Out of all the holiday cookies out there, these are the best Cut Out Sugar Cookies and they should be on your list of things to bake every year! Each bite gives you a buttery soft and tender inside on the inside with a slightly crisp outside. They hold their shape without spreading and a lot of fun to decorate with the family!
This recipe was originally posted on December 15, 2018. It has been updated with a refreshed recipe, new images, and more tips!
Table of Contents
- 6 Reasons these are the Best Cut Out Sugar Cookies
- Helpful Tips for Making the Perfect Cut Out Sugar Cookies
- Essential Cookie Baking Tools
- Ways to Decorate Cut Out Sugar Cookies
- Cookie Decorating Tools
- Royal Icing Consistences
- How to Make Cut Out Sugar Cookies in Advance
- Cut Out Sugar Cookies Troubleshooting / FAQs
- More Holiday Cookie Inspiration For You!
6 Reasons these are the Best Cut Out Sugar Cookies
The Taste. Each bite gives you a beautiful buttery taste that's not sweet or bland. They're so good, I sometimes like to enjoy them without any added decorations!
Consistency. Thanks to the powdered sugar that's used in this recipe, these cut out sugar cookies are so incredibly soft. For real.
Fun to Decorate. You can decorate these cookies with sanding sugars, royal icing, or even buttercream frosting! No matter what you choose, have fun with it! And even better—get the family involved too!
For decorating cut out cookies with buttercream frosting, check out my Super Soft Chocolate Cut Out Sugar Cookies!
Easy to Make. With clear instructions, this sugar cookie recipe is an easy one! It requires only 8 ingredients too!
Make in Advance. This recipe can be easily prepped in advance! You can even make the royal icing in advance too!
Dala Horses! Okay, maybe this isn't a strong reason for making these cut out sugar cookies, but I just love them! The dala horse is the Swedish symbol for strength and courage. They're also traditional holiday cookie shape in Sweden. Adam and I have collected quite a few dala horse figurines from our time spent visiting the country.
This recipe has been adapted from my late Grammy's cut out sugar cookie recipe. I can remember her making them all the time, rolling them out thin, and adding sanding sugar to the top for a simple decoration. They were so good—still are! This is without-a-doubt a fantastic cookie recipe and one I love so much! I hope you do too. Enjoy!
Helpful Tips for Making the Perfect Cut Out Sugar Cookies
Room temperature ingredients. Ingredients, like your unsalted butter and eggs, will blend with the other ingredients a lot easier when they are at room temperature.
For the butter, it should be soft enough to gently press your thumb into it. If you smoosh the butter down with your thumb using no effort, it's probably too soft.
The right size baking sheet. Make sure the baking sheet or jelly roll pan you use to chill your dough fits easily into your refrigerator.
Use parchment paper. You can use plastic wrap to roll out the dough, but I prefer parchment paper. Why? Because you can reuse it later to bake your cookies! If you're planning to make the cookie dough in advance (more on this below)—use wax paper.
Divide then roll. Once the dough is made, you will shape it into one big ball, then divide it in half—like you would when making pie dough.
Roll each half out onto a lightly floured parchment paper. I also place a silicone baking mat underneath to keep the parchment paper from sliding all around.
You will stack the second parchment sheet of rolled out cookie dough on top of the other.
Flour the cookie cutters. Dipping your cookie cutter every 2-3 cookies in some flour will help release the cookie easier.
Don't over bake the cookies. The recommended baking times for this super soft cut out sugar cookies recipe is 7-8 minutes. You want the edges and underside of the cookies to be a light golden brown color. My preference is to bake them for 7 minutes.
Over baking sugar cookies can leave them a darker brown, brittle, and hard.
Use an oven thermometer. The other week I discovered my oven wasn't preheating to the correct temperature. It was about 100 degrees cooler! So, word to the wise, get yourself an oven thermometer to make sure your oven is heating to the correct temperature!
Cool the cut out sugar cookies completely. Before you add your royal icing, make sure the cookies have cooled.
Essential Cookie Baking Tools
Ways to Decorate Cut Out Sugar Cookies
Applied before you bake the cookies. This option is less messy and possibly better for little kids who are just getting into the cookie decorating. It's how I learned how to decorate cut-out sugar cookies!
Somewhat Easy Options
These options are applied after the cookies have baked and cooled. They do require some additional tools though and will take some time to decorate. This is good for beginner bakers through advance.
Royal icing (used with this recipe). There are a few fun techniques with royal icing you can try. Some beginner, some more advanced.
For most of the cookies you see here, I did what's called the wet-on-wet technique. Meaning as soon as I outline and flood the cookie with royal icing, I immediately go back and pipe the detailed parts. The detailed parts then fall or sink into the already wet base layer you applied, creating an even layer of royal icing.
I did go back over most of them and piped on some detailing on the surface.
I highly, HIGHLY recommend checking out my friend Amber's site, SweetAmbs.com. She is, in my opinion, the best when it comes to cookie decorating. Amber has lots of online tutorials and classes too!
