Perfect Sugar Cookies

It doesn’t feel like Christmas until there are homemade sugar cookies. It’s a tradition in my family to make sugar cookies and decorate them together. We love it…it ushers in the holiday season, it’s a fun family activity, and the end result is some dang delicious cookies.

I have searched high and low for the perfect sugar cookie recipe, and I think I’ve finally found it. I am not going to claim this recipe as “the best” because everyone has different opinions on what makes the best sugar cookie. Some love them fat, soft, and cakey. Others prefer thinner, crispier cookies. These fall perfectly in the middle. They are thin and delicious, but so wonderfully soft. The secret? Keep reading.

In my never-ending search for a great sugar cookie recipe, I found that some called for Crisco, some called for butter, and all recipes claimed to be the best. So, what’s the difference between using Crisco and butter anyway? The answer is the melting temperature and the flavor. Butter melts at a lower temperature than Crisco, resulting in crispier, flatter results. However, Crisco doesn’t compare to butter in terms of flavor. I wasn’t about to give up a great-tasting cookie just so it could be soft…and there was no way I was gonna make cookies that were crispy and hard. Not my style.

SO…I found a recipe I like and decided to use half butter and half Crisco (it only called for butter). And oh. my. goodness. They are perfect! They taste delicious, especially with my favorite buttercream icing (recipe below), and they are wonderfully soft and smooth. Hence, I have decided to call them “perfect sugar cookies.”

Some things to keep in mind: 

  • Don’t skip the refrigeration step. The dough should be refrigerated for at  least 30 minutes before being rolled out. It will be much more workable and much less likely to stick to the counter. Trust me. I refrigerated mine for 4 hours.
  • Use a flat, light-colored cookie sheet (the kind with only one raised edge instead of four)…This allows the heat to evenly distribute over the cookies so they don’t puff up in the middle or become lop-sided. Also, a lighter-colored silver will keep them from getting too brown on the bottoms.
  • Because these are soft, it’s smart to stick them in the freezer before frosting them. I had a few gingerbread men lose their legs and snowmen lose their heads when I was trying to dress them in their frosting. Sad day. So, while making your frosting, stick the cookies in the freezer and only take out a handful at a time as you frost them.
  • If you are lucky enough to be frosting with a crowd you can take them all out of the freezer at once…I was working alone. I like to stick mine in the freezer once they are all frosted too! I love to eat them cold…it helps them.
  • A fan of crispier sugar cookies? Simply follow the recipe as outlined below, but use all butter instead of half butter/half Crisco. It’s as simple as that! Enjoy!!

INGREDIENTS

  • ⅔ cup butter, softened
  • ⅔ cup Crisco
  • 1½ cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • Buttercream Icing
  • 1 cup salted butter, softened
  • 1 T vanilla extract
  • a splash of almond extract (optional)
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 4-5 T coffee cream (18% and up)

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Add sugar, baking powder, and salt. Beat until combined, using a rubber spatula to scrape the side of the bowl occasionally.
  • Beat in the egg, milk, and vanilla until combined.
  • Beat in the flour and divide dough in half. Cover and chill at least 30 minutes or until dough is easy to handle.
  • On a lightly floured surface, roll half of the dough at a time until 1/4 inch thick. Using cookie cutters, cut dough into desired shapes. Place 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
  • Bake at 375°F for 8 minutes or until edges are firm and bottoms are very lightly browned. Let sit on the pan for 30 seconds after removing from the oven. Transfer to a wire rack. Let cool.
  • Place cookies in a container and stick in the freezer until hard enough to frost with ease.
  • In the meantime, prepare your frosting (recipe below).
  • Once cookies are frozen, spread or pipe the icing onto the cookies. If desired, top iced cookies with sprinkles and/or candies. I love using crushed candy canes, cinnamon sprinkles, peppermint sprinkles, and red hots.
  • Let frosting harden before placing cookies on top of one another.
  • Store in fridge or freezer for best results.

BUTTERCREAM ICING

  • Whip the butter with a paddle beater. Add in the powdered sugar (using a fresh bag makes all the difference—powdered sugar goes stale and you can taste the difference!)
  • Add in the cream and mix.
  • Add in the vanilla and almond extract and mix until fluffy and thoroughly combined.

  • Divide into four bowls and add a few drops of food coloring. I left one bowl white, then added green, red, and yellow food coloring to the other bowls.
  • Adapted from Better Homes & Gardens