If you plan on a lot of cookie decorating in the future, pin or bookmark this page. Here you’ll find the BEST cookie decorating recipes, including cut-out sugar cookies, royal icing (sugar cookie icing), and buttercream frosting.
COOKIE DECORATING RECIPES
This collection features the best cut-out sugar cookie recipes for decorating, as well as my (I think, perfect) royal icing recipe. I also include a buttercream frosting recipe, which is great on cupcakes and cakes.
what are the best sugar cookie recipes?
You won’t get too far in cookie decorating without trusty, no-fail, awesome cookie decorating recipes. Here are my top secret recipes that everyone else had to pay for when they bought Sugarlicious. My favorite, go-to, made-a-jillion-times cut-out cookies, royal icing and frosting are collected here in one place. I’ve used these for years.
Now that you have your recipes, be sure to check out these tutorials for basic cookie decorating how-tos, all about food coloring, and where to find cookie decorating supplies. For tips on preventing cookies from spreading, click here.
CUT-OUT sugar COOKIES
basic sugar cookies
Cream butter and sugar. Add egg and blend well. Add extracts and blend. Mix flour and salt and gradually add. Cover dough with plastic wrap (I usually put mine in a gallon size Ziploc bag) and chill dough for about 2 hours. Don’t skip this. You must chill the dough. Working with about 1/3 of the batch at a time, briefly knead the chilled dough and roll about 1/4 inch thick. Cookies on a stick are rolled out 3/8 inch thick. Cut out shapes. Insert a lollipop stick about half way into the cookie, if using. Bake cookies on parchment paper-lined baking trays at 375 for 12-14 minutes. Thicker cookies may need up to 20 minutes. Just watch for edges that are nicely golden.
MAKE AHEAD Notes: You can also freeze dough. After mixing, put 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 too chilled to handle, let 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. To freeze cookies that have been cut-out and decorated, let the cookies dry overnight. Package in freezer-safe ziplocs in a single later and freeze. To thaw, remove from the freezer but keep in the ziplocs. Let the cookies thaw totally before removing from the ziplocs.
Chocolate Rolled Cookies
(use this for cookie cutter cookies)
Cream butter and sugar. Add the egg and vanilla and blend. Mix together the dry ingredients and gradually add to the wet. Cover and refrigerate 1 to 2 hours. When chilled, roll out on a floured surface, cut out shapes, and bake on a parchment paper-lined baking tray in a preheated 375 degree oven. Bake 8 to 10 minutes for small cookies, 10 to 12 minutes for larger cookies, or until edges are crisp. Thick cookies may need a few extra minutes. TIP: In lieu of flour, which may show up on the surface, you can roll cookies between two pieces of wax paper.
NEW Gingerbread Cut-Out Cookies
(use this for cookie cutter cookies)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 sticks (16 tablespoons) butter
1/2 cup molasses
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Mix the flour, salt and spices together in a bowl with a whisk and set aside. In a large bowl with a handheld mixer or in a standing mixer fitted with a flat beater, mix together the butter, brown sugar and molasses on medium speed well blended. Blend in the egg and vanilla extract. Gradually blend in the flour and spice mixture. Wrap the dough and chill for at least 2 hours. (You can make the dough the day ahead and keep in the refirgerator.) Roll the chilled dough out on a floured surface to 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut out your shapes. Place the cookies on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 12 to 20 minutes, depending on the size of your cookies, or until edges start to brown. Let cool completely before decorating.
Gingerbread Cut-Out Cookies
(use this for cookie cutter cookies)
3 cups flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick), softened
½ cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¾ cup molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
circle cookie cutters
Mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt together in a bowl with a whisk and set aside. In a large bowl with a handheld mixer or in a standing mixer fitted with a flat beater, mix together the butter and brown sugar on medium speed until fluffy. Blend in the spices. Blend in the egg, molasses and vanilla extract. Gradually blend in the flour mixture. Wrap the dough and chill for 1 to 2 hours. Roll the chilled dough out on a floured surface to 1/8-inch thickness. To make rings, use two different sized circle cookie cutters, sizes 3-inch and 1 1/4 –inch circles used here. Place the cookies on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 12 minutes, or until edges start to brown. Let cool completely before decorating.