Buttercream frosting. Can be found with my Super Soft Chocolate Cut Out Sugar Cookies recipe.
Sprinkles. These can also be applied after baking your cookies. They can be placed either on top of either the royal icing or frosting.
Cookie Decorating Tools
If you've decided to go with the "Somewhat Easy" options, you're going to need the following decorating tools:
- Mixing Bowls. Perfect for coloring your royal icing, glaze, or buttercream. Metal, glass, or plastic bowls will work perfectly.
- Piping Bags. Needed for the royal icing and buttercream frosting. I love my reusable piping bags from Wilton, but there is also different types of plastic piping bags out there. Use what feels best in your hands.
- Decorating Tips. I used the no. 2, no. 3, and no. 67 decorating tips from my Wilton Master Decorating Tip Set when adding details to these royal iced cut out cookies. I love this set!
- Scribe. A cookie decorating tool commonly used to get out any air bubbles or bumps in your cut out sugar cookies that have been outlined and filled with royal icing (flooding consistency). Remove any air bubbles immediately after applying the royal icing. If you try this close to or after the icing has set, it will not work.
- Edible Black Markers. Great for outlining your cookies before you use the royal icing. Once the iced cookies dry completely. You can very gently draw over the top any other detailing you wish to add with either the medium or stiff consistency royal icing. I used these Wilton Black Markers to outline some of the bigger dala horses.
- Offset spatula. Perfect for applying buttercream frosting to cookies.
- Decorating Coupler. This is what is used to help attach the decorating tip with the piping bag. They can be purchased in the tip set I mention above or separately.
- Food Coloring Gel. I use the Wilton Color Right System, but there is also Chefmaster and McCormick. You can also use powdered food coloring.
- Spatula. Great for mixing the food coloring gel with the frosting. A spoon can be used, but a spatula will do a better job at getting the sides of the bowl.
- Large pint glass. I use this for filling my piping bags. To use, place the piping bag in the glass, draping the bag over the sides.
Royal Icing Consistences
There are 3 consistencies when working with royal icing: stiff, medium, and flooding.
Stiff Consistency. When mixing your royal icing, this is the consistency it will start out at. It's thick like frosting, but dense not fluffy.
This is what I used for piping the little leaves, dots, and borders onto the cookies.
Medium Consistency (stiff consistency + a few drops of water). This consistency gives you royal icing that flows out of the decorating tip easily, but it still holds its shape.
I used this consistency for the borders on some of the large dala horses and candy canes.
Flooding Consistency (stiff consistency + a few tablespoons of water). This is what's used to create the initial flat, smooth layer onto the cookie. I used this consistency to outline and then fill in each cookie. You'll use a scribe tool (or toothpick) to remove any air bubbles.
To make sure the consistency is right, take a spoonful of royal icing and drop it back into the bowl. It should smooth out and blend back into the icing within 15-20 seconds.
When piping the flooding consistency onto each cookie, you do not need a decorating tip. Just snip off a little of the tip. The decorating tips only come in handy when piping the details.
How to Make Cut Out Sugar Cookies in Advance
Making this sugar cookie dough in advance is easy and can save you a ton of time! You can do this in the following three ways:
1. Disc Cookie Dough. Instead of rolling out the cookie dough, divide it into the 2 sections and pat into 1 inch thick discs (just like we do with pie dough). Wrap tightly in plastic wrap twice, then place into a freezer bag or well-sealed container.
Place on a flat surface in the freezer. Transfer the cookie dough discs to the refrigerator the day before. This will make it easier to roll out when ready.
2. Rolled Out Cookie Dough. Make the cookie dough, divide into 2 sections, roll it out layered with wax paper, and place onto a baking sheet. Then wrap with two layers of plastic wrap and once with aluminum foil, then freeze. With a permanent marker, write what it is and date placed in freezer.
You can also place the layers into the freezer until they're well chilled, then wrap in plastic wrap and place into a large freezer bag or well-sealed container. Make sure you have a big enough container or bag to do this.
3. Cut Out Cookies. Make the cookie dough, divide into 2 sections, roll it out layered with wax paper, and place onto a baking sheet and refrigerate until well chilled. Cut out the cookies, re-rolling any dough until its gone.
Place the cookies onto a wax paper lined baking sheet and freeze once more until well chilled. Then transfer to a freezer storage bag or a well-sealed container, separating layers of cookies with wax paper.
With all 3 options, cookies will keep in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Cut Out Sugar Cookies Troubleshooting / FAQs
Try adding a little more flour to the dough—a tablespoon at a time—until the stickiness is gone.
Yes, absolutely. This helps to prevent the cookies from spreading from baking. It also helps when cutting the cookies out.
Sometimes the more you handle the cookie dough air bubbles can appear in the cookie during baking. If this happens, remove them from the oven and gently tap the tops of them with a spatula/turner.
I prefer to roll my sugar cookies out to a ¼ inch thickness. If you would like to roll them out thinner, make sure to pay attention to the time you bake them because they'll bake faster than thicker cookies.
