Soft Sugar Cookies

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My favorite sugar cookie recipe gets is soft texture from sour cream.  Sugar cookies are easy to customize for any season or holiday.

Source: My mother has been making this recipe for years. I have no idea where she got it. It is the only sugar cookie I have ever known.

Yield: varies, but about 5-6 dozen

I hope you don’t think less of me if I tell you that this cookie I make is amazing. It is delectable. It is soft, and sweet, and creamy, and wonderful. You know those giant sugar cookies with the pink icing that sit near the counter at the gas station? This is just like that. Only, possibly better. I have had numerous people ask me for the recipe, and one friend has told me at least a dozen times how wonderful this cookie is.

Having said all of that, I will, however parenthetically, list the cons. These are kind of a pain in the butt to make. I basically only make them at Christmas, because that is the only time I have the patience for it. Plus, if I’m going to bother to make them at all, I generally go all out and double the already large recipe. It’s time-consuming and tiresome, but we have sugar cookies coming out the wazoo. No one complains.

There is no magic to the recipe, just mix the ingredients in order. However, I will tell you that when I double it, it tests the limits of my Kitchen Aid mixer. I have to hold my hands around the edges to keep all that flour in. You absolutely cannot skimp on the flour. You will need even more of it for the next phase of the cookie making.

Once the ingredients are all mixed together, wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap, or, if you are lazy like I am, just throw it all in a large ziploc bag and close it up. Put it in the fridge for several hours. I prefer to make the dough in the evening, and let it chill overnight before rolling out.
Here’s a picture of my dough, but keep in mind that this is a double batch.

So, after it sits in the fridge for several hours, it is time to roll it out. Be sure to flour your counter or rolling surface well before you begin. For good measure, I like to flour the rolling pin and the cookie cutters. And my hands, if the truth be told. If the dough gets on my fingers, then I just have to lick it off, and then I have to wash my hands again. It gets old.

This might be a good time to mention something to all the raw-cookie-dough lovers out there. This is quite possible the best dough ever for eating plain. I suggest eating a good meal before you start rolling these out, or you may have trouble controlling yourself.

So, grab a big glob of dough (technical term) and drop it on the floured surface. Start rolling from the center toward the edges. This is the most critical stage of the process. Sugar cookie success depends upon the rolling. This cannot be overstated. Be sure you do not roll it too thin. This cookie loses it’s soft and creamy quality if it is too thin. It bakes into something crunchy and hard, something that requires dunking in coffee to enjoy. This is not what we are going for.

As you can see from the picture, it is about 1/4″ thickness, perhaps just a touch thicker. This will seem pretty heavy for a cookie, but trust me. It is the key.

Now you use your cookie cutter to make cute shapes, lay them gently on the sheet pan, and bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes.

I have said it before, and I will say it again. DO NOT OVERBAKE these. If it looks like this pan full of cookies here, all soft and puffy, you are getting it right. If the edges are turning brown like this picture of the 2 candy canes, you have let it go too long. Avoid letting them turn brown. It is death to the soft sugar cookie.

Once they are baked, the next step is the frosting. Let me here interject a word or two about storing these cookies. Once they are cooled, it is best not to let them sit out for more than a couple hours. They will dry out and lose their identity. If you are not going to frost them right away, put them in an airtight container, or the ever-useful ziploc bag until you are ready. This will keep them soft and wonderful for a few days.

On with the frosting recipe:

4 oz. cream cheese
2 T butter
2 T milk
powdered sugar (I don’t really have an amount… but plan on 2 cups or so)
1-2 drops food coloring, if desired

So, some tips to great frosting. First, make sure the cream cheese and butter are soft. I like to just put them on top of the stove while the cookies are baking, but you can use the microwave, or leave them out overnight. Start by creaming the cream cheese and butter together with the hand mixer. Then add the milk. Then start adding in powdered sugar a bit at a time. The reason for this is so you can get the consistency right. Just keep adding sugar until it’s as thick as you like it. Personally, I think it needs to be pretty thick to stay on the cookie without making a mess, but if it is too thick, the sprinkles have a hard time sticking. Once it is all made, you can add a drop or two of food coloring, if you want.

Also, if you are not a big cream cheese fan, you can leave it out, double the butter and make your frosting that way. Just know that I will have lost all respect for you.

For my batch, I chose to do some with white frosting. I used wax paper to cut out a candy cane shape with stripes, and then placed it over the frosted cookie. I spread red and green sprinkles over the wax paper, then carefully pulled it away, leaving a cute striped cane look. I was pretty proud of myself. I am normally not quite that cutesy.

Cute, right? I also did some in pink and green, just to be festive.

Storing the cookies after frosting is similar to before. You should leave them out for an hour or so, to let the frosting dry and harden a little. This way they won’t stick together when you stack them. Put them in some kind of plastic container with a good lid, with wax paper between layers. They will stay good for several days. They also freeze very well. They are great cold, but if you let them come back to room temperature, they return to their soft and creamy glory. Delicious.

Yield? With my double batch, I almost got 12 dozen candy canes. This will, as you might suspect, vary widely, depending on dough thickness, size of cookie cutter, and of course, how much raw dough you eat. I personally like when the cookies break, because it makes them completely unsuitable for sharing with others. Anyhoo… I’m calling it about 5.5 dozen of the cookie I’m sure they are eating in heaven.
Update: One of my favorite things about this cookie is how versatile it is for different seasons and holidays.  For instance, I finally broke down and bought a cute as heck shamrock cookie cutter, and now I have St. Patrick’s Day Sugar Cookies.  Yay!
Soft Sugar Cookies
Cook time
Total time
A recipe for a wonderfully soft sugar cookie with cream cheese frosting.
Serves: 5 dozen
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 5 cups flour + more for rolling
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 2 T. butter, softened
  • 2 T. milk
  • approximately 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1-2 drops food coloring, if desired
  1. Cream shortening and sugar. Add eggs, sour cream, and vanilla and mix well.
  2. Add dry ingredients, taking care not to over mix.
  3. Wrap dough tightly in plastic wrap and chill several hours or overnight.
  4. On floured surface, roll a large section of dough to ¼" thickness. Cut shapes and place them on baking sheet.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Allow to cool before frosting.
  6. For frosting, mix cream cheese, butter and milk until smooth.
  7. Add powdered sugar a little at a time, until frosting reaches desired consistency. Add food coloring.
  8. Frost cooled cookies, and allow to set about 30-60 minutes before storing in an airtight container between layers of wax paper.

If you like this recipe, you might also like:

Chocolate Sugar Cookies by Jen’s Favorite Cookies
Chocolate Mint Thumbprints by Two Peas and Their Pod
Chewy Lemon Sugar Cookies by Craving Chronicles