My best sugar cookie recipe only uses 5 ingredients and barely spreads making it perfect for cut out cookies! Get the recipe & helpful tips for sharp designs!
When I got bitten by the cookie decorating bug I got bitten pretty darn hard! There is something so satisfying about turning a few kitchen staples into something that people will literally ooh and aah over. And it never hurts to hear somebody say “it’s almost too pretty to eat!” And then after they take a bite hearing “it’s too good not to eat!” can make my entire week a happy one 🙂
If you like crafty things and you like cooking, I think that decorated sugar cookies might be you new favorite craft obsessions, too. But like any DIY with good results, you need good supplies. And most important is your sugar cookie recipe, right next to your royal icing recipe 🙂
Today I’m Sharing my Best Cut Out Sugar Cookie Recipe
When I took a decorating class in 2021 I was given a basic sugar cookie recipe. After baking at least 20 or 30 dozen cookies this year it’s a recipe that evolved into the one I use today. I’m not going to lie, these cookies are a bit dense. Without any rising agent like baking powder or baking soda, these cookies don’t puff up much. But if you’re making cut out cookies that you want to keep the shape you cut out, a sugar cookie recipe that doesn’t spread or puff up is going to give you the cleanest finished cookies.
All You Need are 5 Simple Ingredients
Using kitchen staples, this sugar cookie recipe is likely one you can make without even running to the grocery store! All you need is butter, sugar, flour, an egg, and flavored extract. That’s only FIVE ingredients!
Let’s Talk about Butter
Butter is easily the thing that can raise the taste of your cookies to the NEXT LEVEL! Using a good quality butter absolutely translates to a richer, tastier cookie. My favorite to use is Kerrygold Grass-Fed Pure Irish Salted Butter Sticks. They are more expensive than most butter but I think that for the taste you get, it’s so worth it. This butter is super dark in color, a deep gold, hence the name. And so you’re going to get a darker, more yellow colored cookie than with most butters.
When I want my cookies to be as white as possible for aesthetics, I reach for Land O’Lakes, Challenge, or Great Value (Walmart) brand salted butters, in that order. These butters are a creamy white with a hint of yellow and make for sugar cookies that bake up looking more beige than yellow.
Why Would Anyone Care What Color Sugar Cookies Are?
When I made these Wiggle Eye Shaker Sugar Cookies my first batch was using the very yellow Kerrygold butter. The visibly yellow cookies looked strange with the white royal icing I put on the top and the darker color inside made the wiggling pupil stand out a lot less. Using a butter that is lighter gave me whiter cookies which just looked a lot better. And if you’re going to go to all of the trouble to bake up some fancy cookies you want them to look as awesome as possible, right?
What Supplies Do You Need to Bake Cut Out Sugar Cookies?
- Sugar Cookie Recipe
- Stand Mixer or Hand Mixer
- Kitchen Scale or Measuring Cups
- Adjustable Rolling Pin
- Cookie Cutters
- Baking Sheet
- Parchment Paper or Silicone Baking Mat
- Oven Gloves
- Cookie Cooling Rack
I know this list of things you need looks daunting but I promise it really isn’t because you likely have at least SOME of this stuff on hand already. When making sugar cookie dough I LOVE MY Kitchenaid Stand Mixer. I seriously toss everything into the bowl according to the recipe. And since I have this Flex Edge Paddle I don’t even have to scrape down the bowl! If you don’t have a stand mixer, however, don’t fret! Though it will take a bit more elbow grease and a little more time, you can absolutely use a hand mixer.
Over the years I have learned that you can cook with your heart but you’ve got to bake with science. Everything in a baking recipe has a purpose and so do the measurements. Since I became obsessed with GBBO (if you know, you know) I measure everything by weight. And because I measure by weight every time I make my recipe I get exactly the same results. And consistency is a fab thing for a gal with OCD 🙂
How to Make Cut Out Sugar Cookies
With your stand or hand mixer cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy and well combined. Add the egg and extract and beat until well incorporated. Add the flour to the mixture about a quarter of a cup at a time until the dough begins to form and naturally pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
Roll out the dough to your desired thickness and place onto a cookie sheet. Top with another cookie sheet and transfer to the freezer without applying pressure or weight to the top sheet. Freeze for at least 20 minutes.
Remove the dough from the freezer and cut out. Transfer frozen cut out dough to a prepared room temperature cookie sheet.