How to make Cookies-on-a-Stick:
To make cookie pops, roll out chilled sugar cookie dough about 1/4-inch to 3/8-inch thick. Cut out your shape, insert a lollipop stick into the cookie at the base, centered in the cookie’s thickness. Press the stick about half way into the cookie. No stick should poke through the front or back of the cookie. Pat the cookie’s shape back in place with your fingers, if necessary. Place the cookies on a parchment paper-lined baking tray, and bake according to the recipe. Cookies may need a couple extra minutes of baking time, since they are thicker. Make sure the sticks don’t touch each other or other cookies when placed on the baking tray.
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. water
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Combine flour, baking soda and salt and set aside. In saucepan, heat together butter, sugar and water and bring just to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup of chocolate chips and the vanilla. Transfer to bowl and beat in eggs, one at a time. Gradually blend in dry ingredients. Stir in remaining chocolate chips. Pour into greased 9″ baking dish and bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for 30 to 35 minutes.
ROYAL ICING AND FROSTING RECIPES:
Royal Icing (Sugar Cookie Icing)
Note:This sugar cookie icing is similar to traditional royal icing, but I add shortening and flavoring to make it taste delicious. Thus, it dries hard enough to handle and pack when left overnight, but not rock hard, like traditional royal icing. The consistency is NOT the runny kind used for flooding. It’s stiffer. Take a spoonful, turn it over the bowl. The frosting should cling to the spoon and slowly fall into the bowl. That’s the right consistency. You may thin this icing with water to make it the right consistency for flooding. Use royal icing (sort of) for cookie decorating. For more details on working with royal icing, visit this royal icing recipe post.
Whip the meringue powder and water on high speed for a looooong time, several minutes, until it’s fluffy and peaks form (use an electric hand beater or the wire whisk of your standing mixer). Gradually add the rest of the ingredients to desired consistency. Store at room temperature in a sealed container for up to a month.
(Use this for cakes and cupcakes, or for sandwich cookies.)
1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
4 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
Cream the butter with a mixer. Add 3 cups confectioner’s sugar, 1 cup at a time, blending well with each addition (mixture may be dry and crumbly). Add 3 tablespoons milk and vanilla and blend. Blend in remaining confectioner’s sugar. Add more milk (about 3 tablespoons) until desired consistency is reached. Add more milk to thin and more sugar to thicken.
Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
Use recipe above, but add 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder and a few additional tablespoons of milk, as needed for desired consistency.
Vegan cut-out cookies
For a vegan version of cut-out cookies and cookie decorating icing, click HERE. Really, they were good. Really good. And I tried a lot of vegan cut-out cookies that were not good.
Below find some metric conversions after a reader wisely requested them. But some disclaimers: I made these conversions based on internet research (with the understanding that recipe conversions are not straightforward mathematics, and different ingredients translate differently). I don’t cook with these measures, so they’ve not been tested. I have no concept of metric amounts. I need to see them to understand them and know how they relate to US amounts. Preferably if a reader were to invite me to their English countryside castle home to help them bake? I studied a wee bit at Oxford, and I do adore the area. A London suite would work as well.
some conversions for folks elsewhere! (again, not tested, based on internet research):
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
When I get a scale (hint, mom), I’ll test these, I promise.
Hi meaghan. Thank you so much for your website and book. I love it!
I have a question about the chocolate cookie recipe for cookie cutter cookies. Will the dough spread while baking because of the baking soda?
Same question for the ginger bread cookie recipe.
Thanks a million again.
Hi Desiree! While my regular sugar cookies don’t spread an inch, I do find that the chocolate do spread slightly. Gingerbread less so, but I tend to roll those thinly. I’ve never made cookie pops with them, so haven’t had to roll them more thickly.
Hi meaghan. Willtge recipe for chocolate cookie cutter cookies spread?
Hi Meaghan! I love your icing!! I would like to make it into a chocolate icing for some donut cookies. Would I add cocoa and substract icing sugar? Do you have any suggestions? Thank you!
