Let me just get this out there:
- This is the best sugar cookie recipe ever. In my humble opinion.
- Cut-out cookies are popular for every occasion. All you need is this recipe and a collection of cookie cutters.
How can I be so confident? Well, I've been making these sugar cookies for every special occasion since 1984. Kids love them, adults love them; they are simply loved by all. I can't take credit for the actual recipe. It was shared with me by my sister-in-law Rita, and it was shared with her by a friend. Who knows how far back it goes from there. Rita and her sister Jeanne make dozens and dozens of these cookies every year during the holiday season. I've been making them in a variety of shapes throughout the years for holidays, school parties, birthday parties, weddings, baby showers, graduations, super bowl parties, and any other special occasion you can think of. Like my toffee, these sugar cookies are expected when I have or attend a party. That's what makes them a signature recipe.
Below is a collection of some of my cookies through the years. (Forgive the poor photo quality--most of these were taken long before I had a decent camera.) That's me in the upper right photo in 1987 with my boys Bracken (now 30) and Tyler (aka T-Man, techie guy for The Yummy Life, now 27). We've rolled a lot of cookie dough through the years.
view cookie cutters on Amazon: house, key
Baseball cookies. I made these for friend and Cardinal's fan Becca when we celebrated her 30th birthday at a St. Louis Cardinal's baseball game.
view cookie cutters on Amazon: baseball glove, baseball bat, cardinal
Cut-out cookies are festive. There's a shape for every occasion. A plate of football-shaped cookies for a super bowl party frosted in the team colors, bunny & egg shapes for Easter, hearts for Valentines Day-- you name it. One recipe in different shapes suits every celebration. A plate of cut-out cookies can define a party theme or holiday. They simply belong at every celebration. So, for me, mastering this recipe has been a big part of my family's cooking, eating, and celebrating.
This is a soft sugar cookie. It's all about the soft texture that falls apart in your mouth. If you bake them too long, they get crispy. Don't do that--they are so much better soft.
Nutritional information (per cookie): 125 calories, 4.5g fat, 70mg sodium, 19.6g carbs, 10.7g sugars, 1.5g protein, 0g fiber; Weight Watchers PointsPlus: 3
Step-by-step photos for making
Sour Cream Cut-Out Sugar Cookies
Step 1. Assemble the ingredients:
- sour cream
- baking soda
- powdered sugar
- evaporated milk
view on Amazon: organic unbleached white flour (I use this as my go-to all-purpose flour.)
Step 2. Whisk flour, baking soda, & salt together & set aside.
Step 3. With an electric mixer, cream the butter and sour cream at low speed; add the sugar, eggs, and vanilla & mix until combined. It's okay if it's a little lumpy as long as no butter chunks are visible.
Step 4. Gradually add the flour mixture to the sour cream mixture, mixing until well combined. Dough will be sticky. If cookie dough is too thick for your mixer to handle, you can stir it by hand with a wooden spoon.
Step 5. Divide dough onto two pieces of plastic wrap; flatten dough, wrap tightly, and refrigerate until chilled, 1-2 hours.
- Make ahead tip: Dough may be made to this point and refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 1 month.
About rolling the cookie dough,
there's one more thing I need to get out there:
- This rolling pin has changed my life. It has a set of rings to screw on the ends so that you roll perfectly even cookie dough in exactly the thickness you want. After using a traditional rolling pin most of my life, I decided to try out this new technology for the first time last year. Life changing. I've made thousands of cut-out cookies through the years, and now for the first time they are perfect every time. The thickness of my cut-out's used to vary some; but now they all have the exact same thickness, so they bake evenly. LOVE this new rolling pin.
View on Amazon: adjustable rolling pin
You also need a cookie cutter or two or more, for whatever the occasion. I'm making cookies for Christmas cookie platters, so I'm making mittens.
Step 6. Heavily flour your work surface. The chilled dough is still sticky, so a generous amount of flour is needed to keep the rolled dough from sticking to the counter. Rub flour on the rolling pin, too. Put one of the pieces of dough on top of the floured surface and sprinkle the top of the dough with more flour. Starting at the center, roll the dough out to one edge; return to the center and roll to the opposite edge. Continue rolling from the center outward until the dough is an even 1/4" thick all over.
