There are three factors to making bakery-style sugar cookies at home. You know what you want—cookies that hold their clean edge and shape instead of spreading out into a blob. Here’s what you need to do:
- Choose the right recipe, one with the right proportion of butter to flour and not too much else. The best I’ve worked with is this one I’ve adapted from Peggy Porschen, in her lovely book, Pretty Party Cakes.
- Keep the dough as cool as possible. What I like to do is bring the dough round to cool room temperature for rolling and cookie cutter-ing, and then place the cookies on a sheet pan and slip it into the refrigerator for a bit before going into the oven. This dough works even if you don’t do this extra step, but the colder the better for holding the shape of your cookie.
- Bump the oven temperature up a little hotter than 350 to promote sugar caramelization. I set my knob between 350 and 375 so that the edges of the cookies just barely begin to brown. This brings a slight crunch and enhances the flavor, so the cookie isn’t just about “sweet”. If you prefer a softer cookie, back off on the bake time.
Adapted from Peggy Porschen, Pretty Party Cakes
makes 24–30, 3-inch cookies
- 14 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
- 3 tablespoons whole milk
- 1 tablespoon corn syrup
- 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Cream butter and sugar using a stand mixer with paddle attachment. Add the egg, salt, and vanilla, and mix to combine. Mix in the flour. Pat dough into thick, flat disc, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 365° F. Prepare rimmed cookie sheet pan with parchment paper or Silpat liner. Roll out dough on lightly floured surface to about ¼-inch thickness. Use cookie cutters to cut out cookies and place on prepared pan. If possible, put pan in refrigerator to cool cookies before baking—even 15 minutes will make a positive difference.
Bake for 8–12 minutes, until just beginning to brown around the edges. Let cool for 5–10 minutes on pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before icing.
For the icing:
Combine icing ingredients using a stand mixer with whisk attachment. Scrape down sides of bowl using a spatula. Whisk on high speed for a minute or two to fully combine and create a smooth consistency. If too stiff, add milk by the drop. If too loose, sprinkle in more powdered sugar.
To decorate: Use a pastry bag with a small plain tip to create an outline, then flood-fill the middle.