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Tradition, Treats, and Together Time: Classic Rolled Sugar Cookies

Photo by MKucova / iStock
Photo by MKucova / iStock

Want to make some oh-so-sweet memories this holiday season? Tie on some festive aprons and head to the kitchen for a family baking session! Our favorite classic rolled sugar cookies (recipe below) are a great project for pint-size elves who want to help—your kiddos will especially love watching cookie cutters transform plain old dough into buttery snowflakes, stars, and trees. 

We’ve also included the recipe for a super easy and especially yummy buttercream frosting, but if you prefer the shiny glaze version, try this simple one from Sugar Spun Run. Either way, tiny frosted noses and fingers coated with sprinkles will warm your heart.

Classic Rolled Sugar Cookies (with Buttercream Frosting)

Yields: 5–7 dozen, depending on the size of the cookies

Total time: About 3.5 hours (includes 2 hours chilling the dough)


For the cookies:

  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract

For the frosting:

  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • ½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick), softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ¼ cup heavy whipping cream or milk
  • Food coloring and sprinkles


For the cookies:

  1. Combine the flour, cream of tartar, and salt in a medium-size bowl and mix together with a whisk. Set aside.
  2. Put the softened butter and sugar in a large bowl and, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat for about 3 minutes, until light and fluffy.
  3. Dissolve the baking soda in the milk and add to the butter-sugar mixture along with the eggs and vanilla or almond extract. Beat on low speed until combined.
  4. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix by hand (or with the electric mixer on low) until just combined.
  5. Cover the dough and refrigerate for at least two hours.
  6. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Divide dough in half.
  7. Lightly sprinkle a clean cutting board or counter with flour and then, using a floured rolling pin, roll out one half of the dough to 1/8 inch thickness.
  8. Use cookie cutters to cut out your desired shapes and then place them on a cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart.
  9. Bake cookies for 7–9 minutes, until edges are light brown. Remove cookies to wire rack and cool completely, around 30 minutes.
  10. Re-roll leftover scraps from the first half of dough and roll out the second half of dough. Cut out shapes and bake them until all the dough is gone.

For the frosting:

  1. Add the sugar, butter, vanilla, and cream or milk to a medium bowl and, using an electric mixer on low speed, beat together until the mixture is light, smooth, and spreadable, about 5 minutes. If it’s too thick, beat in additional cream or milk one teaspoon at a time. If it’s too thin, beat in additional powdered sugar one tablespoon at a time.
  2. If you want to color your frosting, divide it into small bowls and stir in food coloring, one drop at a time.
  3. Spread or pipe frosting onto cookies and decorate with sprinkles if desired. Enjoy!
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