Monday, December 18, 2023

The Best Soft Sugar Cookie Cut Outs

This is truly the best recipe for rolled Christmas sugar cookies! They are always soft and melt in your mouth. They are easily made gluten free too! Keep reading to learn my secrets for creating the softest and best cookies!


I have officially made myself into a sugar cookie person.

Normally I would say if a dessert doesn't have chocolate I'm not too interested (although I do make exception for lemon desserts on occasion).  But really guys, I'm not kidding. These sugar cookies melt in your mouth. I can't stay away from them. 

And since your inner sentimental self probably won't let you get away with not decorating Christmas cookies this time of year, you might as well try this recipe and see if you feel the same.

What makes this sugar cookie recipe so special?

First that they are soft and melt in your mouth. 

They don't spread while baking and keep a beautiful cut out shape. 

You can make the dough and frosting ahead of time so that your kitchen isn't a disaster on cookie decorating day.

Depending on your preference, you can make these cookies soft and moist or fluffy with crispy edges by simply adjusting the bake time. They turn out great both ways!


What are the secrets to soft sugar cookies?

The most important tip I have for sugar cookies is to NEVER use flour to roll out the dough. Use powdered sugar! The powdered sugar creates a deliciously sweet coating on the cookie and helps the edges get perfectly crispy, whereas rolling out with flour will simply dry your cookies out.
My other secret is adding some corn syrup to the dough. This ensures that the dough stays moist. If you don't like using corn syrup, you can swap it out with honey! Honey adds a great flavor if that is the flavor you're going for!
Adding a little corn starch to the dough also improves the texture of the dough. 
The final tip for softness is to make sure you do not overbake your cookies. I find 7 minutes to be my preference for bake time. They are just slightly underdone, keeping their moisture and softness!


Do I need to refrigerate the dough overnight?

No, you don't need to refrigerate this dough. This recipe works if you want to roll it out right away! 

But it does greatly improve flavor and texture if you have time to refrigerate the dough. I personally like to make the dough and frosting days in advance before I decorate them with the kids. That way I don't have so much cleanup on one day. 

You can even roll the cookies out and cut them into shapes with your cookie cutters ahead of time. If you do this, store them in gallon ziplock bags, separating layers with parchment paper.

How do you add flavor to sugar cookies?


The most important factor in adding flavor to sugar cookies is to use real butter and no shortening. 
I also like to add extra flavoring in addition to vanilla. Almond extract gives a great old fashioned flavor. My favorite extract to add is butter extract. It gives the cookies almost a "birthday cake" flavor. Vanilla bean paste is another wonderful classic choice for adding a boost of flavor. 
As I mentioned before, you can also swap out the corn syrup for honey which gives a great taste too. Honey and vanilla is a great combo. Don't be shy to go look at all the extracts in the baking aisle and see if any flavor catches your eye. I have been meaning to try lemon extract for this recipe sometime! 


How far in advance can I make my cookie dough?

The safe answer is that you can keep this dough in the refrigerator for at least 5 days. I don't want anyone suing me for getting food poisoning on my advice.

I personally have kept it in the fridge much longer if it's sealed well. I will keep this dough in the fridge up to three weeks, and I find the flavor and texture get better and better as the dough "ages".  And I love having the dough in the fridge all through the holiday season, baking up a pan for a treat once in a while.

Is the dough safe to eat at 3 weeks old? Well, I'm alive if that means anything to you. But I think that the individual ingredients of this recipe (butter and eggs specifically) would be good for much longer than 5 days in the fridge. For me, if the dough still smells good, I will use it. 

You can also freeze this dough for up to 3 months. To freeze the dough, I would roll out and cut out the cookies and layer them in gallon freezer zip bags, separating the layers with parchment paper. That way you can just grab a few cookies as needed and bake them right from frozen!


Can you make the sugar cookie frosting in advance?


 Yes! I wouldn't keep the frosting in the fridge for as long as I would keep the cookie dough in the fridge, but you can definitely make it  5 days in advance. I store it in ziploc sandwich bags in each color. When you are ready to decorate your cookies, just put the frosting in a small bowl and microwave for 10 seconds. The stir well and you're ready to go!

How thick should the sugar cookie icing be?


I keep the frosting pretty thin for this recipe. The closest consistency I can think to compare it to is ketchup. 
If the icing is nice and thin, you can just dip the cookie face down in the icing to create a smooth surface to decorate. If use gluten free flour for the cookies they are slightly more fragile and you may want to just spoon the frosting on top and spread it around. The cookies will also be a little more fragile if you don't bake them as long. So experiment and see if you prefer dipping the cookies in the icing or spooning it on!

I hope this sugar cookie recipe becomes as much of a beloved classic in your home as it is in ours! Let me know in the comments if you've made this recipe and how you like it!

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  1. These are delicious! I was a little worried with how fragile they were right out of the oven, but they set up fine. I used the GF 1:1 flour from Costco (Namaste) and did 1.5 tsp vanilla extract and 0.5 tsp almond. The frosting is so much tastier than other recipes (thank you butter)! These are not chewy or crispy, but more like a soft melt away cookie. They’re pretty fragile and break easily even cool. Will be enjoyed this Christmas! Thank you!

    1. So glad you enjoyed them! The gluten free can be a little more fragile, but still so good! :)