!
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.
Rolling It the Perfect Thickness
The second thing that makes the perfect sugar cookie is how thick you roll out the dough (check out my guide on how to roll the perfect sugar cookie). 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. My ideal thickness is 1/2” thick.
A few months ago, I came across The Cookie Thing, which is a simple 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.
I also have the Joseph & Joseph adjustable rolling pin and use it on the thickest ring (the purple one).
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.
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.
My Favorite Frosting Recipes
After cooling, these are ready to frost and decorate with your favorite frosting (I like using my sugar cookie buttercream for non-fancy decorated cookies or my easy sugar cookie icing for a smoother finish). Pop them on your favorite holiday plate or use these free printables for a fun holiday decorating idea to help gift the perfect DIY cookie tray.
Tip: For more royal icing or piping ideas, check out my guide on 4 sugar cookie icing without corn syrup.
How to Make The Perfect (Soft) Cut Out Sugar Cookies
Update: Since posting this recipe years ago, I since tweaked the recipe and reposted a new, more comprehensive tutorial HERE. If you’re looking for a dough that holds it shape a bit more, I recommend checking that one out!
- 1 cup unsalted butter (i.e. 2 sticks) softened (*Read Tips below)
- 1 ½ cup powdered sugar
- 1 egg medium sized
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon almond extract
- 1 teaspoon baking soda *See note below
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 recipe sugar cookie frosting
Before you begin! If you make this, will you do me a huge favor and leave a review and rating letting me know how you liked this recipe? This helps my small business thrive so I can continue providing free recipes and high-quality content for you.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a large mixnig bowl, cream the unsalted butter (1 cup, i.e. 2 sticks) and powdered sugar (1 ½ cups) together with an electric mixer.
Add the egg (1 large), vanilla extract (1 teaspoon), almond extract (½ teaspoon), and baking soda (1 teaspoon) and continue to stir on medium speed. Once incorporated, turn the mixer down to low speed and add the flour in one cup portions.
When the flour disappears, turn off the mixer and 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 (do not be afraid to add 1/4-1/2 cup more flour while kneading if sticky).
Next, on a floured surface, use a rolling pin to roll the dough out to 3/8 to 1/2 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 3/8 inch thick and use a 2.5 inch circle cookie cutter or wine glass rim to cut them out.
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). Cover and refrigerate cut out cookie 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. For intricate shapes, I cut out the cookie shapes first and then refrigerate the entire trays. This helps so you do not have to work with a cold chunk of dough.)
Bake at 350°F 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.
Cool and frost with a vanilla icing of your choice. Have fun with colors & decorations to make these match any occasion.
Last Step! Please leave a review and rating letting me know how you liked this recipe! This helps my small business thrive so I can continue providing free recipes and high-quality content for you.
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 unsalted butter, not margarine or shortening. Butter should not be melted, just softened to room temperature. If butter is melted too much, the cookies will spread, resulting in skewed shapes.
* This recipe has been in my family’s cookbook for many years, but a reader recently pointed out that this recipe is very similar to a Betty Crocker recipe. Which may very well be where we got this one originally! So feel free to check that one out here for more in-depth reviews (the main difference is that I do not use cream of tartar because I find it to give these cookies a crunchier texture).
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.
Need a easy homemade cream cheese buttercream recipe? Check out my favorite Sugar Cookie Buttercream recipe.
Or want a smoother finish? Try out my Easy Sugar Cookie Icing Recipe.
Need some fun sugar cookie decorating ideas?
I’m curious if you can use the colored sugar to decorate these cookies. My kids like using that!
You sure can! Any type of sprinkles would be fun on these!
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!
That’s a great tip, Jan! I sometimes roll these in powdered sugar too and it works great!
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!!
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
Barb Mein says
Can you double this recipe?
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!
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.
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!
Have you used vanilla extract in place of almond? I’m just curious on the taste difference.
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!
Melissa, I make a similar cookie that also called for almond extract. Switched it out to.lemon extract as a substitute and decided it was even better! Give it a try, I am sure you will like it!
Great idea! Thanks for sharing, Diane!
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!
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!
Hi, where can I buy the cookie thing?
It looks like it may have been discontinued! My new favorite tool is the one in this post, which does the same thing but is more compact & easy to store! https://www.designeatrepeat.com/how-to-roll-out-sugar-cookies/
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!
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!
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!
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!
Does the dough not need to be refrigerated before rolling it out?
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 :)
Susan Butler says
So love the visuals of your showing how fun the Cookie Thing can be! Love it. Thank you.