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Cut Out Sugar Cookies

Cut Out Sugar Cookies are popular all year round. Favorite with children and adults alike you can’t go wrong with a basic vanilla cookie.

Cut out Sugar Cookies.

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Sugar Cookies require only few ingredients and are super simple to make from scratch. This recipe is a cross between shortbread and sugar cookies. They are little crunchy on the outside and soft inside.

CUT OUT SUGAR COOKIES

Enjoy vanilla sugar cookies plain, dusted with colored sugar, rainbow sprinkles, decorated with Chocolate Lace, or use Royal Icing, fondant or your favorite Butter Frosting.

Rainbow pot of gold, Captain america shield cookies decorated with 15 second royal icing.

When I first started making sugar cookies I really loved the pale look. But over the years I came fond of golden edges, too. Cookie with golden edges taste amazing. If you prefer golden edges bake the cookies for a little longer.

INGREDIENTS

This basic recipe uses simple ingredients. When making the cookie dough it is important that ingredients are at room temperature.

  • Unsalted Butter
  • White Granulated Sugar
  • Egg
  • Vanilla Extract, and other extracts and flavorings can be used. See the notes in the recipe card.
  • Flour
  • Baking Powder (optional)
  • Salt
  • Tip : Don’t use sugar with unusually large sugar crystals. Wegmans brand has large crystals.

BUTTER

I use Unsalted Butter.

Stick of butter at room temperature.

I often get this question. Can I use salted butter to make cut out sugar cookies? Short answer is yes, sure you can, if that’s all you have. If you’re using salted butter you can omit additional salt listed in the recipe.

However I can not guarantee the results. I know people who use salted butter and love the results. However I am not one of them. I’ve used salted butter to make sugar cookies once and I’ve never used it again.

UNSALTED VERSUS SALTED BUTTER

So why does that it matter what kind of butter you use? Main difference is given. Salted butter has salt in it and Unsalted butter has no salt.

UNSALTED BUTTER

  • Unsalted butter is fresher than salted butter.
  • And since it doesn’t contain salt it gives you a freedom of adding as much or as little salt to the recipe.

SALTED BUTTER

  • Salt content in salted butter varies from brand to brand.  It can be anywhere from 600mg sodium to 920mg sodium. This can be important if you are trying to control salt intake.
  • Salt acts as a preservative and therefore salted butter has a longer shelf life, 3-4 months longer. Therefore mostly likely it’s not as fresh as unsalted butter.
  • Salted butter also contains more water than unsalted. Though not really troublesome in cooking, in baking this extra water can cause undesirable results. For example: it can produce dough that is too sticky or dough that doesn’t hold its shape.

ROOM TEMPERATURE BUTTER

Just like with many other cookie recipes this sugar cookie recipe calls for a creaming  of room temperature butter and sugar. Why does butter have to be at room temperature butter?

When room temperature butter (about 67F) is creamed with sugar, sugar crystals are pushed into the butter. They create tiny air bubbles in the butter, making it aerated and fluffy. In the oven, with the help of the heat and leavening agent these tiny bubbles expand. This contributes to the overall texture, lightness of the baked cookie, cake, etc.

HOW CAN I TELL THAT BUTTER IS AT ROOM TEMPERATURE?

If you can bend the butter without it breaking in half and without your fingers sinking completely into the butter it’s good to go. Or when pressed it should give slightly, but your fingers shouldn’t sink completely into the butter. That would mean butter is too soft. How to bring butter to room temperature?

WHY YOU SHOULDN’T USE BUTTER THAT IS TOO SOFT?

Simply put, because it will make your cookie dough too sticky and your cookies will most likely spread I baking. Or to reduce stickiness you’ll add too much extra flour making the dough too tough.

Using a butter that is too soft is a very common problem when making sugar cookie dough. If you suspect that butter is too soft place in the fridge for 10 -15 minutes to firm up a little.

SUGAR COOKIE DOUGH

Cream room temperature butter with sugar, scrapping the bowl few times in between. Beat for 3-5 minutes till well blended, creamy.

Tip : Avoid using granulated sugar that has extra large crystals.

