When I say this is the best cut out sugar cookie recipe, I don’t mean to exaggerate. It’s just that it’s truly how I feel about these cookies, which in my opinion, are perfectly sweet, buttery, delicious, crisp yet tender, and most importantly, they hold their shape incredibly well as they bake.
Sugar Cookies Recipe
You know those rolls of sugar cookie dough you can buy at the store? I won’t mention any brands, but there are a couple that come to mind.
The cookies taste decent enough. I know because I spent many years of my youth buying those rolls of cookie dough with my mom and sister, and baking them for the holidays.
We’d always giggle and make fun of the results because while they’d start out as cut-outs of stockings and Christmas trees, they’d end up just looking like big blobs that we’d smother in frosting and sprinkles to visually improve.
I’d always think, why don’t our cookies look like the ones in magazines?
How do you make cut out cookies keep their shape?
I eventually learned that this had much to do with the ratio of ingredients in the cookies. Too much butter and sugar can make your cookies spread, especially if the dough isn’t kept cold before baking.
Most people choose to bake sugar cookies when they’re looking to create cut out shapes for a special occasion or holiday, so it’s a major bummer when you take the time to painstakingly roll out the dough, cut it into various shapes, and then bake it only to find they look like big blobs when they come out of the oven.
Best Sugar Cookie Dough for Cutouts
So, I set out on a mission to find cut out cookies that hold their shape. I searched high and low for the best cut out sugar cookie recipe, and I gave my final vote to this recipe. Why?
Not only does this cookie dough retain it’s shape when it’s been cut out and baked, but it tastes absolutely delicious!
These cookies are buttery and sweet without being sickly sweet. They’ve got a lovely vanilla essence and a bit of orange zest for a fresh zing.
You can leave out the orange zest, but I highly recommend you include it. It will give your cookies a special something that everyone loves. I make them for many festive occasions, including the holidays (this is the same recipe as my popular French Christmas cookies minus a few holiday spices).
What thickness is best for cut out cookies?
How thick or thin you like your cookies will purely depend on how crisp you want your cookies. The obvious fact is that if you roll out your cookie dough super thin, then it will be a little more challenging to transfer them to a baking sheet (although a sharp-edged spatula can do wonders and should always be used with cut out cookies), and the cookies will bake pretty quickly to a crisp.
I prefer my cookies rolled out to a medium thickness so that by the time the center has baked through, the edges are crisp but the interior is still tender and chewy.
Best Sugar Cookie Recipe for Decorating
Half the fun of making sugar cookies is the decorating. You can use a tub of your favorite store-bought frosting, making your own buttercream, ganache, or go with a royal icing like I did here.
Once the cookies completely cooled, I decorated them with pink royal icing and gold sprinkles. In this instance, I was aiming for an elegant approach to Valentine’s Day with the soft pink rather than the typical, bright red.
I also like the way the pink and gold compliment each other. For favors, I placed the cookies in clear pastry bags the day after I iced them. To say they were a hit would be an understatement!
Tips for Making Cut Out Sugar Cookies
- Be sure to consistently flour your work surface and rolling pin when rolling out the cookies.
- It helps to refrigerate the cookie dough for about 15 minutes before rolling it out.
- Use a sharp-edged spatula to help you transfer your cut-out cookies to your baking sheet.
- Purchase a silicone mat to not only bake your cookies on but to also use as a great, non-stick surface for rolling out cookie dough. This giant silicone pastry mat is my favorite for rolling out dough.
- Pop the baking sheet with the cut out cookies into the freezer for 5 minutes before putting them in the oven. Chilling your cookie dough like this always helps a bit in preventing cookies from spreading.
- As soon as the edges of your cookies look like they’re beginning to golden, remove the baking sheet from the oven and let the cookies rest on the sheet outside the oven for another 5 minutes. The cookies will continue to bake this way without the intense heat of the oven.
- Be sure to let the sugar cookies cool completely before you attempt to decorate them with any kind of frosting or icing.
- If using royal icing, try using food-grade paint brushes for easy application and precision.
- If you will be bagging the cookies, let them dry with the icing overnight (don’t stack them, place in covered containers). If you rush this, there’s a chance the bags will smudge the icing.
- 2/3 cup butter
- 3/4 cup white sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp grated orange zest
- 1 egg
- 4 tsp milk
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
for the royal icing
- 4 egg whites
- 4-4.5 cups powdered sugar, to taste
- drop of red food dye for pink color
- gold sugar sprinkles
- Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract, grated orange zest, and the egg; mix on medium speed. Stop and add milk before mixing again.
- Pour in the flour, salt, and baking powder before mixing. Keep mixer going until the dough starts coming away from the sides of the bowl and clumps together.
- Split the dough in half and flatten each half into a disc shape. Wrap each disc in plastic wrap and either chill for 15-20 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Dust your work surface and a rolling pin with flour. Once the dough has chilled, roll out the first disc of dough into 1/4 inch thickness. Begin cutting out cookies using heart-shaped cookie cutters.
- Place the cookies on a parchment paper covered baking sheet (or a baking sheet fitted with a silicone mat). Bake in the oven at 375°F for about 6 minutes, just until the edges are slightly golden. They’ll firm up within a few minutes once they’re out of the oven, resting on the baking sheet. Let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before moving to a wire cooling rack until they’re completely cool.
- Meanwhile, create the icing by whisking the egg whites on high speed until it begins to lose its yellowish color. Add in the powdered sugar and continue to whisk until it’s thick and pure white with soft indentations from the whisk.
- Add a drop of red dye into the icing and mix until the entire icing is a solid light pink color. Use a brush (or pastry bag) to apply the icing onto the cookies, leaving the edges bare. Drop some gold sprinkles onto the icing and then let the cookies completely dry.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 36 Serving Size: 36 Servings
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 178Total Fat: 4gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 14mgSodium: 73mgCarbohydrates: 36gFiber: 0gSugar: 30gProtein: 1g