Start to finish: 2 hours Servings: 36 2-inch round cookies Difficulty Level: Beginner

Most cookies follow a 1-2-3 ratio of sugar to fat to flour, aptly called 1-2-3 cookie dough. Sugar cookies, perhaps the most basic kind of cookies, require only four ingredients: granulated sugar, butter, eggs and flour, with the eggs and butter contributing one part fat each. The four-ingredient sugar cookie gets a boost from a few kitchen incidentals -- baking powder for rise, real vanilla extract for base flavor, and, if you're feeling ambitious, a garnish for visual and textural appeal.


  • 8 ounces butter, softened
  • 8 ounces sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • Salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Garnishes, such as raw sugar, candy pieces and colored sprinkles (optional)


Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Mix 8 ounces of softened butter, 8 ounces of sugar, one large egg and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract using a mixer or whisk just until the ingredients come together. Over-mixing the butter causes the sugar cookies to spread too much during baking.

Sift 2 cups of flour, a pinch of salt and 1 teaspoon of baking powder into a separate bowl.

Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients using a spatula.

Divide the dough in half. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and chill it in the refrigerator until very cold, about one hour.

Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Once cooled, roll out the sugar cookie dough to 1/8- to 1/6-inch thickness on a floured work surface using a floured rolling pin. Alternatively, roll out the dough between two sheets of lightly floured parchment paper.

Cut cookies out of the dough using a cookie cutter and transfer them to the baking sheets. Space the cookies at least 1/4 inch apart.

Combine the dough scraps into a ball. Roll out the ball of dough scraps to get another cookie or two out of it if possible.

Chill the cookie dough in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. This limits spreading. Sprinkle any garnishes, such as coarse raw sugar or chopped nuts, on the cookies.

Bake the cookies until they're slightly brown around the edges, about 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack and let them cool to room temperature. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.


Use an all-purpose flour with high protein content for a chewy sugar cookie. Protein content varies among brands.

Make a sugar cookie icing using three parts confectioner's sugar to one part milk or cream. Add food coloring as needed.

You can store sugar cookie dough in the freezer for up to one month.

About the Author

A.J. Andrews

A.J. Andrews' work has appeared in Food and Wine, Fricote and "BBC Good Food." He lives in Europe where he bakes with wild yeast, milks goats for cheese and prepares for the Court of Master Sommeliers level II exam. Andrews received formal training at Le Cordon Bleu.