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Cut Out Sugar Cookies

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This recipe for Cut Out Sugar Cookies is a classic that’s been around for generations. With this guide, you’ll learn how to make perfect cut-out sugar cookies from start to finish. You’ll also find helpful tips and tricks to ensure success every time.

Iced Tree and star shaped cut out cookies on a red plate on a white wood table with a red and white checked napkin.

Perfect for a cookie exchange or to decorate to leave out with a glass of milk for Santa, these cut-out cookies are a sweet holiday tradition. These cookies are fun to make, decorate, and eat! The dough ingredients are pantry staples you probably already have on hand. I have included a few tips to help make the dough easy to work with, making this the best sugar cookie recipe you’ll ever make.

Decorate these cookies with homemade icing and top with festive sprinkles. These cookies will be your new holiday favorite. Try my eggnog cookies, soft gingerbread, or Russian Gingerbread Cookies for more great additions to your holiday cookie tray.

What You’ll Need for This Recipe

To make this sugar cookie recipe, you will need:

  • Flour: I traditionally use all-purpose flour for this recipe, but white whole wheat flour will also work.
  • Vanilla Extract: These cookies have that perfectly balanced bakery style vanilla/butter flavor.
  • Pantry Ingredients: Baking powder, salt, granulated sugar, and eggs. 
  • Butter: No substitutions here!
  • (Optional) Additional flavored extracts: You can tweak the flavors slightly to add subtle flavor to your cookies with additional flavored extracts, my favorites are lemon, and almond.

My favorite Cookie Tip: Roll Out Sugar Cookie Dough Before Chilling!

Other recipes recommend chilling the dough before rolling it out, but I’ve found that rolling out just-made cookie dough is much easier because it’s soft and pliable.

  1. Divide the dough in half and roll it between two wax paper sheets.
  2. When rolling out your dough, try to make sure you’ve rolled your dough out to a uniform thickness.
  3. Once your dough is rolled, keep it sandwiched between the sheets of wax paper and place it in the fridge to chill. If you are in a hurry, you can even pop it in the freezer for about 15 minutes!

A bonus to using wax paper instead of rolling the dough onto a floured surface, is that you are not incorporating additional flour into the cookie which can change the cookie texture and make them dry.

Iced Tree and star shaped cut out cookies on a red plate on a white wood table with a red and white checked napkin.

How To Make Cut Out Cookies

Making cut out sugar cookies is a family favorite that is a delicious holiday tradition. These cookies are made with a simple, yet tasty recipe.

  1. In a stand mixer bowl, cream butter, and sugar until light and fluffy.
  2. Add eggs and vanilla extract and mix well.
  3. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl, add to the butter mixture, and mix thoroughly.
  4. Divide the dough into two portions. Place each piece between two pieces of wax or parchment paper — there’s no need to dust the dough with flour. Roll the dough out between the sheets of wax paper, and then chill the dough for the recommended time. 
  5. Once dough is chilled, cut out your shapes and place on the cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, and bake in a preheated oven for 6-8 minutes.
  6. After baking allow the cookies to cool completely before icing and decorating. 

How Do You Get Cut Out Cookies to Keep Their Shape?

Cut-out sugar cookies have a reputation as being problematic. One of the most significant issues people tend to run into is cookies losing their shapes after being baked. The secret to beautifully shaped cookies is chilling the dough well before you start cutting out shapes with cookie cutters. It would be best if you planned to chill the dough for at least one hour, but you can also pop the dough into the freezer. Chilling the dough will make it easier to handle and more likely to keep its shape.

If your cookies aren’t going directly in the oven after you’ve cut them out. Pop the cookie sheet and cut out cookies back into the fridge, rather than keeping them on the countertop and allowing the dough to come to room temperature. Keeping the dough chilled will prevent the butter in the dough from warming and softening, which will make them more likely to spread and distort while baking.

How to Decorate Cut Out Cookies

Once the cookies have been baked and cooled, the fun part begins- decorating! The icing or frosting you choose is 100% a personal preference. My favorite icing hardens, allowing me to package my cookies as gifts without frosting smearing, or getting all over the packaging. Your choices for an icing that hardens are; traditional royal icing and the best simple icing. Royal Icing is made with raw egg whites and might not be ideal for everyone. My all-time favorite icing contains corn syrup, and remains glossy even once it’s hardened.
If you are a thick, soft frosting cookie topper person, buttercream and fluffy frosting will be your go-to.
Once you get your cookies iced or frosted the way you’d like, sprinkles, colored sugars, and even little candies add a festive touch.

Cut Out Sugar Cookies

Cut Out Sugar Cookies

Yield: 5 dozen cookies
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 8 minutes
Additional Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 38 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups butter, softened
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon or almond extract (optional)
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Instructions

    1. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt.
    2. Divide the dough into two portions. Place each piece between two pieces of wax or parchment paper — there's no need to dust the dough with flour. Roll the dough out between the sheets of wax paper to about a 1/4 inch thick. Chill the dough for about an hour in the fridge.
    3. Near the end of the chilling time, preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Peel off the wax paper from the chilled dough, and on a clean very lightly floured surface cut out shapes with cookie cutters. Place cookies 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets.
    4. Bake 6 to 8 minutes in preheated oven. Cool completely.
Iced Tree and star shaped cut out cookies on a white wood table with a red and white checked napkin, and wooden cutting board

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