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the best ever cut-out cookie recipe

 

For veterans of my blog and books, you already know this recipe, so forgive the repetition. But it’s buried on my recipe page, and I feel it deserves a bit of spotlight.  My favoritest ever, most super duper cut-out cookie recipe made it into both of my cookbooks because I’ll never use another. Don’t ever ask me to change it. Not only does it taste so good that I’ve seen people at parties hide these cookies in their pockets before the stash disappeared (really, their pockets), but it holds the cookie cutter shape flawlessly and bakes beautifully. It’s thick with an interesting texture, not too crunchy, not too soft. No spreading, no burned bottoms, no poofs or bubbles. It’s freezable, roll-able, bake-able. Paired with my favoritest ever, most super duper royal icing recipe, you get decorated cookie perfection. Am I being a tad overdramatic about my cookie recipe? Nope. Not one bit.

 

 

 

I have the original recipe posted HERE, now about six years old, along with my royal icing, cake and frosting recipes. And of course, this recipe is in Sugarlicious. But I’ll repost it below with some more notes. Check out my whole collection of decorated cookies from this blog HERE.

 

 

world’s best recipe for cut-out cookies

(pair with the world’s best recipe for royal icing)

 

sugar cut-out cookies for decorating

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

Optional: 1 1/2 teaspoons of flavored extract (I highly recommend almond extract)

 

Briefly sift together the flour and salt in a bowl and set aside. In the bowl of a standing mixer with the flat beater, or in a large bowl with a handheld mixer, blend the butter and sugar together on medium speed until fluffy. Add the egg and blend well. Mix in the vanilla extract and optional flavored extract, if using. Gradually blend in the flour mixture on low speed. Cover the dough (I scrape mine out of the bowl and put in a gallon-size Ziploc bag) and chill dough for about two hours. When chilled, work with about one-third of the batch at a time. Briefly knead the dough and roll it out 1/4-inch thick, or 3/8 inch if inserting sticks for cookie pops (see below for cookie pops how-tos) on a floured surface. Cut out your cookies and place one-inch apart on a good quality baking tray lined with a piece of parchment paper. Bake in an oven preheated to 375 degrees for 12 to 14 minutes. Thicker or large cookies may need up to 20 minutes. Cookies are done when the edges are golden brown.

Yields: 25 to 30 cookies (2 to 4-inches), 65 to 70 mini cookies (1 to 2-inches) or about a dozen large cookies (6-inch).

notes: You can make this dough the night before you bake with it. Just take it out of the fridge and let sit at room temperature until it’s still chilled, but pliable. You can also freeze this dough. After mixing, put the dough in a gallon size Freezer ziploc bag (or wrap well) and freeze. Thaw overnight or for at least a few hours in the refrigerator in the ziploc bag. If the dough is too chilled to handle, let it sit at room temperature for about 1/2 hour to 1 hour until it’s workable. Chilled is good, though, don’t let it get too mushy.

 

 

 

useful links:

For the royal icing recipe, click HERE.

For how-tos on making cookie pops, click HERE.

For basic cookie decorating how-tos, click HERE.

For tips on supplies and where to find them, click HERE.

For food coloring information, click HERE.

For tips on building a cookie cutter collection, click HERE.

 

To decorate these cookies… I originally made these swirly, sparkly cookie pops way back almost three years ago, HERE. You’ll find the link to the decorated instructions in that post. Using sprinkles makes cookie decorating so very easy, because sprinkles have the magic power of covering any mistakes.  To decorate, divide your royal icing and tint your preferred colors, including white, using Americolor Soft Gel Pastes (Red Red, Orange, Egg Yellow, Electric Green and Sky Blue used here). Then, prepare decorating bags with couplers and size “5″ tips, fill with icing, and close tightly with rubber bands. Pipe a swirl on a cookie with one of the icing colors, and immediately coat with a coordinating color of sprinkles. Turn over to remove excess, then pipe a swirl of white on the cookie. Let the cookies dry overnight before handling or packaging.

 

 

UPDATE: Conversions for the rest of the known world!!!!

Because I’ve had some requests from those masses that live outside the US (wherein we stubbornly reject the switch to metric), I’m including some UNofficial conversions. I came up with this list ages ago based on what is printed on the ingredients’ packaging and some internet research. These have NOT been tested by me, but as soon as I finally get a kitchen scale, I’ll make sure they are accurate. Thus, if something feels off to you, go with your instinct (and feel free to let me know).

