Say hello to my perfect cut-out Sugar Cookies. These stunning cookies are so quick and easy to make, and there’s NO chilling the dough. They hold their shape when baked, making them ideal for decorating and gifting. Perfect for the holidays!
Easy cut-out Sugar Cookies 💜
These simple, buttery cookies are made using only a handful of ingredients, but they taste fantastic and they look even better. They’re quick and easy to make, and you don’t need to worry about chilling the dough.
Expect crisp, straight edges and chewy middles. These cut-out Sugar Cookies hold their shape when baked, making them perfect for decorating with icing or frosting with buttercream. They’re the ultimate holiday or Christmas cookie!
Why you will love these cookies
- You only need everyday ingredients
- They’re quick and easy to make
- They hold their shape when baked
- There’s no chilling the dough
- They taste like buttery shortbread!
If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen that it took six tries to get this recipe just right. Many of my first attempts were huge fails, but I learnt so much along the way.
I started by looking at the recipes of my favourite cut-out Gingerbread Cookies and Honey Cookies. But since these Sugar Cookies don’t have honey or molasses in them, I found them surprisingly hard to master. Just like shortbread, they really rely on butter for flavour. But the more butter you add, the more the cookies spread.
And if you try to reduce the butter or increase the flour to compensate, you might fix the spreading, but the cookies can be dry and tasteless. No thank you!
Most Sugar Cookie recipes require you to chill the dough to stop any spreading – either before you roll it out and cut it, or after, or both. But the problem I had when writing the recipe was that it was too hard to give a precise chilling time.
The time needed to chill the dough depends on so many factors: how soft your butter was to begin with, how long you mixed it for, how much you handled the dough, how warm your hands were, the temperature of your location – just to name a few.
After four attempts faffing around with different chill times, I had an epiphany. Why couldn’t we use cold butter? This is one of the techniques I use for my popular Levain Bakery Cookies to get them to spread less. And it works.
Why use cold butter?
The temperature of butter is everything when it comes to cookies. It’s often the main culprit as to whether your cookies spread too much in the oven, or not enough.
So after trying to make the perfect Sugar Cookie and having major issues with spreading, I realised there must an easier way. So I tried using cold butter and a cold egg and mixed the cookie dough on a low speed to prevent the butter from becoming too warm.
The dough was soft and pliable. I rolled the dough, cut the cookies and baked them. They were absolutely perfect. They held their shape remarkably well, had a lovely, smooth top perfect for decorating, and they were buttery, vanilla-ry and delicious. I’ve since made this recipe three more times and I’m in love! ❤️
I’ve even adapted it since to make gorgeous Checkerboard Cookies.
Tips for making perfect Sugar Cookies
- Use cold butter: Grab it straight from the fridge. And a cold egg too.
- Don’t overmix your butter and sugar: We don’t want to ‘cream’ the butter and sugar together. This technique is often used when making cakes like a Pound Cake or Butter Cake. It’s referring to the action of mixing the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. But this adds air into the batter and can result in a cookie that bakes unevenly, and doesn’t have the perfectly flat top or soft, dense texture we want. It’ll also warm the butter too much, which may result in spreading. Mix the butter and sugar on a low-medium speed until they’re just combined.
- Weigh your flour using a baking scale: This recipe relies on the careful ratio of butter and flour. Using cup measurements can result in adding too much flour, which will make your dough dry and crumbly and your cookies taste floury.
- Try not to overhandle your dough: Your hands are warm so the more you touch your dough, the warmer the butter will become. Roll out your dough using a rolling pin, cut it and gently transfer your cookies to a baking pan. You can re-roll the leftover dough once but any more than that, I recommend chilling the cookie dough for 10-15 minutes before baking.
- Bake on a low-medium heat: These cookies can brown quickly if baked in a hot oven. Try baking them on a lower heat for a little bit longer for an even bake.
What do they taste like?
These Sugar Cookies are buttery and sweet (but not too sweet), and they have a lovely melt-in-your-mouth texture. They taste similar to shortbread but with a strong vanilla flavour.
I like them a little soft and chewy in the middle, but a few extra minutes in the oven will give you a crispier cookie. Altogether, they’re delicious and it’s impossible to stop at just one.
Are they crispy or soft?
I’ve got great news for you. They’re whatever YOU want them to be. If you like a thicker cookie with a soft, chewy centre, roll them slightly thicker (go for at least 1/4 inch thickness) and cook them for a minute or two less.
If you prefer a thinner cookie, that’s crunchy and snaps when you bite it, roll them thinner (aim for 1/8 inch) and bake them for a minute or two longer.
Easy sugar glaze for decorating
You can decorate these cookies however you like. Spread on some vanilla buttercream and sprinkles or try my easy sugar glaze.
