This is easily the best recipe for cutout sugar cookies! They are soft and tender but hold their shape very well during baking.

I’ve been making this cutout sugar cookie recipe for over fifteen years, and it is truly the best of the best. For the perfect sugar cookies, make sure to follow all the tips in the recipe!

Heart shaped sugar cookie with pink frosting and sprinkles.

This cutout sugar cookie dough is pretty straight forward. What makes it a little bit unique (and extra yummy) is the addition of fresh lemon zest to the batter.

That subtle hint of lemon flavor is absolutely phenomenal and may change your sugar cookie game forever.

However, if you don’t have a fresh lemon hanging around, you can leave it out. (Just promise me you’ll try it eventually!)

The cookie dough also calls for granulated sugar AND powdered sugar. This helps make the cookies incredibly soft and perfectly sweet.

To Chill or Not to Chill

This sugar cookie dough benefits from a few hours of chilling in the refrigerator. Not only will it be infinitely easier to roll out and cut into shapes, but the flavor of the cookies will taste better, too.

However, you can roll and cut the sugar cookies right away. The dough will be sticky, so make sure the counter and rolling pin are adequately floured so the dough doesn’t stick.

Sheet of sugar cookie dough with heart shaped cookies cutout.

The Key to Perfect Sugar Cookies

For the best sugar cookies ever, roll the dough at least 1/4-inch thick (slightly thicker is even better).

If the dough is rolled too thin, the cookies can easily over bake in the oven, which means they’ll be dry-tasting and kind of crispy.

And while I firmly subscribe to the “you do you” belief, I’m going to have to put my foot down when it comes to sugar cookies. We want buttery soft, fluffy, ultra-tender sugar cookies.

For that reason, err on the side of rolling the dough thicker than you think you should.

Unbaked pumpkin shaped sugar cookies on counter.

Trust the Baking Temperature

You may notice that the baking temperature in this recipe is much higher than most “normal” cookie recipes.

I promise that there is a method to this madness! Because sugar cookies already go into the oven much thinner than, say, a ball of chocolate chip cookie dough, they benefit from a shorter baking time.

Using a high temperature perfectly bakes the outside of the cookies quickly and leaves the inside of the cookies super super soft. Pull the cookies out of the oven before you think you should. A slightly underdone middle is just fine. The cookies will set up as they cool.

Heart shaped sugar cookie on parchment lined baking pan.

Frosting for Sugar Cookies

These cookies work very well frosted with:

When this recipe was originally published, I included a recipe for the most amazing whipped cream cheese frosting. It’s the ultimate in super soft, easily spreadable cookie frostings.

If you are looking for that frosting recipe, it’s in a recipe box all its own below the sugar cookie recipe…so keep scrolling and you’ll find it. 🙂

Rainbow shaped sugar cookie frosted with white frosting and colorful sprinkles.

A Favorite of Many

This cutout sugar cookie recipe is beloved by many! With over 300 5-star reviews, it is a tried-and-true favorite.

Ashley says: I have been using this sugar cookie recipe for years and years! It is seriously the best. I omit the almond extract but I love using the lemon zest. It is my kids favorite recipe. They are soft but not doughy at all.

Tracy Ellen says: My favorite, go to sugar cookie recipe. 

Jen M says: I don’t know how I’ve never made these before. They are SO good and the dough is a dream to work with. I rolled it out with powdered sugar as suggested and it is so much better than using flour! I’ve made them twice in the past couple weeks. I was worried the lemon and almond would be too strong, but they are just the perfect amount of flavor so the cookies aren’t bland. You won’t regret making these.

PJ says: I’ve been looking for this recipe for a couple decades now. I personally testify that these are the best butter sugar cookies ever! They are so good I’ll eat a plain one while decorating the others. 

Bite taken out of pink frosted heart shaped sugar cookie stacked on two unfrosted cookies.
Frosted sugar cookie stacked on two unfrosted sugar cookies.

My Favorite Sugar Cookies

4.45 stars (336 ratings)

Ingredients

Sugar Cookies:

  • 1 ½ cups (340 g) butter, softened to cool room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups (318 g) granulated sugar
  • ½ cup (57 g) powdered sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract, optional
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest, from about 1 lemon
  • 5 cups (710 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Instructions 

  • In a large bowl, cream together the butter, granulated sugar and powdered sugar for 3-4 minutes, until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  • Add the eggs, vanilla extract, almond extract (if using) and lemon zest; mix until thoroughly combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  • Add the flour, baking powder and salt. Mix just until flour is incorporated and the dough is smooth and soft.
  • Press the dough into a thick disc on a sheet of plastic wrap. Wrap until fully covered and refrigerate for several hours (or up to 2 days). *The dough can be rolled out right away; however the cookies won't hold their shape quite as well in the oven – if doing so, you'll need to use quite a bit more flour on the counter to make sure the dough doesn't stick.*
  • When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. If your oven bakes hot, reduce the temperature to 375 degrees F.
  • Lightly dust a counter with powdered sugar or flour and roll the dough to 1/4-inch or slightly thicker.
  • Cut the dough into shapes. Place the cookies several inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets.
  • Bake for 7-8 minutes. DO NOT OVER BAKE! There should be no browning on the edges or the bottom of the cookies and the center of the cookies may look just slightly underdone.
  • Let the cookies rest on the baking pans for 2 to 3 minutes before removing them to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Frost and sprinkle as desired.

Notes

Baking Temp: the baking temperature for this recipe may seem high but I believe it is one of the keys to success. The cookies still remain soft and light because they bake for such a short time (and they keep their shape really well!). If your oven bakes hot, reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees F. 
Serving: 1 cookie, Calories: 267kcal, Carbohydrates: 35g, Protein: 4g, Fat: 13g, Saturated Fat: 8g, Cholesterol: 62mg, Sodium: 236mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 15g
Follow @MelsKitchenCafe on Instagram and show me the recipes you are making from my blog using the hashtag #melskitchencafe. I love seeing all the goodness you are whipping up in your kitchens!

Recipe Source: from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe
Recipe originally published October 2010; updated February 2024 with new photos, recipe notes, etc

Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting for Sugar Cookies

4.43 stars (35 ratings)

Ingredients

  • 8-ounce (227 g) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 ½ cups (171 g) powdered sugar
  • teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream

Instructions 

  • In a large bowl with a handheld electric mixer or in an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the softened cream cheese, powdered sugar, salt and vanilla.
  • Mix until very smooth and light and no lumps remain, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  • In a separate bowl, beat the cream to stiff peaks. Add the whipped cream to the cream cheese mixture. Mix until well combined and smooth. Store in the refrigerator for up to one week.
Follow @MelsKitchenCafe on Instagram and show me the recipes you are making from my blog using the hashtag #melskitchencafe. I love seeing all the goodness you are whipping up in your kitchens!
Frosted heart and pumpkin sugar cookies, with ramekins of pink and green frosting and a stack of unfrosted sugar cookies all on a brown table.