 

2 sticks butter = 1 cup = 8 ounces = 227 g
1 cup confectioners (or icing/powdered) sugar = 128 g
1 teaspoon extract = 4.2 g = 5 mL
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour = 312 g
1 teaspoon salt = 4.2 g
4 tablespoon meringue powder = 56 g
1/2 cup water = 4 ounces = 60 mL = 113 g
6 cup confectioners sugar = 768 g
1/4 cup vegetable shortening = 56 g
1 cup granulated sugar = 200 g
2 cup flour = 240 g
1/2 cup cocoa powder = 62.5 g
1/2 teaspoon baking soda = 2.1 g
1/2 teaspoon salt = 2.1 g
375 degree F = 190 degree C

 

 

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44 Comments

  1. Posted September 4, 2012 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    Can’t wait to try them! I never make cut-outs because all the recipes I’ve tried just leave me with a bunch of disappointing cookies that sorta-kinda look how they’re supposed to.

  2. Posted September 4, 2012 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    I need this – thank you for highlighting it. There will always be a new audience so don’t hesitate to revisit oldies but goodies! But can you help those from foriegn climes – what is the measurement you call a “stick” of butter? Can you express it in a weight or volume, please? Thanks.

  3. meaghanmountford
    Posted September 4, 2012 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    Oooh, good point. Also, on my to-do list, get a kitchen scale (as I roll my eyes at the US resistance to go metric.) I have these UNtested UNofficial conversions buried on my blog. But these are based on internet research and reading the packages, not tested with an actual scale!!

    2 sticks butter = 1 cup = 8 ounces = 227 g
    1 cup confectioners (or icing/powdered) sugar = 128 g
    1 teaspoon extract = 4.2 g = 5 mL
    2 1/2 cups all purpose flour = 312 g
    1 teaspoon salt = 4.2 g
    4 tablespoon meringue powder = 56 g
    1/2 cup water = 4 ounces = 60 mL = 113 g
    6 cup confectioners sugar = 768 g
    1/4 cup vegetable shortening = 56 g
    1 cup granulated sugar = 200 g
    2 cup flour = 240 g
    1/2 cup cocoa powder = 62.5 g
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda = 2.1 g
    1/2 teaspoon salt = 2.1 g
    375 degree F = 190 degree C

  4. Posted September 4, 2012 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    I will have to try it, I have one recipe but it is not the best to work with

  5. Posted September 4, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    have you (or anyone else) ever tried (or adapted) this recipe in high altitude?

  6. meaghanmountford
    Posted September 4, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t Sarah… low land baking for me. Anyone else out there who has, please feel free to weigh in!

  7. Posted September 4, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for sharing and reminding me of this recipe! It’s always good to go back to the basics.

  8. Autumn in Philly
    Posted September 4, 2012 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    You are so right! Your recipe has never failed me and I have yet to have a batch go wrong….gives me more time to focus on the actual decorating part :-)

  9. Posted September 4, 2012 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

    wow, this is the JACKPOT post…IMO! THANKS

  10. Pointy
    Posted September 4, 2012 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    Tasty cookies are tasty. :) I looked at the icing recipe and have a couple questions though: What is meringue powder? I’ve never heard of this – I thought merring was egg white and sugar. What is crisco?

    One question unrelated to the current post – how do you make buttercream white? I’ve been trying to make mine coloured using pastes and gels, but because of the base ‘yellow’ colour, it’s not accepting them very well. Pinks are coming out muddy and reds go orange. I tried to make some purple and ended up with a muddy and unappetising purple colour. Maybe if I can get it white first, it’ll go the colour I want?

  11. kathy wischow
    Posted September 4, 2012 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

    I used this recipe for graduation cookies and put them in push pop containers. They were fabulous and the frosting was perfect! By far the best recipe I have ever used.

  12. Beth Murray
    Posted September 5, 2012 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    I agree, these cookies are the best. Your recipe has completely wiped out my mom’s sugar cookie cut out recipe, but don’t tell her!

  13. Posted September 5, 2012 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    How cute are those swirl cookies pops!?!? I bet kids flip for them!

  14. meaghanmountford
    Posted September 5, 2012 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    High praise to beat out mom!! Aw, thanks, Kathy!!

  15. meaghanmountford
    Posted September 5, 2012 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    Exactly, Autumn in Philly…

  16. Ann
    Posted September 6, 2012 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

    These are similar to my favorite sugar cookie. The confectioner’s sugar gives them a velvety melt in your mouth texture and trust me you want to add the almond extract. I’m lazy so I push mine out of a cookie press and bake them like spritz. Delish! The original recipe I use was cut from a newspaper over 40 years ago and later appeared in Betty Crocker cookbooks.

  17. Posted September 7, 2012 at 3:40 am | Permalink

    These cookies are classic YOU, Meaghan:) Love them!