Whisk 1 tablespoon of Vanilla Extract with one room temperature egg. Then beat egg mixture into the creamed butter until well combined, about 30 second to a minute. Until fluffy.

Sift flour, salt and baking powder (if using – read the notes in the recipe).

On low speed, in 3 additions beat flour mix into the creamed butter mixture. Beat till all of the flour is absorbed and well blended in. Cookie dough will be in chunks at this stage.

Scrape out all of the dough into a bowl dusted with 1 to 2tbsp flour.

Gather dough, and knead it gently for 10-20 seconds. Shape it into a disk and wrap it into a plastic wrap.
Refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight. I prefer to give the cookie dough a good rest before cutting out and baking cookies.

WHAT IF I DON’T HAVE 4 HOURS TO CHILL THE COOKIE DOUGH?

  • You can speed chill cookie dough in the freezer for one hour.
  • Or you can roll the cookie dough between 2 pieces of parchment. Slide it onto a baking sheet or a freezer safe tray. Place the tray into the freezer for 20 minutes.

HOW LONG CAN I KEEP THE DOUGH IN THE FRIDGE?

You can keep the cookie dough in the fridge for up to 3 days. After that you can either make the cookies or freeze the cookie dough for later. Up to 3 months.

ROLLING MATS

To avoid excessive use of flour and for an ease of rolling I like to use Dough EZ rolling system. I’ve using it for several years and it has become one of my favorite kitchen tools.

I use it to roll out cookie dough, yeast dough and even fondant. And you can see me using it in many of my videos, too. It comes with rolling guides that come in handy when rolling out cookie dough, too.

Before I had Dough EZ System I rolled the cookie dough between :

  • 2 pieces of parchment paper.
  • Or you can also use 2 silicone baking mats.

ROLLING PINS

I’ve tried numerous rolling pins and here are my 2 favorites. I’ve been using these for several years.

  • White Silicone Rolling Pin(20 inch)
  • It’s designed to work with fondant but works superbly with the cookie dough and yeast dough as well. And I absolutely love it.
  • Joseph Joseph Wood Rolling Pin ( I use this rolling pin without the guides, I prefer rolling guides rods)
  • This rolling pin is a popular choice among bakers because it has a built in rolling guide system and comes with a set of 4 rolling guides/disks.
  • Each end of the rolling pin has a screw and disks can be secured on ends providing desired thickness to your cookies.
  • No need for rolling guide rods etc.
  • To keep wood rolling pin in a top shape once in a while I treat it with a Food Grade Mineral Oil.
  • Mineral Oil is also great for butcher’s blocks, wooden utensils and cutting boards.

ROLLING GUIDES

To ensure even thickness of my cookies I use rolling guides.

Doug EZ Mat : This large silicone mat comes with a set of 3 rolling guides.

Unused Paint Sticks : Thickness of these can vary from store to store. These were the first rolling guides I have ever used. I glued 2 of them together to reach the thickness I wanted. I’ve used them for many years and and I still have them and use them occasionally.

Untreated Wood Rods : These can be found in the lumber section of your hardware store. They come in different sizes so you can choose the size you need. Wood rods pictured above are both ¼ thick (0.64cm)

Silicone Rolling Guides : Commercially produced for bakers.

Thick Bamboo Skewers : Some bamboo skewers are thick enough to be rolling guides, too.

HOW TO ROLL OUT COOKIE DOUGH

Cookie dough is placed between 2 rolling guides and rolling pin is then rolled on top of the rolling guides. Rolling pin pushes the dough down but only as far as the rolling guides let it. Ensuring even thickness of the rolled cookie dough.

Cookie dough rolled out between parchment paper

HOW THICK DO YOU MAKE YOUR COOKIES FOR DECORATING?

I roll my cookies ¼ inch (0.64cm/little over 6mm) thick and a little thicker when making cookie pops, to make the room for a lollipop stick.

MY COOKIE DOUGH IS HARD AS A ROCK, WHAT TO DO NOW?

After cookie dough is chilled it often becomes firm.

