These sugar cookies are soft and chewy with crisp edges, plus covered with the best buttercream frosting. They are easy to make and perfect for holidays or special occasions.
I have a major sweet tooth, and if I had to pick one food group to satisfy it for the rest of my life, it would obviously be cookies. And these soft sugar cookies are definitely at the top of my list! Especially when they're covered with plenty of buttercream frosting and lots of sprinkles. I promise you will love these cookies as much as I do! They are soft, chewy, and the edges are just slightly crisp. They're also really easy to make! The only hard part is waiting for the dough to chill before baking them. But, if you're like me, you'll enjoy sneaking a taste or two while you wait.
Ingredients for Sugar Cookies
- Butter- unsalted and softened to room temperature: Butter is the most popular and most recommended type of fat to use when making cookies. It adds amazing flavor and is what causes the cookies to spread during baking. Creaming softened butter with sugar produces a cookie that is incredibly light and fluffy.
- To soften butter to room temperature: Set it out on the counter for at least 1 hour. It should be firm but pliable. To speed up softening you can cut it into even-sized pieces, about 1 tablespoon each.
- Granulated sugar: A 1 to 1 ratio of butter and sugar is perfect for sugar cookies. Creaming the butter with sugar incorporates air into the butter which helps the cookies puff up and makes them soft.
- Room temperature egg: Eggs are what bind the cookies and give them a chewy texture. Eggs that are room temperature are easier to mix into the dough. Less mixing = soft cookies, more mixing = tough cookies.
- Vanilla extract: Pure or imitation, whichever you prefer or have on hand.
- All-purpose flour: Measure correctly by lightly spooning the flour into your measuring cup and then leveling it off with a knife.
- Baking soda and baking powder: Baking soda and baking powder work together to help the cookies rise and make them more soft and fluffy.
- Salt: Salt is required to bring out flavors. If you are using salted butter then reduce the added salt to ¼ tsp.
- More sugar: For rolling the cookies in.
How to Make Sugar Cookies
- In a large bowl, use a hand-held mixer to cream together the softened butter with the sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add the room temperature egg and mix until just combined. Be careful not to overmix. Mix in the vanilla until smooth, scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
- Add the dry ingredients in 2-3 batches and mix until just combined after each. Working in batches prevents the dry ingredients from going all over the place (you want them in the bowl, not on the floor). Once all of the dry ingredients have been added mix until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Cover and refrigerate the cookie dough for at least 1 hour and up to 48 hours. You can also freeze the dough at this point for up to 6 months. If freezing the dough I recommend forming the dough into balls and then placing them in a large plastic bag.
- Adjust your oven rack to the middle position, preheat your oven to 325°, and line 2 large baking pans with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Pour some sugar into a small bowl for rolling the cookies in.
- Form the dough into balls that are 1 and ½ tablespoons in size, or 28g if you have a kitchen scale. Roll the balls in the bowl of sugar until well coated and arrange them on the prepared baking pans, 1-2 inches apart. I usually fit 8 cookies per pan. Use the bottom of a clean glass to gently press down the balls to about ¼" thick. If the cookies are sticking you can dust the glass with a little flour.
- Bake the cookies in batches for 12 minutes. The bottoms should be just starting to brown when done. Allow them to cool on the pan for about 5 minutes and then use a spatula to transfer to a plate or a wire rack.
For the Buttercream Frosting
- Butter: Softened to room temperature.
- Powdered sugar
- Heavy cream: Or whole milk or half & half.
- Vanilla extract
- Salt: If the filling is too sweet add a little bit of salt. I used unsalted butter and added ¼ tsp. of salt. If you're using salted butter then you probably can leave the salt out.
- Food coloring: A few drops of food coloring is optional.
- Sprinkles: For decorating.
Add the softened butter, powdered sugar, cream or milk, vanilla, salt, and food coloring to a large bowl. Use a hand-held mixer to beat until smooth and creamy.
If the frosting is too thick you can add more cream or milk, or if it's too runny you can add more powdered sugar.
If making the frosting ahead of time, store it in the fridge and allow it to soften completely to room temperature before frosting the cookies.
