These soft sugar cookies are made with cream cheese and a blend of pure vanilla extract and clear vanilla for a classic vanilla-flavored treat that can be customized for any holiday, from Valentine's Day to Halloween to Christmas. In addition, the cookie always comes out perfect and takes no time to make. For more holiday-inspired cookies, check out these recipes: Gingerbread Cookies, Molasses Cookies, Snickerdoodles cookies, Fig Cookies, and Pecan snowball cookies.
What Are Sugar Cookies?
Sugar cookies are classic, versatile cookies made with simple ingredients such as sugar, flour, butter, eggs, and vanilla extract. They are known for their slightly sweet flavor and soft, tender texture. Sugar cookies can be rolled out and cut into various shapes, making them perfect for decorating with icing or sprinkles for festive occasions. They are popular during holidays like Christmas, Valentine's Day, and Halloween but can be enjoyed year-round; whether plain or decorated, sugar cookies are a delightful treat for all ages.
Brief Highlights Of Our Sugar Cookies Recipe:
- Taste: These soft sugar cookies have a classic vanilla flavor with just the right sweetness. The combination of pure vanilla extract and clear vanilla extract enhances the cookie's flavor profile. They are slightly sweet and buttery, making them a delightful treat for any occasion.
- Texture: As the name suggests, these sugar cookies are soft and tender. They are slightly chewy on the inside with a delicate crumb. The sugar coating on the outside adds a hint of crunchiness, creating a delightful contrast in texture.
- Method: Making these sugar cookies involves mixing simple ingredients, chilling the dough, rolling it into balls, coating them with sugar, and baking until lightly golden. The process is straightforward and results in delicious, homemade sugar cookies that are perfect for decorating or enjoying plain.
Sugar Cookies Ingredients
Note: The full ingredients list is provided in the recipe card below.
- Unsalted Butter: It gives richness, tenderness, and structure to cookies.
- Granulated Sugar: It functions as a sweetener and provides flavor. It also helps to create a tender and rustic texture.
- Pure vanilla extract and Clear Vanilla: It enhances the flavor.
- All-purpose flour: It creates structure and helps bind the other ingredients together, creating a more consistent cookie.
Tools you'll need
How to Make Sugar Cookies
Note: The full instruction is provided in the recipe card below.
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda; set aside. In a stand mixer bowl fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the unsalted butter, salt, and sugar until smooth and creamy for about 3 minutes; beat in egg, pure vanilla extract, and clear vanilla until combined. Add the flour mixture and mix until just combined.
Transfer the cookie dough to a medium bowl, cover it tightly, and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. If chilling for 3+ hours, let the cookie dough sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before rolling it into balls; the cookie dough will be very stiff after being in the fridge that long.
Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 375°F—line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.
Place the remaining ½ cup of sugar in a shallow bowl. Scoop cookie dough into rounded tablespoon-sized rounds and roll it between your hands into balls; roll in sugar to coat and arrange it on the prepared baking sheets at least 1 to 2 inches apart. Use your hand lightly; press the sugar cookie to ¼ inch thick. Bake, switching the position of the pans halfway through, until lightly golden on the bottom, about 10 minutes; while waiting for the other sugar cookies to bake, place the prepared baking sheets with the cookies in the freezer.
- Butter: If you don't have unsalted butter, you can use salted butter, but remember to adjust the amount of salt in the recipe accordingly. Alternatively, you can use margarine or a plant-based butter substitute for a dairy-free option.
- Granulated Sugar: You can use alternative granulated sugars such as cane, coconut, or brown sugar for a slightly different flavor profile. Remember that the cookies' texture and sweetness may be slightly altered.
- Flour: All-purpose flour is commonly used in sugar cookies, but you can experiment with different types of flour for variations. For example, you can use whole wheat flour for a nuttier flavor or gluten-free flour blends for a gluten-free option.
- Vanilla Extract: You can substitute it with vanilla bean paste or powder if you don't have pure vanilla extract. These alternatives will provide a similar vanilla flavor.
- Decorated Sugar Cookies: Roll out the dough and use cookie cutters to create shapes. After baking and cooling, decorate the cookies with icing, sprinkles, or colored sugar to add a festive touch.
- Chocolate Sugar Cookies: Add cocoa powder to the dough to make chocolate sugar cookies. This variation offers a rich, chocolaty flavor that pairs well with icing or frosting.
- Citrus Sugar Cookies: Add lemon, orange, or lime zest to the dough for a refreshing twist. The citrus flavor adds brightness and complements the sweetness of the cookies.
- Spiced Sugar Cookies: Incorporate cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, or cloves into the dough for a warm and aromatic flavor. These spiced sugar cookies are especially popular during the holiday season.
