I know there are a lot of sugar cookie recipes floating around out there. And I know you probably have a tried-and-true sugar cookie recipe passed down from your great-great-grandma. But I’m telling you, you can throw those all in the trash, because this is the perfect sugar cookie recipe for cutouts.
I’ve been using this recipe for years, and it has never ever failed me. It results in soft, tender, fluffy cookies that don’t spread in the oven—making them absolutely perfect for cut-outs. And they have the most beautiful, mild vanilla flavor. I also have the perfect frosting that goes on top that ends up drying hard enough to pack these perfect frosted sugar cookies in a tin, but is still soft enough to bite into without chipping a tooth. And it shines so bright and glossy in the light. It makes for some obnoxiously pretty cookies. I mean, seriously, don’t you just want to dive into this cookie and go for a swim in the frosting? My husband says he wants to “Honey I Shrunk the Kids” himself and jump in and play with the sprinkles like beach balls.
There are some absolutely exquisite frosted sugar cookies out there, and I don’t even pretend to act like I can compete in that category. My piping skills tap out at frosting a cupcake. I actually just normally frost my sugar cookies using a popsicle stick (since I’m an adult now, I really should invest in a proper icing spatula). You could most definitely pipe this frosting on if that’s your (piping) bag, but I’ll stick to my lazy girl popsicle stick method for now, thank you very much. I normally make my frosting thick enough that it will stay on top of the cookie, but still thin enough that it will self-settle and dry with a smooth, bump-free top. It’s really the fool-proof way of frosting cookies.
I usually just flavor these cookies with high-quality vanilla extract (I say “high-quality” not because I’m an ingredient snob, but because you can really taste the flavor of the vanilla in these, so you want to make sure it’s something good), but you can easily go with other flavorings, too. Peppermint it delightful for the holidays. Almond and coconut are also both delicious.
In fact, I made a batch of these cookies for my co-workers one halloween (pumpkin and ghost-shaped, of course) and used almond flavoring, and I repeatedly had people stopping by my office telling me they were the best sugar cookies they’ve ever had. Most folks don’t expect an almond-flavored sugar cookie! It’s a really nice change of pace.
One caveat about this recipe: it makes a ton. Like a ton, a ton of cookies. Depending on the shape of your cookie cutter, I’d say you could get a good 5-7 dozen perfect frosted sugar cookies out of this recipe. If you’re baking for holiday tins, that isn’t too much, because you can just ship them off to your friends and family, but if you’re baking for everyday use, it’s a lot.
Of course, you could always divide the recipe, but my recommendation is to go ahead and make the whole recipe, divide it into four discs as the recipe calls for, and then freeze the discs. One disc of dough is the perfect amount for one “batch” of sugar cookies. It’s the just right amount if you just get the hankering to decorate some perfect frosted sugar cookies, but don’t want to devote hours and hours and hours.
I usually make up a full-sized batch of this dough twice a year—once at Christmas, and I use it all then, and then again for Valentine’s Day or Easter, but I freeze three of the discs. Then I pull them out again throughout the year at other holidays. Just let the disc defrost on the counter until it’s not hard anymore, and still a little cool. Then flour your work surface and roll out as normal. They always bake up and taste just as great as the fresh version does.
If you’re a master sugar cookie baker, you know that the key to perfect frosted sugar cookies is watching the oven very carefully. You’ll see some sugar cookie recipes saying to bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes (or even more), and that’s great if you want a dry, crunchy cookie, but who wants a dry, crunchy cookie? No one. Sugar cookies bake fast. So fast that just a couple of degrees discrepancy in your oven can cause your cookies to go from soft and tender to hard as a rock in just a minute or two.
While I do provide a baking time as a general rule of thumb in the recipe below, I highly recommend that you go by appearance instead of time. Your cookies should be just the tiniest bit brown along the very edge of the cookie (right where it meets the pan). I’m not talking “golden brown”, I’m talking like you have to really squint to see it. And the top of the cookie should look solid, instead of jiggly. In most ovens, this happens between the 6-8 minute mark (yup, that fast!). In my last apartment, we had an oven that ran hot, no matter how low I turned it down, and my sugar cookies were almost always done at five minutes. Watch ’em.
And then, once they are done, you want to get them off the hot baking sheet as quickly as possible, because they’ll keep right on baking on that hot metal. I usually take a large thin spatula (I love using a fish spatula to get hot cookies off of baking sheets) to the cookies almost immediately after they get out of the oven. Then I transfer to cooling racks or paper towels to cool completely. And do make sure they are 100% cool before you frost. Any residual heat in the cookie will warm up the frosting and make it a gooey, runny mess. It’ll still be delicious, it just won’t look as nice.
I’ve been making this recipe so long (like pre-blog years), I forgot the original source. Thankfully, a reader tracked it down. Check out the original from AllRecipes.