Sugar Cookies

Two tried-and-true, fabulous sugar cookie recipes. Old fashioned, easy to make buttery cookies, perfect to decorate for any occasion. Photos and step-by-step instructions.

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Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Photos of this batch of cookies by SA Stephens

When looking for good recipes for sugar cookies, I turned to my dear friend and Alabama native, Steve-Anna. She gave me two family favorites and we each picked a batch to make. Steve-Anna takes cookie decorating to a level unimaginable to me, so we are starting here with her cookie photos and cookies recipe. I chose a minimalist approach to decorating in the second recipe listed, as you will see.

Sugar Cookies Recipe



Sugar Cookie Recipe number one


  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup soft butter
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 3 tbsp cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla (can substitute almond extract)


    • 1/3 cup Crisco (transfat-free) or a 1/3 cup of softened butter
    • 1 pound of confectioners sugar
    • About 1/4 cup of milk
    • 1 teaspoon of vanilla


1 Sift dry ingredients, cut in butter and add other ingredients. Blend thoroughly; chill for several hours.

2 Break off a piece of dough the size of an orange and pat it flat in your hand. Using a rolling pin, roll on dough on floured board (best to use a 2/1 ration of flour/sugar - 4 Tbsp flour mixed with 2 Tbsp sugar) or between wax paper. (It helps if you flour both sides of the dought.) Roll out to about a 1/4 inch thickness. Cut out and put on silpat-lined or ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 5-8 minutes at 400 F. Remove the cookies from the oven as soon as you see them turning color at the base of the cookie. Let cool completely.

3 Mix icing ingredients together until smooth. Separate into different bowls, add food coloring to achieve various colors. Spread on cookies with a butter knife, use cake decorating piping equipment to add decorative accents. If you want the sprinkle type decorating candies to stick, brush the cookie with clear Karo syrup and then sprinkle.

Makes 5 dozen cookies.

Undecorated cookies

The icing begins

Using sprinkles

sugar cookies
The finished product.

Adapted from the recipe for Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies, Huntsville Heritage Cookbook, 1967, The Junior League of Huntsville, AL, Lowry Printing, Inc.

Sugar Cookie Recipe number 2



  • 1 1/2 cups sifted confectioners sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar


  • 2 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • Food coloring

1 Beat the butter and sugar together for 1 minute. Add egg, vanilla and almond extract, beat until incorporated. Combine dry ingredients and add to batter, stirring to blend.

2 Divide dough in half, form 2 balls. Wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

3 Using a rolling pin, roll out dough (about 1/2 of one dough ball at a time) on a lightly floured surface to about 1/8" thickness. Dip cookie cutters into flour; cut out shapes. Place cookies on silpat lined or lightly greased cookie sheets. Bake at 375°F for 7-8 minutes.

4 To make icing, combine sugar, almond extract and just enough milk (about 1/4 cup) to make the frosting the consistency of thin glue. Pour icing into shallow bowls wide enough for dipping cookies. Add food coloring.

5 To decorate, dip the topside of each cookie into the icing. Remove quickly and let icing drip of excess back into the icing bowl. Let dry. Pour additional colored frosting into pastry piping, or use a plastic sandwich bag with the tip of one corner nicked off. Gently squeeze frosting on to cookies in whatever patterns you choose.

Makes 2-3 dozen.

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Showing 4 of 64 Comments

  • Leo

    I tried the first sugar cookie tonight and it was ok. My little girl enjoyed it. We are trying out cookies for her school cookie exchange for Friday. Thank you for the recipe.

  • barbie l.

    A tip from Alton Brown that i’ve really taken to is WEIGHING flour and sugar instead of using cups. The science of the matter is that flour especially settle differently from day to day and from kitchen to kitchen, and that using weight like in pro baker’s formulas will result in more consistent baked goods. You will of course need a small food scale, but i think it’s REALLY WORTH IT!

    I bake confidently using 1 CUP FLOUR = 128 g or 4.5 oz

    Rest of chart at:

  • Barbara

    I need to make royal frosting (the kind with egg white) because of stacking the cookies. It is harder and the icing won’t get all over other cookies. I worry because I am using an egg white recipe rather than meringue powder. Would these cookies have to be refrigerated because of the raw egg white to prevent salmonella or does the sugar act as a preservative?

    If you are concerned about salmonella, I recommend using pasteurized eggs or egg whites, or not using royal icing. The sugar in the icing might act as a deterrent to salmonella, but I’m no expert on this, so don’t know what to tell you. ~Elise

  • JennyM

    Beautiful decorating. Definitely not in my skillset! As for the eating part, I prefer the second recipe as cream of tartar seems to make the cookies crispier. I’m not a fan of soft cookies.

    I do sift my flour when called for, but you don’t need a real sifter. A fine sieve works extremely well if that’s all you have. Many fine bakers (not me, I’m just okay ;-) just use sieves, and it’s one less item to store.

  • Jamie

    I just made a batch of the first recipe. I sifted the dry ingredients together, put them into my stand mixer, added the butter and other ingredients, and it came out really crumbly – i.e. wouldn’t stick together. I am very new to the baking world … what did I do wrong?

    Not all cup measures are the same, which might be throwing things off a bit. Just add a little more cream until the dough comes together. ~Elise

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Sugar Cookies