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Basic Sugar Cookies

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Sugar cookies are a buttery classic that make a delicious anytime treat. Enjoy your sugar cookies plain, or decorate them with icing to make them festive. This recipe is a favorite of Martha's, who likes to add 1 tablespoon cognac alongside the egg and vanilla, after creaming together the butter and sugar.

  • Prep:
  • Total Time:
  • Yield: Makes 32
basic sugar cookies stars

Photography: Minh + Wass

Source: Everyday Food, December 2003

Ingredients

Sugar Cookies

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Assorted candies, sprinkles, or colored sugars, for decorating (optional)

Icing

  • 1 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 3-4 tablespoons milk, water, or lemon juice

Directions

  1. In large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt. With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. With mixer on low, gradually add flour mixture; beat until combined. Divide dough in half; flatten into disks. Wrap each in plastic; freeze until firm, at least 20 minutes, or place in a resealable plastic bag, and freeze up to 3 months (thaw in refrigerator overnight).

  2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment. Remove one dough disk; let stand 5 to 10 minutes. Roll out 1/8 inch thick between two sheets of floured parchment, dusting dough with flour as needed. Cut shapes with cookie cutters. Using a spatula, transfer to prepared baking sheets. (If dough gets soft, chill 10 minutes.) Reroll scraps; cut shapes. Repeat with remaining dough.

  3. Bake, rotating halfway through, until edges are golden, 10 to 18 minutes (depending on size). Cool completely on wire racks. To ice cookies, spread with the back of a spoon. Let the icing harden, about 20 minutes. Decorate as desired.

  4. For the icing, sift confectioners' sugar into a small bowl. Whisk in milk, water, or lemon juice, 1 tablespoon at a time, until smooth and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. If too thin, whisk in more sugar; if too thick, add more liquid. Spread over cookies with back of a spoon. Add other decorations, if desired. Let the icing harden, about 20 minutes.

Cook's Notes

Use flour on utensils to keep dough from sticking: Dip the cookie cutters, and dust the spatula before transferring uncooked dough to a sheet. Rolling dough between two sheets of floured parchment will keep it from sticking to the rolling pin. You can store cookies in airtight containers at room temperature, up to 1 week.

Reviews Add a comment

  • MS12278334
    11 APR, 2017
    Just a note, if you see the video, Martha Stewart adds two tables[filtered]s of cognac which can be replaced with orange juice, according to what she says. That might be a slight difference to consider so the cookies aren't as dry, I would sub those tables[filtered]s for milk in any case or add the two extra tables[filtered]s of butter as Kelsy suggested.
    Reply
  • woodisgoodint
    23 MAR, 2017
    Great recipe ;) Check out our shop! Engraved wooden rolling pin with any pattern! Custom & Personalized Orders Welcome. Great patterns for sugar cookies or dought. www.arthandwood.com
    Reply
  • kristynamullen
    27 SEP, 2015
    This recipe is the same as the one I grew up with. It is a great, no fail recipe. The negative comments are from beginner bakers. If you make the recipe properly, it comes out wonderfully. For those who are beginners: -Be careful how you measure your flour. If the flour gets packed, you will end up with too much flour and a dry cookie -Mix the sugar and butter until fluffy -Don't overmix after butter and sugar stage
    Reply
  • beverlysmith22
    21 AUG, 2015
    I find that if you use Cake/Pastry flour the recipe works better. I found myself needing more flour than called for! I also only bake for 10-12 minutes. Mine turned out soft and buttery.
    Reply
  • everr
    20 FEB, 2015
    IT WAS SO BAD BUT MY FRIEND YUMI AND I ARE GREAT COOKS SO IT TURNED OUT FANTASTIC!!! ALTHOUGH I GOTTA SAY WE NEEDED TO ADD 2 CUPS OF MILK AND BAKE IT FOR 20 MINUTES!!!! PEACE OUT MUCH LOVE XX
    Reply
  • kelseyjb96
    16 FEB, 2015
    Some reviews complained of hard, crumbly cookies. Here are 4 reviewer tips I used to make mine better: 1. I weighed each cup of flour to make sure it was really a cup. Each cup should be 125-130 grams. 2. I added two tablespoons more butter than the recipe called for. 3. Instead of freezing the dough for 20 minutes, I refrigerated it. 4. I only baked the cookies for about 11 minutes (they looked a bit raw at first, but turned out fine). Result: Soft, buttery, yummy cookies! (A big hit!)
    Reply
  • qtcath143
    27 JAN, 2015
    Agreed, too dry! Too much flour? Freezing was a bad idea as well, I think they would have rolled out just fine. Maybe a few minutes in the fridge would have done the job.....wishing I read the comments first :/
    Reply
  • Zackery J Brezina
    16 JAN, 2015
    I agree with ScottCU, this recipe is good but if you pack flour into a measuring cup you get two much, i always like to take flour out of the bag with my hand and lightly sift it into the measuring cup. you get closer to the correct amount. the recipe is tasty and everyone loved them. best with cheap Wilton icing in my choice. like the flavor . also instead of powdered sugar, try using granulated sugar.
    Reply
  • MS12447052
    29 DEC, 2014
    I like this recipe. Reading the reviews, I see that many people are complaining about a crumbly texture. Their problem is too much flour because they used a measuring cup. You would be surprised how much extra flour you get by dipping a measuring cup into the flour bag. It gets packed. Use a kitchen scale. One cup of flour weighs 125 - 130 grams. If you weigh a cup of flour you scooped out of the bag, you will likely have about 150-160 grams. The result is too much flour. Weigh it!
    Reply
  • Lchailland
    26 DEC, 2014
    I followed the exact recipe and the dough was extremely crumbly. I then read the comments (which I should have done first). I melted 2 TBSPs of butter and added them to the dough and it came together well. I separated the dough and wrapped them but did not refrigerate it. It rolled well and I baked them at 325 for 11 minutes which was perfect for my oven. They taste great and aren't hard. They're decorated and are kept in a sealed container which softened them a bit.
    Reply