soft sugar cookies

These tender, soft sugar cookies are one of my new favourites. They have a hint of lemon flavour and can be simply decorated with sanding sugars.

These tender, soft sugar cookies are one of my new favourites. They have a hint of lemon flavour and can be simply decorated with sanding sugars.

I wanted to make some heart cookies this week (yes, I’m a sap), so my first thought was to look at sugar cookies again. They’re a classic all-purpose cookie, right? Does everyone love sugar cookies? Everyone I know does, but I’ve seen some things online about people thinking they’re boring. What!? Blasphemy! I have a lot of recipes to choose from, but narrowed it down to a couple recipes from books that I haven’t baked much from yet. They’re almost identical in terms of ingredients and quantities, except for the butter. One calls for 1/2 cup of butter, while the other uses three times as much. Guess which one I decided to go with… 

These tender, soft sugar cookies are one of my new favourites. They have a hint of lemon flavour and can be simply decorated with sanding sugars.

This isn’t the largest recipe I’ve ever made in my mixer, but once all the flour was added it got a real workout. Seriously, it was struggling a bit. And it’s not that the dough was too dry or anything, because it all came together and rolled out beautifully. I’m wondering if it’s because my kitchen is fairly cold in the winter and the butter wasn’t super soft. So the final dough, while moist and workable, was also really really thick.

These tender, soft sugar cookies are one of my new favourites. They have a hint of lemon flavour and can be simply decorated with sanding sugars.

A lot of cookie doughs, this one included, give an instruction to refrigerate for a while before baking. This isn’t just to chill the butter to help prevent the cookie from spreading too much (although it does do that), but also to give the gluten a chance to rest and the flour to hydrate completely. It’s possible to skip this step, but it will change the texture of the final cookie somewhat. One of the things I like about this recipe is that it instructs to roll the dough out immediately, while it’s still soft and pliable, and then refrigerate it – so you’re not struggling to roll out super cold dough later. Love this idea!

These tender, soft sugar cookies are one of my new favourites. They have a hint of lemon flavour and can be simply decorated with sanding sugars.

If you stick around, you’ll see that I rarely do any fancy icing on my cookies. A big part of it is that when I bake cookies, I tend to make a lot of tiny cookies rather than a few large ones. So if I were to ice them all? Ugh, too daunting. The rare time that I do decide to decorate my cookies with icing, it usually takes so much time that I end up spreading it out over several days. So I’m always looking for other ways to make rolled cookies fancy. I love using textured cookie cutters, and I experimented with using a texture sheet just before xmas (those turned out great – both the pattern and the cookie itself).

These tender, soft sugar cookies are one of my new favourites. They have a hint of lemon flavour and can be simply decorated with sanding sugars.

This time around, I pulled out some of my sanding sugars. I have a lot of sanding sugars. Bright colours, pastel colours, and different sized crystals too. Such a simple thing can make a plain cookie so much prettier. You can just cover the entire cookie with sugar, but I opted to make a smaller inset heart shape. I’ve tried using flat plastic stencils in the past, and they work okay, but what I find works best is just to use a smaller cookie cutter as a guide to apply your sugar into. Since all the sugar is contained within that shape, there’s less mess and spillage. And those little cookie cutters are cheap, so it’s easy to build up a collection of different shapes to play with. I used my tiniest measuring spoon to apply the sugar.

This dough isn’t wet enough for the sugar to stick to, so you need to be a bit careful about not jostling it or smudging your pattern. But once the cookies are baked, it stays put.

These tender, soft sugar cookies are one of my new favourites. They have a hint of lemon flavour and can be simply decorated with sanding sugars.

This dough held its shape really well once baked. The edges are sharp and clean and they don’t seem to have distorted at all. A perfect cookie cutter dough. And while the cookie is firm, and there’s the tiniest bit of crunch when you bite into it, the texture is very tender.

The last sugar cookie recipe I tried surprised me by being really crunchy. It was a good cookie, but not the texture I prefer when I make sugar cookies. I had a conversation with one of my coworkers about this (yes, we actually do stand around talking about cookies – nerds), and she liked the crunchy version best. So it’s totally personal preference. Both recipes have that classic sugar cookie flavour, but this is the one that I’ve favourited.

These tender, soft sugar cookies are one of my new favourites. They have a hint of lemon flavour and can be simply decorated with sanding sugars.

soft sugar cookies

<h2>soft sugar cookies</h2>

Adapted from "Good and Easy Rolled Sugar Cookies" from Simply Sensational Cookies by Nancy Baggett. The number of cookies this recipe will yield will depend on how thick you roll the dough and the size of the cutter you use.


1-1/2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature

1-2/3 cups granulated sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs, at room temperature

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon almond extract or lemon extract (optional – I used lemon and it added a nice subtle flavour)

4-1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (plus more if needed)

for finishing

sanding sugars, sprinkles, or other decorations (optional)

Measure the flour into a medium bowl and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar, baking powder, and salt together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 or 4 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Add the vanilla and lemon or almond extract (if using) and beat again to incorporate.

Turn the mixer down to low and add about half of the flour, mixing until just barely combined. Add the rest of the flour and continue mixing until just combined. If the dough still seems too soft, you can add a bit more flour until it's a better consistency for rolling.

