decorated sugar cookies

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Decorated sugar cookies are a basic recipe that every established baker needs in their arsenal. I’ve got the frosting down, but I’ve haven’t quite found the right cookie.

It’s a tall order. I want a sugar cookie that’s super tender with only, maybe, if absolutely necessary, the smallest bit of crispness to it, just on the edges. I want it to be flavorful enough to eat on its own, but made that much better by frosting. I want it to be easy to roll out. And I want it to use butter and no shortening.

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These cookies were described as soft and chewy with great butter flavor, so it seemed like a good recipe to try. Except that they weren’t soft. Damn it. The recipe specifically says bake for 6-9 minutes or they’ll be crisp, and it’s possible that I, um, didn’t bother to set a timer. In my defense, I took them out of the oven when they were just showing a bit of browning on the bottom edge; the bottom of each cookie is a nice light gold.

copy-of-img_8923Whether they’re overcooked or not, I have a feeling this isn’t my ideal sugar cookie recipe. My problem is actually that the dough doesn’t need to be refrigerated before being rolled out. For the dough to be unsticky enough to be rolled without chilling, it has to have quite a bit of flour in it. I think the flour contributes to the crispness of the cookie, and of course it detracts from the butter and sugar flavors that cookies are all about.

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If you have the perfect sugar cookie recipe, please let me know! In the meantime, I’ll be making this one with a half cup less flour. And then trying not to eat frosting by the spoonful.

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Update 11.4.08: I still had dough in the fridge after I posted this entry.  After reading bakingblonde’s comment below, I tried rolling it thicker and was careful to bake the cookies for only 6 minutes.  They were so much better – soft and tender.  I do think next time I’ll reduce the flour just a bit, and I’ll add some lemon zest.  I also plan on going through all of the recipes everyone recommended below (which, from my initial glance at each, are quite similar to this one) and taking my favorite aspects of each.

Famous Sugar Cookies (adapted from bakingblonde)

2¾ cups (13.75 ounces) flour
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) butter, very soft
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 375F. In a small bowl, stir together the flour, salt, and baking powder.

2. Beat butter until smooth, about 1 minute. Add sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg and vanilla and beat until combined, about 30 seconds. Add dry ingredients and beat at low speed until just combined, about 30 seconds, scraping down bowl as needed.

3. Place dough on floured work surface and roll to ⅓-inch thickness. Use cookie cutter to cut desired shapes.

4. Place cookies on baking sheets and bake for 6-9 minutes, until cookies are beginning to brown on bottom and around edges. Don’t overbake or they will be crisp.

5. Transfer to wire racks to cool. Cool completely before frosting.

I decorated the cookies with Easy Vanilla Buttercream.

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Comments

  1. Julia says:

    I am on the hunt for a new “go-to” sugar cookie recipe for the holidays. The ones I made last year were good but not great, the frosting was definitely lacking. What’s your frosting recipe?

  2. Erin says:

    My husband has an obsession with the sugar cookies from The Great American Cookie Company. I have to agree with him; it’s the best sugar cookie I’ve had. I’ve been trying to recreate them to finally be able to make the perfect sugar cookie. Maybe between the two of us we’ll find it, because it sounds like we’re looking for the same thing! Even if it wasn’t the perfect cookie, you did a great job decorating them!

  3. manggy says:

    Oh, you mean you haven’t tried the CI one yet? It’s around here somewhere in my pile of mags :) I guess I’m not yet well-rounded enough… I’ve never made sugar cookies before! But I love yours, they actually look perfect. I am also loving the different-colored frostings in the red white and blue ramekins!

  4. The best recipe in the world for the sugar cookies you describe is found in the Company’s Coming “cooking for two” recipe book. Check it out of the library and give it a try. I bet you will love it. I make the cookies pretty thick because they are extra chewy that way and have just the perfect feel when you bite into them. It is called “Sugar Cookies” and is on page 40. :)

    My favorite icing is simply confectioners sugar, milk and vanilla. It doesn’t overpower the wonderful sugar cookie taste.

  5. koobear says:
  6. bakingblonde says:

    Even though yours turned out crisp, you decorated them beautifully! I have admit that I have never had them turn crisp on me but it appears yours were rolled thinner than I typically roll them.
    Hope you find a recipe that you like soon! :) Happy baking!!

