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This Cut Out Sugar Cookie recipe is my family’s annual Christmas tradition! They’re easy to make, hold their shape, and are a thick, soft sugar cookie! I’ve been making this recipe for over 20 years and it comes out perfect EVERY time.

christmas shaped cookies with frosting decorating the cookies


BEST Powdered Sugar Cookie Recipe

My daughter is really big on traditions. Things at holidays happened once when she was little and now that’s the way they’re supposed to happen. This means we have to do three things: have Christmas Eve at her Aunts house, have monkey bread for breakfast, and make cut-out sugar cookies on Christmas Eve with my parents.

This is the only sugar cookie recipe I’ve used for more than 20 years….so you know it has to be the best recipe in the world. They are SOFT and you can make them as thick as you want.

The Best Cut Out Sugar Cookies are great ALL year, not just for Christmas! I love making these for every holiday – cookie cutters come in all shapes! They are my favorite cookie, after all.

sugar cookie ingredients

Important Ingredients

  • Butter – I always use unsalted butter, but you can substitute salted by reducing added salt in the recipe. Make sure the butter is softened.
  • Powdered sugar – instead of using granulated sugar, this is a powdered sugar cookie recipe. Powdered sugar has a teeny bit of cornstarch in it to keep it from clumping and that plus the powdery consistency of confectioners sugar keeps the cookies soft and tender.
  • Cream of Tartar – in addition to baking soda keeps these from spreading AND keeps them soft. You don’t need to use baking powder because of the cream of tartar.
  • Flour – All-purpose flour is best for cookies. Be sure to measure it correctly so you don’t use too much or too little!
  • Extract – I always use pure vanilla extract in my cut out cookies. Sometimes I add a teaspoon almond extract for some extra flavor.
  • Food coloring – I prefer gel food coloring for the frosting, or you can use regular grocery store food coloring (or leave the frosting white).

Click to see the recipe card below for full ingredients & instructions!

How to make Cut Out Sugar Cookies

  • Cream together butter and powdered sugar until nice and fluffy.
  • Add egg, baking soda, cream of tartar, and vanilla, then mix until smooth.
  • Add flour and mix until cookie dough forms. It will be slightly sticky.
  • Divide the dough in half.
  • I always roll my sugar cookie dough before I chill it! Roll it between sheets of parchment paper or wax paper so you don’t need to add extra flour, then chill.
  • Once the dough is hard, cut shapes using cookie cutters.
  • Chill again before baking!
sugar cookies stacked on a drying rack

Rolling Hack

Much like I roll out my pie dough, I roll out my cookie dough between two sheets of wax paper, right after I’ve mixed it up. Just place the dough between two sheets of wax paper and press it into a disk, then roll flat.

While I’m rolling, I’ll occasionally (carefully) lift up the wax paper on the top, put it back down, flip, and do the same on the bottom. That’s because the force of the rolling can cause the wax paper to crinkle.

Using room temperature just-made dough makes rolling out easy. No elbow grease is needed, like when you chill the dough first.

Using two sheets of wax paper makes less mess and eliminates the need for extra flour, which makes a more tender cookie.

snowman shaped cookie decorated with frosting and sprinkles

How do you get sugar cookies to hold their shape?

As long as you follow my directions these cookies will hold their shape. They’ll puff a little bit but stay in the shape you cut. Here are my tips for cut out cookies that hold their shape:

  • Be sure you’ve measured your flour correctly.
  • Chill the dough before you cut the cookies.
  • Chill the dough AFTER cutting cookies BEFORE baking.
  • Do not bake cookies on a hot cookie sheet. Let the cookie sheets cool in between batches.

It really is better to chill sugar cookie dough for best results. It will ensure that your cookies hold their shape but are tender and soft and not too floury.

christmas shaped cookies with frosting decorating the cookies

How to make Sugar Cookie Frosting

Pro Tip: you don’t have to make flood icing or royal icing for sugar cookies. Buttercream tastes better, is easier to make, and more fun! I make a homemade buttercream for these cookies and it’s SO delicious. I have a whole guide to decorating cookies with buttercream with tips, tricks, and tools!

  • Butter
  • Powdered Sugar
  • Vanilla
  • Salt
  • Milk or cream

Just mix it together like you’d mix a buttercream. You can color your frosting as desired, or leave it white, but don’t forget all the sprinkles for decorating! Kids LOVE this frosting so much better than royal icing (and so does Santa).

christmas shaped cookies with frosting decorating the cookies

How to Freeze Cut Out Cookies

How to freeze unfrosted cookies: Stack similarly shaped cookies in airtight containers and freeze for up to 2 months. Freeze prepared frosting in an airtight container. Thaw both on the counter.

Because of the powdered sugar, these soft easy cut out cookies are delicate, so be careful when freezing them!

How to freeze frosted sugar cookies: Place them in a single layer on a cookie sheet and cover them with plastic wrap. Freeze until solid then stack in airtight containers between layers of parchment or wax paper. Separate stacks before thawing.

How to make sugar cookies ahead of time: Roll the dough as directed before chilling. Stack the dough (between sheets of wax or parchment) on cookie sheets and wrap with plastic. Chill up to 24 hours before cutting and baking.

sugar cookies stacked on a drying rack

FAQs

Why does sugar cookie dough have to be refrigerated?

Chilled dough means your cookies stay in the shapes you cut them in. I love that about this recipe – the cookies always stay in shape. No bloated men or round hearts here – a candy cane stays a candy cane and a tree stays a tree! It sounds like a lot of chilling but in the time it takes the oven to preheat your cookies will be ready.

Why do you roll out the dough before chilling it?

