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Easy Christmas Cutout Cookies (That Hold Their Shape)

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This time of year seems to bring the baker out in everyone, and this easy, Christmas Cutout Cookie recipe will likely become your go-to sugar cookie, whether you’re a baking aficionado or novice. These cookies are sweet, soft, buttery goodness, and most importantly… they hold their shape! Our Christmas Cutout Cookies won’t puff up or spread, saving you (or patiently-waiting kiddos) from a bit of disappointment when you pull them out of the oven. What’s our little secret, you ask? Keep reading…

Christmas cutout cookies are perfect sugar cookies
Christmas Cutout Cookies that don’t lose their shape!

Why do sugar cookies spread while baking? 

This can happen due to many reasons. It could be a ratio problem of a recipe, such as the ratio of butter and sugar to flour, or the ratio of baking powder to the other ingredients. Your oven might not be set at the proper temperature, your cutout cookie might be too thick, the list goes on. I love this recipe because it’s a sure-fire way to get the perfect, cutout cookie without having to worry about all the other factors that could affect its shape.

Easy, cutout cookies with pinecones in the background
This makes the perfect Christmas sugar cookies.

So, how do you keep sugar cookies from spreading? The secret is cold dough. By freezing the dough for a bit before you bake them, your sugar cookies will hold their shape every time. All you need is six ingredients, your favorite cookie cutters, and perhaps some tiny bakers you’ve recruited as assistants, because making Christmas cookies is always more fun when there are small helpers and big messes involved, right? 😉

Most recipes will have you chill the dough before you roll it out. The problem with that is the dough will warm back up by the time you finish cutting the cookie shapes. Then when you gather up the scraps to roll out more cookies, the dough will get warmer. 

There really is no point in chilling the dough until AFTER you cut the cookies. Once the cookies are cut out you can stack them with waxed paper between the layers and stick them in the freezer for a quick chill. 

Step 1

Cream the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl, beating them together for about 3 or 4 minutes until the mixture is light and creamy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, and mix until the ingredients are well combined. 

Step 2

Add your flour and salt to the butter mixture, stirring it in by hand or with a mixer set on low speed. Make sure the mixture is thoroughly combined.

Step 3

This is the fun part! Grab your rolling pin, sprinkle flour on the counter and roll the cookie dough out until it’s about 1/4 inch thick. Keep sprinkling flour onto the dough as you roll it to make sure it doesn’t stick to your counter or rolling pin. 

Step 4

Use your cookie cutters to cut the dough into fun, festive shapes and then transfer the cookies to a tray. I stack mine on top of each other with wax paper in between each layer to prevent the cookies from sticking together. Put the cutout cookies in the freezer to chill for 30 to 45 minutes (or 2 to 3 hours in the refrigerator). This is the super important, “secret” step to help ensure that your cookies keep their shape while baking. DO NOT SKIP THIS! 

Step 5

While the cookies are chilling in the freezer, pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees and line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper (I like to use parchment paper but a Silpat baking mat or cooking spray works well, too). It’s extra important to make sure that you can easily transfer the baked cookie and maintain its cutout shape.

Step 6

Remove the COLD cookie shapes from the freezer and transfer them to your prepared baking sheets. Bake for 9-11 minutes until the edges are a light, golden brown. When they are done baking, let them sit on the baking sheet for 10 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack. 

Next, you’re ready to make these tasty Christmas Cutout Cookies even more festive with some decorative frosting! 

We have a printable recipe card for sugar cookie icing right below the cookie recipe card. Our sugar cookie icing is easy to make and it is perfect for decorating these cookies. The corn syrup in the recipe is optional but it makes the icing shiny. It also makes the icing take a bit longer to firm up. Make sure you let the icing on the cookies get completely firm before you stack them. 

Festive Christmas cookies on two plates

The prettiest Christmas cookies that will add to your holiday table!

perfect sugar cookies decorated on a platter
You’ll want to bake these cutout cookies all year long!

EXTRA TIPS FOR PERFECT CUTOUT COOKIES

Are sugar cookies supposed to be hard?

  • This recipe makes cutout cookies that hold their shape, but are still soft and chewy when you bite into them. If your cookies turn out to be too hard, you might be baking them for too long or your oven temperature might be off. I like to use an oven thermometer to double-check that my oven is set at the right temperature.

How to keep sugar cookies fresh

  • There’s nothing worse than a stale sugar cookie! A sugar cookie can keep fresh for up to two weeks if it’s stored properly. You can wrap un-frosted cookies in plastic wrap and keep at room temperature. I like to store frosted cutout cookies in an airtight container by stacking them and placing wax paper in between the layers. Storing these cutout sugar cookies the right way means you can enjoy them through the holiday season, that is, if there are any leftovers to store!

Roll the cookie dough to 1/4 inch thick. 

  • You don’t need to get a ruler out and get super precise but try to roll the dough to 1/4 inch or just a smidgen thicker. If you roll the dough too thin the cookies will get crispy and break easily. 

I hope you enjoy these easy Christmas Cutout Cookies throughout the holidays! In fact, I recommend pocketing this recipe for all your sugar cookie baking needs year-round!

perfect sugar cookies decorated and displayed on a platter

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a cooling rack with decorated sugar cookies

Easy Christmas Cutout Cookies (That Hold Their Shape)

Yield: 4 dozen (3-inch cookies)
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Additional Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes

These Christmas cutout cookies are easy sugar cookies to make and taste buttery and sweet. Best of all, they hold their shape when you bake them and they come out perfect every time.