  • There is no need to panic.
  • Cut the cookie dough disk into quarters.
  • Microwave one ¼ of cookie dough on high for 5-7 seconds. It should be sufficient to soften the dough so you can roll it out. However, you don’t want it to be super soft.
  • Cut up remaining quarters into smaller bits.

Place softened/microwaved 1/4 of the cookie dough onto the work surface, between 2 rolling guides. Place rolling pin on top of the rolling guides roll out the cookie dough. You can watch the video to see exactly how you can do rolling out part easily.

Cut out cookies with a cookie cutter and transfer them onto a baking sheet lined with a parchment paper.

CAN I RE-ROLL THE SCRAPS ?

Gather scraps and add one piece of fresh dough you set aside, re-roll and repeat.

WHAT KIND OF BAKING SHEETS DO YOU USE?

I like to use light colored baking sheets. Dark baking sheets have a tendency to cause quick browning of the cookies. And I prefer using Parchment paper over Silicone baking mats to bake cut out cookies.

Chill the cookies for 10 minutes.

CUT OUT COOKIES BAKING TIPS AND TROUBLESHOOTING

I bake my cookies at 375F – 380F (for larger cookies, over 4 inches) for 9-11 minutes. Cookies are soft when they come out of the oven. Don’t open the oven more than once for rotating the sheet midway. If your oven bakes evenly you can skip the rotating step.

HOW CAN I TELL COOKIES ARE BAKED?

Bake larger cookies on one baking sheet and smaller ones on another one. Don’t crowd the cookies on a baking sheet.

Bake cookies until the center of the cookies is puffy or until golden brown around the edges if you prefer your cookies this way.

When cookies are baked center should appear puffy and it should be no longer shiny. If the centers of the cookies are still shiny bake for an additional 2 minutes and check again.

MY COOKIES HAVE BUBBLES ON THE SURFACE

Sometime when the cookie dough is overworked bubbles can form on the surface of the cookies. Take a flat cookie spatula and gently press tops of hot cookies. This flattens the bubbles.

Let the cookies cool on a baking sheet for 5-7 minutes then carefully transfer cookies onto a cooling rack. Be sure to let the cookies cool before decorating with royal icing.

HOW CAN I FLAVOR SUGAR COOKIES ?

To flavor cookie dough I use extracts, flavorings or baking emulsions.

It’s no secret Vanilla makes everything taste better. That’s why I always use Vanilla Extract as my base flavor. After that you can add other flavorings.

I also like to add almond and/or lemon extracts. And I have to say I came really fond of this magic trio : Vanilla (1tsp), Almond (1/2 to 1tsp) and Lemon (1/2tsp). It makes for a lovely flavor.

If using Lorann oil based flavorings use only 5-7 drops. They are very concentrated.

Extract in bottles.

ORANGE AND LEMON ZEST

If using lemon or orange zest add 1tbsp per recipe.

SPICES

Yes, you can use spices. Cinnamon or Cardamom. Sweet Ambs makes her cookie dough using orange and cardamom.

COOKIE DECORATING WITHOUT ROYAL ICING

If you are in a hurry and don’t have time to decorate cookies with icing you can still make them stand out from the crowd by using simple tools.

IMPRESSION TOOLS

When using impression tools be sure to omit baking powder in the recipe. It will yield better results without.

DECORATIVE SILICONE MATS

I used Silicone SugarVeil Mat.

STAMPING ON COOKIES

Use Letter Impression set to add a personalized or seasonal messages on cookies.

SPRINKLES

Decorate cookies with festive sprinkles. Mist them with a little bit of water using a small spray bottle. Then sprinkle cookies with decorating sprinkles and bake as usual. Water makes the sprinkles stick better to the cookie dough.

TO MAKE SUGAR COOKIES YOU NEED

SUGAR COOKIES FAQ

5 from 32 votes
Cut Out Sugar Cookie REcipe
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
10 mins
 

Use this recipe to make cut out cookies. This great tasting cookie recipe is great plain or decorated with royal icing/glaze chocolate or fondant. It's a cross between sugar and shortbread cookies.

Make 15, 3 inch cookies, 1/4 inch thick.

