Christmas Sugar Cookies

5 from 1 vote

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This nostalgic Christmas sugar cookies recipe is made in just one hour, leaving you plenty of time to decorate with icing and sprinkles. The cookies stay soft and tender without puffing up and don’t need to be chilled!

Why you’ll love this recipe:

You’ll definitely want to add these Christmas sugar cookies to your holiday baking lineup! A tried and true recipe, these cookies turn out thin and crisp with a rich, buttery flavor every time you bake.    

They are perfect for a Christmas cookie exchange or to leave out for Santa on Christmas Eve! 

  • Flavor – Made with a hint of vanilla, they’re subtly sweet, meaning you can add as much sugary royal icing as you’d like! 
  • Foolproof recipe – I guarantee you’ll be successful if you follow my easy step-by-step instructions. Just don’t forget to read through my expert tips before you begin! 
  • Kid-friendly – Involve the kids during every step! Let them help with mixing, rolling, shaping, and decorating. 

Since chilling the dough is optional, you can mix and decorate everything on the same day! 

A stack of baked sugar cookies in the shape of Christmas trees.

Key Ingredient Notes:

For the cookies

  • All-purpose flour – You’ll need three cups measured using the spoon and level method or a kitchen scale. I prefer to use a scale! It’s easier and much more accurate. 
  • Granulated sugar – Also known as white sugar or table sugar, granulated sugar adds sweetness to this Christmas sugar cookies recipe and contributes to the moist and tender texture.  
  • Brown sugar – Pack it tightly by pressing it into the measuring cup before adding it to the mixing bowl. I prefer to use light brown sugar because dark brown sugar results in darker cookies. 
  • Cornstarch – This helps keep the cookies nice and soft. 
  • Baking powder – When fresh, this gives the cookies a light and airy texture without causing them to spread or puff up. The tops will stay flat, making them perfect for decorating with icing.  
  • Kosher salt – I like Diamond Crystal kosher salt, but any brand you like best will work great. 
  • Unsalted butter – The butter should be at room temperature. Room temp butter is around 67°F and will stay indented when gently pressed with your finger. 
  • Egg – Make sure the egg is at room temperature as well. About 30 minutes on the kitchen counter will do the trick. 
  • Extracts – Pure vanilla extract (like this DIY vanilla extract) and almond extract enhance the overall flavor of the cookies. You’ll taste the vanilla flavor and only notice the almond if you don’t add it. 
Ingredients for vanilla sugar cookies laid out in individual bowls.

For decorating

  • Royal icing – Make a whole batch of my royal icing dyed into festive Christmas colors. 
  • Fun toppings – Use colored sugar and holiday-themed sprinkles. 

How to make these Christmas sugar cookies:

1. Prepare the dough

  • Measure the flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt into a mixing bowl fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix until well combined. 
  • Add the butter, and mix on low speed until the flour mixture is evenly moistened and resembles wet sand, about 1-2 minutes.
  • Add the egg, vanilla, and almond extract, and mix until just combined, about 30 seconds. At this point, the dough will still be crumbly, but it should stick together if you squeeze it with your hands. 
  • Divide the dough into two equal parts, and knead it into smooth balls. 
4 step by step photos of making cookie dough in a stand mixer with paddle attachment.

Prepare the dough in advance

If you’re not ready to shape and bake the cookies, place the dough in plastic ziplock bags, and refrigerate it for up to 3 days. Or, freeze it for up to 3 months.

2. Shape and bake the cookies

Before you get started, preheat your oven to 350°F, and line 2-3 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats. 

  •  Place each dough ball onto a silicone mat, and roll it into a ¼-inch thick disk. This adjustable rolling pin is a game-changer for rolling the dough out evenly! 
  • Cut the cookies using Christmas cookie cutters, and arrange them on the prepared baking sheets. This is the fun part!  
Sugar cookie dough being cut with a Christmas tree cookie cutter.
  • Repeat the previous steps with the dough scraps until all the dough is shaped into cookies. 
  • Bake the cookies until the edges turn a light golden color, about 10-13 minutes. 
  • Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for five minutes. Then, transfer them to a cooling rack to cool completely. 
Two baking sheets with baked and unbaked Christmas sugar cookies in the shape of Christmas trees.