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups butter (3 sticks), softened
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar (330 grams)
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour (600 grams)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt

Instructions

  1. Put the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and beat until light and creamy (about 3 to 4 minutes). Add the eggs and vanilla and beat well. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides then beat until well combined. 
  2. Sift the flour and salt over the butter mixture and stir it in well or use the mixer on low speed. 
  3. Sprinkle some flour on the counter and roll the dough to 1/4 inch thickness. Make sure the dough stays well floured so it doesn’t stick to the counter or rolling pin. 
  4. Use cookie cutters to cut into your desired shapes then transfer the cookies to a tray and stick them in the freezer to chill for 30 to 45 minutes. DON’T SKIP THIS STEP!
  5. While the cookies are chilling, pre-heat the oven to 350°F and line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper or spray them with cooking spray.
  6. Remove the COLD cookie shapes from the freezer and transfer them to a baking sheet.
  7. Bake for 9-11 minutes until the edges are a light golden brown. 
  8. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 10 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack. 

Notes

  • Most recipes will have you chill the dough before you roll it out. By the time you roll it out and cut the shapes, the dough warms up to room temperature. If you chill the dough after you cut the shapes, the cookies will hold their shape better.
  • After you roll out the cookie dough and cut your shapes, place them in the freezer for 30 minutes or the fridge for 2 to 3 hours. You can stack them on top of each other if you keep wax paper between them so they don't stick together. When the shaped cookie dough gets cold, you can bake them and they will hold their shape.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 48 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 126Total Fat: 6gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 23mgSodium: 115mgCarbohydrates: 16gFiber: 0gSugar: 6gProtein: 2g

Nutrition information is a guideline only, is calculated automatically by third party software, and absolute accuracy is not guaranteed.

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a cooling rack with decorated sugar cookies

Sugar Cookie Icing

Yield: Makes about 1 cup of icing
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

Perfect sugar cookie icing for smooth, shiny cookies.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract (or another flavored extract)
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup (optional)
  • 1 to 3 tablespoons water

Instructions

  1. Place the powdered sugar, vanilla extract, optional corn syrup and 2 tablespoons of water in a bowl then stir until well combined. 
  2. Check the consistency of the icing and drizzle in more water if it is too thick. Only add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of water at a time (a little goes a long way). 
  3. The icing should be fairly thick but you should be able to slowly drizzle it off of a spoon. When it falls back into the bowl, it should fall in a ribbon-like pattern and take a couple of seconds before blending back into the rest of the icing. 
  4. Pipe or spread the icing onto the cookies and let it dry completely before storing them. 

Notes

  • Wait for your sugar cookies to cool completely before icing them.
  • If you add too much water just add a bit more powdered sugar to thicken the icing again. 
  • Corn syrup gives the icing a slick shiny coat and keeps it from getting rock hard but it will firm up enough to stack the cookies on top of each other once the icing is dry. 
  • If you are not using the icing right away, lay some plastic wrap directly on top of the icing so the air doesn’t dry it out. It will store like that for 24 to 48 hours.
  • Add a few drops of food coloring if desired. If you use a lot of liquid food coloring you may need to stir in a bit more powdered sugar to thicken the icing again. (Gel food coloring will not thin the icing out). 
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 36 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 26Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 1mgCarbohydrates: 7gFiber: 0gSugar: 6gProtein: 0g

Nutrition information is a guideline only, is calculated automatically by third-party software, and absolute accuracy is not guaranteed.

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Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Instagram

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Laura

Sunday 22nd of December 2019

Dahn, the cookies are THE BEST ever. I used the almond and vanilla extracts and they are delectable. Finally, after all these years a sugar cookie that actually tastes really, really wonderful. And the icing is fantastic! My cookies look like they came from the fanciest bakery, and taste even better than any I've had from fancy bakeries. Thank you again so much for your advice on using almond.

Dahn Boquist

Sunday 22nd of December 2019

Wow, what a compliment! I would love to see your cookies if you haven't eaten them all up yet ;)

Bethany

Saturday 21st of December 2019

Hi! Do you think I could halve the recipe and still have it turn out well Thanks!

Dahn Boquist

Saturday 21st of December 2019

Yes, the recipe works if you cut it in half. Use 12 tablespoons of butter, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 egg, 2 teaspoons vanilla, 2-1/2 cups flour, 3/4 teaspoon salt.

angiesrecipes

Saturday 9th of November 2019

The colours, the shape and the festive glaze are simply making me happy :-)) I am so READY for the holidays :-))

Dahn Boquist

Sunday 10th of November 2019

Thanks Angie, I am ready for the holidays too :)

Laura

Saturday 9th of November 2019

Hi Dahn - These recipes sound perfect. I am partial to almond flavored cookies and wondered if I could flavors both the cookies and the icing with almond extract. If so, could you please recommend the proper amount, and whether or not I should also use vanilla? Thank you so much. Laura

Dahn Boquist

Sunday 10th of November 2019

I would put 1 teaspoon of almond extract into the cookie dough and 3/4 teaspoon in the icing. I would also recommend still using the vanilla extract but cut the vanilla in half. It gives a nice flavor that actually compliments the almond extract. Thanks for your question Laura, happy baking

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