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: cookies, cut out cookies,, sugar cookies
Servings: 15
Calories: 270 kcal
Hanielas.com: Hani Bacova
Ingredients
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour 430 grams
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 sticks room temperature unsalted butter 1cup, 226grams
  • 1 cup granulated sugar 200grams
  • 1 large egg room temperature
  • 1 tbsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1 tsp baking powder optional – check the notes
  • 1/2 tsp Almond Extract (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp Lemon Extract (optional)
Instructions
SUGAR COOKIE DOUGH
Dry Ingredients
  1. Sift together flour (3cups/430grams), baking powder (1 teaspoon) add salt (1/2 teaspoon), set aside.

Cream Butter and Sugar
  1. In a mixing bowl cream together room temperature butter (1 cup / 226 grams) and sugar (1 cup/200 grams), about 5 minutes, scrape the bowl twice. Butter creamed with sugar should be light and creamy in color.

  2. In a small dish whisk together egg(1) and vanilla extract(1 tablespoon). If using, whisk in almond (1/2 teaspoon) and lemon extract(1/2 teaspoon), set aside.

  3. Gradually add egg mixture into butter mixture. Beating well, till combined about a minute.

  4. Lower the speed of your mixer to low. Gradually in 3 additions add flour mixture. Scrape the bowl well after the last addition and beat on low speed until flour is blended in. At this stage you'll see chucks of cookie dough.

  5. Dust a a large mixing bowl with 1 tbs flour. Scrape the cookie dough into a bowl. Gather dough together. Using your hands knead the cookie dough for about 10-20 seconds, until dough comes together. Shape into a disk.

    TIP : If dough appears too wet add 1 to 2 tablespoons of flour.

  6. Wrap the dough in a plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or for at least 4 hours. Or speed up the process by placing it into the freeze for 30 minutes to an hour.

    TIP : If yo

  7. Preheat oven to 375F 

  8. If you find that dough is hard as a rock, don’t panic. Quarter the dough. Take one piece and microwave on high for 5-8 seconds to soften it up a little. It shouldn't be super soft, just soft enough so you can roll it out, you’ll still need to apply little bit of pressure.

    Cut up remaining dough into smaller pieces, set aside. Place microwaved piece between your rolling guides, either between 2 pieces of parchment or if you have large silicone mat you can use it also ( for the guides you can use 2 painter's sticks glued together on each side, or 2 pieces of 1/4 inch wood rods will work great, too).

  9. Cut out as many cookies as you can. Gather scraps and to the scraps add a fresh piece of cut up cookie dough you set aside. Re-roll and repeat until you are done with all the cookies. Place the cookies on a light colored baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Chill the cut outs in the fridge for about 10 minutes, or in the freezer for 5.

Bake
  1. Bake for 10-11 minutes, depending on the oven, turn the sheet once half way through the baking.
  2. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 5-7 minutes, transfer to cooling rack.
  3. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks or freeze undecorated cookies between pieces of wax paper in a large freeze safe container, for up to 3 months.

  4. Decorate cookies as desired with royal icing or other medium that you use.
Recipe Notes

WHAT IF I DON’T HAVE 4 HOURS TO CHILL THE COOKIE DOUGH?

  • You can speed chilling process – place cookie dough in the freezer for one hour.

  • Or you can roll the cookie dough between 2 pieces of parchment. Slide it onto a baking sheet or a freezer safe tray. Place the tray into the freezer for 20 minutes or 1 hour into the fridge. And cut out cookies.

HOW LONG CAN I KEEP THE DOUGH IN THE FRIDGE?

  • You can keep the cookie dough in the fridge for up to 3 days. After that you can either make the cookies or freeze the cookie dough for later. Up to 3 months.

HOW THICK DO YOU ROLL OUT COOKIES FOR DECORATING

1/4 inch thick, and little thicker when making cookie pops.

CAN I USE THIS COOKIE DOUGH WITH TEXTURED MATS?

Yes, omit baking powder in the cookie dough for the best results. (see the blog post for samples of cookies with textured design on the top)

I DON’T HAVE GRANULATE SUGAR, CAN I USE POWDERED SUGAR?

Sure, you can use powdered sugar, use about 1 cup 1/4 cup of powdered sugar. Cookie made with powdered sugar has a tender crumb.