  18. Posted September 7, 2012 at 6:56 am | Permalink

    Love these swirly cookies! After all the positive comments I believe I’m going to give this recipe a try. Thanks Meaghan. :)

  19. meaghanmountford
    Posted September 7, 2012 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    Exactly Ann! I’ve seen similar, too. The original recipe I doctored up just a bit from one my mom had handwritten in a recipe book I found in our cupboard. And that would have been from when I was a kid (so over 30 years ago), and now that you mention it, it would make sense if she got it from a Betty Crocker cookbook. Sheesh, I’d love a job tracing recipes through history.

  20. Posted September 19, 2012 at 2:30 am | Permalink

    I’ve been on the lookout for a good new sugar recipe!

    Is this 1tsp vanilla and 1 1/2tsp almond extract added together or is this to pick one or the other?

    Thanks,

    Jenni

  21. meaghanmountford
    Posted September 19, 2012 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    Hi Jenni! Added together. Though the almond is optional. I often just use vanilla, but you can add additional flavoring along WITH the vanilla if you like.

  22. katie
    Posted September 26, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    Have you ever baked these on a stone? (pampered chef?) If so, do you alter the cooking time?

  23. meaghanmountford
    Posted September 27, 2012 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    I’ve never tried a stone, Katie, so I have no idea! But if the stone comes with instructions, I’d say do whatever they say for cookies. Often, too, I don’t even time when my cookies are in the oven, I just look until they are done. The edges are golden brown and the surface starts to turn golden brown, then I take them out.

  24. Nina
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    I love this recipe! My copy is posted on my fridge with a big note at the top that says “YUMMY! Doesn’t spread at all!”

  25. Kristine
    Posted December 12, 2012 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    Has anyone ever tried using cake flour? I am very interested in the texture it would provide.

  26. Lisa
    Posted February 9, 2013 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    I am so disappointed with this cookie recipe. I thought surely, after reading all the glowing reviews, that I had finally found a great-tasting recipe that didn’t get all sticky in two seconds. I did everything EXACTLY the way the recipe said, even refrigerating the dough overnight, kneading it gently before rolling between parchment paper. Still, within 5 minutes, the dough was soft and stuck to the paper. It was so difficult to peel away the dough surrounding the cookies that I had to just scrape the whole batch away with a spatula and put it back in the refrigerator to start over in an hour. What am I doing wrong? I was able to get a few cookies out of it but just as much trouble as any other recipe I’ve used. Soooooo disappointing.

  27. meaghanmountford
    Posted February 11, 2013 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    Hi Lisa, I’ll email you the same info, too, just in case you don’t check back.

    I’m so sorry you had trouble with this recipe! Yikes, I’ve never had that happen to me at all, so I’m afraid I don’t have a good answer. I’ve made this recipe thousands of times and not once has it failed me. There’s no way the dough should have been that soft to start even. If you left it in the fridge overnight, it should have been very hard in the AM, so hard that you’d have to leave it at room temperature until it was pliable enough to knead, and it sounds like it was still soft even after spending the night in the fridge. Also, I roll out chilled dough on a floured surface, not between parchment paper, which could stick. But back to the too-soft from the start thing. Did you substitute margarine? Or was your butter too soft or melted? Did you add only one egg and the full 2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour? You should then only have to chill about 2 hours before using.

    Such a mystery, I’ve never heard of this result. So so sorry for your inconvenience!

  28. Kristen
    Posted February 18, 2013 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    Thank you so much for this recipe!!!! I’ve been looking for years to find a recipe that reminded me of cookies I used to make with my aunt when I was a little girl. The dough tastes exactly the same ( cause obviously you have to taste the dough before baking) :D. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!!!!!!

  29. meaghanmountford
    Posted February 18, 2013 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    Oh my gosh, that’s fantastic, Kristen, thank YOU!

  30. Kristen
    Posted February 20, 2013 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    Question. I’ve run out of plain flour but have self raising flour, if I remove the salt will this still work? Or should I just go to the supermarket.

  31. meaghanmountford
    Posted February 20, 2013 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    I warily say it shoooould be OK. I think the bigger issue would be a leavening, but since this recipe doesn’t have baking soda or powder, it should be OK even with the salt. The cookies might just be a bit puffier. However, I’ve never tried to bake them with self-rising flour, so that’s my disclaimer :). Just a non-tested theory!