Chilling it once it’s already rolled flat makes the dough chill so much faster – you can cut out your cookies after as little as 30 minutes.

tree shaped cookie with frosting decorating the cookies

Soft Cut Out Sugar Cookie Recipe

4.40 from 233 votes
These are my family's favorite Cut Out Sugar Cookies! This easy cookie recipe holds it's shape and makes soft and delicate sugar cookies!
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Chill Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 40 minutes
Yield 36 cookies
Serving Size 1 cookie

Ingredients
 

Cookie:

  • 2 ½ cups (304g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ cups (141g) powdered sugar
  • 1 cup (226g) unsalted butter , softened
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract (optional)

Frosting:

  • 4 cups (452g) powdered sugar
  • ½ cup (113g) unsalted butter , softened
  • 1 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons milk regular, low- or non-fat are all fine (or use heavy cream)
  • Food color and/or sprinkles if desired
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Instructions

  • Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large mixing bowl if using a hand mixer). Mix on low, scraping the bowl occasionally, until the mixture forms a cookie dough. Be sure to start on low or the dry ingredients will fly everywhere!
  • Divide the dough in half. Place a large sheet of waxed paper on a large cutting board or flat surface. Place the cookie dough on the wax paper. Place another large sheet of wax paper on top of the cookie dough. Press down into a flat disk with the palm of your hand, then roll out the dough between the two pieces of wax paper. After each 3-4 rolls, carefully lift the top sheet of wax paper off the dough, then replace it, flip the dough over, and carefully peel the other wax paper sheet, replace it, then continue rolling until the dough is about 1/4” thick. Place the dough, still between the wax paper sheets, on another cutting board or cookie sheet.
  • Repeat with second half of dough. Place both rolled out cookie dough sheets in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes (or wrap them well with plastic wrap and chill overnight).
  • When ready to cut cookies, preheat oven to 375°F.
  • Cut cookies in desired shapes and place them on a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet. Save the scraps of dough and re-roll them as needed. Note: once you re-roll the dough, you may want to chill those cutouts for about 10 minutes before baking them so they’ll keep their shape.
  • Bake cookies for 6-10 minutes depending on the size. I take them out as soon as the bottoms start to brown because we like them softer. If you want crunchy cookies, let them cook longer. Cool completely before frosting and decorating.
  • To make frosting, beat butter until smooth in a large bowl with an electric mixer. Slowly mix in powdered sugar, then vanilla and 1 tablespoon of milk at a time until the frosting is the consistency you desire. Tint the frosting if you want it a color.
  • Frost cookies, decorating them with sprinkles. Store loosely covered at room temperature.

Recipe Video

Recipe Notes

  • If using salted butter, reduce added salt to 1/2 teaspoon.
  • Do not skip the chilling steps if you want your cookies to hold their shape. Roll then chill and cut, then chill again. This is important!
  • Feel free to use pastry bags and tips or just a knife to frost the cookies.
  • These are great in any shape!
  • How to freeze unfrosted cookies: Stack similarly shaped cookies in airtight containers and freeze for up to 2 months. Freeze prepared frosting in an airtight container. Thaw both on the counter.
  • How to freeze frosted sugar cookies: Place them in a single layer on a cookie sheet and cover them with plastic wrap. Freeze until solid then stack in airtight containers between layers of parchment or wax paper. Separate stacks before thawing.
  • How to make sugar cookies ahead of time: Roll the dough as directed before chilling. Stack the dough (between sheets of wax or parchment) on cookie sheets and wrap with plastic. Chill up to 24 hours before cutting and baking.

Recipe Nutrition

Serving: 1cookie | Calories: 171kcal | Carbohydrates: 24g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 25mg | Sodium: 67mg | Potassium: 28mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 17g | Vitamin A: 245IU | Calcium: 6mg | Iron: 1mg
Nutritional information not guaranteed to be accurate
Course Dessert
Cuisine American

These are the BEST Cut Out Sugar Cookies we’ve been making for years. Easy soft cut out sugar cookies that hold they’re shape and topped with sugar cookie icing that’s like a buttercream – it’s easy and fast.

Last Updated on February 29, 2024



Dorothy Kern

Welcome to Crazy for Crust, where I share recipes that are sometimes crazy, often with a crust, and always served with a slice of life.

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144 Comments

  1. Truly this is the only sugar cookie recipe I will ever need! Came out absolutely perfectly and tasted AMAZING. Total winner. Thank you!

  2. I love sugar cookies can coconut oil be used in the place of butter my family and I are trying to do healthy eating

  3. On your post above you have a perfect cut out Sugar Cookie Recipe. Can you use that recipe to make Chocolate Sugar Cookies? How much-unsweetened cocoa powder would you need to add to the recipe; would need to add anything else to balance out the cocoa powder? I like that your recipe has powdered sugar in the recipe. My mom used to make a recipe like your sugar cookie recipe with powder sugar, not granulated sugar. She made sugar cookies and chocolate sugar cookies for Christmas, and Easter. The recipe was lost when my parents moved. They were good cookies, soft and chewie. I have been looking for a sugar cookie recipe like she used to make. I didn’t think of putting powder sugar in the search box. I thought if I put sugar cookie recipes one of them would have powder sugar in the recipe. I had to add powder sugar in the search box and your recipe popped up. I am excited to try your recipe and see if it is the same as the one my mom always made. It has the powder sugar in the recipe and the vanilla and almond extract in the recipe and my mom had the same in the recipe she made. She doesn’t remember all the amounts of the ingredients in the recipe to help me put one together to make the recipe she used to make. I have been buying store bought dough these last four years they were even already cut out into shapes. They were not the same. They didn’t have the vanilla and almond flavor and not as soft and chewie. I am looking forward to trying your recipe. Thank you for posting your recipe for perfect cut out sugar cookies. I hope you and your family have a happy holiday season and Merry Christmas.