Divide the dough into 3 equal portions. Roll each portion out onto a piece of parchment or wax paper to just shy of 1/4" thickness (I used a 3/16" guide). Stack the three pieces (paper included) onto a baking sheet and refrigerate for about 45 minutes.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Remove one of the dough pieces from the fridge at a time and cut shapes with whatever cookie cutter you've chosen. Transfer the cut pieces to your prepared baking sheets. Re-roll the remaining dough and continue cutting until finished.

Before baking, you can apply sanding sugar or other decorations – in addition to the sanding sugar, I also did some with a teeny tiny sugar heart in the centre. I think they're adorable. If you're planning to ice them instead, or you just want to keep them plain (they'll still taste great!) skip this step. There's a recipe for royal icing here if you like.

Bake for about 8-11 minutes, until very lightly coloured on top and around the edges, rotating the baking sheet halfway through. Allow to cool on a wire rack for a few minutes before removing the cookies from the pan and allowing them to cool completely.

Comments: 22

  1. Brittany February 13, 2014 at 4:31 pm Reply

    My pastry instructor taught us a neat trick for sanding sugars; if your dough isn’t wet enough for it to stick on its own, it won’t change things much if you use a small pastry brush and just dab on some water as almost a wash to get your sugar to stay!
    Or you can use a small spritz bottle and mist it 🙂

    • laurel @ wannacomewith February 13, 2014 at 4:35 pm Reply

      I actually tried that for the first few, but then just skipped it because the sugar adhered fine once baked even without that step. Good point though, thanks! 🙂

  2. Julie @ Lovely Little Kitchen February 13, 2014 at 4:43 pm Reply

    These are adorable. I love soft sugar cookies! Pinning to try soon!

  3. Dina February 13, 2014 at 4:59 pm Reply

    they look lovely and yummy!

  4. jill March 18, 2014 at 1:16 pm Reply

    I made cookies with this recipe at the weekend at they were quite delicious, still had a nice texture 2 days after baking. Many thanks.

    • laurel @ wannacomewith March 18, 2014 at 2:11 pm Reply

      Thanks Jill! I’m glad you liked these. I found they still kept a good texture for several days after baking.

  5. DianaM June 11, 2014 at 9:13 am Reply

    Hi Laurel! I want to make these cookies for my son’s first birthday, and I have a question or two. Do you know if I can freeze the cutout cookies, then thaw in the fridge overnight, and bake them without ill effects (especially in terms of flavour)? Obviously you are very experienced as far as cookies go, and was wondering if you have any insight? I want to make these a couple of weeks before, then just bake and decorate the day before his birthday party.
    Also, could I decorate these with tempered chocolate instead of royal icing?

    • laurel @ wannacomewith June 11, 2014 at 11:30 am Reply

      Hi Diana! I haven’t tried freezing this particular dough, but generally sugar cookie dough freezes really well, so I wouldn’t expect any problems. And decorating with tempered chocolate? Sounds fantastic! If you do it, I hope you take some photos and post back. I’d love to see how that turns out.

  6. Lindsey February 10, 2015 at 10:45 am Reply

    how many cookies does this recipe make?

    • laurel @ wannacomewith February 10, 2015 at 10:47 am Reply

      Hi Lindsey! I didn’t list a quantity because it really depends on how thick you roll the dough and what size your cookie cutters are. I will say that I got a couple of cookie jars full. And you can tell in some of those photos that there are a lot of cookies. Sorry I can’t give a specific number…

  7. Stephanie February 15, 2015 at 11:00 am Reply

    I did a batch of these two days ago, they came out really nicely. Thanks for sharing! (:

  8. Allison September 15, 2015 at 10:33 pm Reply

    I had to add quite a bit of flour to the dough (probably 1/4 or more) as it seemed rather soft and sticky! But I do live in the tropics. Is that normal?

    • laurel @wannacomewith September 26, 2015 at 6:48 pm Reply

      I’m not sure, but it certainly could be! It’s awfully humid here where I live too, though. Maybe it’s just a different brand of flour?

  9. Allison September 15, 2015 at 10:34 pm Reply

    That’s 1/4 cup, btw!!

  10. Katie @The Semisweet Sisters February 10, 2016 at 3:29 pm Reply

    These are so pretty, love them!

  11. Sidra February 23, 2016 at 11:22 pm Reply

    Hi, hope you’re well. I wanted to know if i just pour melted milk chocolate over these cookies will it set hard when cooled? I have no experience so any advice is welcome ☺thanks.

    • laurel @wannacomewith February 23, 2016 at 11:47 pm Reply

      Hi Sidra! If you use real chocolate, you’ll need to melt it a certain way to ensure it sets hard. It’s called tempering, and it’s a bit tricky, especially for your first time. It would definitely be easier if you melt chocolate chips instead. Those should harden really easily. Just melt them carefully over low heat and stir them often. If you melt them in the microwave, just heat them for about 15 seconds at a time, stirring after each time. Remove them from the microwave just before they’re completely melted – they’ll finish melting as you stir them. Don’t hesitate to ask any more questions! Good luck 🙂

  12. Sidra February 26, 2016 at 9:45 am Reply

    Thank you so much for the help ☺ really appreciate it. Will try the chips then.

  13. […] These soft sugar cookies require hardly any ingredients and I love the pretty sprinkles on top! Via Wanna Come […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *