Our favorite sugar cookie recipe yields a workable dough you can transform into cutouts that hold their shape in the heat of the oven and emerge crisp-yet-tender canvases, ready for decorating. We love this Easy Sugar Cookie Icing (a riff on royal icing, made with powdered sugar and egg whites) tinted with vibrant food coloring powder for gilding the tops of the buttery cookies. If you’d like to pull out all the stops for a decorating party, load up on sanding sugars, sprinkles, and dragées. Or forget all that and turn them into sandwiches filled with chocolate buttercream or cream cheese frosting instead.
To start, you’ll cream butter and granulated sugar just to combine, and not until it’s “light and fluffy.” Unlike many cookie recipes, you don’t want to whip too much air into the butter, which could make the cookies spread—not the goal here. And yes, you’re using chilled butter, not room temperature, making the whole process go much faster. Add a little peppermint or almond extract to the cookie batter if you’d like to play with the flavors, but no more than ¼ tsp. of either; they’re much more potent than vanilla.
Rolling out your dough between two sheets of parchment (or silicone baking mats) guarantees this easy sugar cookie recipe is as supreme (and easily made) as its name suggests, as thinly rolled cookie dough can stick to even the coldest countertops. To make your work and cleanup easier, line your cookie sheets with more parchment, but don’t be tempted to swap in silicone for the baking. While we’re all for no waste, super-slippery silicone mats encourage spreading, which, again, is not the goal here.
If decorating with sanding sugar, sprinkle it on the unbaked cookies before they go into the oven. If decorating with icing or glaze, make sure the cookies are completely cool before decorating. You can bake the cookies up to 12 hours ahead and leave them on cooling racks, loosely covered with a kitchen towel. Finally, be sure to add any sprinkles or other adornments before the icing has set.
If you’re thinking of assembling a cookie tin, we recommend pairing these with another classic like chocolate chip cookies and a couple of bolder options like chewy molasses cookies or ancho-mole cookies. Store decorated cookies in an airtight container for up to 3 days.