How to Store Sugar Cookies, Frosted or Unfrosted

We turned to experts and our own community members for their go-to tips.

December 17, 2021
Photo by Rocky Luten

You’ve baked the dough, chilled it, rolled it and cut it into the shapes of stars and trees. You’ve baked a batch and then another, decorated each cookie carefully with piping bags filled with royal icing, eaten a few (and then a few more), and now it’s time to store them. But what’s the best way to do that without ruining the icing and decorated sugar on frosted sugar cookies?

How to Store Sugar Cookies

Once your sugar cookie recipe is fully baked and decorated, properly store them “in a tin or an airtight container, once they're cool,” says Food52 community member Brette W. ChefJune agrees with this method to help the cookies stay fresh and recommends “[separating] the rows with waxed paper to ensure they don't stick to the ones above and below.” (You can also use parchment if that’s what you have!)

King Arthur Baking Company reminds bakers not to be over-eager when storing cookies: “Whatever type of cookies you’re making, be sure they’re entirely cool before you wrap them up to store. Wrapping a still-warm cookie will cause it to stream inside its container, which could yield soggy, stuck-together results,” the brand’s experts write in their latest tome, The Essential Cookie Companion.

Another important consideration: storing the same type of cookies together. This means storing crisp cookies (like tuile cookies or Sarah Kieffer’s chocolate chip) together and storing soft cookies together, too. “A soft cookie's moisture can soften an entire batch of crisp cookies if they are stored together. This also means that if you under bake some cookies in the same batch (like Thirdchild mentioned), they can still be slightly soft and soften the cookies that were baked for longer,” writes Food52 community member Rachel S.

Oh, and the type of storage container matters too! “Cookies kept in plastic containers get soft quickly while cookies kept in glass containers stay crisp much longer,” writes david2308. These kinds of cookie storage tips are exactly why we love our community.

Unless a recipe tells you otherwise, you should always store sugar cookies at room temperature to make sure that they taste as good on day three as they did on day one. Keep them in a cool, dry area of your kitchen; any additional humidity may change their texture, particularly with frosted sugar cookies. This brings me to…

How Long Do Sugar Cookies Last?

If stored properly, most homemade sugar cookies have a shelf life of about two to three days from when they were baked. Does this mean you should throw them out after a few days? Absolutely not. To misquote Cookie Monster, cookie crumbs or, in this case, slightly stale cookies are just as good as freshly baked. Just know that their texture will change, the frosting on top may start to melt, and any chocolate chunks may show signs of discoloration.

What About Frosted Sugar Cookies?

Frosted sugar cookies are one sweet beast when it comes to storing them. Mary Frances Heck, who developed our recipe for Sugar Cookies With Buttercream Frosting (you know the ones; the less-artificial tasting version of the kind kids love from the grocery store), for her approach: “Frost the cooled cookies and let the surface of the frosting dry, which will take a couple of hours. If you can control yourself, wait until the next day, once the frosting and cookies have fused; that great quality butter will guarantee the cookies stay soft and rich,” she writes.

Store them in a single layer, if possible, to avoid squishing the frosting or use sheets of parchment paper in between multiple layers of cookies.

Can You Freeze Sugar Cookie Dough?

Whether you’re trying to get a headstart on holiday baking or you have leftovers, freezing cookie dough is a good idea if you want to give your favorite recipe a second life. Form the cookie dough into a ball and flatten it ever so slightly; wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and store for up to three months. If you’re feeling really ambitious, you can pre-roll chilled cookie dough into balls and store them in a single layer in a freezer-safe bag. This is pro-baker Sally McKenney’s preferred, albeit time-consuming, method. “When it’s time to bake the cookies, remove them from the freezer. Preheat the oven according to the recipe’s instructions. Bake the cookies for a minute or two longer since the dough is frozen,” she explained on her blog Sally’s Baking Addiction.

What are your secret tips for storing cookies, especially during the sweetest time of the year? Share your go-to methods in the comments below.
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Former Food52 Staff Editor