This simple glaze is made using just icing sugar or powdered sugar, milk and a little glucose syrup or corn syrup to give it shine. If you don’t have access to either syrup, you can just leave them out.
You can flavour the icing using almond extract or clear vanilla extract, and colour it using a good quality food gel.
It does take 3-4 hours to set in the fridge or leave them out overnight. But they look fantastic! Mind you, these cookies taste just as good on their own served with a cup of tea or coffee.
Frequently asked questions
Yes! Instead of vanilla, you can add another extract like almond, rose water or orange. You can also add some fresh lemon, lime or orange zest to the cookie dough.
Yes! While this recipe doesn’t require you to chill the dough, you can keep the dough in the fridge if you want to make it ahead of time. Shape it into a flat disc and cover in plastic wrap. When you are ready to roll it out, let it thaw at room temperature for 15-30 minutes or until it’s soft enough to roll.
You can keep these cookies in an airtight container at room temperature. Once iced, you can speed up the setting of the glaze by putting them in the fridge. They keep well for 5-7 days or you can freeze them.
More cookies to love
Simple cut-out Sugar Cookies that hold their shape without chilling the dough.
- 170 grams (3/4 cup or 1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, cold
- 150 grams (3/4 cup) caster sugar or granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
- 1 large egg, cold
- 315 grams (2 and 1/4 cups) plain flour or all purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
Simple glaze icing
- 250 grams (2 cups) icing sugar or powdered sugar, sifted
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract or clear vanilla extract*
- 1 teaspoon glucose syrup or corn syrup, optional
- 2–3 tablespoons full fat or whole milk
- Gel food colour, optional
- Preheat the oven to 170 C (340 F) standard / 150 C (300 F) fan-forced. Line two large baking trays or cookie sheets with baking paper.
- Grab your butter from the fridge and roughly chop it into 1 inch cubes.
- Add butter, sugar and vanilla to a large mixing bowl. Turn mixer onto low speed and start to beat butter and sugar. It’ll take a few minutes for your butter to soften, but eventually it’ll come together.
- Turn mixer up to medium speed and beat just until your butter and sugar is combined and smooth. There shouldn’t be any lumps of butter.
- Add cold egg. Mix briefly on low speed just to break up the egg yolk. Then add flour, baking powder and salt.
- Continue to mix on low speed until a soft, but thick cookie dough forms. It may seem dry and crumbly at first, but just keep mixing and it’ll slowly come together. Shape cookie dough into a large round disc using your hands.
- Place a large sheet of baking or parchment paper on your bench. Place your cookie dough on top. Then, place another sheet of baking or parchment paper on top of the cookie dough. Roll out the dough until it’s 1/4 inch thick (or your desired thickness).
- Use cookie cutters to cut out cookies and carefully transfer them to your prepared trays. You can re-roll the excess dough once and cut out more cookies* (see notes below on re-rolling).
- Bake cookies for 10-11 minutes or until they are just starting to go golden on the edges. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
- To decorate, add sugar to a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add extract, syrup (if using) and 1 tablespoon of milk and stir using a spoon.
- Gradually add more milk as needed, until you have a smooth and creamy glaze. Try not to add too much milk or your glaze will be too runny. Use a few drops of gel food colouring to tint your glaze.
- Transfer glaze to a piping bag fitted with a very small round tip. Decorate cooled cookies. Leave cookies at room temperature to set overnight or place them in the fridge for 3-4 hours or until icing has set.
Vanilla bean paste: I love the stronger flavour of vanilla bean paste (and I love the vanilla bean speckles it leaves in my cookies), but regular vanilla extract works just as well.
Clear vanilla extract: The only reason clear vanilla extract is recommended for the glaze is because regular brown vanilla will tint the colour of your icing. Clear vanilla extract isn’t that easy to find in Australia, so I usually use almond extract, or you can just leave it out.
Glucose syrup: Adding glucose syrup or corn syrup to your icing will give your cookies a nice shine. But it’s entirely optional, if you don’t have access to either, you can just leave it out.
Don’t overmix your butter and sugar: We don’t want to ‘cream’ the butter and sugar together. Mix the butter and sugar on a low-medium speed just until they’re combined.
Weigh your flour using a baking scale: This recipe relies on the careful ratio of butter and flour. Using cup measurements can result in adding too much flour, which will make your dough dry and crumbly and your cookies taste floury.
Rolling your cookie dough: Your hands are warm so the more you touch your dough, the warmer the butter will become. You can re-roll the leftover dough once but any more than that, I recommend chilling the cookies for 10-15 minutes before baking just to prevent any spreading
Worried about spreading? Bake one tester cookie and see how it goes. If you follow the steps above it should hold its shape, but if it does spread, don’t worry. Once you cut out your cookies, you can pop them in the fridge for 15-30 minutes before baking.