Simple Sugar Cookies
This Simple Sugar Cookies recipe is one we always include in our Christmas cookie line-up. It has a delicious but subtle flavor in a soft cookie base, with an easy buttercream frosting on top. It’s easy to make and decorate.
Sometimes I like cookies with all the bells and whistles (hello, Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies). And sometimes I like to keep things simple.
Today we’re going with simple, but that doesn’t mean the end result is any less delicious.
These easy sugar cookies are sweet and soft, with a nostalgic quality to them. They’re not fussy, and they’re simple enough that I can decorate them with my 3 year-old.
While they’re not winning any Pinterest beauty contests, considering the fact that a toddler can decorate them with unskilled hands, I think they end up looking really nice.
These soft sugar cookies are made with the simplest of ingredients: just flour, baking powder, and salt for the dry ingredients, and butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla for the wet. Bring that together and you’ve got your dough.
Then for the frosting, it’s just butter, confectioner’s sugar, vanilla, and a touch of milk.
Give it a shake of your favorite sprinkles on top for both flavor and texture, and you’ve got a simple but addictive cookie.
The flavor is pure and high quality, and that’s what makes these the best sugar cookies for us. While I would not call them chewy cookies per se, they have a satisfying soft bite to them, and a rich creamy top. Let’s go through the process!
Step by Step Overview:
To get the wet ingredients going, cream together unsalted butter and granulated white sugar in a large bowl using an electric mixer, then add one large egg and vanilla extract:
Add the dry ingredients, which is all-purpose flour, baking powder, and kosher salt, to the wet:
Keeping mixing with the hand mixer until the flour mixture is absorbed and it all comes together into a soft dough, taking care not to overmix:
The dough will likely be too soft to roll right now, so chill it in the fridge for 30 minutes.
I find it easiest to dump the cookie dough onto a piece of parchment, and use the sides of the parchment paper to flatten it into a disk to be chilled.
Roll the dough about 1/4″ thick using a rolling pin, then cut into whatever shapes you’d like:
I get 24 cookies using a 2.5″ cutter, re-rolling and cutting the scraps. Really though, do whatever shape you’d like, using your favorite cookie cutters, or simply cutting shapes with a sharp knife.
Chill the cut dough circles in the fridge for 30 more minutes, until fully firm, then bake the cookies. The chilling is essential to keep the cookies from spreading in the oven.
Bake the cookies for about 10 minutes, which is the time when the cookies should *just* lose their sheen on top. They should not be golden brown at all.
If you let the edges of the cookies brown, you will ultimately end up with a crisp cookie. They should be soft and pale throughout. For this reason, use an air bake pan if you’ve got one, to prevent browning. Baking on parchment paper or a silicone mat also helps minimize the browning.
Pull the parchment off the cookie sheet to let them cool, or better yet, move them to a wire rack once they’re set enough to move.
While the cookies cool, make the frosting.
Combine softened butter, confectioner’s sugar (aka powdered sugar), milk, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract in a small bowl:
Whip together for about a minute, until creamy:
When the cookies have cooled completely, dollop frosting onto each cookie, to make sure each cookie gets the same amount:
Then you can further spread the frosting all over the top:
Now the cookies are ready for sprinkles, and here I consider them essential. You really need the texture there, and without them, the cookies look a bit too beige on beige.
Here I’m using the Christmas Crackers Twinkle Sprinkle Medley from the Sweetapolita shop. I bought my first batch a few years ago and love that the sprinkles are gorgeous AND they taste good too.
When the cookies have been sprinkled, they are ready to enjoy! They also freeze very well, completely assembled and decorated.
See the Cookies section of my recipe index for more cookie recipes, and I’ll highlight a few more that are favorites for Christmas.
Recipe FAQ and Tips
Keep in an airtight container. If keeping at room temperature, I only recommending storing for a few hours, because of the milk. Otherwise, store them in the fridge for up to 4 days. Or you can freeze them.
If you’ve already frosted and decorated them, freeze them on a baking sheet until firm, then you can place them in a freezer bag for up to 3 months. I recommend placing them between pieces of parchment paper, or individually wrapping them in plastic wrap, to keep them separated.
Yes, you can also make everything in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Make sure to scrape down the bowl as needed.
If you bake regularly, I recommend getting an oven thermometer so you can double check the temperature. Sometimes the real temperature varies significantly from what you’ve set the oven to, as much as 100 degrees depending on oven quality. For best results, make sure to keep your eye on the cookies as they bake.
Candy canes – Make these Christmas sugar cookies by adding crushed candy canes to the top instead of sprinkles.
Icing – Instead of the frosting, you may top the cookies with a simple icing or royal icing.
Extracts – Add 1/4 teaspoon of almond extract to the dough to add more flavor and aroma. Or you can add other extracts, like lemon or orange, to the frosting.
More Christmas Cookie Recipes
Here are some of my other favorite Christmas cookies. They’re great for Santa, or for parties and other special occasions!
Simple Sugar Cookies
For the Sugar Cookie Dough:
- 7.5 ounces all-purpose flour, by weight (1.5 cups measured)
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature (68-72F)
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
For the Frosting:
- 1/2 cup butter at room temperature (salted is preferred, add 1/8 tsp salt if using unsalted)
- 3/4 cup confectioner's sugar *
- 1 tbsp milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- sprinkles for decorating
- In a medium bowl, whisk to combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.
- In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar for one minute, using a hand mixer on medium speed, until combined and fluffy. Mix in the egg and vanilla extract until incorporated, about 30 more seconds.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and mix on low until a crumbly dough forms. Take care not to overmix.
- Dump the dough out onto the counter or onto a piece of parchment, and shape into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for 30 minutes.
- Roll the dough out 1/4" thick. You can use flour as needed for sticking, but use as little as possible. Use a cutter to cut whatever shapes you desire, whether it be circles, stars, or Christmas shapes. Re-roll and the cut scraps as well. Or, you can simply cut the dough into squares with a knife and not have any scraps.
- Place the cut cookies on a flat pan and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes, until firm. This will keep the cookies from spreading in the oven.
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, and if you have one, I recommend using an air bake pan to minimize browning.
- Bake the cookies for 9-10 minutes, which is about the time that the cookies should *just* lose their sheen on top. They shouldn't be golden brown on the edges yet. You want to keep them soft.
- Let the cookies cool, ideally moving them off the pan by pulling the sheet of parchment off, or better yet, moving them to a wire rack once they've set enough to move safely. Then make the frosting.
- In a medium bowl, whip together the butter, confectioner's sugar, milk, and vanilla, for about 1 minute on medium speed with a hand mixer, until fluffy and light.
- Frost all the cooled cookies with the buttercream. You should have enough that you can generously frost every cookie, and I usually have a tablespoon or two leftover.
- Sprinkle the frosted cookies with sprinkles, as desired. Then enjoy!
Nutrition is estimated using a food database and is only intended to be used as a guideline for informational purposes.