Perfect Cut-Out Sugar Cookies

This is the recipe I used to make the bird cookies for my sister’s baby shower that I was unable to attend.  See here and here for the nitty gritty details of that debacle.  I have been making decorated sugar cut-out cookies since college when I took a cookie decorating class at Central Market in Austin.

Decorated sugar cookies are time consuming, but they are pretty simple once you know a few tricks and they are a lot of fun to make.  They are also very much worth the effort.  I will write more on those tricks later.  For now, you can satisfy your need for cookie decorating tips here at  This is a good site, although a bit hard to navigate due to the amount of ads.

Some recipes that I have tried for sugar cookies are not meant to be a cut-out sugar cookie.  For example, this cookie was delicious, but spread too much during baking to be a cut-out.  A heart would end up looking an amoeba.  No good.  “I ‘heart’ you!” is not the same as “I ‘amoeba’ you”.

The dough for a cut out cookie has to be firmer so that it can stand up to rolling, cutting and baking without losing its shape.  This usually means less butter and more flour.  You also do not want a lot of leavening because decorating a cookie that had risen too much in the oven can be tough to decorate.

This cookie recipe was perfect for my bird cookies.  The cutter I used is quite large, which can be troublesome when transferring a cut-out piece of dough to the cookie sheet, but this dough was so sturdy!  I got the recipe from Joy of Baking.  This site has a lot of delicious sounding recipes with the majority including pictures, which, in my opinion is very nice. I look at the site quite a bit but I haven’t tried many of the recipes.  I plan to try more things from now on.  Let me know if you try something delicious from the site.

I have made some lovely cookies in my time, but these birds are not the best.  They are just OK.  I used mini chocolate chips for the eye.    My mistakes include:

  1. Frosting them at 10pm
  2. Using old gel colors (resulting in the neon hues)
  3. Thinking no one would see them

Give yourself some time to decorate your cookies and make sure to let them set before trying to add more detail or transporting them.  I also make extra cookies to practice with so that I can see what’s going to look great and what isn’t.

I usually like to outline my cookies first, then fill them with glaze.  But I didn’t have the time with the birds which is why the one above is spitting up purple.  Keep up with my blog for the secrets!  I always use a glaze of powdered sugar, water or milk, corn syrup and almond extract.  I also am committed to Wilton gel colors.  They provide a vibrant color, so be careful!  Pink can become PINK too quickly!

These cookies are what I aspire to create some day.  Aren’t they beautiful?  I really love the natural colors and details.  The eggs are adorable.  You can get all the details about these cookies here and about Eleni’s in New York who made them here.  My neon pink birds will do for now!  At least mine tasted good.  That is one of the most important things isn’t it?

Cut Out Sugar Cookies
  • 3 1/2 cups (460 grams) all purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon (4 grams)baking powder
  • 1 cup (227 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups (300 grams) granulated whitesugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  1. For Sugar Cookies:  In a separate bowl whisk together the flour,salt, and baking powder. Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 3 to 4 minutes). Add the eggs and vanilla extract and beat until combined. Add the flour mixture and beat until you have a smooth dough.
  3. Divide the dough in half and wrap each half in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for about one hour or until firm enough to roll.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  5. Remove one half of the chilled dough from the refrigerator and, on a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a thickness of 1/4 inch (1 cm). (Keep turning the dough as you roll, making sure the dough does not stick to the counter.)  Cut out desired shapes using a lightly floured cookie cutter
  6. and transfer cookies to the prepared baking sheet. Place the baking sheets with the unbaked cookies in the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes to chill the dough which prevents the cookies from spreading and losing their shape while baking.  Note: If you are not going to frost the baked cookies, you may want to sprinkle the unbaked cookies with crystal or sparkling sugar.
  7. Bake cookies for about 10 minutes (depending on size) or until they are brown around the edges. Remove from oven and let cookies cool on baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling before frosting.