Valentine’s Day is the quintessential sugar cookie holiday. It’s the day that I equate with sugar cookies. As long as I can remember, every Valentine’s Day I would wake up to a beautiful, pink sugar cookie with white icing piped around the outside and my name written in the middle. This was no fancy bakery-style cookie. This was a home-made, made-with-love cookie by my mom. My childhood Valentine mornings were more about cookies than any Valentine card I received. That cookie, flavored with almond, topped with a whole lot of buttercream and oh-so-sweet will always be my top Valentine memory.
That childhood Valentine memory has stuck with me so much that even though we are not a “cookies for breakfast” family, I give my kids a homemade Valentine sugar cookie on Valentine’s morning…and they look forward to it all year long. Isn’t it funny how traditions are like that? To think that one simple cookie could evoke so many memories for generations. I love that about food and family and how little simple things repeated every year can mean so much.
Over the years I’ve played around with my mom’s amazing sugar cookie recipe. I love her recipe, but it calls for a lot of Crisco and truthfully, I’m not the biggest fan of baking with shortening and don’t usually keep it in my pantry. Butter on the other hand…I keep many pounds of butter on hand. This best ever sugar cookie recipe has all the nostalgia of Mom’s but with 100% butter. This is the one that my kids will be eating for years to come…and maybe my grandkids too (you know, unless they also decide to change it up 🙂 ).
Thin and Crispy or Thick and Chewy
Which is your favorite? A thin and crispy cookie or a thick and chewy cookie? Whatever way you answer, you are going to love this cookie. My personal preference is thick and chewy. I love a cookie that is ¼ inch or more in thickness and slathered with some buttercream. This cookie fits the bill for a chewy sugar cookie. BUT, if you love a thin and crispy cookie, the recipe works just as well. My kids always seem to roll the dough out paper thin and the cookies come out crispy on the outside with just a little give in the center. They almost have me converted to thin and crispy. Basically, no matter how you roll these, you can get your preference. If you want them crispy, roll them thinner. If you want them chewy, roll them thick.
Tips for Baking with Kids
One of the reasons I love this best ever sugar cookie dough is because it is so simple to make with kids. I have four kids, so I almost always double the recipe. My kids all enjoy cutting out shapes and making their own set of sugar cookies. I find it easiest to portion a section of dough for each child. I set them up with a piece of parchment paper, a little bit of flour and a rolling pin to roll out their own dough while I make my own cookies. This way, I don’t care whatever shapes they cut or how thick or thin their cookies are. They get full autonomy over their cookies and I get to make mine exactly how I like them (especially if I’m planning to gift some to friends and neighbors).
No Chilling Required and Rolling the Dough
A lot of sugar cookie recipes require you to chill the dough. One of the things I love about these best ever sugar cookies is that no chilling is required. If you need to chill the dough for planning purposes, you can, but there is no need. You can go straight from mixing up the dough to having beautiful cookies cooling in just a few minutes. I like to use a pastry mat to roll out my sugar cookie dough. Lightly flour the bottom of your pastry mat (or countertop works too). Set the ball of dough on top of the lightly floured surface. Sprinkle a little more flour on top of the dough or on the rolling pin and gently roll the dough until it is your desired thickness. Cut out your shapes. You may need to use a spatula to lift the cookie dough onto the baking sheet. If you notice your dough sticking a lot, add a little bit more flour. The scraps of the dough can be re-rolled a few times to use up as much dough as possible.
Almond Extract in Cookie Dough
One of my favorite flavors to add to a sugar cookie is almond extract. I love a hint of almond in these cookies, but you could substitute any other favorite flavor. Some like lemon, or a blend of coconut and almond extracts is also very good. If you want to stick with vanilla extract, they will taste delicious. It’s all about your personal preference.
Baking with or without Convection
I am a big believer in baking cookies using the convection setting on your oven if possible (read more about that in this cookie recipe here). However, I have baked these cookies for years using a regular bake. Just recently I tried them out on convection and the main difference is that convection bake saves you a couple minutes of bake time if you want a thick, chewy sugar cookie. If you are going for a crispier cookie, using convection would be the way to go to get a crispy edge. You may want to add a minute or two onto the bake time for a crispier cookie. If you choose to use convection, bake at 325 for about 8 minutes or bake on regular heat at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.
