Cookies

Easy Cut Out Sugar Cookie Recipe – Perfect Plain or for Decorating

By November 18, 2020February 17th, 2021No Comments

A Simple Recipe for Sugar Cookie Cut-Outs That is Great for Plain or Decorated Cookies

classic cut out sugar cookies

With its soft texture and delicious flavor, you can’t go wrong with this classic sugar cookie recipe! A basic ingredient list ensures this fail-safe recipe is easy to make and works great for cut-out cookies. Full of flavor, these sugar cookies are delicious plain but are also perfect for decorating!

A Classic and Flavorful Sugar Cookie Recipe

The sugar cookie may be the most versatile cookie out there. Sugar cookies come in all kinds of flavors and textures, ranging from melt-in-your-mouth soft and sweet to light and crisp. 

This sugar cookie recipe: 

  • is easy to follow with a short basic ingredient list (nothing too fancy)
  • makes cookies with a soft texture 
  • works great for cut out cookies 
  • has a delicate classic flavor base that can be tweaked to your liking

This recipe is adapted from our mother’s Christmas sugar cookie recipe. We swapped out a couple of ingredients to create a classic sugar cookie with a soft texture and smooth flavor. 

The 2 swaps we made: 

  1. Butter instead of shortening 
  2. Vanilla and almond extracts in place of the holiday flavor ingredient in Mom’s recipe

What’s the difference between butter and shortening in cookies?

Here are the results for this sugar cookie recipe of the differences between shortening and butter:

SHORTENING
BUTTER
COOKIE SPREAD
Well-Shaped No Spread
Well-Shaped Minimal Spread
TEXTURE
Crisp Edges Firm Centers
Slightly Crisp to Soft Edges Soft Centers
FLAVOR
No Added Flavor
Richer Flavor

As you can see above, butter produces a more flavorful, softer cookie. The cookies made with shortening do slightly better holding their shape, but spread is not a major problem with the cookies made with butter. 

We prefer the soft texture of the cookies with butter. Some may argue that shortening can produce softer cookies, but that was not our experience with this particular recipe.

buttercream and sprinkles on top of sugar cookie

The flavor difference was very noticeable, and the butter cookies were preferred by everyone who participated in our taste test! 

Butter is not the only way to play with flavor in sugar cookies. That brings us to ingredient swap #2! 

How Can You Make Sugar Cookies More Flavorful?

Countless variations exist for creating a wide range of flavors in sugar cookies. Check it out on Pinterest and see for yourself. One of the great things about a sugar cookie recipe is its versatility.

A basic recipe is like a clean slate that you can add to however you’d like. 

Many different spices like cinnamon are a popular add-in. Extracts like lemon can add a pop of bright flavor to a sugar cookie. 

easy cut out sugar cookies for decorating

We swapped out the nutmeg in Mom’s recipe for vanilla and almond extracts. The nutmeg in the Christmas sugar cookie recipe adds a warm flavor reminiscent of the holidays. Vanilla extract is a great option for a more traditional sugar cookie flavor. The almond extract adds a light flavor and blends well with the vanilla. (And I just really love almond extract!) 

This recipe uses equal amounts of vanilla and almond, but feel free to change it up to your liking: double one and eliminate the other, or increase/decrease the amounts for stronger or more subtle flavors. This is a pretty fail-safe recipe, so have fun and experiment! 

buttercream and sprinkles are easy ways to decorate sugar cookies

Good to Know

Just a few more things before you get to baking!

  • The dough will need to be chilled. The butter will make a very sticky dough, so chilling is a must. Cold dough is much easier to work with and will produce a better cookie overall. Chilling also prevents cookies from spreading too much while baking. 
  • Powdered sugar is your friend. Use powdered sugar, not flour, to roll out the dough. Don’t be shy with the sugar: use a generous amount to cover surfaces (counter, rolling pin, cookie cutters, hands, etc.) 
  • Sugar cookies bake quickly, so keep a close eye and do not leave them in the oven! Take them out a little sooner rather than later-the cookies will continue to bake for a couple of minutes after you remove them from the oven. *Remove these cookies right as you see any light browning around the bottom edges. 
  • This cookie dough can be rolled thinner or thicker depending on what kind of cookies you like.
    • Just be sure to adjust the baking time:
    • ~less time in the oven for thin cookies (will also be crisper cookies)
    • ~add time in the oven for thick cookies (will be softer cookies)

You’ll get about 3 dozen medium-sized cookies from this recipe

easy sugar cookies for decorating

How to Make Sugar Cookies

A batch of this sugar cookie dough can be made quickly using a short list of basic ingredients. Mix it up in 10 minutes or less!

