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close up on the tops of decorated sugar cookies

Perfect Cut Out Sugar Cookies

  • Author: Jenna Barnard
  • Prep Time: 50 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour + 2 hours cooling
  • Yield: 20 cookies 1x


This is going to be your new go-to sugar cookie recipe. These cut out cookies hold their shape when baked, but still remain soft and tender.



Sugar Cookies

  • 2 3/4 cups (350g) all purpose flour, spooned and leveled*
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup (220g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract

Royal Icing (pipeable) 

Buttercream (spreadable)

  • 1 cup (220g) unsalted butter, room temp
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 34 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • Gel food coloring 
  • Sprinkles


Sugar Cookies

  1. In a bowl separate from your mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt. Set aside.
  2. In your mixing bowl using a hand or stand mixer with the paddle attachment, mix together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy (2-3 minutes).
  3. Scrape down the bowl and mix in the egg, followed by the vanilla and almond extract.
  4. Scrape down the bowl once again and give it another mix to fully smooth out the batter.
  5. Mix in half of the dry ingredients until combined. Then mix in the rest. Some dry ingredients may linger at the bottom of the bowl. Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a rubber spatula to fully incorporate the last bits of flour.
  6. Roughly shape the dough into one large mass inside the bowl. Cut it in half down the middle and roll out each half on two separate sheets of parchment paper that have been lightly dusted with flour (see process photos or video in post for reference). Roll to about 1/4 of an inch thick, lightly dusting the surface as you roll to prevent the dough from sticking to your rolling pin.
  7. Transfer one rolled cookie sheet to a large baking tray. Very lightly dust the surface with flour and stack the second sheet on top (see process photos or video in post for reference). Wrap the tray with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight. 
  8. Once chilled, remove the top sheet of cookie dough from the refrigerator. Careful as it may stick just a bit, so gently run your hand under the sheet to separate it from the cookie dough underneath. Keeping the cookie dough on its original sheet of parchment paper, cut out your cookies and place them on a small tray lined with parchment paper. It’s ok to stack them on top of each other as they should be cold enough to not stick to one another. Combine the scraps, careful not to take too much flour with them, and set aside. 
  9. Remove the second sheet of cookie dough from the refrigerator and repeat the process. Once all cookies have been placed on your small tray, place the tray in the refrigerator to chill for 20-30 minutes while you preheat the oven to 350F.
  10. While you wait, combine the dough scraps from the two sheets of cookie dough and roll it out to 1/4 inch thick on a lightly floured sheet of parchment paper. If it’s too soft to cut out, chill the rolled dough for 20-30 minutes to firm up. Then, cut out your cookies and allow them to chill while the first batch bakes. 
  11. To bake, place the cookies on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Space them about 1 1/2 inches apart and keep all other cookies in the refrigerator while each batch bakes. Bake for 10-12 minutes, careful not to let the edges brown. 
  12. Transfer to a cooling rack and continue to bake the rest of the cookies.
  13. Allow the cookies to cool completely before decorating. 

Royal Icing (option 1)

  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar and meringue powder. 
  2. Mix in the water, one tablespoon at a time, until you reach a consistency that’s just a tad thinner than glue. 
  3. Separate the icing to individual bowls and add different colors of food coloring to each. Tip: if your food coloring is a bit too vibrant, dip a toothpick into brown food coloring and add it to the icing. If you don’t have brown food coloring, you could also add roughly 1/8-1/4 tsp cocoa powder.
  4. Add the icing to piping bags fitted with small round tips, or a ziplock bag with a very tiny corner snipped off. Pipe a border around the cookie, then roughly fill in the center. Use a toothpick to spread and guide the icing to completely cover the surface (see video for reference). 
  5. Add sprinkles when the icing is still wet and allow the icing to harden (about 1 hour).

Buttercream (option 2)

  1. Using a hand or stand mixer with the whisk attachment, mix the butter and 1 cup of powdered sugar until smooth and combined.
  2. Mix in 1 cup of powdered sugar at a time, alternating with one tablespoon of milk at a time, until the buttercream is smooth but spreadable. End with the vanilla extract and a pinch of salt.
  3. Separate the buttercream into separate bowls and add food coloring to each. If the food coloring makes the buttercream too thin, mix in about 1 tablespoon of powdered sugar to thicken back up. 
  4. Spread onto your cooled cookies and decorate with sprinkles when the buttercream is still fresh. 
  5. This buttercream will not harden, so these cookies cannot be stacked on top of each other when stored.


FLOUR – If you have a food scale, measure the flour. If not, spoon the flour into your measuring cup and level it off with a flat edge. If you scoop directly into the flour bag or container, it will pack it down into your cup and you’ll add way too much flour to the dough. This will cause the dough to be dry and crumbly and the cookies to also be tough and dry. 

STORING CUT COOKIE DOUGH – Once you’ve cut out the cookies, you can store the cut cookie dough in the refrigerator overnight. Just make sure to wrap the tray with plastic wrap to prevent the cookie dough from drying out. 

Keywords: sugar cookies, cut out sugar cookies, sugar cookie recipe, christmas cookies

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