Tips & Tricks for Perfect Sugar Cookies

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This tutorial answers all your questions about making the how to make the perfect sugar cookies. We talk about how to measure the flour, to how thick to make the dough and tips for baking sugar cookies. 

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Rolled out sugar cookie dough with cookie cutters laid into the dough

I love making sugar cookies, but I have to admit, about half way through decorating them, I’m kinda over it. It’s a lot of work and it’s quite messy. But I still love it. Even though I have gone into great detail about how to make sugar cookies, I am quickly summarizing my 15 Tips and Tricks for Perfect Sugar Cookies. 

When I was a kid, I looked forward to decorating sugar cookies every year! I helped my mom cut out all the shapes and roll the dough. My brother and I would wait patiently for her to make all the frosting colors and then we would sit down and decorate them together.

Let’s be real, the best parts are eating the cookies (or the dough!). I love the cookies with sprinkles. I know, shocker, right? Almost all of my cookies are decorated with buttercream, I am not really a fan of royal icing, but I do love the look of royal icing. Lucky for you, part two of this post will be some tips and tricks to decorating with buttercream.

Today let’s talk about Tip and Tricks for Perfect Sugar Cookies. It’s going to be messy. Have a glass of hot chocolate or wine on hand and let’s get through a few of these helpful hints together.

Sugar Cookie tutorial

Tip #1: Start your dough with cold butter.

If your butter is too soft, then your dough will be softer and you will have to refrigerate the dough for longer. I like to take my butter out of the refrigerator and soften it in the microwave for 10-15 seconds max. It takes longer to soften in the mixer, but once you mix it with the sugar, it will be good to go.

Tip #2: Measure out dry ingredients if possible

One of the reasons your cookies are too dry or crisp may be because you added too much flour to your dough. I have an inexpensive scale that I use to measure out my flour and my sugar by weight. If you can sift your flour, that’s even better.

Helpful tools: SifterDigital Kitchen Scale

Tip #3: Don’t over mix!

You aren’t making a frosting that needs to be whipped to perfection. Beat your dough at a low-speed until the flour is incorporated. This is a common tip for any baked good. Don’t try to mix in the dry flour at the bottom of the bowl. You don’t need it! Since you will be handling the dough as you roll it out, you don’t want it overworked from the start. It will result it tougher or drier 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.

Tip #5: Don’t skip out on the refrigeration time

A good dough needs at least 15 minutes to 1 hour in the refrigerator depending on the recipe. This allows the dough to stiffen, which in turn makes it easier to roll out, just like a pie crust recipe. The good thing about sugar cookie dough is that you can actually prepare it in advance and freeze it! This is a huge time saver during the holidays. 

Tip #6: A well-floured surface

I always use a silicone baking mat or a large piece of parchment paper (and I tape down the corners). I use a handful of flour on top of the parchment paper, because as your roll out the dough, it will absorb the flour and prevent the dough from sticking to the parchment paper. BUT, after I cut the shapes out and transfer them to a baking sheet, I use a pastry brush to brush away any excess flour. I bake my cookies on a silicone baking mat (preferred) or parchment paper.

Helpful tools: Parchment PaperSilicone Baking Mat

This tutorial answers all your questions about making the perfect sugar cookies from how to measure the flour, to how thick to make the dough

Tip #7: Roll out the dough in small batch

Your dough may need about 10 minutes to rest after you take it out of the refrigerator. Pack and roll it into a disc. It is always easier when you have a manageable amount of dough. I recommend about a softball size or less. You can roll it out two, maybe three times before it get’s too soft.

Helpful tools: Rolling Pin

Tips and Tricks to making the perfect sugar cookie every time!

 

Tip # 8: Flatten, Roll and Rotate

I treat my cookie dough like I treat a pie crust. Slightly flatten the dough in the center, flip it over and rotate to flatten the other edges and continue this process 2-4 times until the dough starts to thin out. This also allows you to see if you need more flour on the surface. Always roll from the center to edge.

Once my dough becomes to soft, after I roll it out 2-3 times, I set any leftover dough aside, and wait until the end to use it again. All those leftover scraps make a lot of good cookies! It just becomes difficult to mix cold dough with soft dough.

Tip #9: Test the cookie dough

This one is just for fun. I always say the total yield of my recipe will vary on how much cookie dough I eat. Eat the cookie dough at your own risk, I know some of you are probably thinking I’m crazy, but that’s ok with me. 

Tip #10: Thicker is always better

I don’t know about you, but I like a good thick sugar cookie that is still soft! I roll out my dough quite thick because when I eat a sugar cookie, I don’t want just the frosting. If your dough is thinner on the edges, don’t use it. Roll it into the next batch

Get all the tips for making perfect sugar cookie dough!

Tip #11: Use your space wisely!

I lay out my cookie cutters over my dough until I don’t have any more room left. I just want to be efficient with my space. I have some mini cookie cutters. I love these mini cookies because when I give away plates of cookies, I use these to fill space, usually unfrosted. Or sometimes I send a little container of frosting a long with it and then it becomes Dunkaroos. Do you remember Dunkaroos? The best.

Helpful tools: Christmas Mini Cookie Cutter Set,

A gorgeous plate of mini sugar cookie decorated with marble icing for Valentine's day featuring red, pink, purple and white.