3. Decorate the cookies

  • Prepare the royal icing using my easy 4-ingredient royal icing recipe.
  • Divide the icing into 3-4 bowls, and dye it into red, green, and blue holiday colors. Don’t forget to leave one bowl of icing white!  
  • Place the icing into tipless piping bags. Then, get creative decorating your Christmas sugar cookies! 

How to decorate with royal icing:

Follow these icing tips for a flawless finish! 

  • Outline the cookies with royal icing. 
  • Flood the cookies with more icing, keeping an even consistency throughout. 
  • Add colored sugar and sprinkles before the icing sets. 
  • Let the icing fully set before stacking the cookies in storage containers. This could take up to 48 hours. 

Tips for Success:

  • Use the reverse-creaming method. Almost every other sugar cookie recipe creams the butter and sugar together first, before adding any other dry ingredients. The reverse-creaming method combines the sugar with the dry ingredients and then mixes the butter in. This is the secret to perfectly flat (not puffy) cookies!  
  • Don’t refrigerate the cut-out cookies. The fridge will dry out the cookies (whether decorated or not), and condensation can ruin your icing design.  
  • Don’t overfill your piping bags. The icing will spill out the top if the piping bag is too full. Only fill the bag about ⅔ of the way to the top. 
  • Keep the cookies soft using mini marshmallows. Spread mini marshmallows on a baking sheet, and place a wire cooling rack on top of them. Arrange the cookies on the cooling rack, cover them with a lid, and store them on the counter at room temperature. This trick works with decorated or undecorated cookies. 

Make-Ahead Tips:

Ensure cookie decorating day is totally stress-free by prepping your dough and icing in advance. This way, you can get right to the fun part: shaping and decorating!  

  • Prepare the cookie dough up to 3 days in advance, or freeze it for up to 3 months. Store prepared cookie dough in the fridge, wrapped tightly in plastic. Thaw frozen cookie dough overnight in the refrigerator. Then, let the chilled cookie dough come to room temperature for 15-30 minutes before rolling and shaping.
  • Make the royal icing up to 2 weeks in advance, or freeze it for up to 2 months. Let the icing warm to room temperature before decorating the cookies with it. 
Decorated Christmas sugar cookies in the shape of candy canes, Christmas trees, and snowflakes.

Storing Tips:

  • Room temperature – Store this Christmas sugar cookies recipe on the counter at room temperature for up to 1 week. Stack the cookies in an airtight container with parchment paper between the layers once they’re fully cooled.  
  • Freezer – Transfer leftovers to a freezer-safe container, and freeze decorated cookies for up to 1 month or undecorated cookies for up to 3 months.
  • To thaw – Thaw frozen cookies on the counter for 8-12 hours without opening the lid. Keeping the lid closed will prevent condensation and color run. 

Christmas Sugar Cookies Recipe FAQs:

How far in advance can I make Christmas sugar cookies?

Bake sugar cookies up to 3 months before Christmas! Undecorated cookies will stay fresh in the freezer for 3 months, and decorated cookies will last for 1 month in the freezer. Freshly baked cookies can be kept for 1 week on the counter, but I bet they’ll be eaten up long before that!  

How long do sugar cookies last with royal icing?

Since royal icing can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 weeks, it will not affect the storage time of the sugar cookies. The cookies will still last up to 1 week stored at room temperature.   

What is a popular Christmas cookie shape?

The most common Christmas cookie shapes are candy canes, stars, gingerbread, snowflakes, and Christmas trees. 

