If you’re looking for a recipe for sugar cookies for decorating, you’ve come to the right place! Whether you want sugar cookies for royal icing, or sugar cookies to decorate with buttercream, this recipe will never let you down! The cookies turn out flat and smooth and hold their shape in the oven. These sugar cookies are the perfect canvas for any kind of decorating!
When I was a kid, sugar cookies were fun because you could cut them out into cute shapes. If we were really lucky, we got a bit of frosting on top.
But these days, sugar cookies have become an art form! Just look online and you’ll find sugar cookies that are so beautiful and intricately decorated that they deserve to be in the Louvre!
The bottom line is, there are many different recipes for sugar cookies. But not all of them are perfect for decorating. Some of them get too puffy or cracked. Some of them completely lose their shape in the oven. But not these cookies!
I have the perfect sugar cookie recipe for you that holds its shape, keeps crisp edges, and has a completely flat decorating surface, with no cracks. If you are using royal icing, THIS is the recipe you need!
How to Make Sugar Cookies for Decorating
- Make the cookie dough. This dough just uses common ingredients you already have on hand. Sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla, flour, salt, and baking powder.
- Roll out the dough and cut. The dough should be very easy to handle and feel like play dough. Roll it about 1/4″ thick and then cut into desired shapes.
3. Place on cookie sheet and chill in the refrigerator. I suggest lining a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Just put your cut-out cookie dough on the cookie sheet. You can pack them as close together as possible so you can fit as many as possible on the cookie sheet. You’ll rearrange them and bake only a few at a time after they’ve been chilled.
Chilling this dough is very important in order for the cookies to hold their shape in the oven. Don’t skip this step! You’ll want to chill the dough for a minimum of one hour.
4. Bake for 10 minutes in a 350-degree oven. Once the dough is chilled, transfer part of the cookies to another cookie sheet, placing them two inches apart. (I highly suggest you line your cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats). When edges barely start to turn brown, the cookies are done. Don’t overbake, or they won’t be soft.
5. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Once you remove the cookies from the oven, let them sit for about two minutes on the cookie sheet before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
Now you’ve got a bunch of delicious cookies that you can decorate any way you like!
As a bonus, I’ve got a recipe for royal icing for you on the recipe card below. When using royal icing, you can use the wet-on-wet technique, or wet-on-dry technique.
If you use the wet-on-wet technique, the surface of your cookies will be completely flat and shiny. Here’s an amazing video that will teach you how to do lots of different designs with this technique:
The wet-on-dry technique will give you more texture for your cookie designs. If you want to learn how to do wet-on-dry with royal icing, this video will show you how to do it!
My royal icing recipe doesn’t have any corn syrup, either, so no worries on that front! It only has water, powdered sugar, and meringue powder. (You can buy meringue powder by the sugar and cake section in most stores. You might need to go to a specialty store like JoAnns or Michaels to find it).
For the Sugar Cookies
- 3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 cubes), softened to room temperature
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 1/4 cups flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
For the Royal Icing
- 2 2/3 cup sifted powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons meringue powder
- 6 tablespoons water, room temperature (plus more, if needed)
For the Sugar Cookies
- In a large mixing bowl and using a hand mixer, or in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, add the butter and sugar. Beat on high speed until creamed--about two minutes.
- Add the egg and vanilla and blend until fully incorporated.
- Add the flour, baking powder, and salt. Blend on low speed so the flour doesn't fly everywhere.
- Once the flour is incorporated, pinch the dough to see how easy it is to handle. If it is like playdough and doesn't stick to your finger or pull apart, it's ready. If the dough is too sticky to roll out, add a tablespoon more flour and blend.
- Flour a large surface, like a large cutting board or a clean countertop. Roll out the dough so it is 1/4-inch thick and cut into shapes using cookie cutters. Combine any leftover dough and roll out again to cut more cookies. Repeat until all dough has been used.
- Place the cut-out cookies close together on a parchment-lined or silicone mat-lined baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and place in your refrigerator for a minimum of one hour.
- Once cut cookie dough has chilled, rearrange on several cookie sheets (lined with parchment paper or silicone baking mats) so that the cookies are at least two inches apart.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Cookies are done when the edges barely begin to brown. Do not overbake.
- Let sit on baking sheets for two minutes after removing from the oven. Then transfer for a wire rack to cool completely before decorating.
For the Royal Icing
- Add the sifted powdered sugar, meringue powder, and water to a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. You can also use a large bowl and a hand mixer.
- Beat the ingredients together slowly at first so that powdered sugar doesn't fly everywhere. Once everything is mixed, increase the speed and beat for 1-2 minutes. To test the icing's consistency, stop beating and then lift the whisk or beaters out of the icing. The icing should "melt" back into itself and have a completely smooth surface within 5-10 seconds. If it takes longer, add a teeny bit more water. If it is too runny, add a little more powdered sugar.
- If desired, divide the icing into separate small bowls and add food coloring. I suggest using gel food coloring, as it will not affect the consistency of the icing like liquid food coloring.
- Transfer royal icing into piping bags. Snip the bottom of the bags and decorate to your heart's content! (You can also fit your piping bags with a small round tip if desired).
To quickly bring butter to room temperature, cut the butter into one-tablespoon slices and leave out on the counter.
To quickly bring an egg to room temperature, gently place in a glass of warm water and let sit for about ten-fifteen minutes.