Hi Kathy! Yum, I don’t know why I’ve never tried to make chocolate. I guess because I’ve only used it for cookie decorating and have needed the colors? Anyway… Yes, cocoa powder is the way to go, but it’s not too great a thickener, so you may not have to use much less icing sugar. Luckily this icing is very forgiving. You can start with less icing sugar than you normally use and just add more until you reach the desired consistency of icing. More or less won’t matter taste-wise. If you’re doing a whole batch of icing, you might need a considerable amount of cocoa (a cup or more?). Hope this helps! 🙂
crazy cookies says
I made your sugar cookie recipe and it did NOT come out, i followed the recipe to the T. My dough didnt stay together. it fell apart in a crumble mess…. I thought i did something wrong, i re-read the recipe many times 🙁
Hi Crazy Cookies! Egads! So bizarre… I’ve had two people contact me in the last week with problems with the dough after years of raves! I’ve made this dough thousands of times and it’s usually very forgiving. I’ve never had any issue and it’s turned out perfectly every single time. The other person had a problem with it being mushy, and yours is too crumbly, total opposite. I don’t know why it would crumble. Assuming you used two sticks of butter, softened, but not melted? And thoroughly mixed with the confectioner’s sugar (not granulated). And mixed in one egg. And added 2 1/2 cups of flour. I wish I had the answer. I can’t think of any cause for the crumbles unless you forgot the egg, but doesn’t sound like the case. Apologies for any inconvenience!
Hi there, I,ve been using your version of royal icing for about a year now. I love they way it tastes. But sometimes when it dries over night I wake up to spots on the cookies. Any idea why or what I’m doing wrong?
Hi Timmi, This is a common problem, from what I hear. It has never happened to me, so I can only theorize why that happens. My first guess is the water content. I tend to thin my icing for flooding only a little bit, so it’s always thicker than most people’s icing, and I think that helps. I also use Americolor gel pastes, as I find they are the best. Sweetopia did a great post on this awhile back: https://sweetopia.net/2011/07/how-to-avoid-spots-on-icing/
Finally a great sugar cookie recipe I can make my “go to” sugar cookie recipe!!! Thank you!
thank u for recipes and conversions and just wait to make some for Halloween!!
Decorated Dough says
Your sugar cookie is my go-to recipe. Thanks for sharing! I posted a link to your website on my blog at decorateddough.blogspot.com
Easiest and best tasting sugar cookie recipe ever! Husband said they are better than bakery cookies. Also loved the Royal Icing (Sorta) recipe. First time ever making it and it turned out perfect. Thank you for sharing these recipes.
Aw… and yay! Thank you so much Lorilai! So glad they turned out!
I’m newer to cookie decorating. I tried your Royal Icing (Sortof) recipe & love it. It’s the only one I use. Any idea how I can make this into a chocolate royal icing (sortof)? I’d like to cover my easter bunny cookies with a chocolate icing. Thanks so much.
I have your book “Cookie Sensations” and really enjoy it. I know everyone is going to online/ebooks, but I still like my books!!! I have lots of sticky tabs in it.
Thanks so much for your kind words! I’m with you about the ebooks. I’ve gotten into reading novels on the kindle, but I just can’t do the cookbooks on kindle yet.
I somehow, someway have never tried to make a chocolate royal icing (note to self: Make a chocolate royal icing), but you should just be able to add cocoa powder to the recipe. Cocoa powder is fine enough that it should dissolve well without altering the consistency too much (and you could also add more water or even milk to thin if needed). I would start with maybe 1/2 a batch, or even 1/4 of a batch and stir in 1/4 cup at a time to taste or darkness.
Hope this helps! If it works well, let me know :).
Oh my goodness, I’m in love with these 2 recipes. They’re perfection! My question: Is your Royal Icing (sort of) a cookie preservative like traditional RI? Will it keep my (your shortbread-ish) cookies preserved for up to 4 weeks like traditional RI does?
Hi Julia! Yes and no. While I know those that have eaten my cookies weeks after receiving, I wouldn’t say they are at their optimal freshness by then. I always say 1 week is best, but they will go about 2.
