Bake

Roll-Out Sugar Cookies

November  5, 2021
4 Stars
Photo by Julia Gartland
Author Notes

Here's a vanilla cookie (plus a chocolate variation) for all of your holiday cookie-decorating needs. These cookies are buttery and chewy and can be flavored with anything from spices to coffee to citrus zest -- or even a little booze. —Erin Jeanne McDowell

Test Kitchen Notes

These chewy cookies have a rich buttery base (to really cream the butter, make sure to mix for at least 4 minutes on medium-low speed), can be made chocolate by a simple cocoa powder addition, and take beautifully to marbling by combining the two doughs.

These cookies are simple, so it's important to pay attention to the details. To cut perfectly shaped cookies, you need to do a couple of things:

Relax (the dough): To keep the dough from shrinking when it’s rolled, cut, and baked, the protein strands that developed during mixing need to relax in the refrigerator. Plus, if you’re using a cookie cutter with lots of nooks and crannies, cold dough is more likely to hold the shape. Erin also cools her cookies for 5 to 10 minutes in the freezer (or 15 in the fridge) after cutting to reduce spreading.

Cut with care: It’s best to cut cookies from the same evenly rolled sheet of dough. Make sure to lightly flour your cutter and cut as close together as possible. Don’t forget you can change your cookie cutter’s angle or direction to get the most out of your roll-out.

These cookies taste so good that they don’t even need frosting, but if you do want a little more magic, simply dip your cookies in melted chocolate and add any fun toppings you like—we like lots of colored sugars, sprinkles, candy pearls, toasted nuts, or crushed peppermints (not only do they add some sparkle, they'll also cover up any mistakes). Just make sure the cookies are completely cool first or your decorations will melt off. —The Editors

Watch This Recipe
Roll-Out Sugar Cookies
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 15 minutes
  • Makes About 2 dozen cookies
Ingredients
  • 3 1/4 cups (15 ounces; 390 grams) all-purpose flour (or 2¾ cups all-purpose flour and ½ cup cocoa powder, for chocolate cookies) (330 grams flour and 42 grams cocoa powder), plus more for rolling
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (6 grams) baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) kosher salt
  • 1 pinch ground cinnamon
  • 2 sticks (8 ounces; 226 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup (6 ounces; 200 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 (57 grams) egg
  • 1 teaspoon (5 grams) vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (8 ounces; 226 grams) dark chocolate, milk chocolate, or white chocolate chips (or the equivalent in bars, roughly chopped), optional
  • Sprinkles, crushed candy canes, flaky sea salt, crushed nuts, chili pepper, shredded coconut, optional
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon to combine.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar for 4 to 5 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix to combine, scraping well after everything is incorporated.
  3. Add the flour mixture all at once (unless your mixer physically can’t handle that) and pulse the mixer a few times to avoid a floury cloud from poofing up out of the bowl. Mix on low speed, scraping down the bowl as needed, just until the flour is incorporated. Form the dough into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for 1 hour.
  4. Heat the oven to 350°F. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to ½ inch thick. Cut the dough using your favorite cookie cutter and transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the cookies are lightly golden around the edges. For even baking, rotate the pan halfway through. Transfer the baked cookies to a wire rack and let cool completely before decorating or serving.
  6. If you're dipping the cookies in chocolate, melt your chocolate of choice over a double boiler or in the microwave in increments of 10 to 20 seconds until melted. Dip the cookies half in the chocolate, sprinkle with desired toppings, and lay on wax paper until cool.
  7. NOTE: To make chocolate sugar cookies, reduce the flour to 2¾ cups and add ½ cup cocoa powder. To make marbled cookies, make one batch of vanilla dough and one batch of chocolate dough and mix to desired ratio.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Maurine Hainsworth
    Maurine Hainsworth
  • GML
    GML
  • PMWalsh
    PMWalsh
  • Änneken
    Änneken
  • romanolikethecheese
    romanolikethecheese
I always have three kinds of hot sauce in my purse. I have a soft spot for making people their favorite dessert, especially if it's wrapped in a pastry crust. My newest cookbook, The Book on Pie, came out on November 10th, 2020, and my pie merch collaboration with Food52 is out now too: https://food52.com/shop/merchants/manifest-food52/food52-x-erin-mcdowell

32 Reviews

hack9184 April 17, 2022
I don’t normally like sugar cookies but I’ve been following Erin for a while now and decided to make these for easter/baby shower practice instead of ordering expensive ones. These are the best cookies ever! I used her royal icing recipe as well and they turned out great! I made one batch at 1/2 inch and another at 1/4 inch. Will definitely be making these again.
 
Jessica April 11, 2022
Hello mom of 3 here I am pleased to announce I successfully made the plain vanilla ones with chocolate dip ! My family was very impressed ! Thank you for dedicatng your knowledge to the web so us novice bakers can learn and teach our children ! Ya sugar is bad but Easter is coming and these made great Easter cookies !
 
Kaede S. October 30, 2021
I am so happy with this recipe. With other recipes I have had trouble with sugar cookies spreading and losing their definition. I tried chilling dough overnight and freezing cookies before baking without success. This recipe was perfect. We made pumpkin shaped cookies for Halloween and they kept their shape perfectly. I noticed that the ratio of butter to flour was a lower than others (around 0.62 sticks per cup of flour). Maybe that helped? This recipe is a keeper!
 
