Best Sugar Cookies

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Dessert, Snack American
By America's Test Kitchen Serves: Makes about 40 2.5-inch Cookies
Prep Time: 20 Minutes (plus 30 minutes cooling time in the freezer) Cooking Time: 14-17 Minutes, per batch Total Time: ~1.5 Hours

Buttery, light and tender with the perfect snap, these sugar cookies are a hit for every holiday, shaped and decorated as your heart desires.


  • 1 Large Egg
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 3/4 tsp. Fine Sea Salt
  • 1/4 tsp. Almond Extract
  • 2.5 cups All Purpose Flour
  • 1/4 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 1/4 tsp. Baking Soda
  • 1 cup Granulated Sugar
  • 16 tbsp. Unsalted Butter
  • Royal Icing
  • 2 ⅔ cups (10 2/3 ounces) Confectioners' Sugar
  • 2 Large Egg Whites
  • 1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 1/8 tsp. Fine Sea Salt



Cut the two sticks of unsalted butter into 1/2-inch cubes first, then put the cubed butter in the freezer while we measure and prep the rest of the ingredients.


In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, vanilla, almond extract and salt. Set that aside.


Whisk the baking powder and soda into the flour mixture and set that aside.


In a food processor, process the granulated sugar for about 30 seconds to create fine sugar. Then add the very cold cubed butter to the sugar.


Process the butter and fine sugar for about 30 seconds, until a uniform mass forms and there are no more cubes of butter.


Then pour in the egg mixture and process for another 30 seconds, until the mixture forms a paste.


Then pour in the flour mixture and process for about 30 seconds, until no more dry flour remains.


Turn dough out onto your work surface, bring the dough together and gently knead the crumbles into a disc. Then cut in half with a knife or bench scraper.


Set the two halves aside and wipe clean the work surface. Then lay a sheet of parchment down, place one of the halves in the center. Form the dough into a round disc and then use your hands to flatten it a bit.


Lay another sheet of parchment on top, and use a rolling pin to smoosh and roll the dough into an oval, 1/8-inch thick.


Keep the dough between the parchment sheets and lift the rolled dough and set in a sheet tray. Repeat this rolling process with the second half of dough and place the second rolled dough, parchment and all, on top of the first rolled dough. Place the whole sheet tray in the freezer for 30 minutes, or in the fridge for an hour and 30 minutes. Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.


Working with one sheet of dough at a time, gently pull off the top layer of parchment. Then replace that sheet of parchment and flip the dough over. Remove that bottom (now top) piece of parchment, use that piece of parchment to lay on an overturned rimmed sheet tray, or rimless cookie sheet.


Transfer cut shapes to prepared cookie sheet or overturned rimmed sheet tray. We want a rim-less baking surface so the cookies get even amounts of heat on all sides.


Bake the cookies for 14-17 minutes, turning the tray halfway through bake time. The cookies should be lightly, evenly golden around the edges.


Let cool on the tray for about 5 minutes. Then use a spatula to transfer the cookies to a wire cooling rack until completely cool.


Frost and decorate the completely cooled cookies as desired, if making Royal Icing, let the icing dry for about 1.5 hours before serving.

Royal Icing


In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk together egg whites, powdered sugar, salt and vanilla extract on medium low speed until incorporated, about 1 minute. Then switch the speed to medium-high and whip until soft glossy peaks form. About 3-4 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.