  32. Jasmine
    Posted April 23, 2013 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    This is by FAR the best recipe I have ever tested, tasted and topped with royal icing! Thank you so much for sharing. :)

  33. Richard
    Posted October 25, 2013 at 6:06 am | Permalink

    I reached cookie recipes for a long time. This is really the perfect cookie. I outlined and flooded with royal icing. They are amazing. Friends can’t stop eating them. The dough is easy to work with. Scraps can easily be reworked. Not a bit of wasted dough. My only question is this. How long can a frosted cookie be kept and maintain its original texture. What type of storage do you recommend. In the past I have found that plastic storage containers make a cookie get soft. I have my current batch in a tin but have no idea how long they will keep on the shelve. Is freezing this cookie frosted a good idea? Will it taste as great and look as great once thawed?

  34. meaghanmountford
    Posted October 25, 2013 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    Hi Richard, Yay, that’s great about your success with the cookies!
    Usually, when I make them they are for a party or event, or to giveaway, so I wrap them in cellophane bags tied with ribbon, and they last well, several days at least this way. Though I know the bags and ribbon are a bit wasteful for every day use. They freeze super-duper well. Very well. Often I freeze when I need to make a lot for an occasion. To freeze a decorated cookie, let them dry well (overnight at least). Then, place them in single layers in a Freezer-safe Ziploc, the gallon size. And stack in a box. Freeze. To thaw, remove from the freezer and let them come to room temperature IN THE BAG! Don’t unzip before they are thawed or moisture will get in and blur the icing.

    Hope this helps! :) meaghan

  35. Karen
    Posted December 12, 2013 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    I know this is a little late to be helpful to Lisa, who posted months ago. But I wonder if the issue with the spreading cookies was butter. There are so many qualities of butter on the market, and I’ve found the affect baking. This is an article that was helpful for me: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/17/dining/17bake.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

  36. Krystie
    Posted December 14, 2013 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

    I have used this recipe about 12 times now and it is the most delicious, most forgiving, and easiest recipe for cut out cookies. I always, ALWAYS get compliments on the look and the flavor. I do almost NO baking except for Christmas cookies and this recipe is nearly foolproof! Thanks!

  37. meaghanmountford
    Posted December 15, 2013 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    That’s fantastic Krystie!! I’m so so glad that it works as well for as as for me. Phew. Thank you thank you!!

  38. Julie
    Posted December 18, 2013 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    I made these the other night and they turned out great! If you like a soft, delicate sugar cookie, this is the recipe for you!

  39. Janet
    Posted December 20, 2013 at 12:00 am | Permalink

    wonderfully delicious cookies! But the royal icing makes enough for about 10 batches!

  40. meaghanmountford
    Posted December 20, 2013 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    It does make a lot, Janet, but it lasts for so long and I find it irksome to make, so I always make the full batch! Then store it in Tupperware for the next cookie decorating session :).

  41. Crystal Davis
    Posted January 28, 2014 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

    I am so disappointed with this recipe. I don’t know if I did something wrong. I followed the recipe and chilled over night. I brought to room temp on the counter. The dough was solid. It crumbled as I tried to knead it and cracked when I rolled it. The cookies came out cracked and very brittle. Any suggestions? I also had to decrease the baking time as I burnt the first batch at 12 mins :(

  42. meaghanmountford
    Posted January 29, 2014 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    Yikes Crystal, I’ve never had any of those things happen, so I’m not sure what may have gone wrong?? Did you use butter that was softened but not melted? And mix in the powdered sugar well? Add one egg, beating well after the addition. Perhaps you used too much flour? Chilling overnight shouldn’t be the issue, as I’ve left dough in the fridge for several days. It doesn’t take long to get pliable. But this is a super easy dough to work with and it cooks very well every time, so I’m guessing the problem was either in your wet ingredients (the butter or egg mixing) or too much dry (flour).

  43. meaghanmountford
    Posted January 29, 2014 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    Actually… Crystal, now that I’m mulling it over, did you remember to put the egg in? If you forgot the egg, all of the above sounds about right.

  44. BettieRocker
    Posted February 6, 2014 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    Pointy: Criso is solid vegetable shortening. I can’t think of what it’s called overseas. It’s white, looks like lard, but is made from vegetable, not animal. For your buttercream, you can make your regular recipe, but substitute white vegetable shortening (crisco), and add some clear butter flavoring. For decorating purposes, the recipes with merengue powder hold up the best. An icing without butter, using only clear flavoring extracts, will be white, and will take the colors very well. Royal icing is also pure white and takes color exceptionally well, but it’s not as tasty as buttercream. I personally hate the way crisco feels in my mouth, so I don’t use it unless I’m doing elaborate decorations, and even then, I only use it for the decorations. I always ice my cake with a really delicious frosting, then do the decorations in the shortening “buttercream.”

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