Holiday Cut-Out Butter Cookies

Tested & Perfected Recipes

These holiday cut-out butter cookies are a dream to make, and they’re as delicious as they are pretty!

holiday cut-out butter cookies

I usually think of holiday cut-out butter cookies as something to admire, rather than eat. They’re typically not that good and, I don’t know about you, but if I’m going to have some cookies, I want them to be worth it! But this recipe from King Arthur Flour is different. The cookies are buttery and tender-crisp with a thin layer of glaze that adds just the right amount of sweetness. They’re as delicious as they are pretty — but even more than that, they’re a dream to make.

The dough is easy to work with and tough enough to stand up to rolling, cutting and re-rolling. Trust me, I had a group of four girls over at my house last weekend; they worked this dough to death and the cookies still came out tender and delicious. Finally, the cut dough holds its shape perfectly when baked — no puffing or spreading — so go ahead and break out all those ornate cookie cutters. It’s time to bake some cookies!

What you’ll need to make holiday cut-out butter cookies

ingredients

how to make holiday cut-out butter cookies

Begin by combining the confectioners’ sugar, butter, egg yolk, salt, and almond extract in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.

cookie-dough-1

Beat until smooth.

cookie-dough-2

Add the flour.

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Mix on low speed until well combined. The mixture will seem dry at first but don’t worry, it will come together.

cookie-dough-4

Scrape the dough onto a work surface (if it’s sticky, dust very lightly with flour).

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Divide the dough into 2 discs, then wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

cookie-dough-6

When you’re ready to bake, remove the dough from the refrigerator, and let it soften for about 30 minutes. Work it with your hands for a minute or so, until it feels soft and pliable enough to roll. Be careful not to overwork it; it should still feel cold.

cookie-dough-7

Sprinkle your work surface lightly with flour. Lightly sprinkle the top of the dough and rolling pin as well. Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll to 1/8″ – 3/16″ thick. Use cookie cutters to cut shapes, then use a thin metal spatula to lift the dough off of the counter and onto parchment-lined baking sheets (they can be close together; they don’t spread). Re-roll and cut the dough scraps. 

cutting-cookies

Bake the cookies in a preheated 350°F oven for 10 to 14 minutes, until they’re set and barely browned around the edges. Note that the cook time will vary depending on the thickness and size of the cookies. Very small cookies might be done in 8 minutes.

baked-cookies

While the cookies cool, make the icing.

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Combine the sugar, milk, and corn syrup. Stir with a spoon to make a thick but spreadable icing.

frosting-2

If the glaze is too thin, add additional sifted confectioners’ sugar. If too thick, dribble in additional milk 1/2 teaspoon at a time. Using a small spoon, dollop the icing on the center of the cookies and use the spoon and/or your finger to spread it all the way to the edges. Sprinkle with colored sugar or other sugar decorations while the icing is still wet.

just-frosted-cookies

Allow the icing to harden before storing the cookies.

ready-to-serve

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Holiday Cut-Out Butter Cookies

These holiday cut-out butter cookies are a dream to make, and they’re as delicious as they are pretty!

Servings: About 5 dozen 2-inch cookies
Prep Time: 30 Minutes
Cook Time: 10 Minutes
Total Time: 40 Minutes, plus 2 hours to chill the dough

Ingredients

For the Cookies

  • 1-1/4 cups Confectioners' sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2-3/4 cups all purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled-off with knife

For the Icing

  • 2-1/4 cups Confectioners' sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon milk
  • Food coloring and sugar decorations, optional

