Today, I’m sharing my family’s favorite cut out sugar cookie recipe. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 1 cup unsalted butter softened (*Read Tips below)
- 1 ½ cup powdered sugar
- 1 egg medium sized
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- ½ teaspoon almond extract
- 1 teaspoon baking soda *See note below
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 recipe sugar cookie frosting
- Cream the butter and powdered sugar together with an electric mixer. Once mixed, add the egg, vanilla, almond extract, and baking soda 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 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.
- Cool and frost with a vanilla icing of your choice. Have fun with colors & decorations to make these match any occasion.
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?