You can make just about any holiday or celebration that much more festive with delightful sugar cookies.
Versatile sugar cookie dough can be formed into very simple cookies, like Snickerdoodles, or cut out and decorated, like The Best Rolled Sugar Cookies. And depending on which sugar cookie recipe you choose, your sugar cookies can be thick and soft or thin and crisp. It’s really up to you.
But whether you go simple or elaborate, these tips will help your cookies turn out beautifully every time.
Working with the Dough
Made with butter, eggs, flour, leavening and a generous helping of sugar, sugar cookie dough can be quite soft and even sticky. The trick to working with sticky dough is to chill it after mixing to make it easier to handle.
- Make dough following recipe directions.
- Cover the mixing bowl with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic down on the surface of the dough. Or wrap dough in plastic and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour.
- If you’ve made a large batch of dough, divide it into smaller portions before chilling.
Rolling and Cutting
- Cookie dough is much easier to work with after it’s been refrigerated for at least half an hour. Whether you’re making cut-outs or rolling the dough into balls, the cookies will hold their shape better if the dough is cold. If the dough is too cold to work with, let it soften slightly for a few minutes before proceeding.
- If you’re making cut-outs, roll out the dough between sheets of parchment paper to about ¼” thickness. Some cooks like to tape the lower sheet to the counter top to keep it from moving around. Use a rolling pin to roll dough away from you, leaning into the pin rather than pressing down on the dough. Lift the top sheet occasionally to smooth out any creases. As your dough reaches the right thickness, place two clean paint stirrers or flat-sided chopsticks on either side of the dough to ensure even thickness at the edges. Lift off upper sheet and cut out shapes as desired.
- Cookie cutters come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. If you’re new at cut-outs, stick with simple shapes until you get comfortable with them. Remember, the more elaborate the shape, the trickier it is to work with. You can keep cookie cutters from sticking to the dough by misting them very lightly with cooking spray, or by dipping the edges in flour.
- If your dough is firm and your shapes are fairly simple, you can lift them with a spatula and place them two inches apart on a lined baking sheet.
- If your dough is very soft or your shapes are more delicate, it’s best to cut and bake them on the same parchment sheet without trying to transfer them. Do try to leave a couple of inches between cut-out shapes so they don’t spread into each other when they bake. Lift off the scraps between the cut-outs and slide the bottom sheet of parchment paper with the cut-outs directly onto a baking sheet.
- Chill the cut-outs for 20 to 30 minutes before baking.
- You can gather up the scraps, chill them, reroll and cut out shapes. For best results, reroll only once. After that roll scraps into balls, roll in cinnamon sugar, and bake.
- Use an oven thermometer to ensure you’re baking at the correct temperature.
- If you’re baking in batches, cool your baking sheet before loading it with fresh cookie dough.
- Slide each batch onto cooling racks, parchment paper and all. When the cookies have cooled and firmed up for a few minutes, you can slide the cookies off the parchment to finish cooling directly on the rack. Parchment paper can be reused for several batches of cookies.
Frosting and Icing
After you’ve cut out, baked, and cooled the cookies, the next step—and the most fun part—is to decorate them.
- Try a simple glaze of confectioners’ sugar and either milk or fruit juice. By adjusting the ratio of liquid to sugar, you can make this glaze as thick or as thin as you’d like.
- Royal icing is another option: it dries to a hard, crunchy finish and also holds up well in the mail.
- Buttercream frosting is soft and thick; tasty, but not good if you plan to stack the cookies.
Share the Love
You’ve baked and decorated all those sugar cookies, and now it’s time to get them out in front of an appreciative audience. Get your like-minded baking friends together for a cookie exchange party, or maybe you’d like to mail cookies to out-of-town family and friends.
More Cut-Out Cookie Doughs
You can make cut-out cookies from gingerbread and shortbread dough, too. Gingerbread dough tends to be soft and sticky, so you’ll want to dust the top of the dough lightly with flour before rolling out. See 10 tips for baking gingerbread. Shortbread dough is firmer and makes dense, rich-tasting cut-outs.
Find a sugar cookie recipe that’s just right for you. In fact, you can take a basic sugar cookie dough and transform it into several different kinds of cookies by adding flavors, colors, shapes, and decorations.
Explore our entire collection of scrumptious cookie recipes.