Instructions

  1. Combine the confectioners' sugar, butter, egg yolk, salt, and almond extract in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat until smooth. Add the flour and mix on low speed until well combined. The mixture will seem dry and crumbly at first, but don't worry -- it will come together. Scrape the dough onto a work surface (if it's sticky, dust very lightly with flour). Shape into a ball and cut in half; form 2 discs, then wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
  2. When you're ready to bake, remove the dough from the refrigerator; let it soften on the countertop for 20-30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. Work the dough with your hands for a minute or so, until it feels soft and pliable enough to roll. Be careful not to overwork it; it should still feel cold. Sprinkle your work surface lightly with flour. Lightly sprinkle the top of the dough and the rolling pin with flour as well. Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll to 1/8" - 3/16" thick, sprinkling more flour over and under the dough as needed so that it doesn't stick. Use cookie cutters to cut shapes. Use a thin metal spatula to lift the cut dough off of the counter and onto the prepared baking sheets (they can be close together; they don't spread). Re-roll and cut the dough scraps, dusting more flour as necessary so the dough doesn't stick. Bake for 10 to 14 minutes, until they're set and barely browned around the edges. (Note that the cook time will vary depending on the thickness and size of the cookies. And mini cookies might be done in as little as 8 minutes.)
  4. While the cookies cool, make the icing. Combine the sugar, milk, and corn syrup in a medium bowl. Stir with a spoon to make a thick but spreadable icing. If the glaze is too thin, add additional confectioners’ sugar. If it's too thick, dribble in additional milk 1/2 teaspoon at a time. (You'll know the consistency is right when a ribbon of glaze dribbled from the spoon will sit atop the glaze in the bowl briefly, before settling and disappearing. Be careful not to make it too thin, or it will drip right off the cookies and make a sticky mess.)
  5. Using a small spoon, dollop the icing on the center of the cookies and use a spoon, knife, toothpick or your finger to spread it all the way to the edges. Sprinkle with colored sugar or other sugar decorations while the icing is still wet. Allow the icing to harden before storing the cookies.
  6. Note: The cookies are best eaten within a day or two, when they are perfectly tender and crisp. They'll keep much longer stored in an airtight container, but they'll soften up.
  7. Note: The FDA no longer recommends ingesting dragées (the little silver balls I used to decorate these cookies). Read more here. Good thing there are a myriad of other decorating choices. See some options here.
  8. Freezer-Friendly Instructions: The Cookie Dough can be Frozen for up to 3 Months: Shape the dough into 2 discs, wrap each securely in plastic wrap, and place them in a sealable bag. When ready to bake, remove the disks from the freezer, thaw the dough until pliable, and then proceed with recipe. To Freeze After Baking: Let the cookies cool completely and store in an airtight container separating layers with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Before serving, remove the cookies from the container and let them come to room temperature.

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Serving size: 1 cookie
  • Calories: 82
  • Fat: 4g
  • Saturated fat: 2g
  • Carbohydrates: 12g
  • Sugar: 7g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Protein: 1g
  • Sodium: 2mg
  • Cholesterol: 12mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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Reviews & Comments

  • Cut-out cookies turned out perfectly… and tasty, too. Frosting stays soft just long enough to decorate. Thank you for sharing and Happy New Year!

    • — Laurie Hoffman on December 31, 2020
    • Reply
  • We make sugar cookies once a year at Christmas and every year I am disappointed with my choice of recipe. The dough is either possible or the cookies are tasteless or both. This year, I made your butter cookies and icing–winner! The dough was good to work with and your tips were excellent. The cookies looked terrific with taste and texture to match. I won’t be looking again–and maybe we’ll even be inspired to make and decorate cookies more than once a year!

    • — Elan Long on December 30, 2020
    • Reply
  • This website has been a total game-changer for me and I’ve loved everything I’ve tried, but I, too, had to trash this dough. It just didn’t come together and was a complete crumbly mess. I’ll definitely be back for more great recipes; I just couldn’t make this one work.

    • — Jennifer on December 26, 2020
    • Reply
  • Every recipe I’ve made from Once Upon a Chef has been fantastic! That’s why I decided to try the sugar cookie recipe instead of my usual. I refrigerated the dough for 20 minutes as in the instructions, but when I went to roll it out it was a crumbled mess. I tried to work with it as stated in the instructions, but it never got pliable. I managed to cut out 4 cookies, which were actually pretty good- but threw away the rest of the dough. Not sure what I may have done wrong? Suggestions?

    • — Marla on December 23, 2020
    • Reply
    • So sorry you had trouble, Marla! Did you by chance make any substitutions? What brand of flour do you use?

      • — Jenn on December 24, 2020
      • Reply
  • These cookies turned out perfectly for me. I tweaked the recipe slightly by adding 1 teaspoon of vanilla and 1/2 t of almond extract. After I divided the dough I rolled out on parchment paper immediately to 1/4 inch thickness, covered with plastic wrap, and chilled overnight. The next day I cut out each sheet of dough individually and chilled again for about 1/2 hour before baking, repeating this process with the following sheet of dough. It takes some time, but I found the dough was easy to work with and cut out, and the cookies did not spread at all during baking. The outside is crisp and the inside is soft with a yummy flavour. This is my new go-to cut-out sugar cookie recipe.

