Classic Sugar Cookies

October 29, 2017

These classic sugar cookies are soft and tender and make the perfect kid-friendly food craft for any holiday.

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Why is it so hard to find a good sugar cookie recipe? Over the years I’ve tried nearly a dozen recipes that all say something like, “the perfect sugar cookie recipe,” “sugar cookies that hold their shape,” “the only sugar cookie recipe you need”… none of which have lived up to such bold statements.

sugar cookies and decorating tips with kids.

My Ideal Sugar Cookie

Before I start telling you about this particular recipe, one that I deem pretty close to perfect, let me tell you what makes the ideal sugar cookie in my mind because we all have different expectations when it comes to cookies, especially sugar cookies.

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First and foremost, it needs to taste good (flavor always trumps presentation for me). I like a sugar cookie that isn’t overly sweet because once you add frosting, the sweetness is going to be overwhelming (you know, like the store-bought frosted sugar cookies. Those cookies basically encompass everything I don’t want in a sugar cookie). For me, I want a cookie that has a slight buttery taste and a little bit of texture. Nothing too crunchy, but also nothing too fluffy and airy. And, of course, I want a cookie that will hold most of its shape when baking.

classic sugar cookies for the holidays.

So, after many, many sugar cookie tests, I actually decided my favorite is a tried and true recipe from my in-laws. Ryan’s parents make this recipe nearly every time we visit. My kids and I always look forward to this treat. During the summer, they make strawberry buttercream with homemade jam to top on the cookies. During the winter, they’ll make the same sugar cookies and top them with a chocolate buttercream. They’re just a classic. 

my secret to my classic sugar cookie recipe.

A Little Something Special

Some sugar cookie recipes call for almond extract, but I prefer vanilla extract in my sugar cookies. I actually will sometimes add a little lemon extract to this recipe. Just a hint of lemon is a total game-changer. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Oh, I always use this vanilla buttercream recipe for frosting sugar cookies. It’s so good and is easy to work with! You can add food coloring/gel to it if you want it to be a certain color. 

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I also like that these cookies are tender with the slightest crunch when you bite into them. 

Best halloween sugar cookie and decoration ideas for kids.

classic sugar cookies with vanilla buttercream frosting.

We had so much fun decorating our Halloween-shaped cookies and can’t wait to do it again at Christmas!

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We tried to save a few of these classic sugar cookies to give to our friends who have helped out so much while I was recovering after foot surgery… but I’ll be honest, it was hard not to eat them all before they made it to the plates.

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Enjoy! And follow me on Instagram @cakebycourtney for more tips and tricks on all things cake and baking!

More Recipes You’ll Love

Classic Sugar Cookies

5 from 7 votes
Tender and soft sugar cookies paired with a whipped vanilla butterceam.
Servings 2 dozen, depending on size of the cookie cutter


  • For the Cookies
  • 1 1/2 cups 339 g unsalted butter, room temperature (just barely soft enough to leave a fingerprint and still cold)
  • 2 cups 400 g granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon 4.2 g vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon 1.1 g lemon extract (optional)
  • 5 cups 600 g all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons 8 g baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon 5.6 g salt
  • For the Frosting
  • 2 cups 452 g unsalted butter, room temperature (just barely soft enough to leave a fingerprint and still cold)
  • 6 cups 750 g powdered sugar, sifted
  • 3 tablespoons 44.3 g heavy whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon 4.2 g pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt


  • For the Cookies
  • Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  • Add the eggs, vanilla and lemon extract (if using). Mix until incorporated.
  • With the mixer on low speed, add the flour, baking powder and salt. Mix until just incorporated.
  • Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour.
  • Roll the dough out to about ¼ inch thick. Use cookie cutters to cut shapes and place the cookie dough 1 inch apart on the baking sheet.
  • Freeze the cut dough for 10 minutes and then bake 6 to 8 minutes.
  • Cool completely before frosting.
  • For the Frosting
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed for about 2 minutes, until light and fluffy.
  • With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the powdered sugar, heavy cream, vanilla and salt. 
  • Turn the mixer to medium-high speed and beat the frosting for an additional 5 minutes, until nearly white.
  • Before frosting or piping, mix the frosting by hand with a wooden spoon or spatula to push out the air pockets.

Join the Conversation

  1. Can you freeze unused dough?

    1. Yes, absolutely!

  2. Hey Courtney,
    Looking to make these biscuits. Just wondering how long they would keep for in an air tight container.
    Steph 😀

    1. They’d be good for a couple days in an airtight container at room temp, and up to a month in the freezer.

  3. Brittny Hansen says:

    My sister recommended this recipe to me and I’m just getting started, but I think you probably want to move the first step of preheating the oven to after step 5, since you don’t want your oven running while the dough is in the fridge for an hour!

  4. I wanted to make them and freeze them is it best to cut them and then freeze them and how long can I freeze them for before baking? Thank you love all of your recipes

    1. Cut then freeze! Can freeze for a few hours!

  5. Yolanda Sandoval says:

    hi courtney,
    i don’t have a stand mixer or a paddle attachment. how can i modify this recipe?

    1. Use a hand mixer!

  6. I couldn’t get the dough to easily pick up off the floured counter… it seems way too tacky. I refrigerated the dough for an hour like instructed, but I just made a sticky mess with my hands, rolling pin and counter…even covered in flour… not sure what I did wrong??

    1. Just chill it longer! Might get too soft from hands or the temp!

  7. Courtney Rose says:

    I feel like a goober asking this, but did the recipe disappear?? I know I saw it a few days ago but for the life of me, I cannot see it today. I’ve tried on my phone as well as my laptop and it’s just not showing up!

    1. It should be there now!

  8. Having trouble finding the sugar cookie recipe on this post?

  9. Hello! I feel like I’m missing something. I love the photos, but I don’t see the recipe anywhere.

    1. It should be there!

  10. Kaycie Fuhriman says:

    Hi Courtney!
    Could I make the dough and keep it refrigerated for a day or 2 before using cookie cutters and baking?

      1. Do these have to be refrigerated after they are frosted or can you leave them covered on the counter?

        1. You can leave them out.

  11. I made these cookies and the buttercream. The buttercream was yummy and the cookies were good but a little tough. Not sure what I did wrong. The bite was just tough. Maybe I overmixed the dough? Any suggestions?

  12. 5 stars
    Both the icing & the cookies were amazing. The lemon gave it a touch of zest they needed!!

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