Yes! Once made, place it into a well-sealed container. Cover the surface of icing with plastic wrap and keep it stored in refrigerator for up to a week. When ready to use, stir by hand.
My dala horse cookie cutters are from a store called A Touch of Finland. The candy cane and snowflake cookie cutters are from Wilton.
The Best Soft Cut Out Sugar CookiesAuthor:
- Cookie Cutters
- Sanding Sugars
- Piping Bags (for all royal icing consistencies)
- Decorating Tips (for stiff and medium consistency royal icing detail)
cut out sugar cookies
- 2 ⅔ cups All-Purpose Flour
- 1 tsp Baking Soda
- 1 tsp Cream of Tartar
- 1 cup Unsalted Butter, room temperature
- 1 cup Sifted Powdered Sugar
- 1 Large Egg, room temperature
- 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
- ½ tsp Almond Extract
- ½ cup Meringue Powder
- 7 cups Sifted Powdered Sugar
- ¾ cup Water, room temperature + more for flooding consistency (keep separate)
- 2 ½ tsp Vanilla Extract
- Food Coloring or Icing Gel, colors of your choice
cut out sugar cookies
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, baking soda, and cream of tartar. Set to the side.
- Using your hand mixer or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the unsalted butter on medium-high speed until smooth and creamy.
- Turn off your mixer and add in the powdered sugar. Blend it together with the butter over low speed until it's almost combined.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then on medium-high speed, add in the egg, vanilla extract, and almond extract until well blended.
- Switching the mixer speed low, gradually add in the whisked dry mixture until fully incorporated. The cookie dough should start to form a ball and pull away from the sides.
- Transfer the sugar cookie dough onto a clean work surface, then shape it into a ball and divide it into 2 sections. Roll out the first section of cookie dough to a ¼ inch thickness slab on a lightly floured sheet of parchment paper (or wax paper if you plan to freeze the dough for later). Place onto a baking sheet or jelly roll pan. Repeat with the second section, placing it on top of the first layer. Refrigerate the cookie dough slabs for a minimum of 1 hour or (my preference) overnight.
- After chilling is complete, adjust your oven rack to the 2nd level position (just above center) and preheat your oven to 375ºF. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
- Flour your cookie cutters and cut out your shapes. Place each cut out shape about 1"- 1 ½" apart on the cookie sheet. If only using sanding sugar or sprinkles, now is the time to add them. Place any cut out cookies not yet baked into the refrigerator or freezer to chill while the first set bakes.
- Bake the cookies for 7-8 minutes at 375ºF or until the edges are a light golden brown. Allow them to cool on the cookie sheet for about 5 minutes before transferring them with a spatula (or server) to a wire cooling rack. Let them cool completely before decorating them with the royal icing. If baking the cookies in advance, keep them stored in an airtight container with a slice of bread for up to 3 days. You can also freeze baked cookies for up to 3 months. Let them cool completely before placing into a well-sealed container or freezer bag.
royal icing (stiff consistency)
- Using your hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment mix together the meringue powder and powdered sugar on low speed until blended. Keeping the mixer speed on low, add in the water and vanilla extract and mix it starts to come together.
- Then scrape down the sides of the bowl. Continue to mix on low speed until the royal icing is very thick (about 3-5 minutes) and can keep a stiff peak when inverting the paddle attachment.
- Remove any stiff consistency royal icing you plan to use later for detailing your cut out cookies. Scoop it into a well-sealed food container, covering the surface of the icing with plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator. It's a good idea to reserve a small amount too in case you have watered down the icing too much when making the flooding consistency.
royal icing (medium consistency)
- To the stiff consistency icing add a few drops of room temperature water. It should be slightly thinner than stiff consistency, but still hold its shape and slightly easier to pipe.
royal icing (flooding consistency)
- To the stiff consistency icing add room temperature water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the royal icing, when tested with a spoon, takes 15-20 seconds to blend back into the bowl of icing. If you watered it down too much, add a little of the stiff consistency icing you set aside back into the frosting.
decorating the cookies
- Have your colors prepped and in piping bags. For outlining and filling the cookies use a flooding consistency royal icing with just a piping bag. No decorating tip is needed. To make things easier, place all the piping bags onto a jelly roll pan.
- Place the finished outlined and flooded cookies onto a onto a wire cooling rack to dry. It takes a minimum of 2 hours for them to dry. To speed up the process, place a fan nearby to dry the tops. Optionally, cookies can be left out overnight to dry as well. Do not put the cookies into a container. Any leftover royal icing can be stored in the refrigerator covering the surface with plastic wrap and sealed with the container lid.
- When cookies are dry to the touch, you can pipe any details over the top with a stiff or medium consistency royal icing. Use a piping bag and a decorating tip of your choice.
- Allow cookies to dry completely overnight on the cooling rack.
- When fully dried, place into a well-sealed food container with a slice of bread to keep them nice and soft for up to 10 days. You can also freeze already baked and iced cookies for up to 3 months when place and sealed into individual bags.