Holiday Sugar Cookies

Tried-and-true, fabulous sugar cookie recipe! Old fashioned, easy to make buttery cookies, perfect to decorate for the holidays!

  • Yield: Makes 5 dozen cookies, makes fewer if using oversized cookie cutters

Ingredients

Cookies:

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter, softened to room temp
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 3 tbsp whipping cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (can substitute almond extract)

Icing:

  • 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

Cookie Decorations:

Method

1 Make the cookie dough: In a large bowl, vigorously whisk together the dry ingredients—flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

Use a mixer to mix in the softened butter, egg, whipping cream, and vanilla extract. Beat until well mixed.

Chill the dough for several hours.

2 Roll out the dough: Break off a piece of dough the size of an orange and pat it flat in your hand. Sprinkle lightly with a flour/sugar mixture (use a 2/1 ratio of flour to sugar: 4 Tbsp flour mixed with 2 Tbsp sugar).

Using a rolling pin, roll dough on a floured board or between wax paper. Flour both sides of the dough while rolling so the dough will lift easily from the board when cut. Roll out to about a 1/4-inch thickness.

3 Cut out the cookie shapes: Use cookie cutters to cut out the cookie shapes.If the rolled out dough gets too soft, chill it in the refrigerator for 5 to 10 minutes before continuing.

4 Bake: Place the cookie shapes on silpat-lined or an un-greased 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.

5 Make the icing: Use a mixer to beat the icing ingredients—Crisco or butter, confectioners sugar, milk, vanilla extract—until smooth.

If your icing is too thick to spread evenly, add tiny amounts of milk and thoroughly remix until the icing is the consistency you prefer.

Separate into different bowls, add food coloring to achieve various colors.

6 Decorate: Spread the icing onto the cookies with a butter knife or a pastry brush, 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.

 

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Comments

  • Jeanie

    I was worried about this recipe given the mixed reviews, but it really is the best! Here are my suggestions: Mix the dough like any regular cookie dough. By that I mean, cream the butter and sugar together. Add the egg and mix well, then add the cream and extract (I used almond). While those things are mixing, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt. Combine the two and mix well. Let the dough chill for several hours before rolling out.

    I love the suggestion to mix flour and sugar for rolling, and was able to roll the dough thin. We must have over 100 cookies, all sizes, all beautiful. Looking forward to decorating them. Thanks for a great recipe!

  • Leo

    I tried the 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.

  • Melody

    Sounds like shortbread cookies.

  • nicole

    I made the recipe today for the kids to decorate for valentine’s day and it was delicious! soft and wonderful. I added more cream to get the dough to come together and it didn’t make as many as I expected but we did have a fairly large cookie cutter. thanks for this recipe–I highly recommend it.

  • Rachel

    Finally! A good sugar cookie cut-out recipe! I try a new recipe every year and can’t find one that’s just right. Either the dough is a pain to work with, or the taste is just so-so. I decided to try this one since it was so different from anything else I’ve tried. I live in a very humid climate, and so I often have to add more flour to cookie recipes. But I thought since the liquid is added last, I could add less cream if need be. But, IT WAS PERFECT just like it is! The dough is easy to work with and the cookies are so tender and yummy. I will search no further. THANK YOU!

  • Katie

    LOVED the frosting (with crisco) — seriously simple and tastes 100% better than the kind you buy in a can…but it’s just as easy to work with and the texture is similar (but oh so better!)

  • Patricia

    Just baked the sugar cookies for Christmas Eve and, wow! These are the very best sugar cookies I’ve ever made! Everyone is thrilled at my house. Thank you so much for posting this — what a wonderful present for all.

  • Jamie

    I just made a batch of the 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

    • Jennifer

      I may be confused by the order you mixed your ingredients, but the wet should be mixed together in the stand mixer, then your pre-whisked dry ingredients added to that. Sounds like you had all dry in your stand mixer then dumped in wet ingredients individually?

  • tastyeatsathome

    Thank you for sharing! I made the recipe, substituting almond extract for the vanilla, and they came out wonderfully!

  • Jenifer

    Aweful! The dough was so dry and crumbly. I had to add some milk to actually roll the dough. The cookies don’t have a very buttery flavor and they were still very dry.

    I read the recipe over six or seven times b/c I thought for sure I had left something out. I don’t understand, especially after all of the great reviews :( I’m going to try the 2nd recipe next time. Otherwise, pillsbury mix for me.

  • ashley

    Can I use buttermilk instead of cream?

