Perfect Sugar Cookies

For the holidays, and beyond!

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Season: Fall, Winter
Dosha: Pitta, Vata

My mother was (and still is in her bones,) a master baker. She used to do crazy things like make sugar cookie boxes to wrap our childhood Christmas gifts. (Seriously!) I was just 12-years old when she learned she was gluten-intolerant, and her codex of favorite holiday cookies was passed down to me. Perfect sugar cookies was the top of the pile.

Whimsy and magic are ingredients in perfect sugar cookies, and so is science. Even with the best ingredients around, you can’t make great cookies without these three.

I taught my friends at the Rapha RCC how to make perfect sugar cookies tonight over Zoom, which was pretty much the most fun baking cookies I’ve ever had. I shared all of the lessons that years of holiday baking (plus a culinary degree) have taught me about how to create delicious, picture perfect sugar cookies in your own kitchen this holiday.

It all begins with a great recipe

If I recall correctly, my mother’s recipe (and now mine,) came from Sesame Street, where all things magical came from in the ’80’s. I’ve shared it below. The recipe calls for a few basic ingredients, and comes together with a few untechnical, but critical steps.

See the recipe notes included for some must-do steps for the perfect sugar cookies. Beyond that, here are a few extra tips to make them exceptional:

Add a great frosting

No one was avoiding granulated sugar like the plague when I was a little person, and when the holidays roll around and my kitchen turns on, I revert to that enchanted place where sugar does all sorts of magical things, especially when mixed with egg white and a little food coloring. My favorite recipe is below!

Of course, now, we have lots of options for how to employ these confectionary powerhouses. If raw egg white freaks you out, or if you have populations in your cookie tribe who are avoiding it, meringue powder is a great option. For vegans, vegan egg replacer is your go-to substitute. All natural, plant-based food colorings are widely available too. 

Pro frosting techniques

…are actually no secret! Egg white, sugar and a teeeny tiny bit of water will do the trick! For creating puffy frosting shapes, I add almost no water to the whimsical frosting produced by the recipe below. But, to fill in glossy or glaze-y frosting, I add a bit of water. (Hint: you can use different thickness of the same frosting to create different effects on your cookies!)

Play with the thickness of frosting in your own kitchen.

Troubleshooting perfect sugar cookies

Ok! So you’ve followed the recipe to a tee. And you’re still having problems making sugar cookies that look, and taste perfect? I’ve got you.

  • Burned cookies: consistent thickness is really important! Make sure that you’re rolling your cookies to a consistent thickness, don’t bake thinner cookies with thicker cookies. Also, bake cookies that are roughly the same size!
  • Misshapen cookies: when the butter in your cookies warms, it will start to leach out of the dough. This can happen just sitting on the countertop in your kitchen OR when the dough gets overworked! Work quickly, handle the dough as little as possible!
  • Runny frosting: make sure you’re not adding too much water, and that you’re using a stabilizer – egg white is THE TICKET and make sure it’s whipped amply! Vegan stabilizers or egg replacers can also work here.

Recipe Notes

Cut no corners when it comes to cut-out cookies. Because both the ingredient list and the steps for achieving cookie dough are both short, it means that every ingredient, every step counts. A few steps not to neglect when making perfect sugar cookies:

  • Chill out: Chill the dough completely. Cutting the time short can mean misshapen cookies!
  • Keep it cold: Work quickly, on a cool countertop. The ultimate goal in a cookie recipe where the butter proportion is high is to keep that good butter COLD. When you’re baking your cookies, focus! Don’t accept phone calls, or play on Instagram, or try to multitask. Just bake the cookies. I promise, they’ll thank you for it with their perfection!
  • Keep it even: Use a ruler to measure thickness of the dough if you must. The width of the cookies really matters when it comes to making cookies that hold their shape beautifully. I absolutely pull out a ruler when I’m not sure about thickness. Doesn’t everyone have a kitchen ruler?
  • Sift it out: For superior frosting, be sure to sift the powdered sugar. Just do it. Trust.
  • Equipment: There are a few kitchen tools that will make this process a breeze:
  • Storage: Store cookies in an airtight container for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to 2 weeks. (IF they aren’t consumed before then!)

Flavor Notes

Some recipes are all about joy, and this is one of them!

  • SWEET: N/A
  • SALTY: N/A
  • SOUR: N/A

Perfect Sugar Cookies

For the holidays, and beyond!

makes 30 large cookies


Active Time: 1 hour 20 minutes


Serves: cookies


for the cookie dough:

  • 3/4 cup unsalted cultured butter (softened)
  • 1 cup evaporated cane juice OR granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt

for the royal icing:

  • 3 large egg whites
  • 4 cups powdered sugar (sifted)
  • natural food coloring (OPTIONAL)


  • 1Make the cookie dough

    In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

    In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until they turn light in color, become airy in texture and generally appear fluffy without streaks of butter.

    Turn off the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Mix again to incorporate.

    Add the vanilla extract and eggs, incorporating each egg completely before adding the next egg. Whip the mixture until it’s completely combines, without streaks of egg or butter.

    Turn off the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Mix again to incorporate.

    Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, mixing on low to incorporate. It’s important not to overmix at this point because you don’t want to warm the butter or overdevelop the gluten in the flour. Mix until just combined.

    Turn off the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Mix again to incorporate.

    Lay a large piece of plastic wrap out on your countertop. Remove the mixing bowl from the mixer and transfer the cookie dough to the plastic wrap sheet. Press the dough out into a flat rectangle, then wrap the cookie dough tightly in plastic wrap.

    Chill the cookie dough at least 1 hour, and overnight if need be or desired.

  • 2Make the icing + prepare equipment

    While the cookie dough is chilling, you can make your royal icing: in the clean bowl of the stand mixer, whip the egg whites until frothy. Add the powdered sugar and mix on medium low speed until the frosting is thick and shiny – about 3-5 minutes. If you wish to make several colors of frosting, divide the frosting between bowls and color to your liking. Add water little by little to achieve a consistency that is easy to pipe, spread or fill.

    When your dough is chilled amply, remove from the fridge and allow to warm on the countertop so it’s workable. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400°F.

    Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

  • 3Bake + ice your cookies

    Roll the dough out on a very lightly floured surface. You don’t want to add so much flour that it dries out the dough, but you also don’t want the dough to stick. Watch the texture of the dough and you’re sure to get it right!

    Roll the dough out to 1/2-1/4″, then cut out with cookie cutters. Any shapes work, as do upturned glasses, knives and anything else you can think of to press a shape into dough.

    Transfer the cookie cut outs to the prepared parchment sheets.

    Bake the cut-out cookies for 6-8 minutes, until just barely golden around the edges. Pull them from the oven before they acquire any color on the cookies themselves. Allow to cool on the baking pan for 5-10 minutes before transferring to a wire cooling rack.

    Cool the cookies completely. Then frost with icing.

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