Rolled Sugar Cookie Recipe with Royal Icing

Build your piping skills and let your creativity flow with fun and festive Christmas cookie designs.

Photo of a tray of Christmas-themed decorated cookies.
Photos © Kevin Kennefick, excerpted from Cookie Craft Christmas.

Many of our Cookie Craft Christmas creations start with the delicious (and ubiquitous), golden sugar cookie. This recipe features our time-tested rolling-chilling-cutting technique ensuring a smooth surface for all your holiday designs. It makes about a dozen 4½-inch cookies or two dozen 3-inch cookies. Plus, we’re sharing details for a simple royal icing perfect for flooding, piping, and detailing your designs.



  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla* or 1 teaspoon vanilla plus zest of 1 lemon
  • food coloring (if your cookie design calls for it)

*Instead of vanilla, you can use other extracts such as almond or peppermint, which we like for candy-cane shapes. If you’re going to be decorating with royal icing, make sure the cookie and icing flavorings are complementary.

Photo of two sugar cookie doves with greenery sprig made out of icing.
Photos © Kevin Kennefick, excerpted from Cookie Craft Christmas.


  1. Whisk together the flour and salt in a medium bowl.
  2. Cream together the butter and sugar with your mixer until light and fluffy. Add the egg, vanilla, and lemon zest (if you’re using it) and mix until well blended.
  3. With the mixer on low, gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture until the two are thoroughly blended. If your design calls for adding food coloring, do so now, and blend well.
  4. Turn the dough onto a work surface and divide into two or three equal portions. Form each one into a rough disk. Now you’re ready to roll, chill, and cut out cookie shapes.
  5. Place a piece of waxed paper about the size of your cookie sheet on your rolling surface.
  6. Place cookie slats on the edges of the paper. The slats should be a rolling-pin width apart, to ensure that there’s stable contact between the slats and both ends of the rolling pin.
  7. Place a disk of cookie dough on top of the waxed paper, between the slats. Place another sheet of waxed paper over the cookie dough and slats and use your hand or rolling pin to slightly flatten and evenly distribute the dough across the paper. Roll the pin over the waxed paper-covered dough, making sure the ends of the pin stay on the slats as the dough flattens (the pin will hover above the slats at first). If the top paper wrinkles, lift and smooth it. You’re finished rolling when the dough surface is uniform and completely level with the cookie slats. You’ll recognize this point: rolling the pin over the dough will feel effortless.
  8. Slide the rolled-out piece of dough (paper and all) onto a cookie sheet and refrigerate until it’s firm, 20 to 30 minutes. Repeat the rolling process with the remaining dough portions.
  9. When the dough is firm and stiff, transfer it from the refrigerator to your flat work surface. Work with one piece of dough at a time, leaving the others to chill in the refrigerator until you’re ready to cut them. Peel back the top waxed paper from the dough and cut your desired shapes. Try to get as many cookies as possible out of each rolled-out piece of dough.
  10. Remove excess dough from around the shapes. Transfer the cookies to a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining pieces of dough, rerolling and chilling the scraps until you’ve used all the dough.
  11. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  12. Bake in the middle rack of your oven for 12 to 16 minutes or until the cookies start to turn slightly golden around the edges.
  13. Cool the cookies completely before icing or decorating.
Photo of a cookie decorated to look like the side profile of Santa Claus.
Photos © Kevin Kennefick, excerpted from Cookie Craft Christmas.

Royal Icing

This easy recipe for royal icing makes enough to pipe, flood, and detail two to three batches of rolled sugar cookies.

Ingredients for Piping

  • 2 cups (½ pound) confectioners’ sugar
  • 4 teaspoons meringue powder
  • 3 tablespoons warm water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice or ½ teaspoon vanilla or other extract

Ingredients for Flooding

  • 4 cups (1 pound) confectioners’ sugar
  • 4 teaspoons meringue powder
  • 6 tablespoons warm water
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice or 1 teaspoon vanilla or other extract
Photo of a cookie decorated with an icing Christmas tree and snow.
Photos © Kevin Kennefick, excerpted from Cookie Craft Christmas.


  1. Combine all ingredients in the bowl of your electric mixer.
  2. Beat on high for 5 minutes if you’re using an electric stand mixer or for 10 minutes if you’re using an electric hand mixer. (If your mixer has multiple attachments, use the paddle.)
  3. When you reach the desired consistency, it’s important that you immediately cover the mixture (it dries out quickly) or divide it into separate airtight containers for coloring.

Excerpted from Cookie Craft Christmas © Valerie Peterson and Janice Fryer. Photos © Kevin Kennefick.

Valerie Peterson

Valerie Peterson

About the Author

Valerie Peterson is the co-author of Cookie Craft and Cookie Craft Christmas, and the author of Peterson’s Happy Hour and Peterson’s Holiday Helper. Prior to her full-time writing career, she worked for various publishers including Random House and John Wiley. She lives in Manhattan, New York.

Janice Fryer is co-author of Cookie Craft and Cookie Craft Christmas. She is a Pastry Arts graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City, and lives in New York. 

Learn more about this author

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