Cut out sugar cookies are such a classic cookie. This recipe is perfect for parties, events, and holidays like Halloween and Christmas! They’re so versatile and you can decorate them with royal icing, buttercream frosting, or make it super easy and add sprinkles!
I love decorating sugar cookies. I’ve always use Sweetopia’s cut out sugar cookie recipe. It’s never let me down, it’s classic, buttery, and super simple. Her recipe uses granulated sugar but I’ve recently heard people say they prefer powdered sugar over granulated sugar in their cookies. Actually, people tend to fall into really preferring one or the other – the crispness of granulated sugar or the tenderness of powdered sugar. So, for posting a sugar cookie recipe I decided to do a comparison with Sweet Sugarbelle’s No Chill Sugar Cookie Recipe. It’s a very similar recipe but uses powdered sugar.
Granulated Sugar versus Powdered Sugar in Sugar Cookies
I have to say, the end results were super similar!! The powdered sugar has a slightly more tender texture and I think spread a tiny bit less, but that was about it. Regarding taste, if I wasn’t trying to tell a difference I probably wouldn’t have been able to tell. And, once you add any frosting I really don’t think it makes a difference unless you have a very sensitive palate. I took a picture, but I think they both look very similar! If you want your cookies a tiny bit more crisp, use granulated sugar, more tender, use powdered sugar. For now, I’m sticking with granulated sugar and saving my powdered sugar for buttercream. But if you want to try with these cookies with powdered sugar, use 1.25 cups powdered sugar in place of the 1 cup granulated sugar.
How to make cut out sugar cookies
Cut-out sugar cookies are super simple to make. I think most people think they are harder than they are since you have to do it stages and chill the dough. But, you can make the dough a few days advance (or freeze it!) and then bake the cookies whenever you are ready.
Step 1: Making the Cookie Dough
Whisk the flour and salt in a bowl. Then, cream the softened butter and sugar until it is just incorporated, about a minute. Once it’s mixed, add the egg and continue beating until it is combined, about 15-30 seconds. Finally, add the flour and mix until it is just combined. Do not over mix as it can lead to the cookies spreading in the oven. It should clump around the paddle attachment and when you push your finger into the dough it shouldn’t stick.
Step 2: Rolling out the dough
Divide the dough in half. On a floured piece of parchment paper roll out the sugar cookie dough to ¼-½ in thick. You can also roll out the dough in between two pieces of parchment to prevent sticking. I normally stack all my rolled out cookie dough sheets on a baking sheet so it’s easy to move around. You want to make sure each rolled out dough is completely removable with a top and bottom piece of parchment. Sometimes, I forget and I stack a piece of parchment with newly rolled out dough directly on top of another rolled out dough, and then during the chilling process it gets stuck, and I can’t remove it when it’s time to cut out my cookies.
If you are not not baking the cookies right away, form two disks with the dough and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. The dough can be stored 3-5 days in the fridge or up to a month in the freezer.
Step 3: Chill the Sugar Cookie Dough
The next step is to chill the dough. After the first time you roll out the dough, you should chill it for at least 60 minutes. You’ll want to re-chill your cookie dough after every time you re-roll out the scraps of dough from cutting out the cookies, but you won’t need to chill for a full 60 minutes. You can re-chill for 10-30 minutes, or until the dough is firm again.
Step 3: Cutting out your cookies
After you’ve chilled your dough it’s time to cut out your cookies! If you’ve made disks that you’ve chilled, roll them out on a floured surface. If they’re too hard, you might need to let it sit for 5 minutes to soften up before you can roll it. If the dough at any point gets too soft, put back in the fridge for 5-10 minutes. Once you’ve rolled out the dough, you can cut out your sugar cookies, and place them on parchment or a silicone mat lined baking sheet. The more chilled the dough is at this point the easier it is to cut and move the cookies. Again, if it gets too soft put back in the fridge for a few minutes. Once you’ve cut out your first batch of cookies and they’re on your baking tray, re-chill the cut out cookies for 5-15 minutes in the fridge or freezer before baking. This is optional, but helps to ensure the cookies don’t spread. If you’re adding sprinkles, now is the time. Just sprinkle over the cut out cookies before you put them in the oven.
Step 4: Bake your cookies!
Cooking time will vary depending on the size of your cookies, but for most 2-3 inch cookies, you bake for 8-12 minutes at 350 °F. Smaller cookies will need less time and larger cookies will need more. You can tell they’re done when they easily move from the baking pan and they start to very slightly brown around the edges. Cool the cookies for 5-10 minutes on the pan and then let them finish cooling on a wire cooling rack. Make sure they are completely cool before you add any frosting.
Step 5: Cut, Roll, Chill, Repeat
While the cookies are baking, take the scraps and roll them out. Then, let the rolled out dough chill in the fridge until firm. While that batch is chilling, you can work on cutting cookies from the second batch of rolled out cookie dough. You’ll repeat the process of rolling out the scraps of dough, chilling until firm, cutting out new cookies, and baking, until all the cookie dough is gone.
The whole process sounds like a lot of work, but it’s actually really easy and you can do it while your engaged in other activities. I normally will bake a batch of cookies over the course of a couple hours and just do it as I have time, making sure to be near the kitchen when I have a batch in the oven. Spreading out the cookie baking also ensures the dough is always super chilled and cold when you bake them.