- Tip for easier rolling: I recommend using a pastry mat if you don't have a large smooth surface for rolling out the dough. I recently bought a mat that doesn't slip and is a generous size. The cookies release from it easily, so you can get by with less flouring than you see in my original photos below. It's great for pie crusts, too.
view on Amazon: non-slip pastry mat
Step 7. Dip the cookie cutter in flour and cut out the dough. First cut shapes around the perimeter, and then work in towards the center--this way you can cut the most shapes from one piece.
Step 8. Transfer dough shapes to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. (You don't have to use parchment paper, but I'm a big believer in it.)
Step 9. Take the remaining fragments of dough, and pack them into a smooth ball. Flatten the ball, and roll and cut shapes as before.
view on Amazon: 13x18 baking sheet, parchment paper (pre-cut to fit baking sheet), cooling rack
Step 10. Bake at 350 degrees, 2 sheets at a time, rotating and switching pans half way through cooking time. Bake them just until they are baked all the way through but haven't started browning on the bottom. For a soft textured cookie, it's very important not to over bake them.
- As little as 1 minute too little or too much in the oven can make the difference between an under-cooked, over-cooked, or perfect cookie. It may take a little trial and error to figure out exactly how long to cook the cookies in your oven. In my oven, I bake them 5 minutes, rotate & switch the pans, and bake them another 5 minutes. They should look dry on top, but have no browning on the bottom. If you accidentally over cook them and they brown, they're still good. No worries, they can still be frosted and enjoyed.
Step 11. Transfer hot cookies to a rack to cool completely.
- Space-saving tip: I use a 4-tier cooling rack when I'm doing a lot of baking and counter space is limited. I can cool 4 baking sheets or pans with the countertop footprint of just 1 baking sheet. It folds flat for easy storage. I slip mine in my cabinet next to my baking sheets. View on Amazon: 4-Tier cooling rack
- Make-ahead tip: Cooled, unfrosted cookies may be stacked in a sealed container and stored at room temperature for up to 2 weeks; although the fresher, the better. I recommend freezing them to maintain their freshness. Unfrosted cookies may be frozen up to a month.
Simple frosting & decorating. I frost these with a simple, tasty frosting. I don't use Royal Icing, even though it's very popular. Royal Icing has the advantage of drying very hard, making it easier to frost in multiple colors with lots of detail. But I personally don't think it tastes very good. My frosting is soft like the cookies, tastes good, and is quick and easy to apply. Let's face it, sugar cookies are labor intensive: mixing the dough, chilling the dough, rolling the dough, cutting the dough, baking the cookies. By the time I've done all that, I don't want to spend hours elaborately decorating the cookies. So, I keep that part simple. Frosting that tastes good and colored sprinkles. That's it. Here's how I make frosting:
Step 1. Combine powdered sugar, vanilla, softened butter, and half of the evaporated milk in a large bowl.
- I use a large bowl because the powdered sugar really flies when you first start mixing it. You need the high walls of a larger bowl to keep the mess contained.
- Why evaporated milk? I used to use regular milk, but I found that after a couple of days the frosting started looking speckled and uneven as it dried out. Evaporated milk results in a silky smooth frosting, and it holds up well and still looks good after the cookies have been frosted for a few days. This frosting is good enough to eat with a spoon (and I've been known to do that, shhhhh...).
view on Amazon: 8-cup mixing/measuring bowl with lid (my go-to mixing bowl)
Step 2. Use an electric mixer to combine ingredients on a low speed until it's a thick paste consistency and all of the lumps are gone. It's much easier to remove the lumps when the frosting is thick. That's why I only add half of the milk in the beginning.
Step 3. Gradually add the remaining milk and continue mixing until frosting is a smooth, silky, spreadable consistency. If it's still thicker than you want, add more milk 1/2 teaspoon at a time until it's how you like it.
You can add food coloring to the frosting, if you like. I left mine uncolored for these mitten cookies, and relied on a variety of red and green sprinkles to make them colorful and festive.
view on Amazon: decorating sprinkles
Let the frosted cookies dry for a few hours before moving them to an air tight container. The frosting gets dry but not hard. I put waxed paper between layers of cookies to keep them from sticking and store them inside a large Rubbermaid container. They are good for several days this way.
view on Amazon: large Rubbermaid storage container
Easy time-saver slab cookies. No time for cut-outs? Try this easy adjustment to the recipe. Easy peasy and every bit as delicious.