- Nutty Sugar Cookies: Mix in chopped nuts such as walnuts, pecans, or almonds for added crunch and flavor. Toasting the nuts before adding them to the dough can enhance their nuttiness.
- Sprinkle Sugar Cookies: Mix colorful sprinkles or nonpareils into the dough to create fun and festive sugar cookies. The sprinkles add a pop of color and texture to the cookies.
How to Serve
- Plain: Enjoy sugar cookies' simple and classic flavor by serving them as it is. Place them on a platter or in a cookie jar for easy access, and let people grab and enjoy them at their leisure.
- Decorated: If you've decorated the sugar cookies with icing, sprinkles, or other toppings, present them as a centerpiece or on a dessert table. They make a visually appealing treat for parties, holidays, or special occasions.
- Sandwiches: Create sandwich cookies by spreading a layer of frosting, jam, or chocolate ganache between two sugar cookies. This adds an extra layer of flavor and texture to the cookies.
- Ice Cream Sandwiches: Take two sugar cookies and sandwich a scoop of your favorite ice cream in between. Press lightly to adhere the cookies to the ice cream. This creates a delightful frozen treat that is perfect for summer.
- Dipping: Serve sugar cookies alongside a dipping sauce or spread. Common options include chocolate ganache, Nutella, caramel sauce, or cream cheese frosting. Guests can dip their cookies for an extra burst of flavor.
How to Store & Re-Heat
To store: Allow them to cool completely before storing them to prevent moisture buildup. Place the cooled sugar cookies in an airtight container or cookie jar, separating layers with parchment paper or wax paper to prevent them from sticking together. Store the container at room temperature in a cool and dry place, away from direct sunlight or heat sources. Properly stored, sugar cookies can last up to two weeks. If you live in a humid environment, you can also include a food-safe desiccant packet or a piece of bread to help absorb excess moisture and keep the cookies fresh.
To reheat: When it comes to sugar cookies, it's best to warm them up in the oven. Preheat your oven to 300°F (150°C) and place the cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for about 5 minutes or until they are warmed through. Be careful not to overheat them, as they can quickly become dry or lose their texture. Alternatively, you can microwave the cookies for a few seconds on low power, but be cautious as they can become too soft or lose shape if microwaved for too long.
You can make sugar cookie dough ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator or freezer for later use. After preparing the dough according to the recipe instructions, shape it into a disc or wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough for up to 3 days. When ready to bake, allow the refrigerated dough to sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes to soften slightly before shaping and baking.
How to Freeze
Sugar Cookie dough can be frozen for up to 3 months: Drop the cookie dough in heaping tablespoons onto a sheet pan, let it set in the freezer until solid, then place it in a freezer bag and press out as much air as possible. Bake directly from frozen, as directed in the recipe, but add 1 to 2 extra minutes to the baking time.
Tips for Making The Best Sugar Cookies
- Soften the butter properly: Make sure the butter is softened at room temperature but not melted. Softened butter allows easy creaming with the sugar and helps create a tender texture in the cookies.
- Measure the flour correctly: Use the spoon and level method for accurate results. This involves spooning the flour into the measuring cup and leveling the excess with a knife. Avoid scooping the flour directly from the bag, as it can lead to too much flour, resulting in dense and dry cookies.
- Chill the dough: Chilling the cookie dough before baking is essential. It helps solidify the fat in the dough, preventing the cookies from spreading too much during baking. It also enhances the flavor and texture of the cookies. Plan and allow enough time for the dough to chill in the refrigerator as directed in the recipe.
- Use parchment paper or silicone baking mats: To prevent the cookies from sticking to the baking sheet and to ensure even baking, use parchment paper or silicone baking mats. These non-stick surfaces make removing the cookies from the sheet easier without sticking or breaking.
- Don't overbake: Sugar cookies are best when slightly soft and tender. Avoid overbaking, as this can result in dry and crumbly cookies. Keep a close eye on the cookies during baking and remove them from the oven when the edges are lightly golden.
- Decorate with care: If you plan to decorate the sugar cookies with icing or frosting, ensure the cookies are completely cooled before adding the decorations. This prevents the icing from melting and helps maintain the desired appearance.
- Experiment with flavors and decorations: Sugar cookies are versatile and can be customized with various flavors and decorations. Add extracts like almond or lemon to enhance the flavor, or use colored sugars, sprinkles, or royal icing for decorative touches. Let your creativity shine, and have fun experimenting with different flavors and decorations.
Can you freeze Homemade Sugar Cookies?