I CHILLED COOKIE DOUGH BUT NOW IT’S HARD AS A ROCK

After cookie dough is chilled it often become firm.

  • There is no need to panic.
  • Cut the cookie dough disk into quarters.
  • Microwave one ¼ of cookie dough on high for 5-7 seconds. It should be sufficient to soften the dough so you can roll it out. However, you don’t want it to be super soft.
  • Cut up remaining quarters into smaller bits.
  • Place softened/microwaved 1/4 of the cookie dough onto the work surface, between 2 rolling guides. Place rolling pin on top of the rolling guides and roll out the cookie dough. Cut out cookies and transfer them onto a light colored baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  • Gather scraps and add one piece of chilled dough you set aside, re-roll and repeat.

TROUBLESHOOTING

  • If you are experiencing inconsistent results omit baking powder or use less of it and up the temperature to 380F if you used 375F before. 
  • If your cookies become soft after you decorate them this is usually caused  by increased humidity. I’d suggest you bake the cookie for a bit longer, so they are crispier to start with. And you can also use a dehumidifier while the icing on the cookies is drying.
  • How to tell if cookie are baked : cookies when baked have puffy centers. If you see a spot that appears wet and shiny, usually in the center of the cookies, continue baking for additional minute or 2.
  • Baked cookie that has a darker spot in the center on an underside is most likely underbaked.

FLAVORINGS

Lemon / Orange Zest Cookies – use 1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest and 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1 teaspoon lemon extract

Chocolate Chip Cut Out Cookies – ¼ cup granulated sugar, ¾ cup brown sugar, micro chocolate chips (add these with flour), 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Almond Sugar Cookies –  add 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1 teaspoon almond extract. I find almond flavor to be very strong and 1 teaspoon does the trick for me but if you’d like to add even more extract you definitely can. Almond cookies pair really nicely with my Fresh lemon royal icing.

Spices – you can also add spices to this recipe, try cinnamon, cardamom or pumpkin spice to make them more seasonal.

HOW TO PREVENT COOKIES FROM SPREADING TOO MUCH?

Make sure to use a room temperature butter when making the dough. If butter is too soft your dough will be softer than normal. I often experienced spreading when I used very soft butter.

Properly chill the dough before cutting out shapes. Keep in mind that the dough shouldn’t be very soft. Once you cut out shapes, place them onto the cool baking sheet lined with a parchment paper.

Don’t place unbaked cookies on a warm baking sheet. Try not to overcrowd your baking sheet. Transfer the baking sheet with cut out cookies into the fridge and chill for 10 minutes or freeze for 5 minutes.

You can also try omitting baking powder or use lesser amount.

BAKING

Bake cookies until the center of the cookie has risen, or until golden brown around the edges if you prefer your cookies this way. I bake my cookies at 375 – 380F (193C) for 9-11 minutes. Cookies are soft when they come out of the oven. Don’t open the oven more than once for rotating the sheet. If your oven bakes evenly you can skip this step. Let the cookies cool on a baking sheet for 5-7 minutes then carefully transfer cookies onto a cooling rack.

IS IT POSSIBLE TO MAKE COOKIES WITH A SOFTER BITE?

Powdered sugar produces cookies with a softer, tender crumb. You can use 1 1/4 cup powdered sugar in a place of granulated sugar in this recipe. Or replace 2 tbl of all purpose flour with 2tbl cornstarch, see if that is sufficient for your taste.

DO YOU HAVE A RECIPE FOR COOKIES WITHOUT EGGS AND BUTTER?

Yes. Here is my delicious Vegan Sugar Cookie Recipe.

I LIKE SOFT SUGAR COOKIES, DO YOU HAVE A RECIPE FOR SOFT COOKIES?

I love this recipe for cut out Soft Sugar Cookies. You can also try this seasonal variation Soft Pumpkin Cookies. Both recipes include delicious butter frosting recipe.

CAN I HAVE YOUR GLUTEN FREE COOKIE RECIPE?

This Gluten Free Sugar Cookie Recipe is really delicious.

HOW CAN I MAKE VEGAN AND GLUTEN FREE COOKIE RECIPE?