Bake the cookies in an oven preheated to 350℉. Keep an eye on the cookies as they bake, watching for the bottom edges to slightly brown and the tops of the cookies to dry out. If the tops look wet they aren’t baked enough.
Cool cookies completely before decorating. For softer cookies allow to cool on the cookie sheet. For crispier cookies transfer to a wire cooling rack after a quick rest of a few minutes on the cookie sheet.
Homemade Sugar Cookie Tips, Tricks, and All That Jazz
Baking them isn’t the most fun part of decorating sugar cookies, at least for me. I typically kind of assembly line it for myself so I get it done quickly. And I also want things to be consistently the same. Because it stinks to be the one person that got a much smaller (and crispier) cookie because theirs was rolled thinner than everyone else’s.
How to Roll Out Your Cookies the Exact Same Thickness
If you’ve ever rolled out batch after batch of cookie dough and never had 2 cookies that were perfectly level or the same height I’ve got great news… It’s not hard to fix this common problem.
First up, your new best friend is going to be an adjustable rolling pin. Decide on the thickness you want your dough to be. I suggest 3/8″ for thick and soft cookies or 1/4″ for a thinner, slightly crispier cookie. Put the proper rings for that thickness onto your rolling pin.
Roll your dough in between pieces of parchment paper, flipping the paper and dough a few times as you work. If you see any creases or wrinkles peel the paper away from the dough and smooth with your hands. Any creases in the paper WILL be visible in your cookie dough. If your dough sticks to the parchment, refrigerate it for about 20 minutes to help it firm up and get back to it.
When rolling your dough make sure your work top is flat and doesn’t flex. For months I rolled my dough on my stainless steel topped kitchen island which has give in the center. It took me ages to realize that since the worktop bowed downward as I applied pressure so the center of my dough was always much thicker than the edges! Now I roll my dough on my kitchen counter or kitchen table, depending on how much room I need.
My Cut Out Cookies Have Rough Edges!
Remove the dough from the freezer and peel away the parchment paper. Cut the solid dough by pushing your cutter directly down into the dough and pulling it straight up and out. Run your finger around the bottom edge of the cookie cleaning up any straggling dough or sugar. Place the cutter onto your prepared cookie try and gently apply pressure with your fingers downward while pulling the cutter upward to prevent distorting the shape. If the edges still look rough, while the dough is still nice and frozen run your finger around the edge to smooth out.
HELP! My Roll Out Cookie Dough is Too Sticky!
If you’ve ever handled anything sugary and wet you know that it gets really sticky really fast. Sticky dough just needs a quick chill. Typically a rest in the refrigerator for half an hour is perfect. If you’re in a hurry put your dough into the freezer to firm up more quickly. It takes less time for the dough to soften at room temperature than it does to firm up in the refrigerator. I always tack on a little more time for my dough to cool and let it sit on the counter before handling if it’s too firm right at first.
How to Make Your Cookies the Same Size
If you’re making stacked cookies, like these googly eye cookies, having cookies that are the same size is really important. You don’t want to stack 3 cookies on top of each other and have the middle one sticking out compared to the other 2. You can get pretty darn consistent results by freezing your dough.
Make your dough and cut it out the day before you are going to bake it. Place the cut dough onto silicone mat or parchment lined cookie sheets and top with one of the parchment pieces you used to roll out the dough. Place another cookie sheet on top and gently place inside of the freezer. You don’t want to squeeze the pan or place any weight on it in the freezer to prevent from squishing the cookies and changing their thickness.
Let all of your cookie dough freeze overnight or at least several hours so that it is all the exact same temperature. Remove the cookie dough as you use it moving straight from the freezer to a room temperature cookie sheet to inside of the oven.
Time the length of the bake and write it down so you don’t forget. In between batches reset your oven to 350℉. The frozen dough will likely bring down the temperature a little bit and consistent heat and time is important for consistent cookie results.
Fixing the Shape of Baked Sugar Cookies
So you did everything you could and your cookies still turned out a little wonky? No worries – we can trim the cookies down a bit quickly and easily with a zester!
Hold onto your cookie and gently zest away at the edge of the cookie. Don’t apply much pressure because it will take away a lot of cookie! Easy does it going around and leveling or smoothing any wonky bits. I use this zester because the little zesty holes go all of the way to the edge helping you get into the nooks and crannies of tight design. Now I’m sure I’m going to get a lot of interesting readers based off of that description, but I really don’t know how else to phrase this…