These ultra soft, no-spread sugar cookies are the perfect base for all your sugar cookie decorating needs. And if you’re new to sugar cookie baking, you won’t want to miss the comprehensive guide on storing dough and baked cookies, common problems and solutions, and answers to frequently asked sugar cookie questions.

frosted sugar cookies on a cooling rack with sprinkles and bowl of frosting in the background

I think we can all agree it’s hard to beat a good sugar cookie. They’re soft, chewy, don’t spread when you bake them and are the perfect canvas for all your edible art needs.

And after 6 years and who knows how many batches of cookies, I’ve finally fine-tuned my favorite sugar cookie recipe.

So whether you’re new to sugar cookie baking or are just in the market for something new or maybe you’ve made them and they just didn’t turn out so you’re here to find out why… I’m spilling all of my sugar cookie secrets below!

How to make sugar cookies

First, beat the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer until smooth. Add the sugar and continue beating until thoroughly combined. Add the egg and vanilla and repeat.

Second, scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the flour one cup at a time, mixing between each new addition. The dough should be firm, easily peels away from the bowl and no longer sticky.

Step-by-step photos for making sugar cookies

Third, flatten the dough into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

Fourth, remove the dough from the refrigerator. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until malleable. Roll the dough out to 1/4″ thick. Cut out with desired shapes.

Finally, bake the dough at 350F for 6-10 minutes, depending on the size of the cookies. The cookies are done when they’re no longer shiny on top.

Step-by-step photos for making sugar cookies

Working ahead with sugar cookies

I get it, you lead a busy life and sometimes you just need to be able to batch things out in advance. Good news! Sugar cookies are a very versatile cookie with lots of options for working ahead. Whether you want to bake your cookies now and decorate them later, or just whip up some dough for freshly baked goodies at a later date, here’s how to work ahead:

stack of sugar cookies next to a glass of milk

Refrigerating cookie dough: Sugar cookie dough can be kept in the refrigerator for up 5 days before use. Chilling the dough can help control the spread of your cookies during baking and, depending on how long you refrigerate the dough, may lead to a more concentrated flavor and a crisper cookie post-baking.

Freezing cookie dough: There are two ways to freeze sugar cookie dough: as a whole batch or as individual cutouts.

To freeze the dough as a batch: Press your sugar cookie dough into a disc, wrap tightly with plastic wrap, place in an air tight plastic bag and place in the freezer.

To freeze the dough as cutouts: Roll the dough out to about 1/4″ thick and cut out desired shapes. Place the shapes on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and freeze until completely frozen(about 2-3 hours). Place the frozen shapes into an airtight plastic bag and return to the freezer.

Thawing/baking frozen cookie dough: Sugar cookie dough can be thawed in the refrigerator overnight.

Make, bake, freeze: To freeze baked cookies, place the cooled cookies on a baking sheet (make sure they’re not touching) and place in the freezer until frozen completely. Place in an airtight container or bag and return to the freezer. Iced cookies should be stored with parchment paper between each cookie.

Thawing frozen cookies: Place frozen cookies on a cooling rack and let sit at room temperature until thawed.

How long will sugar cookie dough last in the fridge? Freezer?

Raw sugar cookie dough will keep for approximately 5 days in the refrigerator and up to 3 months in the freezer.

How long do baked cookies last in the freezer?

Baked sugar cookies can last about 3 months in the freezer when packaged properly.

Can sugar cookies be left out overnight?

Yes. Sugar cookies can be stored in a cookie jar at room temperature for 2-3 days or in a cool, dry, airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

Troubleshooting common sugar cookie problems

close up of sugar cookies with a swirl of light pink frosting
Sugar cookie dough is too dry

A dry dough is often a sign of too much flour. To fix this, try kneading in a little vegetable oil. Dough that is too dry will lead to dry, crumbly cookies.

Sugar cookie dough is too sticky

If your sugar cookie dough is too sticky, it’s most likely one of two problems: either the cookie dough hasn’t been chilled long enough or it has too little flour. Make sure the dough has chilled for at least 1 hour, but if the dough is still too sticky, tried kneading in a little more flour.

Sugar cookies lost their shape while baking

If your cookies lost their shape during the baking process, no worries! If you act quickly, it’s an easy fix. Simply re-cut the cookies with the same cookie cutter immediately after removing the tray from the oven.

Baked sugar cookie surface is uneven

Sometimes sugar cookies will develop little bumps and air bubbles as they bake. If this happens, run a fondant smoother gently over the tops of the cookies immediately after they’ve been removed from the oven. If you don’t have a fondant smoother, gently patting the top with a paper towel works, too.

Baked sugar cookies are gummy

Gummy cookies are often a sign that the cookies were under-baked or had too much liquid/moisture in them. If the cookie dough wasn’t sticky, it’s probably the former. To avoid gummy cookies, make sure you bake them until the surface is no longer shiny.

Frequently asked sugar cookie questions

half-eaten sugar cookie being dunked in a glass of milk
Can sugar cookies be made with margarine?

Yes and no. Yes, sugar cookies can absolutely be made with margarine but no, I would not recommend swapping out the butter in this recipe for margarine.

Because margarine and butter contain different levels of fat and have different melting points, swapping out the butter in this recipe for margarine would drastically change the make up of these cookies and how they bake.

If you’d prefer sugar cookies made with margarine, I’d recommend finding a recipe that specifically calls for margarine.

How can I help my sugar cookies keep their shape?

There are three things that will help your sugar cookies keep their shape while they bake: starting with a firm dough that has enough flour to keep the dough from spreading while it bakes (like this recipe), sufficient chilling and making sure the dough isn’t rolled too thin (no thinner than 1/4″).

What makes for soft sugar cookies?

Soft cookies tend to have high moisture/fat content. This can be tricky for sugar cookies as high moisture/fat content also tends to encourage spreading, so the best way to ensure your cookies stay soft is to make sure they’re not over-baked.

I recommend baking the cookies until they’re no longer shiny on top, and then letting them rest on the baking sheet for 2-3 minutes so that they continue to bake all the way through.

Can sugar cookies go bad?

Yes, but with proper storage they can last up to 3 weeks on the counter or 3 months in the freezer (unfrosted).

Print

Simply Sugar Cookies

stack of sugar cookies next to a glass of milk

4.6 from 11 reviews

  • Author: The Simple, Sweet Life
  • Prep Time: 1 hour
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Yield: 24 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Cuisine: American
Scale

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all purpose flour

Instructions

  1. Beat the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer until smooth.
  2. Add the sugar and continue beating until thoroughly combined. Add the egg and vanilla extract and repeat.
  3. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the flour one cup at a time, mixing between each new addition.
  4. The dough should be firm, easily peels away from the bowl and no longer sticky.
  5. Flatten the dough into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
  6. Once the dough is chilled, knead it on a lightly floured surface until malleable.
  7. Roll the dough out to 1/4″ thick. Cut out with desired shapes.
  8. Bake the dough at 350F for 6-10 minutes, depending on the size of the cookies.
  9. The cookies are done when they’re no longer shiny on top.

Notes

  • Sugar cookie dough is too dry: A dry dough is often a sign of too much flour. To fix this, try kneading in a little vegetable oil. Dough that is too dry will lead to dry, crumbly cookies.
  • Sugar cookie dough is too sticky: If your sugar cookie dough is too sticky, it’s most likely one of two problems: either the cookie dough hasn’t been chilled long enough or it has too little flour. Make sure the dough has chilled for at least 1 hour, but if the dough is still too sticky, tried kneading in a little more flour.
  • Sugar cookies lost their shape while baking: If your cookies lost their shape during the baking process, no worries! If you act quickly, it’s an easy fix. Simply re-cut the cookies with the same cookie cutter immediately after removing the tray from the oven.
  • Baked sugar cookie surface is uneven: Sometimes sugar cookies will develop little bumps and air bubbles as they bake. If this happens, run a fondant smoother gently over the tops of the cookies immediately after they’ve been removed from the oven. If you don’t have a fondant smoother, gently patting the top with a paper towel works, too.
  • Baked sugar cookies are gummy: Gummy cookies are often a sign that the cookies were under-baked or had too much liquid/moisture in them. If the cookie dough wasn’t sticky, it’s probably the former. To avoid gummy cookies, make sure you bake them until the surface is no longer shiny.

Recipe adapted from Make Bake Celebrate

Sources:

LeafTV – How Should I Store Sugar Cookies After Baking?

The Kitchn – The Best Types of Cookies to Freeze (and How to do That)

Better Homes and Garden – How Long to Store Cookies in the Freezer

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 cookie
  • Calories: 159
  • Sugar: 8.4g
  • Sodium: 57mg
  • Fat: 8g
  • Saturated Fat: 4.9g
  • Carbohydrates: 20.3g
  • Fiber: .4g
  • Protein: 1.9g
  • Cholesterol: 27mg

Keywords: cut out sugar cookie recipe, how to make sugar cookies, sugar cookie tutorial

Did you make this recipe?

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Did you like this recipe? You might also like…

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  • 10 things I wish I knew about cookie decorating
  • Creating dimension with royal icing
  • Transferring cookie designs

Update Notes: This post was originally published in April of 2013 but was republished with step by step photos and tips in February of 2019.

Oh hey, you made it all the way to the end. And you know what that means: time for an adorable cat photo.

white and orange cat standing next to a glass of milk and frosted cookies