How to Make Sugar Cookies

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This easy sugar cookie recipe is passed down from my grandmother. Learn all about how to make sugar cookies for the holidays with this step-by-step tutorial.  The soft baked cutout sugar cookies are not overly sweet and are perfect with vanilla buttercream. No Christmas cookie tray is complete without cut-out cookies.

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A baking tray lined with a silicone baking mat, with baked sugar cookies on it.

Tis the season for making sugar cookies!! I don’t know why we think of sugar cookies as being a Christmas cookie, because sugar cookies are also perfect for Valentine’s Day, Halloween, and just your average 4-year olds birthday party.

This is the sugar cookie recipe that I grew up. It was handed down from my grandmother (Nana) and this was definitely one of my favorite holiday traditions as a child. It might be because I loved sneaking bites of cookie dough.

This Sugar Cookie Dough is very easy to work with and uses the basic ingredients for cookies. It can easily be doubled for a large batch of sugar cookies. However, the dough does need to chill (for about 30-45 minutes) before you roll it out, but it makes wonderful, soft sugar cookies.

Adorable Easter cookies sitting on paper grass. There's an Easter egg, a bunny face, a carrot and a chick. The cookies are decorated with pink and yellow buttercream and sprinkles.

A plate of heart shaped valentine's day sugar cookies. The hearts are decorated with different designs featuring red, pink and white.

My mom and I prepared all the cut-out cookies and then she set up a decorating station for us with all the different colored buttercream frosting. I cannot wait to do this with our future children.

If you want to read more about that and see some throwback photos, I shared this story when I made my Flower Pot Sugar Cookies

The best part about this cookie dough is that it’s not overly sweet, which means you can add about as much vanilla frosting and you’d like!

If this is your first time making sugar cookies, or you’d just like to brush up on your sugar cookie making skills, then you’re in the right place because we’re going to go through this step by step.

An overhead shot of the most gorgeous sugar cookies decorated with pink, purple, teal and white buttercream and Sweetapolita Sprinkles.

How to Make Sugar Cookies

Step 1: Creaming the butter and sugar.

The first step to making sugar cookies is too allow your butter to soften. It doesn’t need to be at room temperature, just a little soft, I suggest allowing it to sit out for about 20 minutes. I also like to cut the butter into 1 tablespoon size chunks. Softened butter will incorporate with the sugar much easier. If you need a faster method to soften the butter, microwave it for 10 seconds, and then let it sit on the counter for about 10 minutes.

First, we need to cream together the butter and sugar. But what does this actually mean? This is an essential step to any cookie recipe. It creates and traps air pockets which later helps during baking to actually slow down the process of the butter and sugar melting.

Remember to scrape down the bowl and remix, so that you get a good consistency in your mixture.

This stand mixer is lifted up showing the texture of the creamed butter and sugar.

Step 2: Adding the liquid ingredients.

Add the egg (or eggs). I use cold eggs, straight out of the refrigerator. Again, you’ll need to scrape down your bowl and adequately mix the eggs into the butter and sugar. The mixture will still be a bit “chunky”, but it will still be a cohesive mixture.

Before we add the dry ingredients, we’re also going to add two additional liquid ingredients: milk (with baking soda dissolved) and vanilla extract.

To dissolve the baking soda in the milk, I take the baking soda and stir it into the milk until there are no dry pockets of baking soda on the bottom of the dish. This starts a chemical leavening process to help the cookies rise just a bit during baking.

Creaming the butter and sugar together followed by the liquid ingredients.

Step 3: Adding the dry ingredients.

At this point the dry ingredients are flour and salt. I do not sift my flour because I am simply too lazy, but all the power to you if you’d like to sift your flour.

However, I highly suggest using a kitchen scale to measure out your flour because it’s so easy to add too much flour to your dough, which makes for dry and brittle cookies. I never bake without my kitchen scale.

Once the flour is added to the dough, the dough starts to form into soft clumps.

Slowly add the flour to the dough, ½ – 1 cup at a time, again, scraping down the bowl to get any residue off the bottom.

At first, this dough does not come together in one big ball like you might expect to see in a chocolate chip cookie recipe. Instead it looks like a crumbly mixture. However, as soon as you press the dough together, it’s like playdough. It’s soft and forms easily into a ball.

Or, you can keep mixing it together and you’ll have a nice ball of cookie dough. Just be sure not to over mix it. 

This photo shows how the sugar cookie dough should come together very easily, like play dough.

Step 4: Chilling the dough.

This dough needs to be chilled for about 30 minutes, which will make it much easier to handle when rolling it out.

I prefer to actually form my balls of cookie dough, wrap it with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator. I suggest you make the dough no larger than a softball because it will be more difficult to roll out.

My mom always just threw the whole mixing bowl in the fridge and then grabbed handfuls of dough and pressed it together after it was cold. Either way is fine.

