Simple, classic vanilla sugar cookies with crisp edges, soft and chewy centers. They taste amazing while still warm, stay soft and delicious for weeks, and are perfect for decorating. Being simple, they can be made in any shape and dressed up with sprinkles or icing for any occasion, from Christmas to Halloween.
How to make cut-out sugar cookies
These sugar cookies are made of simple ingredients following an easy process. Start with creaming room-temperature butter with sugar, add eggs and vanilla, and finally add flour and salt. Chill the dough, roll, cut out the shapes and bake. Sounds easy, right? But if you are looking for that perfect cookie shape and texture, there are some more things to keep in mind.
What does room-temperature butter really mean?
Room-temperature butter, which will be used for creaming, should be around 18°C / 65°F. If you touch it, your finger will leave the indentation, but will not go through, down to the surface. Meaning, it should be medium soft, but not overly soft or melty. Too soft butter can result in sticky dough, if you get sticky dough, you will most likely add more flour and your cookies will get tough.
How thick should sugar cookies be?
Sugar cookies can be thick or thin, that depends on your taste. But if you want to have that soft and chewy center, don’t roll the dough thinner than 5 mm / 0.2 inch. Thicker cookies will also taste better when decorated with sugar icing: their taste will not be drowned by a super sweet icing layer.
Why do sugar cookies get hard?
There are a few reasons:
- If you decided to roll the better thinner, you’ll get harder cookies.
- If you overmix the dough or roll it too many times, a lot of gluten will form and make cookies harder.
- Adding too much flour will also make your cookies tough.
- One more factor is baking time. Overbaked cookies will dry out and get hard, so take them out as soon as they start getting golden on the edges.
How long should you keep sugar cookie dough in the fridge?
After mixing the dough it will be soft. To make it more manageable, you need to chill it in the fridge. I prefer chilling for 1 hour, but up to 2 hours is the optimal time. From my experience, after keeping the dough in the fridge longer than 2 hours, it gets a bit too hard to roll, so you need to thaw it slightly. If you are not in a hurry or prefer making dough in advance, you can leave it wrapped in the fridge for up to 3 days. Again, thaw it slightly before rolling. If you would like to keep your dough unbaked for even longer, freeze it.
Is it better to chill cookie dough in the fridge or freezer?
Sometimes rush happens to everyone, so why not chill cookie dough in the freezer for a shorter time? Shouldn’t it work the same? Unfortunately, it does not. In the freezer, dough chills less evenly, so after ~20 minutes you would have almost frozen edges and still soft dough interior, which is not what you are looking for. Use the fridge for the evenly chilled dough.
Can you freeze sugar cookie dough?
On the other hand, if you would like to keep your cookie dough unbaked for a longer time, wrap it tightly or move it to an airtight container and freeze it for up to 3 months.
Can you re-roll the sugar cookie dough?
After cutting out cookie shapes you’ll have dough scraps. Should you reroll them? Absolutely! Only try not to roll the same dough more than 3 times. After that many, lines where scraps were connected will get visible on top of baked cookies, shapes will get distorted and cookies will be tougher because more gluten will form with every roll.
How to prevent sugar cookies from spreading in the oven?
If you follow my recipe exactly, your cookies will slightly puff in the oven, but will not spread or change their shapes. If it still happens, here are a few things you might have done wrong:
- You might have over-creamed butter with sugar. Don’t do it longer than 2 mins.
- Were you in a rush and chilled the dough for shorter than one hour? Or it got very soft while rolling and cutting shapes? I’m also guilty of doing this mistake more than once. The dough should be quite cool when you put it in the oven, or cookies will spread or their shapes will get distorted. If the dough got too warm and soft while working with it, get it back in the fridge and chill it again.
- If you are putting cut-out dough on a baking sheet that you’ve just taken out of the oven, your cookies will spread. Put unbaked cookies on a cool baking sheet.
- Greased your baking sheets? Don’t do that, use parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
How do you know when sugar cookies are done?
