Cut-Out Cookies with No-Fail Icing

Pulling a sheet of cut-out  cookies from the oven and having to tell a couple of seven year old girls “Sorry ladies, your cookies did not turn out” is no fun, and I know because I had to do it this morning after trying out a new sugar cookie recipe – one recommended as melting tender and thin and crisp. Well, that’s all well and good, but if the cookies spread like crazy and all your carefully cut Christmas trees come out looking like scorched shmoos, then light and tender doesn’t matter. I suppose if we’d cut the cookie dough in a big pool of flour we’d have had better luck, but I hate getting flour everywhere and losing track of how much gets absorbed into the cookies. So that brings me to today’s recipe which is fool-proof.

These cut-out cookies hold their shape beautifully and are sturdy enough to put on sticks.  The exact yield will vary depending on the size you make your cookies. For the icing, I used Amy Sedaris’s recipe which is really just the recipe on the side of the Domino powdered sugar box but more interesting when you call it Amy Sedaris’s. What happened with me was I pulled out Amy’s book to get her icing recipe then started making it and realized the recipe on the box was almost the same. So it’s a trusted formula. (Update:  I changed it a bit! I now use two sticks of butter, which is more like a buttercream).

About the lemon extract, you can leave it out if you don’t have any, but I find it adds a mysterious undertone. It certainly doesn’t make the cookies taste lemony, but it’s a good “Oooooh. What’s that flavor?” ingredient. Almond works too, but some people really hate anything with almond extract so use with caution.

Sugar Cookies

 

No-Fail Cut Out Sugar Cookies with No-Fail Icing
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
No-Fail Cut Out Sugar Cookies with No-Fail Icing
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Serves: 1
Ingredients
  • 3 cups all purpose flour (380 grams/13.5 oz)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder (5 ml)
  • 2 sticks butter, unsalted, cool room temperature (230 grams/ 8oz)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (7.5 oz/210 grams)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (2.5 ml) -- Use up to a teaspoon if you like sweet/salty
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (5 ml)
  • 1/8 teaspoon lemon extract (or almond) (dash)
  • 1 large egg
Icing:
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter (8 oz/230 grams)
  • 1 box confectioner’s sugar (1 pound)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Whole milk as needed
Instructions
  1. Thoroughly stir together the flour and baking powder; set aside.
  2. Beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in the salt and extracts. Scrape sides of bowl and beat in egg, beating only until egg is blended in.
  3. Add the flour mixture gradually (1 cup at a time) and stir until incorporated
  4. Form the dough into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Roll the dough onto a lightly floured surface to approximately 5/8" thick. Cut the cookies into shapes and place the cut cookie shape on a parchment lined cookie.
  6. Bake the cookies for approximately 10 minutes or until the edges begin to turn golden brown in color. Remove cookies from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes.
  7. Yield will vary depending on how big you make the cookies
  8. Mix the softened butter and confectioner’s sugar together in a bowl, then add in the vanilla extract. Beat with an electric mixer until it all comes together. Slowly add the milk or half & half and beat, beat, beat until creamy.
Notes
If you are making really large cookies, reduce the baking temperature to 350 and bake for a longer period of time or until edges are lightly browned.

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Comments

  1. says

    My favortie sugar cookie that I’ve been using for years looks, well, just guessing without looking at my recipe, looks identical. Definitely a no-fail!
    I’ll bet you have some happy girls now!

  2. Leslie Springer says

    Boy do I know what you are talking about! I used the same recipe I have for years, and this year they did not turn out! The snowmen and trees just looked like blobs! But hey, they tasted great.

    When rolling out the cookie dough, instead of flour, I have been using powder sugar. Never have to worry about how much flour I am putting back into the dough. Works great for me, give it a try!

  3. says

    anna, your almond extract statement couldn’t have been more true!! i did a blondie experiment and a few people hated every recipe that i used with almond extract. i didn’t even tell them that it was in it. i love it though. i usually put it in most of the treats i make.

    these look like perfect cookies. my mom and i just made over 200 sugar cookies to bring to nursing homes. it took a long time!!!

  4. says

    I just made cut out cookies too. My kitchen was a disaster but the kids had fun. I have to say I’m glad it’s over and now I can bake some other cookies.

  5. says

    Joanna, I actually like almond extract in small amounts. I’ve noticed that certain adult friends absolutely can’t stand it and kids give me a suspicious look when they smell dough that I’ve put it in. Kids are usually pretty forgiving because mostly they just care about having nicely shaped cookies to decorate, but they have commented on the flavor of certain almond extract cookies and the comments haven’t been favorable.

