Our absolute favorite cut-out sugar cookie recipe, perfect for decorating! Buttery, soft, and lightly sweet, holding their shape after baking without needing to soften the butter first or chill the dough. Enjoy them plain or doll them up with our sugar cookie icing or sugar cookie frosting. Great for holidays or anytime, this will be your go to!
This recipe makes perfect sugar cookies for decorating, but you can’t go wrong with our other sugar cookies, either. Try our Easy Sugar Cookies (only 3 ingredients!), soft and chewy Brown Sugar Cookies, and Chocolate Sugar Cookies. There’s a sugar cookie for everyone!
Everyone who loves our easy sugar cookies and has asked for a great cut-out sugar cookie recipe, today is your day! While we absolutely adore our 3 ingredient cookies, they are on the delicate side and not really conducive to decorating with icing. But the recipe we’re sharing today is made for frosting and icing and all your decorating desires.
Best Cut Out Sugar Cookies – Why We Love Them
You will love these cookies like we do, really. Here’s why:
- No need to soften the butter or bring it to room temperature.
- The dough does not need to be chilled in the fridge.
- These cookies are sturdy, but soft with slightly crisp edges.
- They don’t spread and do hold their shape.
- The surface doesn’t bubble or puff up, so they’re perfect for decorating.
- Fantastic flavor even when they’re plain.
Cut Out Sugar Cookie Recipe
Most people naturally associate sugar cookies with Christmas, but they are a fantastic year-round cookie using whatever cookie cutter shapes and icing colors you like. Pastel colored flowers are lovely in springtime, red white and blue stars for 4th of July, and leaf shapes with brown, yellow, and orange colors for autumn. So fun!
This is our absolute favorite sugar cookie recipe for decorating – in taste and texture. Only 7 simple ingredients needed. They’re buttery and on the softer side, with slightly crisp edges, plus they have a wonderful flavor on their own if you decide not to ice them.
The dough for these cookies is pretty thick and will be crumbly at first (don’t worry!) You’ll knead it into a ball with your hands as you scoop it out of the bowl until it comes together. And then once you roll it out, it will become smooth.
You’ll have some scraps leftover after you roll and cut the cookies. You can re-shape the dough into a flat disc, roll it out, and cut more shapes. (You can roll and cut the dough a total of 3 times before it’s not a good idea anymore and anything left at that point should be tossed.)
No Chill Cut Out Sugar Cookies
Most sugar cookie recipes require the dough to be chilled for a few hours or overnight. Not this recipe. You can, but it’s not necessary. You’ll roll the dough, cut out your shapes, and simply stick the trays in the freezer while you preheat the oven. They won’t spread or puff up, and they’ll hold their shape after baking.
Tips for Success
Here are some tips to make sure your cut-out cookies hold their shape and don’t spread while baking:
- The thickness of the cut out dough matters: This is a big one! Make sure your dough isn’t rolled thinner than 1/4-inch. We aim for between 1/4″ to 3/8″ thick. If they’re too thin, the dough will absolutely spread while baking.
- Measure the flour correctly: The flour should be spooned and leveled, not scooped.
- Use real butter: Use a high quality butter. Do not use margarine or butter substitutes. We use salted butter for these cookies, but unsalted is fine, too.
- Combine ingredients fully: The dough will be crumbly at first, so you’ll need to knead it into a ball with your hands as you remove it from the bowl until it comes together, then roll. You don’t want pockets of butter, which can cause the cookies to spread as they bake.
- Don’t overwork the dough. The more you work with the dough, the warmer it gets, which can lead to spreading.
- Use parchment paper: Lining the baking sheets with parchment paper prevents sticking and helps the cookies hold their shape.
- Chill cut outs while oven preheats: These cookies don’t need to chill for hours, but they should be placed in the freezer while you preheat the oven. This helps prevent spreading.
- Don’t over-bake: Know your oven. Does it run cold? Hot? Over-baking can make the cookies dry and crumbly. Remember that cookies continue to cook a little as they cool.
How to Decorate Sugar Cookies
These cookies are great plain, but ideal for decorating. Use your favorite shaped cutters and have fun with it.
Sugar Cookie Icing: This icing recipe is thin, smooth, and glossy – great as a simple glaze or for fancier decorating. It’s so easy to make with only a few simple items, and creates a hard shell so you can stack your cookies or bag them.
Sugar Cookie Frosting: This frosting is thick and fluffy (and tastes amazing), great piped or swirled using a star tip. It also hardens, so you can stack those sugar cookies.
Proper Storage and Freezing
- Storing baked cookies: Allow baked cookies to cool completely. Then store at room temperature in an airtight container. They will keep up to 5 days.
- Make-ahead dough: The dough can be made and stored up to 2 days in advance of rolling and baking. Make the dough, divide in half and form into disks. Wrap each one in plastic wrap and store in the fridge. Or freeze the dough for up to 1 month (place wrapped disks in a freezer safe bag.) Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, bring almost to room temperature, and follow the recipe as written.
- Freeze baked cookies: Allow baked cookies to cool completely, then store in an airtight container or freezer-safe bag (with parchment between the layers.) You can freeze them plain or decorated, but if iced, make sure the icing is 100% set beforehand. They will keep up to 2 months.
- Freeze cut cookie dough: Place cut cookie shapes on a parchment-lined baking sheet, then wrap tightly with plastic wrap and again with foil. Transfer to the freezer. Thaw at room temperature and then bake as directed. They will keep in the freezer this way for about a month. (Note: this is my least favorite way to freeze the cookies because they can become dry. I think it’s better to freeze the raw dough disks or baked cookies.)
How to Make Cut Out Sugar Cookies
Simply make the dough, knead until it comes together, roll it, cut out shapes, and bake! Enjoy the cookies plain or decorated. To make this sugar cookie recipe, follow the steps below included in the printable recipe card. Make sure to refer back to the article for tips and watch the video for visual help.
More Easy Cookie Recipes:
Cut Out Sugar Cookies
- 3 cups all-purpose flour , spooned and leveled
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 cup salted butter , cold & cut into cubes
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- sugar cookie icing , for a simple glossy glaze or fancier decorating
- sugar cookie frosting , for spreading or piping
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Whisk together the flour and baking powder, set aside.
- In a large bowl using an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth and creamy. Blend in the egg and both extracts. Gradually add the flour mixture and beat until just combined, scraping down the bowl, as needed, including the bottom.
- The dough will be crumbly, so knead it together with your hands as you scoop it out of the bowl until it comes together.
- Roll on a floured surface to about 1/4" to 3/8" thick, and cut into shapes using cookie cutters.
- Place on the prepared baking sheets 2 inches apart and then transfer to the freezer for 10 minutes, while you preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Bake for 10-12 minutes until just barely golden on the bottoms. Watch them carefully and don’t over-bake.
- Let sit for a few minutes on the sheet, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely before icing.
- Enjoy plain or decorate and allow to set (usually 3 hours or overnight) before stacking.
- NOTE: Don't miss all the tips in the full article for optimal results and watch the video for visual help.