I was about to say, ‘it’s that time of year for sugar cookies!’ But is it ever NOT that time of year for something sweet? From Christmas to Valentine’s Day to Easter, it’s always a good time for a soft, loft-house sugar cookie dripping in buttercream icing.
My first memory of baking and decorating sugar cookies probably roots back to Christmas ’94. My parents had recently moved from New York to Maryland, and it was one of the first times I could remember meeting my Aunt Susan and my two cousins. We had a pretty good system back then. The moms would ice while the kids would decorate. Us cousins would fight over whose turn it was to pick the icing color. Later when my brother was born he would always get heat for his ‘abstract’ decorations. Granted, he was three.
Perhaps it’s this memory of cookie decorating that makes sugar cookies so near and dear to me. Biting into a soft blanket of baked dough with a hint of icing instantly brings me back to my childhood. That’s why today, I’ve provided you with some great tips for making really good sugar cookies—just in time for spring! I’ve also provided a great recipe for sugar cookies that are absolutely divine. No longer will you be indebted to those perfectly round, soft, and frosted cookies you find in the bakery section of almost every grocery store.
Making Better Sugar Cookies in 5 Easy Tips
- Let Your Dough Rest–If it’s one tip you follow out of all my tips, please let your dough rest for at least four hours or overnight before baking. Resting the dough allows the ingredients to mix, especially the gluten. Gluten needs time to form and develop before baking, otherwise you’ll have flat cookies. In fact, you can let all cookie dough and cake batters rest before baking if you’d like.
- Take Directions Seriously–If a recipe says to add the flour in batches, do that! There’s probably a good reason they’re telling you to do so. Until you become a baking pro, it’s important to follow directions exactly as they’re written. If a recipe seems too tedious, try baking something else altogether. It takes a while to understand how ingredients like flour, eggs, and butter behave when combined. Take your time to learn about these ingredients and what happens when you mix them.
- Use Cream Cheese or Sour Cream–Of course, there can be too much of a good thing. Too much diary in a dough can cause your cookies to get stale and spoil sooner. But dairy products like cream cheese and sour cream lend a fluffier and softer cookie. Today’s recipe uses both!
- Get Baked, Get High–No, we’re not talking about ganja. We’re talking about cookies. I’ve baked loads of batches of cookies over the years. I find that baking sugar cookies at a higher temperature for a shorter period of time is better than cookies baked for more time at a lower heat (what I call a ‘low and slow’). Sugar cookies are in general pretty flat. They cook evenly and you won’t have to worry about burnt edges and raw centers. You’ll also be done sooner, as a higher temperature usually leads to baked cookies in about 6-7 minutes!
- Get Creative–Don’t think you need to decorate your cookies with the same frosting and sprinkles every time. One of my favorite components to sugar cookies is how you can do anything with them! Try new designs, new shapes, new colors—anything to keep you from getting bored!
A little note before today’s recipe. I’ve always wanted to know how bakeries made those super soft and frosted sugar cookies. I learned they’red actually called Lofthouse-style sugar cookies and the secret to their texture is sour cream or cream cheese.
For the decorating, I used a pastry bag for the green icing. This is obviously completely optional, but I think it makes them look festive and perfect for spring.