Frosted Sugar Cookies

Frosted sugar cookies are as much art as they are dessert.

Sugar Cookies

Antonis Achilleos; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall; Prop Styling: Missie Neville Crawford

Active Time:
45 mins
Chill Time:
2 hrs
Stand Time:
3 hrs
Total Time:
5 hrs 45 mins
32 cookies

Is it even Christmas without icing-adorned sugar cookies? From mixing the food colorings to make the perfect shade of evergreen for the Christmas tree shapes, to experimenting with different sprinkle designs, it’s a beloved holiday pastime.

As creative as you want to get, you’ll need a good sugar cookie recipe to start, and foolproof glaze and icing recipes to help your artistic vision come to life. We suggest you go with this vintage version. The cookie dough is flavored with vanilla and almond extracts, so that these Frosted Sugar Cookies have that classic bakery sugar cookie taste.

The cream of tartar is the secret ingredient that gives these cookies a soft chew, while still being sturdy enough to decorate. Don’t be alarmed, the dough will be quite sticky right after mixing.  This is why it's important to chill the dough for at least two hours, otherwise it will be difficult to roll out without it sticking to the counter (and likely you as well).

When it comes to decorating, use the glaze for filling the cookies, because it’s looser and spreads easily, while the icing recipe is pipable and better for smaller decorative details.

If you prefer spiced cookies, try these classic Gingerbread Cookies.



  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened

  • 1 large egg

  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

  • 1/2 tsp. almond extract

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for work surface

  • 1 tsp. baking soda

  • 1 tsp. cream of tartar

  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt


  • 1 cup powdered sugar

  • 1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. whole milk

  • 1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. light corn syrup

  • Liquid or gel food coloring (assorted colors), optional


  • 1 (16-oz.) pkg. (about 3 3/4 cups) powdered sugar

  • 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened

  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

  • 4-6 Tbsp. whole milk, as needed

  • Liquid or gel food coloring (assorted colors), optional


  1. Beat sugar and butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium high speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add egg, vanilla extract, and almond extract, beating until combined, about 1 minute. Whisk together flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt in a medium bowl. With mixer running on low speed, gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating just until combined, about 1 minute, stopping to scrape down sides of bowl as needed. Divide dough in half; wrap each half in plastic wrap. Chill at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours.

  2. Preheat oven to 375°F with racks in top and bottom positions. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

  3. Roll out each half of cold dough to 1/4-inch thickness on a lightly floured work surface. Cut into desired shapes using 2 1/2- to 3 1/2-inch cookie cutters. Place about 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Reroll dough scraps as needed.

  4. Bake in preheated oven in 2 batches until cookies are lightly browned around edges, 7 to 8 minutes per batch, rotating baking sheets between top and bottom racks halfway through baking time. Let cool on baking sheets, about 1 hour.

  5. Decorate using Glaze and Icing as desired. Let cookies stand until completely dry, about 2 hours. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.


Active 5 min. - Total 5 min. Makes 1/2 cup

  1. Whisk together sugar, milk, and corn syrup in a small bowl until smooth. If desired, divide Glaze evenly into separate bowls, and stir in food coloring.

  2. Store in an airtight container in refrigerator for up to 5 days. Before using, bring to room temperature and stir.


Active 5 min. - Total 5 min. Makes about 1 3/4 cups

  1. Beat sugar, butter, and vanilla in a medium bowl with an electric mixer on high speed, adding milk as needed until mixture is smooth and desired consistency, about 2 minutes. If desired, divide Icing evenly into separate bowls and stir in food coloring.

  2. Store in an airtight container in refrigerator for up to 5 days. Before using, bring to room temperature and stir.

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