The Best Sugar Cookie Recipe for Royal Icing

The basic sugar cookie is the perfect canvas for any creative dessert treat you are thinking about baking.  Whatever gorgeous icing or toppings you are dreaming up need to have the right base to make them look and taste just how you see them in your mind.

It’s all about the sugar cookie.  The simple quick and easy, cut these out and bake them up sugar cookie.

If you are planning to bake adorable decorated cookies, you must start with the right recipe.  You don’t want cookies that spread too much or bake too crisp or gooey.

To really achieve those perfect royal icing or fondant covered cookies, you need to bake cut out sugar cookies that hold their shape.  

This is the perfect royal icing sugar cookie recipe because it preps quick, holds it’s shape while baking and tastes delicious. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.  

This post will walk you through how I make my basic sugar cookies and give you some inspiration for ways you can decorate your sugar cookies.

How to use Sugar Cookies

When you start with soft cut out sugar cookies, the possibilities are really only limited to your imagination.  There are TONS of cookie cutter options available in every imaginable shape.

There are even loads of sellers on Etsy offering custom cookie cutters in any shape you want, including cutters shaped like your face.

My favorite cookie cutters are definitely the Sugarbelle Shapeshifters.  They come in sets with samples of ways you can use each shape to make different designs AND include step by step instructions for decorating with royal icing.  

These sets are super versatile and PERFECT for beginner cookie artists.  They are often my go to cookie cutters. I actually used the “strawberry/carrot” shape to make rocket ships for a space themed party.

space party for a boys birthday

 

You can prep this sugar cookie dough and make any shape cookies you desire.  Sometimes I start with just a simple circle and place all the detail into the decorations.  I did this with these narwhal cookies.

narwhal cookies

 

Sometimes I cut the specific shape out and decorate the cookies in that shape.  For example, I did that with these panda cookies using the shapeshifter animal head.

royal icing diy panda

 

Common Ways to Decorate Sugar Cookies

Once you have baked your perfect sugar cookies…you get to start decorating.  There are so many possibilities when it comes to decorating sugar cookies. You can get over the top creative or just keep it simple.  

For the purpose of this conversation, we will stick with the three basic approaches:

  1. Frosting
  2. Royal Icing
  3. Fondant

 

Decorating your Sugar Cookies with Frosting:

This is classic cookie decorating at its best.  If you grew up with homemade treats as a kid, you probably have had your fair share of traditionally frosted cookies!

Frosting is easy to use and has the benefit of being absolutely delicious.  With a little food coloring, you can make frosting any color you want and it can be easily spread with a knife.

Frosting also works AMAZINGLY as glue for other decorations like fondant, sprinkles and candy.  It’s also the perfect base for sanding sugar if you are hoping for a glittery cookie.

Since we are speaking of sprinkles.  Sweets and Treats is my FAVORITE place for sprinkles and sanding sugars. They have so many colors and combinations. I love their selection of holiday sprinkles mixes as well.

 

Decorating your Cut-out Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing:

Another amazing way to decorate sugar cookies is with royal icing.  Using royal icing will give you the smooth clean cookie finish and allows for significantly great detail in decorating than frosting.  

Royal icing is also more complicated and requires more tools.  When I first started decorating with royal icing, I thought there was no way my cookies would ever look as good as the ones I see from legit cookie bakers.

Each time I try a new design though, I feel my technique gets better and better.  My advice for royal icing….PRACTICE. PRACTICE. PRACTICE.

That and also…consistency (of the icing) is the key to getting them to look like you want them to look.  

cute llama cookies

 

If you are serious about trying royal icing for the first time, this inexpensive set of piping bags and these icing tips are perfect for getting started.  

You can buy royal icing, or make it yourself.  I recommend this royal icing recipe from Sugarbelle.

 

Decorating Simple Sugar Cookies with Fondant:

Fondant is probably my favorite medium to use when decorating cookies.  Using fondant is a lot like using paper to craft. You are basically cutting shapes and layering them to make your design.  

These mermaid cookies are basically just fondant circles layered to make scales.  It’s easy and unlike frosting or icing…if you make a mistake you can just roll it back up and start again.

mermaid cookies for a mermaid party

 

Fondant can be cut with basic cookie cutters, or freehand with a knife or fondant tools. It’s easy to work with and gorgeous on cookies!!

 

Sugar Cookie Recipe: STEP by STEP

Ok…now for the good stuff.  Here is my easy peasy go-to sugar cookie recipe.  These cookies bake up nice a thick. They are soft enough to love eating, but firm enough to hold their shape.  These sugar cookies are ideal for royal icing.

This recipe does not spread much at all.  If you do experience spreading with baking.  Here is some great info to help.

Ingredients:

  • 2 sticks softened unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (plus 2 cups for rolling)
  • 2 tsp baking powder

Step 1:

Preheat oven to 400º.   

Step 2:

In a large bowl, combine softened butter and confectioner’s sugar.  Stir with spoon or silicone spatula until fully mixed. (You can prepare these cookies with a mixer, but I prefer mixing by hand.)

