The perfect decorating sugar cookie that holds its shape AND stays soft. Tied with a classic royal icing and different flavor options, it’s going to be your new go-to cut out sugar cookie.
Perfect Sugar Cookies
These are the BEST sugar cookies to decorate with. After a billion recipe tests (or something close to that number) we finally landed on the perfect cookie that would be able to keep perfect shape AND stay soft. It has the perfect balance of sweetness and can be flavored many different ways. Big bonus – they freeze great! So if you’re making cookies in advance for an event or cookie party, this is a great recipe to use!
A few tips in making sugar cookies:
1. Follow the recipe exactly, especially the flour and cornstarch. It’s so easy to over add on flour which will make a dry cookie. Not enough flour though won’t allow the cookie to hold its super crisp shape. The dough will be ready when it pulls away from the side of the bowl when mixing, is a cohesive dough (not super crumbly), and is soft and squishy.
2. Roll out using parchment or wax paper instead of flour. When the dough is rolled out while being in between two pieces, it allows for a perfect roll without making a dry cookie.
3. Roll out BEFORE you chill. Commonly sugar cookie recipes have you chill the dough then roll out. If you are making way in advance and conserving space in your fridge or freezer, this is great. But if you’re chilling immediately, I find it WAY easier to roll the dough out while it’s soft and then chilling that flat sheet. That way when it’s done chilling, all you have to do is cut and bake. Which means it goes into the oven colder as well instead of all that handling time before the oven and allows it to keep its shape better.
4. Use an adjustable rolling pin for precise measurements every time. This isn’t mandatory, but if you plan to make a lot of sugar cookies in your house, this rolling pin is a great investment. It allows you to have perfectly level cookies at the right height every time.
5. Don’t over bake. Unless you want a crispy cookie (which hey, if you do, that’s fine!) bake until the cookie is not wet on top, and done on the bottom. If you wait until the bottom is too golden brown, you will have baked it too long. Below is a picture of the BOTTOM of my cookies. They’re almost the same color as the top! Makes for soft cookie!
Favorite Icing for Sugar Cookies
I have two favorite icing recipes for sugar cookies. Both have a great shine and ice well. I prefer the classic royal icing because of its stability and gorgeous shine. It holds up really well. However, that does use meringue powder which is easy to find on Amazon or at craft stores like Michael’s or Hobby Lobby. In a pinch though, or for ease, sometimes we need another option. My easy icing is also a great choice. You could of course also use a favorite buttercream frosting or swiss meringue buttercream!
1. Easy Icing
Simple ingredients, comes together fast, and you don’t need need a mixer.
RECIPE (double as needed)
4 cups powdered sugar
2 TB corn syrup
1 TB vanilla extract (or divide with another flavoring of choice like lemon)
About 1/3 cup warm water
Pinch of salt
Whisk together all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add more water or more powdered sugar to get to desired consistency.
2. Royal Icing
Used commonly for professional glazes, has a gorgeous shine, and holds up really well. There are two common consistencies for royal icing – piping and flood. Piping is used for intricate designs and borders. Flooding is used to fill. I commonly cheat and use a consistency somewhere in the middle if i’m doing a basic design so I can just use one frosting. The more you decorate cookies, you’ll quickly learn what consistency you are comfortable with.
Recipe included below for the royal icing.
Perfect Cut Out Sugar Cookies
- 1 cup unsalted butter* softened
- 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 TB vanilla extract*
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ cup (56 grams) cornstarch
- 3 cups (360 grams) all purpose flour
- 2 lbs (about 7 1/2 cups) powdered sugar
- ⅓ cup meringue powder
- ¾ cup warm water
- 2 TB vanilla extract (*or another flavoring)
- gel food coloring (optional)
- Cream together butter and sugar on medium high for about 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl as needed.
- Add the egg, salt, and vanilla (+ any other flavorings) and mix again on low just until combined.
- Add the cornstarch and about half of the flour. Turn the mixer on, then slowly add the remaining second half of the flour until all mixed in. It's important to measure your flour properly. I suggest weighing it, but if you don't have a food scale, be sure to spoon and level your flour and NOT pack it.
- Divide the dough into 2 and place each one in between two pieces of parchment or wax paper. Roll it out until the dough is evenly about 1/4 - 1/2 inch thick, depending on your preference. (I prefer a slightly thicker cookie as they stay soft longer.) And yes, by rolling it between parchment it means you don't have to add any extra flour!
- Chill for about 20 minutes in the freezer or 1 hour in the fridge, or overnight. Dough will last in the fridge for a few days. I keep it between the pieces of parchment paper as I chill to keep the dough fresh.
- While chilling, preheat your oven to 375° F. Once dough is chilled, remove the top piece of parchment paper and begin cutting! Re-roll remaining dough and cut.
- Bake for 9-12 minutes, depending on your oven. Watch the cookie closely towards the end so they don't over brown. You know they're ready when the tops are not wet anymore and the bottoms are cooked. Ever so slightly beginning to golden on the bottom is fine, but a fully golden brown bottom is too long.
- Let them sit on the pan for a few minutes after baking, then transfer to a cooling rack. Store airtight for a few days or freeze for up to a few months!
Royal Icing (simplified easy icing above in post)
- Using a hand or stand mixer with whisk attachment, beat together all of the ingredients on medium high for about 5 minutes. In the beginning, once everything is combined, feel free to stop your mixer to scrape down the sides and check taste to gauge the flavoring. Turn mixer back on and towards the 5 minute mark stiff peaks should form.
- Keep covered until you're ready to use. The icing will be thick. Once you're ready to frost and color, then we add in the coloring and additional water or powdered sugar to get to the desired consistency.
- Two common consistencies for decorating are called piping and flood. Piping is great for the edges or thin designs. Flood is great for filling. If you only use one consistency, I lean towards a thick flood consistency. Piping will be the consistency of toothpaste and flooding is the consistency similar to shampoo. Once you add the coloring, add water or powdered sugar as needed to get to the desired consistency. The more you frost cookies, you will quickly learn what consistency you love. I do this on the side with a whisk. You don't have to use your big mixer every time for every color. I just start with that for the base batch.
- The icing will store well airtight for a couple of weeks. Just remix when ready to use to freshen up.