    • — Judy W on December 19, 2020
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,
    I was wondering if I can freeze this dough. I want to bake some cookies for neighbors this week but also save some dough for the holiday next week so my family can have fresh cookies as well.
    Thank you,
    Janet

    • — Jan on December 17, 2020
    • Reply
    • Yep – see freezer-friendly instructions at the bottom of the recipe. Happy holidays!

      • — Jenn on December 18, 2020
      • Reply
  • I had really good results with this. I am terrified of doing anything but drop cookies but I faced this recipe for my grandkids’ sake (well, for the three who are allowed to eat sweets). I mailed them across the country and they loved them so much, as did my husband.

    I don’t have a sweet tooth but thought they were great. I couldn’t believe how ‘fancy’ they looked with the sprinkles.

    • — Nyny on December 14, 2020
    • Reply
  • They came out perfect. The icing was a little tough to manage so I put in the microwave 5 sec or so and reheated as needed to make it manageable to decorate cookies. I’ve been looking for a this taste for a long time. Thank you!!

    • — AR on December 13, 2020
    • Reply
  • These were awful! I followed the recipe exactly and it was dry crumbly and impossible to roll out. So dissapointed. I’ve always loved Jenn’s cooking recipes but now I’ll be wary of her baking ones. 🙁

    • — JN on December 11, 2020
    • Reply
  • I just finished making these adorable cookies! I really love the size of the cookie. The almond flavor is delicious and they are perfectly crisp. My daughter enjoyed helping cut them out too. Thanks for another great recipe, Jenn!

    • — Laura McCaskill on December 11, 2020
    • Reply
  • Is it possible to make the icing with a dairy substitute? Would almond milk work?

    • — Rakhi on December 7, 2020
    • Reply
    • Sure, I think that would be fine. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on December 8, 2020
      • Reply
  • This recipe looks delish! Can you omit the almond extract?

    • — Doreen on December 6, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Doreen, you can replace the almond extract with vanilla extract. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on December 7, 2020
      • Reply
  • I made these cookies today, following the recipe very closely. The dough came together easily and was beautifully pliable. The cookies baked without spreading as promised. Thank you Jenn for another winning recipe – these are delicious and will be added to my Christmas baking list.

    • — AnitaR on October 17, 2020
    • Reply
  • Another great recipe from Jenn Segal! You are my go-to cooking hero! Every recipe of yours has turned out great. I made these for Hanukkah and they were delicious! Not only were they very pretty, but they got rave reviews from all! Now I’m making again for Valentine’s Day. Thank you!

    • — Deb Grannick on February 12, 2020
    • Reply
  • These are delicious, buttery, crisp little cookies! I followed the recipe exactly, and the only small issue I had during the first bake was that the cookies spread quite a bit for me, sticking all the cookies together. My three-year-old and I did take quite a while rolling and cutting all the shapes out, so I figured maybe the dough was too warm by the time it hit the oven. The second round, we popped the pan of cut cookies in the freezer for about 10-15 mins before putting them in the oven, and they came out perfect. Either way, they tasted delicious! And such a fun way to include the kids.

    • — Katie R. on December 8, 2019
    • Reply
  • I read the reviews after I made these cookies. So to make this recipe work, several people had to alter the recipe, not making Jenn’s recipe any longer. I had the same problem with the crumble. After reading, not to be worried it would come together, it didn’t. I’ve made several of your recipes and had wonderful results, this one was not one of them. (Just sad that I had to trash it 🙁
    just a note; I am not in a high altitude area, I used the metric measurements to get an accurate amount of each ingredient, and I’m not a beginner.
    I feel bad giving 2 stars

    • — Martha on December 5, 2019
    • Reply
    • I had the same issue and also had to trash the dough.

      • — Dena on December 17, 2019
      • Reply
      • I had to trash the dough as well! I thought this would be a trusted source for a sugar cookie but was dissapointed 🙁

        • — JN on December 11, 2020
        • Reply
        • I’ve read other recipes that state that if you don’t use a high powered mixer (such as a Kitchen Aid with the paddle attachment) that this can be a result because the flour doesn’t get incorporated into the butter/sugar as much – the solution is simply to use a bit less flour.

          • — Heather D. on December 13, 2020
          • Reply
  • These were fantastic and tasted amazing! Will be using this recipe a lot. Thank you for another great recipe!