Sugar Cookies, freeze well for up to 3 months. Allow the cookies to cool completely before layering them between sheets of parchment paper in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months: Thaw in the refrigerator or at room temperature. You can also freeze the cookie dough before rolling it out. Prepare the dough, divide it in half, flatten each half into a disk-like pie crust, wrap each in plastic wrap, and freeze them for up to 3 months: Thaw the disks in the refrigerator for about 1 hour, then bring to room temperature. Then proceed with the recipe as directed.
Why Are My Cookies Flat?
Here are the 4 most common reasons why cookies spread so much.
- The Butter Is Too Soft: Butter is the foundation of delectable cookies. The butter should be left out at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour until it's pliable but still cool. (it should hold a thumbprint with a bit of resistance). When creamed with sugar, room-temperature butter has the right consistency to incorporate air. Because of the trapped air pockets, the Sugar Cookies rise and become fluffy. If the butter is too warm, it will not incorporate enough air, resulting in a lower rise in your cookies. Furthermore, butter that is warmer than room temperature melts in the oven instantly, encouraging the dough to spread quickly with it. A quick fix is to chill the Dough. Refrigerate the remaining dough for one to two hours or until it feels firm. This chills the butter, preventing it from spreading too quickly in the oven. Although your cookies will not be as fluffy as once, they will not turn into pancakes.
- You're Baking on Hot Baking Sheets: After the first batch of Sugar Cookies has been baked, a new batch of dough is transferred to the baking sheet. While the first batch was perfect, the second batch spread a lot, possibly to the point where the cookies fused. What happened? Everything comes back to the butter. Hot baking sheets cause the butter to melt quickly, bringing the dough with it. A quick fix is to Cool the Baking Sheets Under Running Water for a few minutes so they're warm, not screaming hot. Then rinse them off under room temperature water until they're no longer hot to the touch. Then, dry them off and place your Sugar Cookies on the cool sheets.
- Your Oven Is Too Hot: If your Sugar Cookies consistently come out flat, no matter what recipe you use, your oven is probably too hot. Here's what's going on. In an overheated oven, the butter melts quickly before the other ingredients have firmed up into a cookie structure. As a result, as the butter spreads, the entire liquid cookie spreads. A quick fix is to reduce the temperature of your oven and increase the baking time. In the long run, consider purchasing an oven thermometer and keeping it in your oven so you know the exact temperature of your oven. Then you can adjust the heat as needed or consult the oven's manual to learn how to calibrate it.
- Incorrectly Measured Ingredients: If your flour, butter, and sugar ratios are off, the cookie might spread too quickly. This can occur if you aren't precise with your measurements. If your recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar, for example, and you add a slightly heaping cup instead of leveling off the cup precisely, you'll end up with too much. This is because sugar sucks up liquid, and when those cookies bake, it'll release the liquid and cause the cookies to spread out. Likewise, if you use too much butter, the Sugar Cookies will end up flat and greasy. If you use too little flour, the amount of butter and sugar will be proportionally too high, meaning the cookies will spread for the above reasons. A quick fix is to bulk it up a Little. If you used too little flour, stir a couple more tablespoons into the batter. Otherwise, shape your Sugar Cookies and freeze them on the baking sheet until they're solid. Although the cookies might still spread some, the frozen butter will counteract the action. If all else fails, consider repurposing your flattened cookies: crumble them up like ice cream toppings or mix-ins, or stir them into cake batter for a decadent treat.
- Snickerdoodles Cookies
- Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Chocolate Chip Cookies with Oats
- Pecan Snowball Cookies
- Peanut Butter Cookies
- Giant Chocolate Chip Cookie
How to Make Sugar Cookies
- 375 g (3 cups) all-purpose flour
- 1 cup granulated sugar plus ½ cup for rolling
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 sticks (1 cup) of unsalted butter, softened
- ¼ cup full-fat cream cheese
- ½ tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- ½ tablespoon clear vanilla or pure vanilla
- 1 large egg
- In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda; set aside. In a stand mixer bowl fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the unsalted butter, salt, and sugar until smooth and creamy for about 3 minutes; beat in egg, pure vanilla extract, and clear vanilla until combined.
- Add the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Transfer the cookie dough into a medium bowl, cover it tightly, and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. If chilling for 3+ hours, make sure you let the cookie dough sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before rolling into balls; the cookie dough will be very stiff after being in the fridge that long.
- Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 375°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.
- Place the remaining ½ cup of sugar in a shallow bowl. Scoop cookie dough into rounded tablespoon-sized rounds and roll between your hands into balls; roll in sugar to coat and arrange them on the prepared baking sheets at least 1 to 2 inches apart. Use your hand lightly press the sugar cookie to ¼ inches thick.
- Bake, switching the position of the pans halfway through, until lightly golden on the bottom, about 10 minutes; while waiting for the other sugar cookies to bake, place the prepared baking sheets with the cookies in the freezer.
All nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.