A stack of 3 discs of sugar cookie dough pressed together and ready to get placed in the refrigerator to chill.

If you want to make this dough ahead of time, just wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for up to 2 days. Anything beyond that, I suggest freezing it.

To defrost the dough, just place it in the fridge the night before you’d like to use it.

The longer you chill your dough, the more firm it would be. This means you might need to let it sit on the counter for 10 minutes before you start rolling it out, making it much easier to handle.

An angled spatula is sitting under a thick sugar cookie helping to release it from the dough

Step 5: Roll out your dough and baking your cookies.

I could go into great detail and this post would be even longer. Thankfully, I’ve actually already shared my Tips and Tricks for Perfect Sugar Cookies.

That post talks all about how to roll out your dough, baking your cookies and preparing them for decorating. There’s some very useful information there, so don’t skip it!

Sugar cookie dough is rolled out, with a few cookie cutters pressed into it and some of them have already been taken out

Step 5: Decorating the sugar cookies.

This is both my most favorite and least favorite part of the process. I always start out super excited to decorate, but by the end I inherently get lazy and just slap some frosting on the last few cookies.

Again, I could go super detailed with decorating sugar cookies, and I did! HA. I put all my tips and tricks for decorating sugar cookies with buttercream frosting into one post for you. 

You might also be interested in learning how to color buttercream frosting.

A plate full of gorgeous sugar cookies decorated with buttercream in purple, teals, white and pink frosting.

Is anyone else dying to make sugar cookies right now? Let’s be real, I just want to eat them and someone else can do all the work.

Do you have more questions about how to make sugar cookies? Send me an email or leave a comment here and I will do my best to respond as quickly as I can! Happy holiday baking!

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A gorgeous plate of sugar cookies decorated with vanilla buttercream

Sugar Cookies

  • Author: Beyond Frosting
  • Prep Time: 60 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Yield: 24 cookies

Description

This easy sugar cookie recipe is a soft baked sugar cookie that is not overly sweet and it’s perfect with vanilla buttercream. 

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (4 oz) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup (95g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons (30m) milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2  1/2 cups (350 g) all-purpose flour

Instructions

  1. Beat the butter and sugar on medium high speed until the sugar is dissolved and creamy.
  2. In a small glass dish, dissolve the baking soda in the milk.
  3. Add baking soda/milk, vanilla and egg  to the butter. Beat until all ingredients are well incorporated.
  4. Slowly add the salt and  the flour ½ cup at a time and mix until a stiff dough forms.
  5. Form 3 softball size balls of dough. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap then chill in the freezer for at least 15 minutes or in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 days.
  6. Pre-heat oven to 350°F.
  7. Remove the dough from the fridge and sit at room temperature for 10 minutes. Roll the dough out on a well-floured surface about ¼” thick. Use a cookie cutter to cut the shapes and transfer to a lined baking sheet. Use parchment paper or a baking mat to help prefer browning on the bottom of the cookie.
  8. Bake at 350° for 8-12 minutes. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Notes

  • Dough can be refrigerated for 2 days, otherwise I suggest freezing. Remove the dough from the freezer several hours before you intend to use.
  • This batch produces about 24 cut out cookies depending on the size of your cookie cutters
  • This recipe can easily be doubled for a large batch
  • These are frosted with my perfect vanilla frosting
  • Nutritional information is not including frosting and is an estimate only.
Nutrition Information:
1 cookie
101
4.3g
127.4mg
4.2g
2.5g
14.2g
.7g
1.7g
  • Category: Cookies
  • Method: Baked
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: cookies, sugar cookies, Christmas cookies, cutout cookies, decorated sugar cookie recipe

Recipe Card powered byTasty Recipes

I am totally digging these Marbled Sugar Cookies too!

Be sure to check out the tutorial for Valentine’s Day Sugar Cookies

A beautiful mini heart shaped sugar cookie with marble icing and gold pearl dust decorated in Valentine's day colors

Don’t worry, I’ve got Easter Sugar Cookies to!

Adorable Easter cookies sitting on paper grass. There's an Easter egg, a bunny face, a carrot and a chick. The cookies are decorated with pink and yellow buttercream and sprinkles.

We can’t forget about Halloween Sugar Cookies

A plate of gorgeous decorated halloween sugar cookies with candy corns, pumpkins, Frankensteins, and tombstones

Quick and Easy Sugar Cookie Bars

A stack of 3 sugar cookie bars, the one on top has a bite missing. They're frosted with vanilla frosting and sprinkles

14 Responses
  1. Chinazor

    This treat has been my kids’ favorite for years, not chocolate chips surprisingly.

    I didn’t decorate them though.

    Thanks for all these colorful designs. Birthdays and Christmas in my home is taking a new turn.

  2. Brianna

    I loved the way these cookies turned out! My family and I made them for Christmas and it was so fun to decorate and one of the best sugar cookies!! Thanks so much. Also, I love the title design, so creative and fun.

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