Sugar cookies are done when their tops look matte and they start getting golden yellow on the edges. Don’t wait till most or all the cookie will get golden, this would mean burned cookies.
What to do if sugar cookies have bubbles on the surface?
If you accidentally incorporated slightly too much air into your cookie dough, some bubbles can form on the cookie surface while they bake. But don’t worry too much, after taking them out of the oven, gently press the tops of the hot cookies with a flat spatula and flatten the bubbles.
How to decorate cut-out sugar cookies
These cookies are perfectly tasty naked and undecorated. But they look so well with some decor. I’ve shared two different cookie icing recipes, so how to decide which one to use?
Decorate with easy cookie icing
If you are looking for icing, that is eggless and super easy to make, and if you have no plans of drawing intricate details on your cookies, choose my easy milk-based icing. It’s mixed in one bowl, easily flavored and colored. It dries firmly enough to stack the cookies, but it feels pleasantly soft when you bite it. Keep in mind that it is slightly transparent so you can’t make it very bright white.
Decorate with royal icing
If the bright white color is important to you and you are into more complicated designs, try decorating with royal icing. You will have to add more effort while making it and looking for the right consistency, but this icing is more manageable and you can get a lot more creative with it. The sugar cookies you see in these photos were decorated with royal icing.
Decorate without icing
If you don’t have time or energy to deal with icings, get creative with simple things. Before putting cookies in the oven, brush them with some milk, cream, or lightly whisked egg yolk, then sprinkle them with sugar crystals, poppy seeds, or colorful sprinkles. You can also use decorative rolling pins or stamps to press designs into the rolled dough.
Cut-Out Sugar Cookies
Simple, classic vanilla sugar cookies with crisp edges, soft and chewy centers. They taste amazing while still warm, stay soft and delicious for weeks, and are perfect for decorating.
- Prep Time20 min
- Bake / Cook Time13 min
- Rest / Chill Time1 hr
- Total Time1 hr 33 min
- Yield~50 cookies (7 cm / 2,8 inch size)
- 220 g / 7,8 oz unsalted butter (at room temperature)
- 200 g / 7 oz granulated sugar
- 2 medium eggs (100-120 g / 3,5-4,2 oz in total without shells)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 450 g / 15,9 oz wheat flour (all-purpose or plain)
- ⅛ tsp salt
Cream room-temperature butter with sugar till butter gets light and fluffy, about 1 minute.
Add eggs, one at a time, add vanilla extract, and mix until combined. Don’t worry if the dough looks a bit curdled at this point.
Add salt and whisk in flour. Mix just until the dough comes together.
The dough will be soft, but not sticky. Even if it looks a little bit sticky, don’t add more flour. The dough will get a lot more manageable after chilling.
Gather the dough and form two disks. Wrap them into parchment paper or plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 1-2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350°F (without a fan) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Take out one of the dough disks from the fridge and roll it on a sheet of parchment paper or a surface dusted with flour to ~5-6 mm / ~0.2-0.25 inch thickness.
Use cookie cutters to cut out desired shapes. Reroll the scraps but try to use all the dough after rolling it the third time.
Repeat the process with the second dough disk.
Transfer cookies to the prepared baking sheet. They will slightly puff in the oven but will not spread, so there is no need to leave a lot of space between them. Bake the cookies in the middle rack of the oven for 12-14 mins till they start getting golden yellow at the edges.
Take cookies out of the oven and let them slightly cool on the baking sheet. Then, move them to the rack to cool completely.
Keep cookies in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.
- After adding flour, don’t mix the dough for too long, just until it comes together. Mixing for too long will promote gluten formation and your cookies will get tough.
- If the dough gets warm and soft while working with it, return it to the fridge and let it chill again.
- After cutting out cookie shapes, don’t let them sit at room temperature for a long time, bake them as soon as you can or put them in the fridge. The warmer dough will more likely spread or shapes will get distorted.
- Baking time is orientational. It depends on the size and thickness of your cookies and even on the number of cookies per baking sheet. So watch them carefully and remove them from the oven as soon as the edges start getting golden.