    I have no idea how that would turn out. If you try it, please let us know. ~Elise

  • Cynthia

    I made these cookies this week for my son’s class. We made the dough one night and I left it in the fridge over night. The following night we baked them, but when I took the dough out it was rock hard. I had just started preheating the oven so I put the bowl with the dough in there for a few minutes until I was able to break off a piece, then I worked it in my hand. Did I do something wrong? Did I leave it in the fridge too long? In the end though they are delicious and everyone liked them.

    I don’t know about you, but some parts of my refrigerator are colder than others. In fact, there is this one corner that is so close to freezing, sometimes things do get partially frozen back there. What you are describing sounds like your dough just got a little too cold. Letting it sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes probably would have done the trick to warm it up enough to handle. ~Elise

  • Lisa S.

    My neighbor and I made the sugar cookie recipe for her tree-trimming party and they were a huge hit. Probably one of the better sugar cookies I’ve ever had too. It took about 2 hours to decorate 30 cookies – the table was covered in icing bags (ok, plain old sandwich bags with the tip of a corner cut off) and sprinkles and chocolate and vanilla chips, but it was fun. I used half vanilla and half almond extract and I think that made them a bit tastier. They were perfectly crisp on the edges and kinds soft in the middle as they are supposed to be. But I think if you intend to truly decorate them with colored icings, you should double the icing recipe – we used some cake frosting I had in the refrigerator as a base and decorated on that.

  • Nikki

    I made the sugar cookie recipe, followed the instructions to a “T” and am sad to report they were a huge disappointment. If I were to make these again, it would require a tremendous amount of tweaking. Still on the hunt for the Best Sugar Cookies…

  • Laura

    I used the sugar cookie recipe and the cookies were awesome. I made them for my daughters preschool class and everyone said they were the best they ever had. My daughter and I made them together, we had so much fun. Thanks for the recipe, it was delicious and simple to make.

  • Anonymous

    This recipe is almost exactly like the recipe my family has been using for years. It may be the exact recipe, but I don’t have it in front of me to compare with. Cooking for 7-8 minutes (until there is just a hint of golden brown at the edges) will result in a light cookie that is soft in the middle but firm enough to pick up without falling apart. If you let it cook too long it gets a little crunchy. These are the best and I’ve made them every Christmas for as long as I can remember.

  • Cindy

    Hi! Love your recipes. Can’t wait to try them out. I do have a question, is there a trick to the batter or some way to keep those nice sharp cookie-cutout shapes? Your star cookie looks super nice! Last, year I used frozen cookie dough to make some Lego miniman cookies and they totally lost their shapes while baking. They barely resembled a miniman. That was soooo dissappointing. I’m hoping to avoid that this time around :) Thanks!

    I guess it depends on the cookie dough you are using. That and you do need to chill the dough completely. ~Elise

  • erica

    going to try out the 1st recipe for superbowl cookies:) how long does the 1st recipe dough need to be refrigerated for? (like a minimum number of hours, I may not have 2 days to make them)

    Oh I would say at least a couple hours. ~Elise

  • Kimi

    I just want to point out to those saying their dough is crumbly and dry that some cookie recipes are just like that. They are similar to the old fashioned sugar cookies of the old days. My cookie recipe is also very dry and crumbly but a trick I use when rolling it out after chilling it until firm, is to spray water on it from a refillable pump bottle. Just enough to moisten it until it is like play doh. Then I cut and bake they come out delicious everytime.

    Use water and not milk or cream as that can alter the structure of the cookie if you use too much, and using a spray bottle ensures a fine mist you can control how much goes on. Too much and you will ruin it. Too little and the cookies crumble a lot but they will still taste good, if you don’t want to use water just roll into a log and slice and bake because the dryness of the dough won’t roll out well enough for cutting.

  • billie

    when cuttin out cookies roll ur cookies out onto the cookie sheet then all u gotta do is remove the extra dough around the cut outs this works wonders and no messed up COOKIES!!!

  • Allyson

    So I think I may have done something wrong because my dough is just like flour….there is no way to roll this into a cookie. I followed the recipe to a “T” but it seems there should be more liquid or something in it. Any suggestions for what I may have done wrong? Perhaps my butter wasn’t soft enough?? Thanks in advance for you advice!

    p.s. I am using recipe #1

  • Sarah Coller

    I just made recipe #1 and they are perfect! I used the icing recipe that went with it (adding a little salt as well) and it was just enough. Thank you so much…this is definitely my new favorite sugar cookie recipe!

