Need a go to Cut Out Sugar Cookie Recipe? This is the recipe that I have adapted and used for years! These sugar cookie cutouts are delicious on their own but are perfect to decorate for holidays, birthdays, and more!
Cut Out Sugar Cookies
Sugar cookies have always been a tradition in my house. I have made them for birthday parties and holidays since I was a teenager! I’ve made simply decorated sugar cookies as well as elaborately decorated Christmas sugar cookies for customers.
Over the years I have tried different cut out sugar cookie recipes, but this is the one I like best. I have tweaked it to work perfectly for cut out cookies that can be decorated with royal icing or cookie frosting.
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What is the Difference Between Cut Out Sugar Cookies and Drop Sugar Cookies?
This recipe is for traditional rolled cutout sugar cookies. The cookie dough is refrigerated and then rolled into a sheet. Then you use a cookie cutter to cut shapes before you bake the cookies.
Drop sugar cookies are softer and are scooped or “dropped” onto a cookie sheet to bake. Drop sugar cookies are usually soft, thick and may include add ins. Cut out sugar cookies are thin, harder, and are used to decorate.
Best Cut Out Sugar Cookies
Cut out sugar cookies are usually thought of during holidays, but my kids love these cookies just by themselves. You don’t have to decorate them to eat them, but they look and taste great with icing, too!
I like this recipe for sugar cookies because:
- They taste great without icing. They are slightly sweet and buttery, sort of like a shortbread cookie (but not quite).
- If baked correctly, they are soft but still hold up to decorations.
- They hold their shape and don’t spread out. With a little bit of refrigerator time, they won’t lose their shape at all in the oven.
- They stay flat – no bubbles or puffing in the oven mean that they provide the perfect surface to add decorations.
- You can stick them in the freezer and they hold up well.
Ingredients for Sugar Cookie Cut Outs
- Vanilla (or other flavoring)
- Baking Powder
Tips for Baking Cut Out Sugar Cookies Like a Pro
Always use room temperature ingredients. That means the butter, eggs, and any liquids should be set out for a little while before you start baking.
Why does butter for baking have to be at room temperature? It’s important because you want the butter and the sugar to cream together at the start of the recipe. Properly creamed butter and sugar produces small air bubbles that will help create a light and airy texture in your finished product.
Don’t use butter that is too soft or melted. Butter that is too soft will cream well but will produce a softer dough and change the chilling time. Melted butter will not mix well with the sugar and you will not get the fluffy start to your cookie dough that you need.
After mixing your cookie dough, be sure to chill it in the refrigerator (a few hours) or the freezer (one hour). Chilling the dough prevents it from being sticky or too soft when rolling and cutting into shapes.
Keep your cookies thick! In order to keep the finished cookies soft, roll your dough to at least 1/4″ thick. If you roll your cookie dough too thin you will be left with hard, dry cookies.
Use unsalted butter. Salted butter can work for some recipes, but if you use it you cannot control the amount of salt in your dough.
Mix the cookie ingredients well. You don’t want to overwork the dough, but you want to make sure it’s thoroughly combined.
Line your baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat liner. They won’t stick!
Don’t bake too long. If you want soft but firm cookies, don’t wait for the brown edges! Remove your cookies from the oven as soon as they don’t look shiny over the top of the cookie. It is also a great idea to know if your oven runs cold or hot. That way you can adjust the temperature or baking time of the cookies.
How to Maintain Sugar Cookie Shape While Baking
The key to keep your cookies from spreading out and losing their shape is to chill, chill, chill! A lot of cookie recipes will say that they are no chill, but it will be VERY difficult to maintain perfectly shaped cookies. Perfect cut out cookies are important for decorating.
Just keep in mind – warm butter melts. You want your cookies to be cold when they go in the oven so that they bake before they have a chance to spread out all over the place.
How to Store Cutout Sugar Cookies
After you have mixed your dough, divide it in 1/2 and form into 1 inch thick flat discs. Wrap in plastic wrap and you can chill it in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. Alternatively, you can freeze it in wrapped discs placed into freezer bags for up to a month. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight before rolling out.
After the cookies are baked, you can store them in air tight containers for up to 5 days.
You can also freeze baked (decorated or undecorated) cookies in an airtight container for 1-2 months. If they are decorated, make sure that the icing is fully set. Separate cookie layers in the container with parchment paper.
How to Make Cut Out Sugar Cookies
Cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs and liquid ingredients and combine. Then add the dry ingredients and mix until the dough comes together and is well mixed. The dough will be soft.
Separate the dough in 1/2 and form each half into a flat disc about 1″ thick. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill for 2-3 hours or up to 3 days.
When you’re ready to roll out the dough, remove one disc from the refrigerator. Roll out on a floured surface to 1/4″ thick. Use a floured cookie cutter to cut your shapes. You can knead and re-roll the cookie dough scraps, but try to use as much dough as possible when cutting shapes.
Place cut out cookies on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat liner. Place whole tray in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes before baking.
Baking until the cookies are no longer shiny but before they are brown. Brown edges and bottoms will produce a harder cookie. I also don’t like to see brown edges on a fancy decorated cookie. If you like crispier cookies, then wait for the brown edges.
Cut Out Sugar Cookie Recipe
Print out this recipe card for save for the next time you bake, or pin this recipe to your favorite cookie board on Pinterest!
Cut Out Sugar Cookies
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter (at room temperature)
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tbsp whole milk
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 4 cups flour
- Cream butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes.
- Mix in eggs, vanilla, and milk. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber scraper.
- Add the baking soda, salt, and 1/2 of the flour. Mix on low speed until combined.
- Scrape the sides of the bowl, and then add the rest of the flour. Mix until dough comes together and is mixed well. Dough will stick together but be soft.
- Divide dough in 1/2 and flatten each 1/2 into a round disc approximately 1" thick. Wrap well with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2-3 hours, until firm.
- Preheat over to 325 degrees F.
- Remove one disc from the refrigerator and place on a floured surface. Let sit for jus a few minutes to make it easier to roll. Roll out to a 1/4" thick.
- Use a floured cookie cutter to cut out shapes. Place cut outs on parchment paper or Silpat lined baking sheet. Gather and re-roll the scraps to use all of the dough. Repeat with the other disc.
- Place cookies (on sheets) in the refrigerator for 10-15 min until the cookies are firm. This is an important step.
- Bake until cookies are no longer shiny but the edges are not brown, about 10-12 minutes depending on your oven and the cookie thickness. If you prefer a crispy cookie, bake until the edges are golden, about 15-18 minutes.
- Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting or icing.