The sugar cookie is a classic. But it’s also boring. The beauty of the sugar cookie is its simplicity—it doesn’t require much more than flour, butter, and sugar to be a delicious treat. But, unfortunately, these basic ingredients can create something amazing and dull if you’re not careful.
So when I set out to make my recipe for these cookies, I knew that something would have to be different for me to want to make it again and again. In this case, “different” meant adding some lemon zest and orange juice to brighten the flavor! It worked like a charm! These cookies are still simple enough for beginners (and are great if you’ve never baked before) but have enough flavor that they won’t bore those who’ve made them before or want their treats with an extra kick (i.e., me!).
- In a large bowl, cream together 1/2 cup butter and 4 cups flour until combined.
- Add 2 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp salt, and 3 cups powdered sugar to the flour mixture, then add 1 cup vegetable oil, two eggs (beaten), and 1 tsp vanilla extract and mix until just combined.
- Roll out dough on a floured surface until it’s about 1/4-inch thick; then cut into shapes with cookie cutters or any other desired shape! If you choose not to bake them immediately after cutting out shapes, place them on parchment paper-lined baking sheets in the freezer for 10 minutes or refrigerator for 20 minutes before baking off at 350F degrees for 8-10 minutes (depending on size).
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
- Butter should be at room temperature and soft before you use it in a recipe. It will make it easier to cream and spread, resulting in lighter cookies.
- To bring butter to room temperature, allow it to sit on the counter for 30 minutes. You can also place the sticks between two paper towels (or other absorbent material) and microwave them for 10 seconds at a time until they are soft enough to work with easily.
- To tell if your butter is at room temperature, try pressing your finger into it: if it doesn’t leave an indentation immediately after pressing down, it should be ready for use!
4 cups flour
- Put the flour in a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine.
- Add 4 cups of flour, one tablespoon salt, and three teaspoons of baking powder. Whisk again until smooth, ensuring no lumps remain (you don’t want to bite into a grainy cookie!).
- Pour in the milk on top of everything else, add one egg, and beat everything together with your whisk or wooden spoon until it’s just combined—you’re not trying to mix it thoroughly here; you want everything coated in wet ingredients so that when you add them all together, later on, they’ll bind properly without any dry spots sticking out like sore thumbs (ew).
2 tsp baking powder
Baking powder is a leavening agent which helps your cookies rise. It works by releasing carbon dioxide bubbles into the dough when an acid ingredient such as molasses or buttermilk is added, and this causes your cookies to expand. The combination of baking soda and dry acid (typically potassium bitartrate) in a 1:1 ratio creates this reaction. Since you’re using just two teaspoons of baking powder here, it will not hugely affect how much your sugar cookie rises during cooking—but it’s one more step toward making sure that your cookies will turn out well!
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
3 cups powdered sugar
There are three cups of powdered sugar in this recipe. That’s a lot of powdered sugar! If you’re new to measuring ingredients, here’s how you do it:
- Use a spoon-and-level method for flour and salt. This is best accomplished by using a large old spoon (the kind with holes in the handle), as shown below. Pour your ingredient into the bowl, then level off the top with your finger or another flat object until it’s nice and even.
- For baking powder and vegetable oil? Just pour them in! Easy peasy lemon squeezy!
1 cup vegetable oil
Vegetable oil is a good choice for baking. However, if you don’t have any in your pantry, go ahead and grab some canola oil—it’s the best option for these cookies. Unlike olive oil or other flavorsome oils, vegetable oil has a neutral flavor that won’t overpower the cookies’ sweetness.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats, or use one large baking sheet; set aside.
- Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl; set aside until you’re ready to make dough balls later on (you want it ready but not mixed into the flour yet).
- Cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy—this should take about 5 minutes using an electric mixer on medium speed (4-6 minutes if whisking by hand).
- Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition; scrape down the sides of the bowl after each egg goes in so that everything gets mixed in evenly without clumps forming anywhere (this can happen if you don’t clean off your beaters at least every few seconds while creaming). If using liquid sweetener instead of granulated sugar, add it now while continuing to beat on medium speed; then increase speed slightly higher than medium so that more air gets incorporated into the batter without overbeating them into a fluffy mess!
1 tsp vanilla extract
Vanilla extract is stronger than vanilla essence, so use it sparingly. You can also use vanilla paste if you prefer a thicker consistency. Vanilla extract and paste are used in baking, ice cream making, and cakes and cookies.
- To make the dough, in a large mixing bowl, cream together 2 1/2 sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter and 1/2 cup granulated sugar until light and fluffy. This should take anywhere from 5 to 7 minutes, depending on the quality of your mixer (if you’re using an electric hand mixer, it may not be able to achieve this level of creaming).
- Add one large egg at a time and beat well after each addition—the batter will look curdled at first, but don’t worry. The liquidy-looking bits will eventually become more homogenized with the rest of the flour mixture as you continue to mix it; keep going!
- In another bowl, whisk together 2 cups cake flour (or all-purpose), one teaspoon baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and six tablespoons milk until thoroughly combined—this is what we’ll use for our “cake” part later on in this process!
Preheat the oven to 350°F
Preheat the oven to 350°F
The dough should be rolled out on a flat surface, not in the bowl of your stand mixer. It’s also important to bake these cookies on a flat surface instead of one that slopes upwards at the edges, which will cause them to spread more than desired and make it difficult for them to hold their shape once baked. The best way I know how to describe this is by comparing it to when you shape hamburger patties by hand: if you press down too hard while shaping them, they’ll end up looking more like meatballs than patties; likewise, if you don’t press down hard enough while rolling out your sugar cookie dough (or any other type of dough), they won’t hold their shape as well after baking!
You want these cookies soft but not mushy — they should stay soft at room temperature (they’ll soften even more after being refrigerated) and have just enough chewiness so they don’t feel like something straight out Mcdonald’s’. If, for some reason, yours come out too soft after baking, don’t worry about re-baking them—add an extra 1/4 cup flour next time so that they’re less delicate when formed into balls before chilling overnight in the fridge. Before rolling out again!
Sugar cookies are delicious.
Sugar cookies are delicious. They’re also easy to make and a great holiday treat, so you should definitely try them!
Sugar cookies are a good choice for using up leftover ingredients you have lying around in your kitchen. For example, if you have some flour left over from making pancakes, some butter that would otherwise go bad, or even just sugar—you can use them all to make delicious sugar cookies!
Sugar cookies are a classic, and they’re delicious! I love to eat them warm out of the oven, but they taste just as good even when cold. And with so many different ways to decorate them (and so many colors), there is no doubt that these will be your go-to sweet treat for parties or anytime you need something sweet in your life.