Tips for Making Cut Out Sugar Cookies:
- Spoon the flour into the measuring cup, rather than dipping the measure cup right into the bag of flour. That can pack down the flour and you’ll get more in the recipe than it calls for. My favorite method is to use a scale to weigh it.
- Make sure your butter is softened. This ensures the butter and sugar creams easily and you don’t add too much air when mixing.
- Cream the butter and sugar until just incorporated, less than a minute. You want the butter and sugar to be mixed, but you don’t want the butter to start fluffing up as this will add extra air into the dough, and that can lead to spreading when you bake your sugar cookies.
- Try not to over mix your dough. You want it to all come together and clump in the middle. If you push your finger into the dough and it makes an indent without sicking it’s done.
- Experiment with Flavors! Using vanilla extract is the most common flavor for sugar cookies, but almond and lemon extract are also really good.
- Chill the Dough. This is super important and you want to chill and re-chill your dough at every step of the process (see instructions). With Sweet Sugarbelle’s recipe I was excited about the prospect of not having to chill the sugar cookie dough, but I absolutely did have to chill it. The sugar cookie dough did not work without putting it in the fridge to firm up. This makes a lot of sense, as once the butter softens you can’t move the cut out cookies to the baking tray without it getting misshapen. Chilling the dough firms up the butter, making the sugar cookie dough hard and easy to cut and move around. The colder and firmer the cookies are when you put them in the oven the less likely they are to spread.
- When baking different sized cookies, group them together by size to ensure even baking. So, every batch you bake should have similar sized cookies on it. If you have large cookies and small cookies in the same batch in the oven, it’s really easy to over bake the small ones.
- When storing the dough, make sure it is tightly wrapped in plastic wrap. This ensures it doesn’t take on any additional flavors from your fridge or freezer.
How to decorate cut out sugar cookies
Sugar Cookies are so fun to decorate! There are many different ways to decorate them. Here are some of the most common.
Royal Icing for Sugar Cookies
Royal icing is my favorite way to decorate sugar cookies. It uses meringue powder and powdered sugar to make a flat icing like here. The icing is hard and the cookies are stackable, making them perfect for gifts and parties. It is a very versatile technique and you can make really beautifully decorated sugar cookies. It’s a little more advanced but so fun to learn. I love Sweetopia, Sweet Sugarbelle, SweetAmbs and Julia Usher for royal icing tips and techniques. If you’re interested in decorating with royal icing, check them out!
Buttercream frosting for Sugar Cookies
You can also frost with buttercream, which tastes delicious but they’re not stackable like royal icing. This is super common for at home treats, and at Christmas and other holidays.
Sprinkles for Sugar Cookies
If you don’t want to frost them, you can always decorate your sugar cookies with sprinkles before you bake them, making them already decorated when they get out of the oven!
Decorating sugar cookies with sprinkles is super easy, you sprinkle them on top of the cookies before baking. No need to press them down, they’ll stick when they bake. If you are looking to place them in a certain spot you can push them down a tiny bit so they don’t move when you transfer them to the oven. But, I think they look super cute sprinkled on randomly!
- 2.5 cups All-Purpose Flour 11 oz
- 1 cup Granulated Sugar or 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
- 1 cup Unsalted Butter at room temperature
- ½ tsp Salt
- 1 Large Egg
- 1.5 tsp Vanilla or vanilla bean paste
Tools for Making Halloween Sugar Cookies:
- Standing or Hand Held Mixer
- Measuring Cups
- Baking Trays
- Parchment Paper or Silicone Matts
- Rolling Pin
- Cookie cutters
- Whisk flour and salt in a bowl and set aside.
- Using a standing or handheld mixer, cream the softened butter and sugar on medium until fully mixed together, about 45-60 seconds.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the egg and vanilla.
- Mix on low, increasing to medium until fully combined, about 30-60 seconds.
- Add the flour mixture. At this point, you can cover the bowl with a tea towel so flour doesn’t escape the bowl when you start mixing. Starting on low, mix for about 30 seconds. Remove the tea told and increase speed to medium. Once the dough starts to clump in the middle it’s done. You should be able to press your finger into the dough and it will indent and not stick.
- Divide your dough in half. If you’re saving you dough to bake at a later time, form two disks and wrap tightly in plastic. Store in an airtight container or ziploc bag in the fridge or freeze until ready to bake.
- Otherwise, roll out each slab of dough to ¼ - ½ inch thick on floured parchment.
- Cover with another piece of parchment and stack on a baking tray.
- Chill in the fridge 1 hour.
- At this time, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
- After the dough has chilled, remove from the fridge and cut out the cookies. Re-roll the scraps of dough, and re-chill the dough until firm.
- Place the cut out sugar cookies on a parchment or silicone mat lined baking sheet.
- Optional: Rechill the cut-out cookies for 10-15 minutes in the fridge or freezer to further prevent spreading.
- Depending on size, bake for 8-12 minutes.
- Let cool 5 minutes on baking pan, then remove to a wire rack to finish cooling.
- Let cool completely before frosting.
- This recipe is adapted from Sweetopia
- The number of cookies and nutrition facts can vary by the size and thickness of the cookies
- Cookie dough can be store unbaked for 3-5 days in the fridge or up to a month in the freezer, tightly covered.
- Baked cookies can last one to one week at room temperature in an airtight container.