Step 3:

In a small separate bowl, combine egg and vanilla.  Add to butter/sugar mixture and continue to stir until well combined.

Step 4:

In a separate bowl mix flour and baking powder. (You do not need to sift flour.)  Add the flour mixture to the wet mixture and continue to mix until combined.

At this point I usually ditch the spoon and knead the dough by hand.  I work it until it stops “sticking” to my hands.

Let the dough sit on the counter for 10-15 minutes to “set”.  It does not need to be cooled, just allowed to breathe for a few minutes.

Step 5:

Once the dough is ready, use the extra flour to prepare your surface.  I use liberal amounts of flour on my dough as I am rolling it out and cutting it.  

I find this helps it to not stick to the surface or rolling pin and also makes it easier to transfer the cookies to the baking sheet without losing their shape.

Step 6:

Roll cookies to approximately ¼ inch thick (or a little bigger).  Thicker cookies are better for baking and decorating. Cut the cookies to the desired shape and place on parchment cover cookie sheets.

Step 7:

Bake cookies for 5-8 minutes.  Baking time depends on your oven.  Mine bakes for right at 5 minutes. You want the cookies to just barely be done.  

That sweet spot is right when the cookies are no longer wet in the middle, but not yet brown on the edges.  Brown edges mean the cookies were in too long!

Step 8:

Remove the cookies from the oven and allow to cool before moving.  Sugar cookies are best when decorated the next day. It’s especially important to allow them to fully cool before adding royal icing or fondant.

Yield: 2 dozen

Basic Cut-Out Sugar Cookie Recipe

Basic Cut-Out Sugar Cookie Recipe

Basic Cut out Sugar Cookies for decorating with royal icing, fondant or frosting. Perfect for cookie decorating. Soft sugar cookies with very little spread

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks softened unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (plus 2 cups for rolling)
  • 2 tsp baking powder

Instructions

Step 1:

Preheat oven to 400º.  

Step 2:

In a large bowl, combine softened butter and confectioner’s sugar. Stir with spoon or silicone spatula until fully mixed. (You can prepare these cookies with a mixer, but I prefer mixing by hand.)

Step 3:

In a small separate bowl, combine egg and vanilla. Add to butter/sugar mixture and continue to stir until well combined.

Step 4:

In a separate bowl mix flour and baking powder. (You do not need to sift flour.) Add the flour mixture to the wet mixture and continue to mix until combined.

At this point I usually ditch the spoon and knead the dough by hand. I work it until it stops “sticking” to my hands.

Let the dough sit on the counter for 10-15 minutes to “set”. It does not need to be cooled, just allowed to breathe for a few minutes.

Step 5:

Once the dough is ready, use the extra flour to prepare your surface. I use liberal amounts of flour on my dough as I am rolling it out and cutting it. 

I find this helps it to not stick to the surface or rolling pin and also makes it easier to transfer the cookies to the baking sheet without losing their shape.

Step 6:

Roll cookies to approximately ¼ inch thick (or a little bigger). Thicker cookies are better for baking and decorating. Cut the cookies to the desired shape and place on parchment cover cookie sheets.

Step 7:

Bake cookies for 5-8 minutes. Baking time depends on your oven. Mine bakes for right at 5 minutes. You want the cookies to just barely be done. 

That sweet spot is right when the cookies are no longer wet in the middle, but not yet brown on the edges. Brown edges mean the cookies were in too long!

Step 8:

  1. Remove the cookies from the oven and allow to cool before moving. Sugar cookies are best when decorated the next day. It’s especially important to allow them to fully cool before adding royal icing or fondant.

Notes

Be sure to check your cookies frequently at first to determine when they should be removed from the oven as oven time can vary.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

24

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 137 Total Fat: 8g Saturated Fat: 5g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 3g Cholesterol: 28mg Sodium: 45mg Carbohydrates: 15g Fiber: 0g Sugar: 7g Protein: 1g

 

Looking for more ideas for Soft Cut out sugar cookies

Once you have baked and decorated your sugar cookie masterpiece…be sure to display them in a pleasing manner.  You can simply place them on a plate and serve, but also consider filling the plate with gumballs or sixlets to give it some color or dimension.  I did this in this Cat themed Party.

cute kitty themed cookies

 

Also you can place your decorated cookies on top of cupcakes for cakes for an extra awesome double treat.  You can see that here with my Amazing Spiderman Cookies!

Easy Royal Icing Spiderman Cookies Recipe. Here is a fun and easy DIY Spider-Man Sugar cookie recipe to enjoy with your family! #spiderman #spider-man #royalicing #cookies #superhero #cookies #party #parties #decorating #baking

 

Conclusion for Basic Cut Out Sugar Cookies:

If you are looking to bake some easy cookies with few ingredients or need some killer sugar cookies for royal icing or fondant decorating, this simple cut-out sugar cookies recipe is just what the baker ordered!

This simple and DELICIOUS sugar cookie recipe will help transform your cookies from meh to perfection!

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Thank you for reading our royal icing sugar cookie recipe!