    Sarah

  • Cari

    I had the same problem as another person in the thread…The dough was so dry and crumbly. I read the recipe over and over again to see if I missed something but came up with nothing. My husband is always bragging how I can take a recipe and it always turns out right because I am precise with measurements and follow instructions to a “T” so I am not sure what went wrong.

  • Jennifer

    If you put 1 slice of bread in an airtight container with your cookies they will stay as soft as when they first came out of the oven!

  • Denise Lockhart

    I was just wondering if too much cream of tartar was accidentally added to a sugar cookie receipe would that make the cookie be dry?

    No idea. ~Elise

  • Melissa

    So many times my cookies spread out during baking losing their shape, even though I always refrigerate the dough. This is especially true when I use a heart cookie cutter. Any tips to help my problem? I need to made a large number of them for a 50th wedding anny. party.

    I was given a tip by David Lebovitz that one of the reasons cookies spread too much is if you beat the butter and sugar together too much. With cookies you don’t want to beat so much air into the butter, or the cookies will just spread too much. ~Elise

  • 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:
    http://allrecipes.com/HowTo/Cup-to-Gram-Conversions/Detail.aspx

  • 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

  • ardismom

    A few tips for these cookies. When rolling out your dough…add a little sugar to the flour and it really helps when rolling out. Also, if your dough seems dry just keep adding cream to it and it will help. These are great cookies.

  • Kim

    I love making sugar cookies all year round and decorate according to the season :-). I sometimes use Martha’s recipe which does produce a softer cookie. It is not really buttery or sweet on it’s own but I find that once it icing is on it’s perfect. I also prefer ‘royal icing’ style of icing, I find it’s easier to decorate with. Fun!

  • Kelly Geddes

    These cookies are yummy!! i made these about 100 of them and they went down a treat. My decorative skills are better on walls than baked goods but i gave it a go and was pleased. Well worth a try!!!
    Once i uplod my pictures i’ll let you see..

  • Hannah

    Yes, the cookies can be frozen *without* icing. Remove them from the freezer and let thaw completely. Then ice as usual and they turn out great.

    I usually always layer the cookies between sheets of waxed paper when freezing.

  • k

    I don’t know if anyone asked this already. But do the cookies need to be refrigerated since they have milk in the frosting? I would like to make some to give to friends, some might have to be shipped…
    Thanks!

    No, they do not need to be refrigerated. They should be kept in an airtight container though. ~Elise

  • trish

    How do you keep the cookies from losing their shape
    even though I make them super thin? Is it better to use a dark color or light color cookie sheet?

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Trish, if you make them super thin, you’ll need to keep refrigerating them as you work. Refrigerate the dough once you’ve rolled it out, and refrigerate the cut out cookies once you’ve cut them out. Maybe even freeze them for a few minutes. Just keep them cold.

      As for light or dark colored cookie sheets? I prefer using light colored cookie sheets because I find they cook the cookies more evenly. The darker cookie sheets attract more heat and can cause the bottoms to get much too dark before the rest of the cookies are done.

  • SP Barnes

    When we made these at my house we used natural cane sugar to decorate, they looked very elegant.

  • Kelsey

    I, my sisters, and my parents use this recipe every year! We love it!! Thank you very much!

  • C

    I made these these weekend – the first recipe for the cookie and the frosting – and they got RAVE reviews! Thanks, Elise and Steve-Anna!

  • LaDawn

    Hey cookie bakers-I have a tip for ya’ll. I am a volunteer for our local Home Hospice and bake a lot of cookies for patients and families. I make up 8-10 batches of cookie dough at a time for future use. I put each batch of dough in a large zipper bag and roll it out in the bag. As I roll the dough from side to side and back to front all the air is expelled resulting in an air tight seal. Also these rolled out bags stack nicely in the freezer. I have found out that the dough stays plyable when taken from the freezer and easy to remove and roll out for cut out cookies. Just “food for thought”

  • Donna

    Where do you recommend buying cookie cutters and the other equipment you use? Thanks.

  • Carol Bink

    How do you transfer the cutout cookies to the baking sheet? I have had lots of difficulty in this step, just distorting the cutouts beyond recognition. I have not been able to find any instructions for this.

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Carol, after you roll out one segment of dough, chill it for 5 minutes to help it firm up again. Then cut out the cookies. You may need to chill them again if they get too soft.

  • stephanie

    I made some of your sugar cookies and they were awesome.

  • Julie

    For those of you who may not know…if your cookies are too crispy for you, or they have dried out, you can put a piece of plain sandwich bread in the container with them over night (or until they are gone) and they will get soft again. My Mimi (grandmother) taught me this.