This best ever recipe for sugar cookies is perfect for decorating with icing. Cookies that are soft inside, yet bake up with crisp edges that do not spread.
My Christmas baking starts with making sugar cookies and decorating them Royal Icing. I have tried many sugar cookie recipes and have been disappointed by their tasteless flavor. After many trials and errors, I have finally come up with the best sugar cookie recipe ever!
The ingredients you'll need to make perfect cut out sugar cookies.
- Butter - the butter must be soft but not overly so. When you press your finger into it with a little pressure it leaves an indentation but doesn't sink into the butter. I use unsalted butter, but if you use salted butter simply reduce the salt to ½ teaspoon.
- Sugar - just plain white granulated sugar.
- Vanilla bean- I love the superior flavor you get from vanilla beans, but they are sometimes hard to find and expensive. One teaspoon of pure vanilla extract will work as well.
- Eggs - bring to room temperature. Set eggs out on the counter 30 minutes before you bake.
- Flour- all-purpose flour. Do not sift before measuring. Simply scoop from flour container. Use exact measurement!
- Salt- I prefer using Kosher salt for baking.
- Optional Ingredients - add a different flavor to the sugar cookies by adding 2 teaspoons of pumpkin spice. For a zesty orange flavor add 1 ½ teaspoons of cardamom and 1 tablespoon of orange zest.
Making Christmas cookies is always a special time of year. I finally get to use my large collection of cookie cutters. I have vintage ones from my Mom and beautiful copper cookie cutters in all my favorite holiday shapes. They make perfect cut-out cookies using this sugar cookie recipe and my Candy Cane Sugar Cookie recipe.
Want to create beautifully decorated sugar cookies with royal icing? I have a great post with step by step instructions How to Decorate Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing. For something simpler when decorating cookies with kids, try a simple buttercream frosting or powdered sugar icing.
Tips and Tricks for making perfect sugar cookies.
Be sure the butter and sugar are well beaten and fluffy before adding the eggs and dry ingredients.
After adding the dry ingredients combine well but don't overmix or you will get hard cookies.
Divide the dough into two disks, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes or longer. Can you make the dough ahead of time? Yes, 2-3 days making sure it is tightly wrapped in plastic and a freezer bag, and stored in the refrigerator. The dough may have to soften a bit at room temperature or it will be too firm to roll out.
The dough should be rolled out to about ¼ inch on a well-floured surface. This will give you cookies that are soft inside but have nice crisp edges. If you roll too thin you will have crunchy cookies.
After the cookies are cut out, place them on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Next, chill in the freezer for 5 minutes. Chilling is important for cookies to hold their shape.
Bake only until the edges start to brown. Allow to cool a bit on the cookie sheet before moving them to a cooling rack.
This post was originally posted December 2, 2013. Occasionally I update I update with fresh tips, content, and photos. Current update December 6, 2020.
Best Ever Sugar Cookies
- 1 ½ cups butter room temperature soft
- 1 ½ cups sugar
- 1 vanilla bean opened and seeds scraped out or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 eggs + extra yolk
- 3 ¾ cups all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Whisk together flour and salt.
- Using electric mixer with paddle attachment beat butter and sugar together until fluffy, about 5 mins.
- Add vanilla bean and mix well.
- Add eggs and egg yolk. Combine well.
- Add the flour mix a bit at a time. Combine until mixed, but avoid over mixing.
- Divide dough into 2 separate pieces. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes.
- When ready to bake preheat oven to 350º F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
- On well floured work surface roll disk out to ¼ inch thickness.
- Cut out with cookie cutter shape of your choice and transfer to baking sheet. To avoid dough sticking to cookie cutters dip them in bowl of flour, shaking off any excess.
- Place cookie sheet in freezer for about 5 minutes or refrigerator for 10 mins. This helps the cookies hold their shape and not spread.
- Bake 8-10 minutes (just until edges start to brown).
- Allow to cool a bit on cookie sheet, then transfer to cooling rack. Decorate with Royal Icing.