The Ultimate Beginners Guide to Cut Out Sugar Cookies For Decorating


Sugar cookies are a yummy fun treat to make, but they can take a lot of work and a lot of practice. Learning how to make sugar cookies like a pro can be a great talent to have. Decorated sugar cookies aren’t just for Christmas anymore. They are for birthday gifts, teacher appreciation gifts, wedding favors, baby announcements and much more. Sugar cookies have made a huge come back. And while everyone loves a sugar cookie, not everyone love making sugar cookies. In this beginners guide to making cut out sugar cookies for decorating, I’ll give you the tips and tricks for making the perfect cut out sugar cookies!


Choose your cookie recipe.

The three main types of cookies used for decorating are shortbread, butter, and sugar cookies.

  • Shortbread cookies are the thickest and most dense of the cookies. They are made with the most butter and least amount of sugar, which makes them a more crumbly and softer cookie.


  • Butter cookies still have a high amount of butter, but less sugar than shortbread cookies. This helps them hold their shape a little better than shortbread cookies.


  • Sugar cookies contain the most sugar of all the cookies, which of course makes them the sweetest cookie. They are also the sturdiest and crunchiest cookie of the three.


No matter which cookie recipe you use, there are a few tips and tricks you can use to be successful when baking cut out sugar cookies.


Soften your butter, but not too much.

When making sugar cookie, you don’t want your butter to be too cold or too warm. If your butter is too soft it will cause the cookies to spread and loose their shape. You want the butter to give just a little to your touch. Let it sit out on the counter for about 30 minutes to an hour. Any longer and it will probably be too soft.


Mix your butter and sugar.

Start by mixing your butter and sugar not creaming. Over mixing is one reason that causes cookies to spread. You want to mix  until the butter and sugar come together and begin forming small balls.


Add other wet ingredients and mix well.

Now is the time to mix well. Add all other wet ingredients as your recipe tells you and mix well.



Use your hands to knead the dough.

After adding your flour, mix your ingredients just until it begins to form a dough. When the dough begins to form, cut off your mixer and use your hands to finish kneading the dough.This prevents over mixing.


Roll out your sugar cookie dough immediately.

After your dough comes together, go ahead and roll it out to about 1/4 inch thick. It is so much easier to roll out your dough when it’s soft than when it’s rock hard from being refrigerated. I roll out my cookie dough between a sheet of wax paper and plastic wrap. This makes it easy to roll out without sticking to my rolling pin. It also makes it easy to store in the freezer before cutting out my cookies.


Freeze your dough before you cut out your sugar cookies. 

After rolling out your dough, place it on a cookie sheet and put it in the freezer for about 20 minutes. Working with already rolled out, super cold cookie dough is so much easier to work with. Remove the plastic wrap from on top of the dough and you can begin cutting out your shapes. The cold dough will help give you crisp, clean, sharp edges.



Bake your sugar cookies while they are frozen.

This is the #1 tip for preventing sugar cookies from spreading. Bake them frozen! You do not want them soft at all before baking. They will spread. Bake them frozen!


Don’t over- bake.

Your goal should not be to bake until golden brown. If your cookies are golden brown when you take them out of the oven they will most likely be too crispy. You want to bake your sugar cookies until right before they turn golden brown. You may have to experiment with this a little. Ovens can be different, which will make baking times different. Keep your eye on them and if you see them starting to turn a golden brown color take them out immediately.


Wait to decorate sugar cookies.

Let your cookies rest until the next day before decorating. If you decorate cookies too soon you can end up with butter bleed, which is when the butter leaks through your royal icing.



Troubleshooting Cut Out Sugar Cookies.


Why did my sugar cookies spread?

This is the most common complaint I hear about when others try to make cut out sugar cookies at home. You’ve found your favorite cookie cutter, cut out your cookies, baked them, and then see that they’ve spread all over the pan and lost their shape. The most common reason this happens is either the temperature of your oven is off or you’ve over mixed your cookie dough.


Why are my sugar cookies too dry?

If your sugar cookies seem to be too dry it’s because you’ve added to much flour. You can fix this by adding a little more liquid to your dough. Use a liquid that is already in your recipe. If your recipe does not call for liquid try adding 1 Tablespoon of milk at a time until your dough is no longer too dry. Mix the liquid into your dough, but be sure to not over mix.


Why are my sugar cookies crumbly?

This is also a problem of being too dry. If you have crumbly cookie dough add more liquid.


Why are my sugar cookies too sticky?

If your sugar cookies are sticky it’s because you haven’t added enough flour. To fix cookie dough that is too sticky add more flour to your dough in very small amounts until it is no longer sticky. Make sure not to add to much flour or you’ll have cookie dough that is too dry.

How to store sugar cookies.

How long do sugar cookies last?

Sugar cookies have a pretty long shelf life if they are stored correctly. I’m talking like up to 4 weeks! Plain and decorated cookies should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature.


Can you freeze decorated sugar cookies?

Yes, you can! Place plain or decorated sugar cookies in a sealed Ziploc bag flat in your freezer. When your ready to thaw out your decorated sugar cookies, lay the sealed bag flat on your counter until they come to room temperature. Do not open your bag until they have come to room temperature. Opening the bag to early could cause condensation to form on your cookies and could ruin your royal icing.


Time to decorate!

No that you’ve learned how to make sugar cookies like a pro, it’s time to decorate your sugar cookies like a pro! This is definitely my favorite part!



I hope these tips I’ve shared with you help you bake perfect cut out sugar cookies. If they have please leave a comment letting me know. If you still have questions leave them below too!

Happy baking and decorating!


A Happy Baker
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