    • — Lauren on September 14, 2019
    • Reply
  • Only the best and easiest butter cookie roll out recipe I have ever used!!! Thank you!

    • — Lorraine on April 4, 2019
    • Reply
  • I have been looking for a good butter cookie. Do I have to make these as a cut-out cookie? I just wanted a drop cookie or a sliced-from-a-roll type cookie, like a shortbread. These sound so good! Thank you!

    • — Janet on March 17, 2019
    • Reply
    • Hi Janet, I think these would work as a sliced cookie. They may take just a bit longer in the oven so keep a close eye on them. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on March 19, 2019
      • Reply
  • Before I go on about how delicious these cookies are, I must relay what happened the first time I made them. To start, I doubled the recipe-exactly doubling all the ingredients, as I needed to make a lot of cookies. The dough was super dry but I went ahead and refrigerated it in disks, even though they were pretty cracked. When I brought them out the next day and brought the dough to room temperature there was no change in consistency. So I added two more egg yolks but the dough still was too dry to roll out. So I dumped it and started over. The second time I just made a single batch and stopped at 2 1/2 cups of flour instead of 2 3/4 c because I could tell by the consistency that 2 3/4 cups was too much flour. The dough was firm enough that I just rolled it out immediately instead of refrigerating it first. I made my cookies a little thicker because I’m using them for favors for a shower and they’re going to be individually wrapped. I baked them for about 17 minutes, put them on a rack to cool and just tasted one. Flavor is absolutely delicious, consistency between soft and crisp. They are substantial and are going to hold up well to royal frosting I believe. Thank you Jenn for yet another delicious recipe!

    • — Gail on February 24, 2019
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,
    I’m making 3-4” cut outs for baby shower favors. Each cookie will be wrapped individually. Will this recipe work if I make the cookies thicker- like at least 1/4”? I’m going to be using royal icing to decorate. Thanks,
    Gail

    • — Gail on February 18, 2019
    • Reply
    • Sure, Gail – you’ll just need to increase the cooking time a bit. 🙂

      • — Jenn on February 18, 2019
      • Reply
  • Hi there!
    Need help, I’d like to make cookies for Valentine’s Day with a cotton candy buttercream frosting. Do you think these would work? Any changes you would recommend? Would the almond extract still be okay? Or just a bad idea to begin with? ☺️

    • — Julie on January 29, 2019
    • Reply
    • Hi Julie, that should work, but I’d suggest making the cookies a bit thicker so that they are substantial enough for the buttercream frosting. 🙂

      • — Jenn on January 29, 2019
      • Reply
      • Thank you!

        • — Julie on January 29, 2019
        • Reply
  • I want to use this recipe to make cactus shaped cut outs for a baby shower. Would your other ‘Royal Icing’ recipe work to decorate these sugar cookies? I need a sturdy icing for the detailing.

    • Yes, definitely. 🙂

  • Be sure to use WHOLE MILK for the icing or it’ll be too thin. Need that fat to help thicken it up. Otherwise you’ll have to keep adding more and more powdered sugar to the point it’s just ridiculous.

  • I have made so many cut out cookies in my life and have tried every recipe I could get my hands on. This is no doubt the best tasting and easiest to make. I have had friends ask for the recipe and with that I have introduced them to your blog (and now book)! I have yet to be disappointed in any recipe I’ve made from Once Upon A Chef. Thank you for helping me!!!!

  • Thank you so much for sharing this recipe. I never knew I could make cut-out cookies. Previous attempts have been frustrating, but this dough handles beautifully. I made half the batch one day, and the other half a few days later. Both were wonderful!
    Happy Holidays!

  • Hi,
    Im just in the process of making these cookies… The dough wasnt coming together once I added the flour, so I added an extra egg yolk. Does this ruin the recipe?

    p.s
    I love all your other recipes I’ve tried and they have always turned out really good!!! Hoping this one turns out.

    Thank you!
    Vanessa

    • Hi Vanessa, How did the cookies turn out?

  • How can I make the icing more “white”? Yours in the picture seem a strong white than mine!

    • Hi Crissy, The only way to make it more white is to add more confectioners’ sugar – was your glaze also thin?

  • Can I use granulated sugar instead of confectioner’s sugar in the cookie recipe?

    • I don’t recommend it, Aurora – the confectioners’ sugar is what makes these cookies nice and tender. Sorry!