What You’ll Need:

Supplies

  • mixer 
  • measuring cups & spoons 
  • mixing bowls 
  • spatula 
  • knife (to level off ingredients) 
  • wax paper or plastic wrap 
  • rolling pin 
  • cookie cutters
  • parchment paper 
  • baking sheet 

Ingredients

  • ½ C butter, softened 
  • 1 C sugar 
  • 2 well-beaten eggs 
  • 1 Tbsp milk 
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract* 
  • ½ tsp almond extract* 
  • 2 ½ C flour 
  • ½ tsp baking powder 
  • ¼ tsp salt 
  • ⅓ C – ½ C powdered (confectioners’) sugar – for rolling and cutting the dough                                                                                                                                         *can be omitted or increased/decreased

How to Prepare the Dough

  1. Cream together and beat until light and fluffy: 
  •  ½ C butter 
  •  1 C sugar
add wet ingredients to creamed butter and sugar
  1. Add and beat well: 
  • 2 well-beaten eggs 
  •  1 Tbsp milk 
  •  ½ tsp vanilla extract 
  •  ½ tsp almond extract 
  1. Sift together: 
  •  2 ½ C flour 
  •  ½ tsp baking powder 
  •  ¼ tsp salt 
add the dry ingredients to the mixture
  1. Add sifted ingredients to the mixture.   
  2. Shape mixture into a mound – it will be very sticky! Wrap in wax paper or plastic wrap and chill thoroughly. We sometimes like to double wrap with a plastic bag as well – definitely if putting the dough in the freezer.
form the dough into a mound and wrap with plastic wrap before chilling

At a minimum, chill in: 

~fridge: a couple of hours or overnight. (lasts in fridge for a couple days)

~freezer: for half an hour, can be kept frozen for a couple of months.

Roll the Dough and Cut Out the Cookies

Put the powdered sugar to work! 

  • Dust the counter or rolling surface with a coating of powdered sugar.
  • We like to pat a small amount of powdered sugar onto the dough – most of the sugar will be absorbed. 
  • Dust your rolling pin, hands, and cookie cutters as needed to prevent the dough from sticking. 

Try this! Stick your rolling pin in the fridge before use. A cold pin helps keep the dough cool, and that means well-shaped nicely baked cookies! 

roll dough on a powdered surface

For a flat even layer of dough:

  • Roll from the center and outward in every direction to the edges. Use long rolling strokes to flatten the dough. Try to use as few strokes as possible so as not to overwork the dough. For medium size cookies, roll to about ¼ inch thickness. 
  • Use a sifter to apply a light dusting of powdered sugar on top of the rolled dough before pressing in the cookie cutters. 
  • Press the cookie cutters into the dough to create the cut-outs. Place as close together as possible to get as many cookies out of the dough as you can. *The leftover dough can be rolled out again, but the more times it’s rolled out the harder it will be to work with. 

Need a bargain set of cookie cutters? You can’t get much better than this 101-piece Wilton set. It has a wide variety of shapes for holidays to animals to letters and numbers, you name it, it’s probably in there!  Grab it on Walmart or Amazon

Having trouble rolling the dough level and even?  Rolling pin thickness rings are a huge time-saver!  This set of rings comes with multiple sizes.  To use them, choose the pair of rings that match the desired thickness you’re going for, slide the silicone rings around both ends of your rolling pin, and roll away.

The rings keep your pin perfectly level as you roll out the dough to an even thickness.  You get consistent cookies every time!  I use them for all of my cookie baking.  I haven’t tried yet, but I bet they’d be great for rolling fondant as well.

You can check them out on Amazon.

Bake 

  • Place the cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. The paper helps the cookies hold their shape and not spread while baking. 
  • Brush any excess powdered sugar off the cookies. 
  • Bake at 375℉ for about 5 – 7 minutes. Remove the cookies right as they begin to lightly brown on the bottom edges. Allow the sugar cookies to rest on the baking sheet for a couple of minutes, then transfer them to a cooling rack. Cool completely before decorating, or enjoy as is!
place cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper

Looking for a smooth buttercream or an easy icing to decorate your sugar cookies quickly? Try out some of the fast and simple decorating ideas below!

A Few Quick Tips for Decorating 

Sugar cookies with elaborate piping in royal icing look pretty amazing, no doubt. The problem is that not everyone has the time or talent for that sort of thing.

That doesn’t mean you have to be stuck with “plain Jane” cookies, unless you like them that way, of course.

Here are a few quick and basic ways to decorate sugar cookies with a handful of helpful tips!

Sugar & Sprinkles 

Maybe the easiest way to decorate sugar cookies is with sanding sugar or sprinkles. Add a little, add a lot, or create fun designs! 

sprinkles are a quick and easy way to decorate sugar cookies

Should sprinkles be added before or after baking cookies?
Before baking: simply add the sprinkles to the cookies on the sheet right before baking. You may gently press the sprinkles into the dough, although this isn’t necessary. The sprinkles will adhere to the cookies while baking. Important Note: this works best with sugar or small sprinkles like jimmies or nonpareils.
After baking: once the cookies have cooled, brush them with a light coating of corn syrup mixed with water then add the sprinkles. Important Note: large sprinkle mixes and sugar pearls should be added after baking as they may melt in the oven.