    Lisa, Amen to that.

  6. says

    Frosted sugar cookies are my favorite cookies of all time, but I don’t have a go-to recipe. I’ll have to give this one a try.

  7. says

    I have a great cut out recipe, if you like fat and soft cutouts. I can post if you want it. I also use store bought cream cheese frosting and add vanilla and colored gels to jazz it up a bit. I used to buy my cutouts but now I have people call and want to buy from me:)

  8. says

    Sorry you had a disaster. These look great though! I made sugar cookies this weekend too. Two different kinds, along with a couple of other things.

  9. says

    They do hold their shape but they will puff up a bit. I guess it would depend on how thick you roll the dough out. I would recommend smaller cookie cutters unless rolling thin with this recipe.

  10. says

    Is there a group called Cookies Anonymous? I just can’t look at a cookie and not want to bake it right away. Even Psychgrad is asking who’s eating all this. I need help. In case you’re wondering – these sugar cookies elicited an “I’m going to make these”…

  11. Jill says

    After I found this recipe, this is all I use. I love it! It’s perfect for cut-out cookies. I do have one question. I have never used the icing recipe that you used. What kind of icing is this?Is this like a royal icing texture that I can use to “flood” the cookies with? Thanks!

  12. says

    Hi Jill,

    I use different icings all the time. This one was good for spreading or piping — it’s very basic and you can adjust the flow by using different amounts of liquid. This one isn’t the same as the kind of icing you use to “flood” cookies. If you want to try that, look for recipes for “Royal Icing”. That type of icing is usually made with egg white (you can use pasteurized for safety) or meringue powder, which you buy at Michael’s. Royal icing hardens, so the cookies are sturdy and can be stacked. Spreadable icing sometimes hardens a little.

  13. Suzanne says

    These are the best sugar cookies I have ever tasted!! The lemon extract gave them such a good flavor. This will be our new recipe to use every year at Christmas.

  14. Tanya says

    Wonderful! Wonderful! Wonderful! This is truly a wonderful recipe!! This is my fourth year of making cutout cookies with my seven year old. Every year I would try a different recipe and every year the batter was hard to work with and the cookies were crispy like potato chips, fell apart, etc… I almost purchased cookie dough this Christmas, but thought I would give it one more try. Am I glad I did! I googled and found this recipe and I’m sure glad I did. I’m not a great baker, but am better than average. This dough was easy to work with, easy to cut, easy to remove from the table and easy to remove from the cookie sheet once baked. I didn” use parchment paper, but things turned out ok. And I did the powdered sugar instead of flour that someone posted – great tip! Thanks to all the comments that made this recipe worth trying! Merry Christmas & Happy 2010!

  15. Davene souther says

    I will try this recipe tomorrow. My 8 year old son and I want to make Easter cookies.
    I have such horrible luck making cut-out cookies.My family lives in Mile-High country and
    so many recipes do not give additional instructions for high altitudes.

  16. Chris says

    Regarding No Fail Cut Out Sugar Cookies,
    Can I substitute Earth Balance spreadable butter in place of reg. butter and also can I replace regular egg with Energ Egg Replacer???????

    Please answer asap.
    Thank you.

  17. ER says

    I live at 9000+ in the Colorado Rockies. This is the BEST recipe I have found for cookies. I did add about 3 Tbs of water to moisten things up a bit through the last couple turns to mix it up. I may try to leave out about a 1/4 of flour next time and see what happens. I am hoping they make it to Saturday/Sunday…I can’t stop eating them! I live alone, I can’t eat them all (well I can, but I shouldn’t!)

  18. LT says

    I made the dough tonight for my kids so we could have a Valentine’s Day project with their little friends tomorrow. However, sickness my postpone our playdate :( How long will the dough keep in the fridge?

  19. says

    Sorry someone got sick. That’s not fun. Luckily, the dough will stay fresh for three days. If you want, you could wrap it tightly and freeze it. I’ve frozen dough for up to 4 months.

  20. Amy Teister says

    Hi Anna, I am looking for a recipe for a graduation party with an icing that hardens…the cookie dough recipe sounds great but does the icing harden?

  21. says

    Hi Amy, This one doesn’t harden. What you need is called royal icing. I don’t have a favorite one since it’s not my favorite icing to use, but you can easily find lots of versions by doing a search for royal icing. Sorry I don’t have any good recommendations, but royal icing is one of those things I tend to make differently every time.

  22. Barb says

    I LOVE this recipe. My go-to recipe anytime I need to make cookies. I did substitute 1 cup of all purpose flour with wheat flour. Still amazing taste but a little health boost.

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