  • I’m not a big fan of almond extract… can I use vanilla instead?

  • Hi Jenn,

    About the glaze, can I leaveout the corn syrup from the recipe? The cookie recipe looks goods by the way. Thanks!

    • Hi Kaye, You could omit the corn syrup; the cookies just won’t be shiny — you’ll also need to add a bit more milk to get the icing the right consistency. Another alternative is using an icing like this one. Hope that helps!

  • Hi! I’m just wondering if I can use a cookie press with this recipe?

    Thanks

    • Hi Rhea, I’ve never used a cookie press so I can’t be sure, but I think it should work. I’d love to hear how they turn out!

  • Excellent recipe! I was looking for a recipe for cookies that could be adapted for any holiday. We followed this recipe exactly as stated, to make heart shaped Valentine’s Day cookies. We tinted the icing pink, red, and purple and used butter knives to spread and decorate our cookies. Not only very tasty and crisp, but very kid friendly too. Looking forward to using this recipe to make “Easter cookies”.

  • These cookies are fantastic! Every time I make them, they are gone quickly. It’s fun making different shapes for various holidays.

  • I have never had this happen when making these types of cookies. The dough was dry and crumbly and fell apart when trying to roll. I had to add water to the dough to get it to hold together and roll out. The frosting was also very odd- stiff and hard to spread on the cookie. I will go back to my old sugar cookie recipe.

  • This were perfect! I have tried many recipes but this one with the icing was delicious.

    This has become my go to site for all my sweet baking. Have since replaced 2 recipes I have used for years with the ones I found here.

    Thank you!!

  • Ugh I’m so sad! First time I made these they turned out perfect. Second time I made sure to follow the instructions perfectly and let it rest over nt in fridge and the dough never came together.

    Do you have any ideas on how I can salvage this? Some sites recommended adding a little room temp butter at a time u til the dough some together. I am so sad. I was planning on having these for my daughters bday.

    • Hi Lena, So sorry you’re having trouble. Is it possible that you left something out? This should not be a crumbly dough once it’s mixed. I’d let it come to room temperature and then see if you can knead it into a pliable dough (perhaps it was under-mixed?). If you still don’t have any luck, I’d try adding another egg yolk. Hope it works out!

  • I just made these cookies. They are awaiting the glaze as I write this. I just want to say I am so pleased with how perfectly they cook, with no spreading. The flavor is very mild, a perfect background to any flavor glaze. A super nice basic cookie.

    • Glad you like them, Anne – happy holidays!

  • Hi Jen, I’ve made many of your recipes and have been thrilled with the result. Thank you! This is the first recipe I’ve made that didn’t work. The dough never “came together” and is dry and crumbly. I’m thinking it is because I didn’t have a paddle attachment as I only have a hand mixer. Is there any adjustment to make it work based on that?

    • Hi Jennifer, I’m sorry to hear you had a problem with these! I don’t think using a hand mixer would cause a problem (although it may take a little more time to come together). It sounds like your dough was either too dry or too cold. Did you use the spoon and level method to measure the flour? Did you work the dough with your hands before rolling to make sure it was supple enough to roll?

  • Could some of the dough be frozen at the refrigerator step? I have different events I want to make these for that are spread out over the next week and a half and I saw that you said the dough will only keep in the fridge for 3-4 days.

    • Yes, Kaylie, it would fine to freeze some of the dough. Hope you enjoy!

  • These sugar cookies are delicious .
    You are right Jen the dough is very forgiving making them with two children. Didn’t use the silver dragees that you have in your cookie picture because a recent article in USA Today recommends against eating them, use only as decoration. Pre ordered your cookbook. Can’t wait! Thanks for sharing such delicious recipes.

  • Just made these and they are delicious! Very buttery and tender. I was inspired by the pretty ones in your picture. Mine came out looking quite amateurish, but still yummy. I’ll have to keep practicing the decorations (and eating, ha!)

  • Hi Jenn,

    I was wondering if I could halve this recipe and get the same results? Do I simply divide everything in half excluding the egg? Also, do you have a time reference for how long it takes for the icing to harden? Thank you!

    • Hi Stacey, yes, it would be fine to halve it. And regarding he egg, I would use half an egg yolk – you don’t need to measure it – just separate the yolk from the white and then use the shell to scoop up half of it. The icing should take a few hours to dry completely. Hope you enjoy!

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