Tips For Making Sugar Cookies
- Expired baking powder/soda: Baking powder and baking soda are leaveners that cause the cookies to rise. If you have baking powder/soda that is slightly older or are unsure, you can check to make sure they are good to use. Pour boiling water over baking powder and vinegar over the baking soda. Both should produce a strong reaction if good to use.
- Not letting the butter soften to room temperature: If the butter is too cold you won't be able to whip as much air into it when you mix it with the sugar. Incorporating air into the butter helps to lift it up and not spread as much. Properly softened butter will be easily pliable when gently squeezed.
- Not chilling the dough before baking: One of the biggest reasons cookies spread is not letting the dough chill before baking. The butter needs to be cold enough that the flour has a chance to cook before it starts to melt. Chilling the dough for at least 1 hour before baking is generally recommended.
- Baking on a greased pan: A greased pan will promote the melting dough to spread more and farther, while an ungreased pan gives the dough some friction to hold onto and resist spreading. The best way to keep the cookies from sticking is to use parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
- Too hot of an oven: An oven that is too hot is a big contributor to butter melting too quickly. Bake the cookies at 325° for the best results.
- Not letting the pan cool: If you put cold cookie dough onto a hot pan it will immediately start to melt and spread. Use 2 baking pans so one can cool while the other is in the oven.
Cut-out Sugar Cookies
The dough for this recipe is too delicate to be rolled and cut-out. It also uses leaveners (baking powder/soda) which make the cookies puffy and soft and not hold their shape as well as you would want for things like Christmas cookies. Cut-out cookies are also less soft because they're made with a higher ratio of flour to butter. I hope to have a recipe for cut-out cookies soon that I can link you to! Update: Cut-out sugar cookie recipe
How to Store Sugar Cookies
Properly stored, sugar cookies can stay fresh for 1 to 2 weeks. Allow the frosting to set completely for 1-2 hours and then store in an air-tight container at room temperature. Placing parchment or wax paper between layers of cookies helps them stay fresh longer because it keeps them from being exposed to air.
You can also freeze sugar cookies, frosted or unfrosted, but it's much easier to freeze them unfrosted and then frost them when you're ready to use them. Place the cookies in a large plastic bag, separated by layers of parchment or wax paper, and keep frozen for up to 6 months. Thaw in the refrigerator for a few hours or pop them into the oven for a few minutes to warm them up.
More Cookie Recipes:
Frosted Sugar Cookies
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 and ¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- ½ tsp. baking soda
- ½ tsp. salt
- more granulated or sparkling sugar, for rolling the cookies
- ½ cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 3 and ½ cups powdered sugar
- 2 tbsp. heavy cream, whole milk, or half & half
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- ⅛ tsp. salt
- 2-3 drops red food coloring, optional
- sprinkles for decorating, optional
- Use a hand-held mixer to cream together the softened butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Mix in the egg and vanilla extract until combined. Don't overmix.
- In a separate, medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add to the wet ingredients in 2-3 batches and mix until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough for at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.
- Adjust your oven rack to the middle position and preheat to 325°F. Line 2 large rimmed baking pans with ungreased parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Add sugar to a small bowl for rolling the cookies.
- Take 1 and ½ tbsp. of dough and roll into a ball with the palms of your hands. Toss in the bowl of sugar until well coated.
- Arrange the cookie dough on the prepared baking sheets 1-2 inches apart. Use the bottom of a clean glass to gently press down until about ¼" thick. Bake the cookies for 12 minutes or until the bottoms are lightly browned. Allow the baked cookies to cool on the pan for 5 minutes before using a spatula to transfer to a plate or a wire rack. Let the cookies cool completely before frosting.
- While the cookies cool, make the buttercream frosting: Add the softened butter, powdered sugar, cream (or milk), vanilla extract, salt, and food coloring to a large bowl. Use an electric mixer to beat until smooth. If the frosting is too thick you can add more cream or milk, if it's too thin add more powdered sugar.
- Use an offset spatula or a butter knife to spread the frosting on the cooled cookies. Decorate with sprinkles, if desired.