One of the readers made GF and Vegan Cookies using my Vegan Sugar Cookie Recipe with Pamela’s Artisan GF flour.

Christina said :Thank you so much! I have family and friends who are gluten free and vegan, and have always struggled with the right GF-V sugar cookie recipe. Many I am sure are great with the products other recipes suggest, but not all vegan products are readily available everywhere. I have had so many disappointing GF-V cookies.

I just made this recipe using Pamela’s Artisan GF flour and am so impressed with how the dough handles – not sticky at all! By using the associated video I was able to judge, as with any other sugar cookie recipe, whether to add a bit more flour to get the correct consistency. The cookies are out of the oven and ta da!! No spread either! “

HOW LONG DO SUGAR COOKIES LAST?

Store baked cookies in an airtight container for up to 2 to 3 weeks, if stored properly, in an airtight container or heat sealed.

CAN I PROLONG COOKIES’ SHELF LIFE ?

You can add 1tbsp of food grade glycerin, honey or agave nectar per batch. All 3 are hygroscopic and absorb moisture from air, keeping the cookies moist for longer. If packaged properly cookies will last for up to 4 weeks.

CAN I FREEZE COOKIE DOUGH?

You can freeze well wrapped cookie dough for up to 3 months. Let defrost in the fridge overnight.

HOW TO FREEZE BAKED SUGAR COOKIES?

How to Freeze Baked Sugar Cookies. Defrost cookies in the container and decorate as desired.

CAN THESE COOKIES BE FROZEN AFTER BAKING THEN THAWED AND DECORATED?

absolutely. I do it all the time. Here is a quick tutorial  on how to freeze cookies.

HOW TO FREEZE UNBAKED COOKIES?

To freeze unbaked cookies, freeze cut out cookies on a flat tray in one layer. Then layer frozen cookies into a freezer save bin, between sheets of wax paper or parchment. When ready to bake,  place the frozen cookies on the prepared baking sheet lined with parchment. Let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes and bake as usual.

WHAT KIND OF ICING DO YOU USE TO DECORATE SUGAR COOKIES?

I use Royal Icing to decorate cookies.

DO YOU HAVE A SOFT BUTTER FROSTING I CAN USE TO DECORATE COOKIES?

I like using this Buttercream Frosting and if are looking for something with more seasonal flavor you can try delicious Maple Buttercream Frosting/

HOW TO STORE DECORATED COOKIES?

Depending, if you are giving them as a gift or keeping them for yourself. If you want to give them out as favors, I would recommend that you package cookies. Either use a Hand Heat Sealer or if you don’t have one you can package them into clear bags and tie the bag tightly with a ribbon.

Store packaged cookies in a carton box away from the direct sunlight. If you are making these for your family to enjoy on Holidays, store the cookies in an airtight container layered between pieces of wax paper.

WHAT BOXES TO USE TO PACKAGE/DISPLAY COOKIES?

I personally use boxes from  www.brpboxshop.com , they sell their boxes in bulk, 100 pieces and I love them. I really like their brown boxes  10″x7″x1″ boxes, lid and bottom is sold separately. If you are not certain which goes with what, be sure to call. Folks at brpboxshop are very friendly, always willing to help out.

In case you don’t need 100 boxes, you can try  Nashville Wraps. They sell these cookie boxes in the set of 50 pieces.

You can use cookie tins that are available at discounted prices during holidays or visit your local bakery. Ask if they’d be willing to sell you couple of their boxes for a small fee.
Craft stores carry small bakery boxes as well. You can also use Take-out Containers and Jars for smaller cookies.

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This update version of the recipe, originally published in 2013 includes Sugar Cookie FAQ, and more tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years.

This post contains amazon affiliate links that earn me a small commission, at no cost to you. I only recommend products that I use and love. Learn more about my affiliate policy here.

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200 Comments

  1. I baked 4 different recipes, in search for the best cutout cookie recipe. This recipe was the best one. Perfect amount of sugar, crisp and held it’s shape.
    I’m making tie cookies for father’s day. Great recipe, definitely a keeper!
    Thanks for sharing.

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