Maurine H. October 29, 2021
I just made the chocolate ones, and they turned out great! (I used a kitchen scale with the grams measurements for reference.) I accidentally put a little extra salt and cinnamon, which turned out to be a good thing, and then I rolled them out to 1/4 inch thickness instead of 1/2 inch. Still baked 'em for 10 minutes and then let them cool completely on the baking sheets. They're still nice and soft but seem to hold their own well. Highly recommend!
 
KamsKookies February 28, 2021
I absolutely love this recipe but I do suggest adding more than just a pinch of cinnamon. I actually use about 1 tsp of cinnamon. Trust me, it gives this cookies such a good flavor. (It won’t be too much cinnamon overload but if you really don’t like cinnamon, then maybe just don’t add quite as much as me). Also, I am a cookier so I use this recipe to decorate cookies with icing. They hold their shape very nicely if you’re using a cookie cutter and aren’t too sweet which is good because the icing I use is pretty sweet. Also, I measure in ounces, not the cup measurements. Not sure if that makes a huge difference. I will definitely be using this recipe for awhile! Best one I’ve come across so far!
 
GML November 7, 2020
This recipe is ideal for a buttercream or chocolate dip because the cookies themselves are quite bland/not too sweet. I tried them with topped with nonpareils...and they were not spectacular.
 
Faith H. November 17, 2021
So my plan for Thanksgiving is to have a plate of these cookies cut into squirrels, foxes, acorns, fall like shapes and then have butter cream and dipping sauces. I'm so excited.
 
PMWalsh October 31, 2020
I followed this recipe and went against my better judgement rolling the dough to 1/2 inch thickness as instructed. BIG MISTAKE!! Although pretty to look at, the resulting cookies were way too thick and crumbly. More disappointing was how tasteless they were. I'm so disappointed in these. Wish I had read the reviews BEFORE spending the time to make these.
 
PMWalsh October 31, 2020
Wish I had read these reviews BEFORE I went to the trouble of making these. So disappointing. Followed the recipe and rolled out to 1/2 inch ... way too thick. The texture of the cookie was way too crumbly and the cookies themselves were absolutely tasteless. The marbling looked pretty, though! So very disappointing.
 
Änneken December 8, 2019
It's the second year in a row that I am making these and I am just as impressed as the year before. They are buttery, sweet and just a tad flaky. I love them a lot....This time I actually followed the recipe to the T and rolled them out to a half inch. They were much easier to handle when I decorated them, dipped them in chocolate, etc.
 
romanolikethecheese December 10, 2018
I added 1/4 teas fresh ground cardamon. Delicious fragrance to these delicious cookies.
 
stinkycheese December 9, 2018
These came out beautifully and are delicious. Love the marbled look. I used White Lily flour and had no issues with the dough. I was confused by the instruction to roll dough to 1/2 inch thickness—don’t you mean 1/4 inch?
 
Taylor S. December 25, 2017
Tasty! Perfect texture when baked - slightly crisped on the edges and soft and pillowy everywhere else. I added in freshly grated nutmeg and these 100% taste like eggnog clouds.
 
mckenzie December 10, 2017
Hm, these were really disappointing. I followed the recipe to a T, thought the dough seemed really dry and very dense, but baked them up anyway. Sure enough they were pretty flavorless and heavy. Oh well, we still got to decorate cookies so whatever!
 
Tessa B. December 3, 2017
The dough is crumbly! Will not ball at all! What a disappointment.
 
Tessa November 27, 2018
I had the same problem. I added 1/4 c sour cream also and they were great!
 
Tiki T. January 31, 2017
Can I sub whole wheat pastry flour?
 
Laura C. December 24, 2016
Just made these for Christmas and they are DELICIOUS. Not crumbly or dry, but I have learned just add milk/liquid a bit at a time if you are in a dryer climate and it doesn't hold.
 
madeleine May 7, 2016
If I wanted to make these flavored with matcha- how much so you think I should use?
 
Meghan December 7, 2018
If you want to add matcha, I would suggest doing the same flower to matcha ratio that she said with the coco powder. I bake with tea all the time, and that ratio always works for me.
 
Laura D. December 13, 2015
Flour can be from winter wheat or summer wheat - they have different properties which can explain why some doughs held together and others did not. Also, flour dries out when you store it too long. Always add a little moisture, water, milk, etc. when you get a crumbly dough - you are merely replacing the moisture that was lost.
 
Valerie S. November 25, 2015
I just made this and the dough is crumbly and didn't come together! Is there any save?
 
Author Comment
Erin J. November 25, 2015
Add milk or cream a few teaspoons at a time just until it comes together!
 
Richelle V. December 13, 2015
Same problem. I added an egg yolk, but it was still crumbly so I used another egg and that did the trick! It turned out great. will make this recipe again but with extra egg or maybe I'll try milk.



 
Tessa November 27, 2018
I used sour cream and it worked really well!
 
Swimkitty November 13, 2015
I had a great experience. My all purpose flour is King Arthur. Came out great. My butter was soft not melted. That is the trick. Do not melt the butter. Thank you. Made 40 soccer balls shaped cookies.