Aloha- Just about to make these wonderful cookies. But I noticed that you use confectioner’s sugar in the cookie dough and in the royal frosting. Is this a mistake? I ask because I normally use regular white sugar for the cookie dough and confectioner’s sugar for frosting. I’ve never seen confectioner’s sugar in cookie dough before. Please help before I f** up :)… thanks so much.. Jen.. can’t wait to make it for my kids bday
Hi Jen, Yep! I use confectioner’s sugar in my cookie dough. You’re correct that sugar cookies ordinarily use granulated sugar, but for this recipe (which is more of a shortbread cookie, but it holds its shape perfectly!) I use confectioner’s sugar. Good luck!!! 🙂
Do I have to use the shortening in the icing? I don’t have any Cisco but I have everything else and I don’t want to have to go to the store for just that!
Hi Terra, nope!! You can easily leave out the shortening. I like what it does to the texture/taste, but it isn’t a huge difference.
Alanna Williams says
when decoration a cookie with the royal icing how long donyoubhave to wait for it to dry. I’m making baseballs and I was curious how long I need to let the white dry before adding the red stichinv
Hi Alanna, if you are using very thin icing for the white part, I would let it dry for a few hours, then add the red and then let them sit overnight to fully dry.
haseen jabeen says
Thank a lot
I am sorry to bother you, but I am unsure of an answer you gave. They asked if they could substitute egg whites for the meringue powder, my question is, was your answer for your plain royal icing or was it for your royal iciingish. I am a totally newbie to this cookie decorating thing. I have not made any icing yet, just your cookies. Which are great. I want to make sure I understand so I have less chance of failure.
Hi Suzie, great question! Traditional royal icing uses egg whites, vanilla extract and confectioner’s sugar. It’s the standard for cookie decorating and especially gingerbread house making because it dries very hard. However, I find it’s TOO hard for my tastes. My royal icing”ish”, I call it that because it acts like royal icing (in that, it’s great for cookie decorating and dries hard enough to wrap and handle) but I add other ingredients to make it have more flavor and to give a bit more. So, instead of egg whites, I use meringue powder, and I add crisco and light corn syrup. It’s my all-time favorite recipe for cookie decorating.
That said, in my royal icing-ish recipe, which calls for meringue powder, yes, you CAN use egg whites instead (although I prefer the ease of meringue powder, which is available at the craft store, and some supermarkets sell it too). Meringue powder is just a combination of dried egg whites and cream of tartar, which is a stablizer. So if you do sub egg whites, add 1/4 teaspoon of cream of tarter, too.
And PS, I love cookie questions, so if you have any more along the way, feel free to ask in comments or even email me at theDecoratedCookie@gmail.com!
Sue Griffore says
Which recipe was used for the Monster Cookies? Sorry. I assume it is the sugar cookie recipe.
Sue Griffore says
Is the recipe for the monster sticks the sugar cookie that is put on a stick???
Yes!! That’s the one Sue! It’s the best for cutting out cookies precisely with no spreading.
In over my head says
I just had a quick question as to (roughly) how many cut out cookies you can get from each batch. I am having about 15-20 adults over for a decorating party and want to make sure I have enough! I was thinking of doing 1 batch or sugar, chocolate, gingerbread and a brownie. thank you!
Hi! It depends on the size of the cookie cutters. If you’re using the big cutters (6 inches or so), only about 15. Medium size cutters(2 to 4 inches) you’ll get about 25 to 30 per batch. So I think you’ll be fine with one batch of each, depending on how many you want each adult to decorate.
Fleeking Awesome Cookies says
I am LOVING your royal(ish) icing recipe. It tastes SO much better than anything else I have tried. Here’s my dilemma…. I cannot, for the life of me, get the air bubbles out of the icing. I let it sit, I pop them before I bag it. I squeeze the bag. I still get TONS of air bubbles. I think it is because of whipping the meringue powder for so long, but I’m not sure. What do you do to prevent/correct this issue? Please help!
Hi! Hmm… For some mysterious reason, I haven’t ever had issues with air bubbles. And I whip the meringue like crazy. But it could just be the luck of the air in my kitchen. My all-time favorite post for dealing with this issue (that I’ve been recommending for years) is from 2012 from Sweetopia. She covers it so so well!!! https://sweetopia.net/2012/09/how-to-help-get-rid-of-air-or-bubbles-in-royal-icing/