Tip #12: Give it a wiggle

Do you have a cookie that is sticking to the edges? I have seen some people recommend sticking the cookie cutter in flour, but I usually don’t do this. Instead I just give the cutter a gentle wiggle to get the cookie cutter out.

If the dough comes out sticking to the cookie cutter, I hold my cookie cutter over my sheet pan and tap my wrist until the dough comes out. If the cookie is ruined, just put it back into your soft dough and re-roll it.

A flat edge spatula underneath a cut out sugar cookie

Tip #13: Keep it moving

I only bake one tray at a time, on the top shelf. If I bake 2 trays at a time, my dough doesn’t bake the same. Yes, it is slower. But we are talking about making perfect cookies right?

Helpful tools: Calphalon Nonstick Cake Pan- 9 by 13-Inch

Tip #14: Slightly under baked

If the edges of my cookie start to brown, they are over cooked. The recommended baking time on my cookie dough is 10-12 minutes. I always bake it for 9 minutes, because as the cookie cools, it is still sitting on a hot pan.

Once one pan goes in the oven, I have another one ready to go. Always keep it moving. It does help things go faster.

Helpful tools: 3-Tier Cooling Rack

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

Tip # 15: Bake ahead and freeze

Once my cookies are completely cooled, I freeze them on a sheet pan, and once frozen, I transfer them to a freezer-safe container. When I want to pull some out to frost and serve, I thaw them flat on a baking sheet.

A plate of baked sugar cookies ready to decorate

Now I would love to hear from you! What are some tips and tricks that work for you?? 

Now it’s time to decorate! Head over to see my
Tips for Decorating Sugar Cookies with Buttercream Frosting!

Mini X and O decorated sugar cookies are Valentine's day themed. These are frosted with a bright purple buttercream and garnished with hot pink sprinkles

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If you love no-bake recipes, be sure to check out my cookbook, No-Bake Treats!

 

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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

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35 Responses
  1. Eileen Benson

    It was helpful when you said that we should start with a ball that’s roughly softball-sized when rolling the dough out to be cut. My coworker will be having a baby shower in two weeks, and I think it’d be a nice gesture to buy a baby rattle-shaped cutter and make some fun cookies for the party. I don’t make sugar cookies very often, so your advice about how to make them perfectly is much appreciated!

  2. Nancy Friarson

    I live st 8700 feet above sea level and have trouble with my cutout cookies spreading so much I can’t tell what it is. Help! I read it might be that I use all butter?

    1. Beyond Frosting

      Hi Nancy, my mom who has been making this recipe all my life tried that this year and had issues with DRY cookies at 8500 ft. Brittle. I have no ides how to fix it unfortunately because I am not with high altitude baking. I am sorry!

      1. Bev

        Nancy,
        A lot of high altitude cookie recipes tell you to decrease, and sometimes completely omit baking soda to prevent cookies from spreading. Lower air pressure at high altitudes and baking soda both cause cookies to spread. Hope this helps!

        1. Beyond Frosting

          Bev! This is great advice, thank you for jumping in!! In the last few years my mom has moved to the mountains of Colorado and she often shares her baking struggles with me. After living in Vermont for so many years, she’s trying to figure out the adjustments needed to bake her favorite recipes like these sugar cookies. Thanks for jumping in!

  3. emma

    Cannot find my 60’s sugar cookie recipe and stumbled upon yours. And the tips are great, even tho I have been making cutout cookies for 55 years Whoa!!! I have some of the same cutters as you..Happy cookie making and Holidays to all…Today I am making my Halloween cookies…such fun, due to fact I had unexpected heart attack 3 months ago…..

  4. Ivy Baker

    I have been wanting to improve my baking skills for a long time. Sugar cookies seem like a good place to start. I liked that you pointed out that when rolling out the dough you should flour the area well. That is good for me to know when making the cookie. Now I just need to find a really good recipe to try.

  5. esena

    Hello, Thank you for sharing your recipe! I tried it and it tastes perfect. I want to decorate it with sugar paste, but my cookies got larger while they were baking. I could not make the decoration and the cookies same size. How can i prevent them to get widen? Thank you again.

  6. Jennifer @NourishedSimply

    I think sugar cookies take patients which I often don’t have. My kids do like to help decorate cookies, which really does make a fun family activity!

  7. Brielle @ Breezy Bakes

    If only you could just come to my house and make all my holiday sugar cookies!!! My daughter has been asking me since before Halloween if we can make sugar cookies, and I keep putting it off until the next holiday. Haha! Great tips and advice!

  8. Alida

    Thank you for such helpful tips. I love sugar cookies, but find it a little intimidating. Looking forward to trying them this holiday season!

  9. Jessica @ Sweetest Menu

    Hahaha I can totally relate! I’m all enthusiast and then halfway through when my legs get tired from standing up in the kitchen and every wall is covered in flour, I think why am I doing this? Loving these fabulous tips though! Just what I needed!

  10. Danae @ Recipe Runner

    I love these tips and tricks and can’t wait to try them this year! Usually my sugar cookies look like a 4 year old made them. 😉

  11. Melanie @ Gather for Bread

    Wow! You’ve definitely made me in the sugar cookie baking sort of mood.
    Great tips and thanks for the inspiration.

  12. Taylor @ Food Faith Fitness

    Okay, so your step by step tips are FABULOUS! Everyone wants the perfect sugar cookies and this nails it on the head and makes it seem much easier! I love your pictures and CANNOT WAIT to start making some of these bad boys myself! 🙂

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