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Easy Cut-Out Sugar Cookies with Icing

Cook Time:
10 mins
Prep Time:
30 mins
about 40 cookies


Sugar Cookies
  • 3 sticks (1½ cups) unsalted butter, at cool room temperature
  • cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
  • cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt (optional)
Border Icing
  • 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted, plus more as needed
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1-2 tablespoons water or milk
  • food coloring, if desired
Flood Icing
  • 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted, plus more as needed
  • 2-3 tablespoons water or milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • food coloring, if desired

Chef notes

This sugar cookie dough is a dream to work with. Plus, the whole family can get involved with rolling, shaping and icing these cookies that really do taste as good as they look!

Sugar cookie tips

The amount of powdered sugar needed for the icing will depend on whether you use milk or water, the brand of powdered sugar and the humidity of your kitchen. Adjust until you get the desired consistency. For best results, use organic powdered sugar, which is made with tapioca starch and results in a sturdier consistency and better flavor.

Use cool room temperature butter (about 67 F). If you've ever experienced cookies that spread and flatten in the oven, you may be using butter that's too warm. It's important to use just softened butter so that the cut-out sugar cookies keep their shape.

For a time and clean-up saver, roll the dough out between two pieces of parchment paper before chilling it. Room temperature dough is like play dough! It's so much easier to work with and rolling it between two pieces of parchment saves you from getting flour everywhere while keeping your countertop clean.

To save even more time, freeze the dough for 30 minutes instead of chilling it in the refrigerator before cutting and baking.

Keep the cut shapes in the fridge until your oven is preheated and you're ready to bake. This keeps the dough from getting too warm, which could result in cookies that spread too much in the oven.

Use a squeeze bottle to decorate with icing. This makes it super easy to pipe and even get the kids involved.

Feel free to use a buttercream frosting instead of the icing for a sweeter flavor and fluffier consistency.


For the sugar cookies:


In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until well-combined and smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, vanilla and almond extract, if using, and beat until combined. On low speed, slowly add in the flour, baking powder and salt, and beat until incorporated.


Divide the dough into 2 equal portions. Place one dough portion between 2 sheets of parchment and roll out to 1/4-inch thick. Repeat with the remaining portion of dough. Place the 2 sheets of dough on a baking sheet and chill for at least 1 hour or up to 1 day.


While the dough chills, preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.


Remove the dough from the fridge and cut into shapes with a cookie cutter, re-rolling any scraps and cutting more shapes. Transfer the shapes to the prepared baking sheets. If the dough is too warm, freeze for 15 minutes or until firm.


Bake for 10 minutes, or until the cookies are set and begin to brown. Let the cookies cool for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Baked sugar cookies can be frozen in an airtight container for up to one month before icing.

For the border icing:


In a small bowl, add the powdered sugar, pure vanilla extract and water or milk and whisk to combine. Add the food coloring, if using, a few drops at a time, until colored to your liking. The mixture should be very thick but still pourable. Add more powdered sugar as needed.


Transfer the border icing to a squeeze bottle using a funnel. You can also scoop into a pastry bag fitted with a small plain tip. Before icing any cookies, practice on a piece of parchment paper to get the feel of the icing.


Holding the bottle or bag tip directly over one cookie, begin tracing an outline of the cookie, squeezing gently and using both hands, if needed, to maintain consistent pressure. Allow the icing to dry slightly before continuing with the flood icing.

For the flood icing:


In a small bowl, add the powdered sugar, pure vanilla extract and water or milk and whisk to combine. Add the food coloring, if using, a few drops at a time, until colored to your liking. The mixture should still be pretty thick, but will drizzle more freely than the border icing. If needed, add additional water or milk to loosen until the consistency is pourable. Pour the flood icing into a squeeze bottle or into a pastry bag fitted with a small plain tip.


Prepare as many batches and colors of flood icing as you need to decorate your cookies.


Begin filling the interior of the border drawn on each cookie with the flood icing, being careful not to add too much that it overflows the border icing. Use either the nose of the bottle or a small toothpick to push the icing evenly over the cookie and up against the corners.


Place the iced cookie on a cooling rack to dry for 24 hours. The cookies are dry when the surface is completely smooth, dry and resists smudging when touched. Store the finished cookies between sheets of parchment paper in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 10 days.