Classic Sugar Cookies

Classic sugar cookies

The Spruce 

Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 10 mins
Chill: 30 mins
Total: 60 mins
Servings: 20 servings
Yields: 40 cookies
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
198 Calories
10g Fat
26g Carbs
2g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 20
Amount per serving
Calories 198
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 10g 12%
Saturated Fat 6g 29%
Cholesterol 34mg 11%
Sodium 84mg 4%
Total Carbohydrate 26g 9%
Dietary Fiber 0g 1%
Total Sugars 10g
Protein 2g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 25mg 2%
Iron 2mg 9%
Potassium 33mg 1%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

These sugar cookies are light and delicate, just what a sugar cookie should be. The tender, buttery dough can be rolled out and cut with any shaped cutter you wish. The cut cookies are topped with sugar, but you can omit this step if you'd like to decorate them with royal icing.

The trick to baking tender butter cookies is not working the dough too much. The more times you roll out the dough, the more you develop the gluten in the flour, making the cookies hard. When you're cutting out cookies, you're going to end up with a certain amount of scraps. You can collect these scraps and re-roll them, but those cookies will be tougher, so re-roll as little as possible.

Make a big batch of cookies for a potluck, school or office party, or for a Christmas cookie swap. Kids can get in on the action by decorating their own cookies.

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Ingredients

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter

  • 1 cup granulated sugar (plus more for sprinkling)

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1 large egg, beaten

  • 1/4 cup milk (plus more for brushing the cookies)

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • 4 cups/400 grams cake flour (sifted)

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients and allow them to come to room temperature before beginning. 

    ingredients for sugar cookies
    The Spruce 
  2. Using the paddle attachment of a stand mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, and salt on low speed.

    Butter creamed with sugar and salt
    The Spruce 
  3. Add the egg, milk, and vanilla and mix until blended.

    Wet ingredients in a bowl for sugar cookie dough
    The Spruce
  4. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder.

    Flour and baking powder sifted into a bowl
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  5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix only until they're combined.

    Mixed cookie dough in a bowl
    The Spruce 
  6. Turn the dough onto a work surface. Using the heel of your hand, gently flatten the dough into a thick round, taking care not to overwork it.

    Dough shaped into a disc
    The Spruce 
  7. Wrap it in plastic and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 F.

    Dough wrapped in plastic
    The Spruce
  8. Unwrap the chilled dough, transfer it to a lightly floured surface, and use a rolling pin to roll the dough out to about 1/4-inch thick.

    Dough rolled out with a rolling pin
    The Spruce 
  9. Cut out the cookies and place them on an ungreased baking sheet. Remember to cut them as close together as you can so you don't waste any dough.

    Cut cookies on a baking sheet
    The Spruce 
  10. Use a pastry brush to wash the tops of the cookies with milk and sprinkle on some sugar. If you'll be icing the cookies, omit this step.

    Cookies brushed with milk
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  11. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until the edges and bottoms of the cookies are barely beginning to turn golden brown. Repeat with any remaining cookie dough.

    Baked cookies on a baking sheet
    The Spruce
  12. When the cookies are cool enough to handle but still warm, remove them from the pan and cool them on a wire rack. Let them cool completely before icing.

    Cookies cooling on a rack
    The Spruce

Tips

  • Make sure all of your ingredients are at room temperature before starting, especially the butter. Otherwise, you won't get a well-blended mixture and the dough will be hard to roll out.
  • This sugar cookie dough can be made up to two days in advance. Store the tightly wrapped disc of dough in the fridge and let it warm up on the counter for about 10 minutes before rolling out.
  • If you're using an elaborate cookie cutter and want your sugar cookies to really keep their shape, keep them cold. After cutting them out, stick the entire baking sheet in the fridge for 15 minutes before baking. This will help keep the cookies from spreading.
  • Instead of sprinkling with plain sugar, use colored sugar crystals. You could also dust them with powdered sugar after baking.
  • For colored sugar cookies, add food coloring to the dough at the same time you add the flour.
  • While it's fine to dust your work surface with flour for rolling, don't use any more flour than you need to. Too much flour will also make the cookies hard, so only use enough so that the dough doesn't stick. Or dust your surface with powdered sugar instead of flour.

Recipe Variations

  • Using cake flour will create more delicate cookies, but you can substitute pastry flour or all-purpose flour. Whatever you choose, just make sure you use 400 grams and sift the flour.
  • Swap out all of part of the vanilla extract for almond or lemon extract.
  • Add a sprinkle of nutmeg for a hint of spice.

How to Freeze

This sugar cookie dough can be frozen and baked up to three months later. Wrap the disc of dough tightly in plastic wrap and store in a freezer bag. Let thaw in the fridge overnight before rolling out and baking.

How Thick Should Sugar Cookies Be?

Sugar cookie dough should be rolled out to 1/4-inch thickness. Thinner than that and the cookie will be more brittle and more prone to breaking. Thicker, and it won't bake appropriately and result in it being doughy. A 1/4-inch thickness is the sweet spot where the cookie will be nice and soft with a little golden brown.

How Do I Stop My Sugar Cookies From Spreading?

To help prevent your sugar cookies from spreading when you bake them, use an ungreased baking sheet. Or, if you have one, a silicone mat. The grease on the baking sheet would only help to further the spreading of the cookies, so we recommend you forgo the butter/spray for this recipe.