Baking the perfect sugar cookie that’s soft, flavorful, and just the right amount of sweet can feel like a magical achievement, especially for busy moms looking for that foolproof recipe to add to their baking repertoire. Sugar cookies are a timeless classic, beloved for their simplicity and versatility. Whether you’re baking for the holidays, a family gathering, or just as a special treat, these cookies are sure to bring smiles. The key to these cookies’ perfection lies in their soft texture, balanced sweetness, and the delightful hint of vanilla and almond. They’re not just cookies; they’re a warm, delicious expression of care and love.

Overhead view of frosted and not frosted sugar cookies on a counter.

Ingredient Breakdown & Substitutions

Raw ingredients spread out on a counter to make drop-style sugar cookies.

Butter: The base of the cookie dough, butter contributes to the richness and texture. Salted butter is preferred for its added flavor, but unsalted butter with an added pinch of salt can be used as a substitute. For a dairy-free version, try using a high-quality plant-based butter.

Granulated Sugar: This is essential for sweetness and helps to create a tender texture. If you want a cookie with a slightly different flavor, brown sugar can be used. It will give the cookies a deeper, caramel-like taste.

Cream Cheese: Cream cheese adds a subtle tang and helps to create a softer cookie. If you don’t have cream cheese, plain Greek yogurt is a good alternative. It will keep the cookies soft while adding a bit of protein.

Corn Syrup: Corn syrup contributes to the soft texture and sheen of the cookies. If you prefer not to use corn syrup, you can simply omit it.

Almond Extract: Almond extract adds a nutty depth. If unavailable or if you prefer not to use it, you can simply increase the vanilla extract slightly.

Egg: The egg binds the ingredients and adds moisture. For an egg-free version, you can use a store-bought egg replacer or a flax egg (1 tablespoon ground flaxseed mixed with 3 tablespoons water, left to sit for 5 minutes).

All-Purpose Flour: The structure of the cookie. For a gluten-free alternative, a gluten-free all-purpose flour blend can be used. Make sure it’s a 1:1 substitute to ensure proper texture.

Baking Powder & Baking Soda: These leavening agents help the cookies rise. They’re not easily substituted, so ensure they are fresh for the best result.

Salt: Enhances the flavors of the other ingredients. If using unsalted butter, increase the salt slightly.

Using substitutions can affect the final taste and texture.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use this recipe to make drop-style sugar cookies?

You definitely can! You can also see our complete guide to drop sugar cookies here!

What if I don’t have a stand mixer?

You can always use a hand mixer to make the dough if you don’t have access to a stand mixer. While it is possible to make these without either a stand or hand mixer, it takes quite a bit of elbow grease to cream the butter and sugar together.

Can I use more almond extract for a stronger flavor?

This sugar cookie recipe has a mild flavoring. For a strong flavor, double the amount of almond extract. The extra 1/4 teaspoon of almond extract may seem like a small amount, but it provides a strong flavor.

Shaping & Decorating Guide

Shaping Your Cookies

  • Dough Consistency: Before shaping, ensure your dough has the right consistency. It should be soft but not sticky. If it’s too sticky, add a little flour; if too dry, add a few drops of milk.
  • Rolling Out the Dough:
    • Lightly flour your work surface and rolling pin to prevent sticking.
    • Roll out the dough to an even thickness, about ¼-inch for standard cookies. For thicker, softer cookies, go slightly thicker.
    • Keep the dough cool. If it becomes too soft or warm, put it back in the fridge for a few minutes.
  • Using Cookie Cutters:
    • Choose your desired shapes. Dip the cutters in flour to prevent sticking.
    • Press the cutter firmly into the dough and wiggle it slightly to ensure a clean cut.
    • Gently lift the cutter. If the dough sticks, use a small spatula or knife to help release it.
  • Transferring to Baking Sheet:
    • Carefully transfer the shaped dough to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, leaving space between each cookie.
    • If the dough becomes misshapen during transfer, gently reshape it on the baking sheet.
  • Chilling:
    • Once all cookies are on the baking sheet, chill them in the fridge for about 10-15 minutes. This helps them retain their shape during baking.

Decorating Your Cookies

  • Basic Frosting:
    • For a simple decoration, use buttercream frosting. You can color it with food coloring for more variety.
    • Use a knife or offset spatula to spread the frosting evenly over the cooled cookies.
  • Piping Designs:
    • For more intricate designs, use royal icing. It dries hard and smooth, perfect for detailed work.
    • Fit a piping bag with a small round tip, fill with royal icing, and pipe your designs onto the cookies.
    • Practice piping on parchment paper before starting on the cookies.
  • Adding Sprinkles and Edible Decorations:
    • Add sprinkles, edible glitter, or sugar pearls while the frosting or icing is still wet so they stick.
    • For themed cookies, use shaped sprinkles or edible decorations that match the occasion.
  • Using Fondant:
    • Roll out fondant to a thin layer and use the same cookie cutters to cut out shapes.
    • Brush a little water or corn syrup on the back of the fondant and gently press onto the cookie.
  • Letting the Cookies Set:
    • After decorating, let the cookies sit until the frosting or icing sets completely, usually a couple of hours.
  • Creative Techniques:
    • Try marbling with different colors of royal icing for an artistic effect.
    • Use stencils to dust shapes or designs onto the cookies with powdered sugar or cocoa powder.

The great thing about this recipe is that you can either do rolled cookies with cookie cutters, or drop cookies (no dough refrigeration required)!


  • Cookies Too Hard: Avoid over-mixing the dough and check your oven temperature.
  • Cookies Spreading Too Much: Ensure butter isn’t too soft and chill your dough before baking.
  • Frosting Too Runny: Gradually add more powdered sugar until the desired consistency is achieved.
  • Dough Too Sticky: If your dough is too sticky to handle, add flour a tablespoon at a time until it reaches a manageable consistency.
  • Dough Too Dry or Crumbly: This can happen in dryer climates. Add a teaspoon of milk or water to the dough until it comes together.
  • Frosting Won’t Set: If your frosting is too runny, gradually add more powdered sugar. If it’s too stiff, add a little more milk or cream.
  • Cookies Brown Too Quickly: This could be due to an oven that runs hot. Try lowering the temperature by 25°F and check for doneness earlier.
  • Cookies Aren’t Holding Shape: Make sure to chill the dough if it’s too soft, and avoid rolling it out too thin. Also, ensure your cookie cutters are sharp and clean for precise cuts.

Chef’s Tip

The key to soft sugar cookies is to include a small amount of cream cheese as well as corn syrup. This combination creates the perfect soft and chewy sugar cookie that everyone always loves.

Storage & Freezing Instructions

Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week. For longer storage, freeze the cookies for up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature before serving.

Watch the video below where Rachel will walk you through every step of this recipe. Sometimes it helps to have a visual, and we’ve always got you covered with our cooking show. You can find the complete collection of recipes on YouTube, Facebook Watch, or our Facebook Page, or right here on our website with their corresponding recipes.