- Instead of cutting out shapes, roll or press the dough onto parchment paper and bake a whole sheet at once. One dough recipe is enough to roll/spread onto and almost fill two 13x18 baking sheets. I lined my two pans with parchment paper first, and then spread the dough--some rolling and some spreading with my hands.
- Score the dough before you bake it to make cleaner cuts after it's baked.
- Add approx. 2 minutes to the cooking time.
- Allow cookies to cool, pour on all of the frosting and spread it out in a few strokes (I used a double batch of frosting for 1 full batch of cookie dough divided evenly over two baking sheets.)
- Add sprinkles, and cut into squares.
Below are some I made for the 4th of July when I was short on time and didn't have time to cut and frost individual cookies. I cut my two sheets into a total of 48 squares.
Whether you make cut-outs or slab cookies, these are always a festive crowd pleaser.
Make it a Yummy day!
For more ideas using this cookie recipe,
check out this post:
ABC/123 Cookies for Every Occasion
Cut-Out Sour Cream Sugar Cookies
Servings: 5 dozen
- FOR COOKIE DOUGH:
- 5-1/2 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup sour cream, room temperature
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- FOR FROSTING (makes 1 cup of frosting):
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons butter, softened
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3-4 tablespoons canned evaporated milk
- food coloring (optional)
MAKE COOKIE DOUGH:
In large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, & salt; set aside. In second large bowl, with an electric mixer, cream the sour cream and butter at low speed; add sugar, eggs, and vanilla & mix until combined. (It's okay if it's a little lumpy as long as no butter chunks are visible.) Gradually add the flour mixture to the sour cream mixture, mixing until well combined. Dough will be sticky. (If cookie dough is too thick for your mixture to handle, you can stir it by hand with a wooden spoon.) Divide dough onto two pieces of plastic wrap; flatten dough, wrap tightly, and refrigerate until chilled, 1-2 hours. (Make ahead tip: Dough may be made to this point and refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 1 month.)
ROLL, CUT, & BAKE COOKIES:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. Generously flour your counter or work surface to prevent dough from sticking. Rub flour on the rolling pin. Put one of the chilled pieces of dough on top of the floured surface and sprinkle the top of the dough with more flour. Starting at the center, roll the dough out to one edge; return to the center and roll to the opposite edge. Continue rolling until dough is an even 1/4" thick all over, sprinkling with additional flour, if needed, to avoid sticking. Dip cookie cutter in flour and cut out dough shapes. Transfer dough shapes to baking sheets. Continue rolling dough, cutting shapes, and adding to baking sheets until they are filled. Bake 2 sheets at a time for 8-10 minutes, rotating and switching pans half way through cooking time. Bake them just until they are baked all the way through but haven't started browning on the bottom. If a soft textured cookie is desired, it's very important not to over bake them. Transfer hot cookies to a baking rack to cool completely.
Make-ahead tip: Cooled, unfrosted cookies may be stacked in a sealed container and stored at room temperature for up to 2 weeks; although the fresher, the better. Freezing them is recommended to maintain their freshness. Unfrosted cookies may be frozen up to a month.
Combine powdered sugar, softened butter, vanilla, and half of the evaporated milk in a large bowl. Use an electric mixer to combine ingredients on a low speed until its' a thick paste consistency and all of the lumps are gone. Gradually add remaining milk and continue mixing on medium speed until frosting is a smooth, silky, spreadable consistency. If it's still too thick, add more milk 1/2 teaspoon at a time until it's desired consistency. Mix in food coloring, if desired.
FROST & STORE COOKIES:
Frost each cookie and decorate with sprinkles while frosting is still wet. Leave out to dry for several hours until dry to touch before storing in an airtight container. If stacking frosted cookies, put waxed or parchment paper between layers.
NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION per cookie: 125 calories, 4.5g fat, 70mg sodium, 19.6g carbs, 10.7g sugars, 1.5g protein, 0g fiber; Weight Watchers PointsPlus: 3
This post was updated July 2014.