Perfect Sugar Cookies

Perfect Sugar Cookies assortment of three
Photo: Lennart Weinbull

Classic sugar cookies take baking back to basics. But in their simplicity lies their perfection: It's hard to beat the delicate flavor of cookies with only the most elemental of ingredients. We veered from tradition a little by adding sour cream for softness and candied citrus for zest. This recipe appears in our cookbook "Martha Stewart's Cookie Perfection" (Clarkson Potter).


Sugar Cookies

  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature

  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling

  • 1 large egg

  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  • ¼ cup sour cream

Lemon Glaze (Optional)

  • 1 large egg white

Lemon Glaze (optional)

  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted, plus more if needed

  • 1 to 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Candied Citrus (Optional)

  • Oranges, lemons, or grapefruits

Candied Citrus (optional)

  • 1 ½ cups sugar


  1. Sugar Cookies: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. In a large bowl, beat butter and granulated sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg and vanilla; beat well to combine.

  2. Reduce speed to low and add half of flour mixture, followed by sour cream, then remaining flour mixture; beat just until smooth. (Dough will be stiff; you may need to finish mixing it with a wooden spoon.)

  3. Using a cookie scoop or a tablespoon, scoop dough (about 3 tablespoons at a time) and drop on parchment-lined baking sheets, spaced 3 to 4 inches apart.

  4. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until edges of cookies are just firm and tops are barely beginning to brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks; let cool completely, then top with sanding sugar or lemon glaze and candied zest (below).

  5. Lemon Glaze: In a large bowl, whisk together egg white, sugar, and 1 teaspoon lemon juice until smooth. (If necessary, at up to 1 teaspoon more lemon juice to reach desired consistency. Glaze should be opaque but not so thin as to run down the edges of a cookie when dipped. If glaze runs, add more sugar; if too thick, add water, 1 teaspoon at a time. Use immediately. Makes: About 1/2 cup

  6. Candied Citrus: With a sharp paring knife, slice the ends off citrus. Following curve of fruit, cut away outermost peel, leaving most of white pith on. Slice peel lengthwise into 1/4-inch-wide strips.

  7. In a pot of boiling water, cook peel until tender, about 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer to a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet; spread in a single layer and let dry slightly, about 15 minutes.

  8. In a saucepan, bring sugar and 1 cup water to a boil over high heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Add peel and boil until translucent and syrup thickens, 8 to 10 minutes. With slotted spoon, transfer peel to rack, separating as needed. Let cool 1 hour. Toss with remaining 1/2 cup sugar to coat. Use immediately.

Cook's Notes

Recipe reprinted from Martha Stewart's Cookie Perfection: 100+ Recipes to Take Your Treats to the Next Level, From the Kitchens of Martha Stewart Living. Copyright © 2019 by Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.

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