Iced Christmas sugar cookies in the shape of candy canes, Christmas trees, and snowflakes.
5 from 1 vote

Christmas Sugar Cookies

These nostalgic Christmas sugar cookies are made in just one hour, leaving you plenty of time to decorate with icing and sprinkles. They stay soft and tender without puffing up and don’t need to be chilled!
Prep: 15 minutes
Cooling Time: 5 minutes
Total: 1 hour
Servings: 36 cookies
Yields: 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients

For sugar cookies:

  • 3 cups (375g) all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup (50g) packed brown sugar Note 1
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • ¼ teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 1 ½ sticks (170g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon almond extract optional, Note 3

Equipment

Instructions 

TO PREPARE THE DOUGH:

  • In a mixing bowl with a paddle attachment, mix flour, sugars, baking powder, cornstarch, and salt.
    3 cups (375g) all-purpose flour, ½ cup (100g) granulated sugar, ¼ cup (50g) packed brown sugar, ½ teaspoon baking powder, ¼ teaspoon coarse kosher salt, 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • Add butter and mix on low speed until the mixture is evenly moistened, 1-2 minutes. The mixture should resemble wet sand.
    1 ½ sticks
  • Add egg, vanilla, and almond extracts and mix until just combined, about 30 seconds. The dough will be crumbly, but it should stick together when you squeeze it in your hand.
    1 large egg, 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract, ¼ teaspoon almond extract
  • Divide the dough into 2 equal parts. Knead it into smooth balls.
  • At this point, you can move on to shaping and baking the cookies right away. Or you can put the dough into plastic bags and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

TO SHAPE AND BAKE COOKIES:

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Line 2-3 baking sheets with parchment papers, or silicone mats.
  • Place each dough ball on a silicone mat and roll it out into ¼-inch-thick disc. (TIP: This adjustable rolling pin helps you roll out an even dough.)
  • Using Christmas cookie cutters, cut out the cookies and arrange them on the prepared baking sheets.
  • Gather the scraps of dough, roll the dough, and cut out more cookies. Repeat until all the dough is used.
  • Bake the cookies for 10-13 minutes, or until the edges start to turn light golden color.
  • Cool the cookies on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer them onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

TO DECORATE THE COOKIES:

  • Make the royal icing and divide it into 3-4 bowls to dye into different festive colors, like red, blue, and green. Make sure to keep white royal icing as well.
    1 batch of royal icing
  • Place each colored royal icing into tipless piping bags and decorate the cookies.
    Sprinkles and colored sugar

Tips & Notes

Note 1:I love how brown sugar adds subtle flavor and softness to the cookies. I’ve made this recipe with both light and dark brown sugars. Dark brown sugar yields darker cookies, so I prefer light brown sugar.
Note 3: It’s hard to pinpoint the almond extract flavor in the final cookies, but it rounds up the flavor perfectly, making these sugar cookies irresistible!
Make Ahead Tips: 
Prepare the cookie dough up to 3 days in advance, or freeze it for up to 3 months.
– Store prepared cookie dough in the fridge, wrapped tightly in plastic. Thaw frozen cookie dough overnight in the refrigerator.
– To bake, let the chilled cookie dough come to room temperature for 15-30 minutes before rolling, shaping, and baking as the recipe instructions state. 
Storing Tips: 
– Once cooled, leftover cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week. 
– To prevent them from sticking together, place a piece of parchment paper between each layer. 
– Freeze the decorated cookies for 1 month or undecorated cookies for up to 3 months. 

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving, Calories: 110kcal, Carbohydrates: 21g, Protein: 1g, Fat: 2g, Saturated Fat: 0.4g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 1g, Trans Fat: 0.001g, Cholesterol: 5mg, Sodium: 48mg, Potassium: 20mg, Fiber: 0.3g, Sugar: 12g, Vitamin A: 7IU, Vitamin C: 0.01mg, Calcium: 7mg, Iron: 1mg
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American

Hi, I’m Shinee!

Welcome! I’m so happy you’re here! I believe anyone can cook restaurant-quality food at home! And my goal is to help you to become a confident cook with my easy-to-follow recipes with lots of tips and step-by-step photos.

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