  7. bridget says:

    Julia – I added a link to the frosting recipe I used. I love that frosting.

    manggy – I haven’t been able to find a roll-out sugar cookie from CI. They have a recipe for sugar-coated roll-into-a-ball-and-bake type, but I haven’t seen one meant to be frosted.

  8. RecipeGirl says:

    Of course these are darling for today!

    I’ve tried a bunch. This one is now my Go-To recipe… I use it for all decorated cookies and it’s DELICIOUS too.

    http://www.recipegirl.com/Desserts%20Bars%20&%20Cookies/Desserts%20Bars%20&%20Cookies%20Recipes/No%20Fail%20Sugar%20Cookies.htm#TOP%20OF%20HOME%20PAGE

  9. Audrey says:

    Bridget…try this one. I can’t take any credit for it – it’s from Rose Levy Beranbaum – but I’ve been making it for years (and years) (and years) and it always turns out great.

    http://foodfrombooks.blogspot.com/2008/09/old-friends-roses-sugar-cookies.html

    Beautiful cookies – and great message!
    Audrey

  10. kayash says:

    These are so cute!
    I’m still hunting for the perfect recipe too.

  11. Leigh Ann says:

    Haha, looks like you’ve got quite a few recipes suggested already… but I have to add my favorite to the pile! I have never tried to roll them out, but I’m sure they would need to be chilled first.

    http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Easy-Sugar-Cookies/Detail.aspx

  12. Stephanie says:

    These are so cute! I’m anxious to try your easy vanilla buttercream recipe.

  13. Emily Rose says:

    these are so cute! I’m going to try out the buttercream recipe you used- I have been trying a number of different ones in search for the “perfect” buttercream the same way you are looking for the perfect sugar cookie. The cookies sure do look pretty even if they weren’t the tastiest.

  14. OneCuteCookie says:

    I use the Wilton sugar cookie recipe and it is delicious! It is pretty easy to work with, but I am having problems with the last cookies in the batch. It seems the more you roll it out the more the cookies puff up and lose their shape.

  15. Sirene says:

    I helped develop a sugar cookie recipe for magnolia bakery that’s pretty fantastic. It’s similar to the one you tried above except it uses 2 1/4 C flour and 2 yolks instead of 1 egg (the white makes a drier cookie). As well just 1 t powder, though I imagine that more would make a softer poofier cookie.

  16. bunnies4buddha says:

    B. -
    Love the frosting design on these cookies. Also, there are so many “new” recipes in the comments suggestion I’d love to see a competition..er..I mean comparison :)

    As for me, I am partial to Grandma Murphy’s recipe.

  17. Winda says:

    I swear by the “Ethel’s Sugar Cookies” recipe from the old standby Betty Crocker cookbook. The BC cookbook used to have two sugar cookie recipes and Ethel’s was by far the best. Updated BC’s just print the Ethel’s version and have renamed it “Sugar Cookies.” The genius is in the Cream of Tartar and the use of both vanilla and almond extract (I use less almond and sometimes omit and add lemon zest). Cookies have the right amount of crispness at the edge and are light, but sturdy enough (in flavor and texture) to handle any frosting.

    I haven’t found a better cookie for decorating yet.

  18. Shelly says:

    I think I have the perfect sugar cookie recipe. They are the tries and true “No Fail Sugar Cookies” from http://www.kitchengifts.com. I like them so much!!! They are especially great with cookie cutters, they hold the shape great!! ALso try William-Sonoma has a great sugar cookie recipe. They are on the webite listed as Easter sugar cookies. They are really good!!
    hope this helps!

  19. Martha says:

    Here’s a recipe you may want to try. They make a great cookie cutter sugar cookie that holds its shape and stays soft when rolled to at least 1/4-inch thick. http://www.best-ever-cookie-collection.com/cookie-cutter-sugar-cookies.html

  20. suzanne says:

    I found a GREAT cookie recipe that holds the shape of the cutter perfectly.. look on http://www.allrecipes.com and check out the White Velvet Cutout recipe… I have gotten numerous amounts of compliments on these!

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