Buttercream Frosting

A simple spread of buttercream on top of sugar cookies is a perfect flavor combination. Paired with some sprinkles, it’s also an easy way to add a little color to your cookies. 

We have a signature buttercream recipe that works great with sugar cookies. It’s easy to make with a few ingredients!

buttercream spread on top of sugar cookies

Need a ready-made cookie frosting? Try these Wilton frosting pouches. They come with two piping tips and are available in a variety of colors. We use these when we need to decorate cookies quickly. Grab a set on Amazon

Take a look at our Baby Yoda Cookies and Unicorn Theme Cookies for more cookie decorating tips and inspiration!

Icing

Royal icing is a classic topping option for sugar cookies. If you find royal icing to be intimidating, no worries!

Here’s a couple of cookie icing recipes we use:
Sally’s Baking Addiction has a simple royal icing recipe that is beginner-friendly.
● This sugar cookie icing by Design Eat Repeat is made of a few ingredients and no mixer required! This icing works best for simple flooding (or filling in) on cookies and adds a glossy finish. It can be made a thicker consistency, but I have noticed this icing made thicker will dry crispier with a white cast.

cookie icing drizzled on top of sugar cookies

How to Store Sugar Cookies

  • Baked cookies on the counter: store baked sugar cookies in an airtight container. They will remain fresh for about a week.  Helpful Tip: stick a slice of bread in the container to prolong the softness and freshness of the cookies-this works like a charm! 
  • Baked cookies in the freezer: store in an airtight container or freezer bag for 2-3 months. Thaw on the counter.
  • Dough in the freezer: wrap cookie dough in plastic wrap and put in a freezer bag for 2-3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator.

What are some other sugar cookie recipe variations you like (or don’t like!)? Let us know below! 

Questions or comments? Get in touch with us in the comments below!

  Check out what we’re whipping up for our customers on Facebook & tag us @apieceofcakeparty over on Instagram

We love seeing your creations!  Help us find your delightful dessert with #apieceofcakeparty

classic cut out sugar cookies

Classic Sugar Cookies

A basic ingredient list ensures this fail-safe recipe is easy to make and works great for cut-out cookies. 
Yield: ~3 dozen medium-sized cookies

Equipment

  • mixer
  • measuring cups & spoons
  • mixing bowls
  • spatula
  • knife (to level off ingredients)
  • wax paper or plastic wrap
  • Rolling Pin
  • cookie cutters
  • parchment paper
  • baking sheet

Ingredients
  

  • 1/2 C butter softened
  • 1 C sugar
  • 2 eggs well-beaten
  • 1 Tbsp milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract*
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract*
  • 2 1/2 C flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 - 1/2 C powdered sugar for rolling and cutting the dough

Instructions
 

Prepare the Dough

  • Cream together and beat until light and fluffy:  
    ½ C butter  
    1 C sugar
  • Add and beat well: 
    2 well-beaten eggs  
    1 Tbsp milk  
    ½ tsp vanilla extract  
    ½ tsp almond extract 
  • Sift together:  
    2 ½ C flour  
    ½ tsp baking powder  
    ¼ tsp salt 
  • Add sifted ingredients to the mixture.   
  • Shape mixture into a mound – it will be very sticky! Wrap in wax paper or plastic wrap and chill thoroughly. We sometimes like to double wrap with a plastic bag as well – definitely if putting the dough in the freezer.
  • At a minimum, chill in: 
    ~fridge: a couple of hours or overnight. (lasts in fridge for a couple days)
    ~freezer: for half an hour, can be kept frozen for a couple of months.

Roll the Dough & Cut Out the Cookies

  • Dust the counter or rolling surface with a coating of powdered sugar. We like to pat a small amount of powdered sugar onto the dough – most of the sugar will be absorbed. Dust your rolling pin, hands, and cookie cutters as needed to prevent the dough from sticking. 
  • Roll from the center and outward in every direction to the edges. Use long rolling strokes to flatten the dough. Try to use as few strokes as possible so as not to overwork the dough. For medium size cookies, roll to about ¼ inch thickness. 
  • Press the cookie cutters into the dough to create the cut-outs. Place as close together as possible to get as many cookies out of the dough as you can. *The leftover dough can be rolled out again, but the more times it’s rolled out the harder it will be to work with. 

Bake

  • Place the cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  • Bake at 375℉ for about 5 – 7 minutes. Remove the cookies right as they begin to lightly brown on the bottom edges. Allow the sugar cookies to rest on the baking sheet for a couple of minutes, then transfer them to a cooling rack. Cool completely before decorating, or enjoy as is!

Notes

*Vanilla and almond extracts may be omitted, or increased/decreased according to taste.

A Simple Recipe for Sugar Cookie Cut-Outs That are Great for Plain or Decorated Cookies

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