Sugar cookies taste delicious with any type of icing. I love how pretty royal icing looks, but buttercream always will be my favorite way to top sugar cookies. Growing up, my mom always used Crisco in her buttercream. I loved it as a kid, but now I prefer to use 100% real butter. If you want good piping/hardening consistency you can substitute half Crisco for part of the butter in the buttercream. It is important to whip the butter for a few minutes before adding in the sugar. This helps to lighten the color of the buttercream and give the desired light and fluffy consistency. I like adding heavy cream to the frosting for the extra creamy flavor. You can substitute milk if in a pinch, but it won’t be as creamy. If you are planning to color the buttercream with food coloring, it is best to use a gel color so the buttercream doesn’t change consistency, though drop colors will work in a pinch. The key to good buttercream: whip it, whip it, whip it.
Freezing Best Ever Sugar Cookies
One of my biggest tips for home bakers is: use your freezer. Sometimes I don’t have time to make sugar cookies from start to finish. I often will make the sugar cookie base, freeze the bases and then frost them later. Sometimes I will make and frost the sugar cookies and then freeze the whole cookie. I can pull the frosted cookies out the morning I want to gift them, let them come to room temperature and then give them away. This is a huge time saver for a busy mom and it makes the “project” of sugar cookies less overwhelming. Break the process down into a couple of days. The sugar cookie bases themselves freeze easier than a whole assembled cookie. Stack them, cover in plastic wrap or tin foil or place them in an airtight container to freeze. When you are ready to frost them, pull the cookie bases out of the freezer and frost. No need to let the cookies come to room temperature. They are actually easier to frost frozen and will come to room temperature quickly and taste delicious. If you want to store cookies that have been frosted, lay them out on a cookie sheet after frosting/piping. Freeze in a single layer. Once hardened, add a few more cookies on top of them and freeze. Cover with saran wrap and tin foil to store.
So what are you waiting for? Make a big batch of these amazing best ever sugar cookies and give a few to your Valentine, family, teachers or friends. We make the cookies ahead of time and enjoy frosting them closer to Valentines Day. Who knows, maybe you will even luck out with a cookie for breakfast this year!
Best Ever Sugar Cookies
Best Ever Sugar Cookies
- 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter 3 sticks or 24 Tablespoons, room temperature
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 3 eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon almond extract optional, but we LOVE it
- 4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon cream of tartar see recipe notes
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract see recipe notes
- 2-4 Tablespoons heavy cream see recipe notes
Best Ever Sugar Cookies
- To the bowl of stand mixer, mix the butter until light and fluffy. Add the granulated sugar and cream together.
- Add the eggs an egg at a time and mix. Continue mixing until fully incorporated.
- Add the vanilla extract and almond extract. Mix together.
- To a medium-sized bowl, add the dry ingredients: all purpose flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt and cream of tartar. Whisk together with a fork.
- Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix until completely combined. Don't be too zealous with the mixing, but make sure you have a cohesive mass of dough.
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees regular bake or 325 degrees convection. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper (my favorite cookie sheet here, affiliate link)
- Lightly flour a countertop or pastry mat.
- Turn the dough out onto the counter and split into a few pieces.
- Working with a piece at a time, roll the dough to about 1/4 of an inch thick, flouring a little as needed, though be careful to not over-flour the dough. If you want a crispier cookie, roll the dough a little thinner to 1/8 of an inch.
- Using a cookie cutter (affiliate link), cut shapes out of the dough. Try to place your shapes as close together as possible to use up as much dough without needing to re-roll. Place cut cookie dough on a cookie sheet with a little space in between each cookie.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes (or 325 convection for 8 minutes). For a crispier cookie, bake an extra minute or two. Let cookies cool for a few minutes before removing from the pan to cool.
- Continue this process, re-rolling scraps together once or twice until all your cookie dough is used up.
- Let cookies cool completely before frosting or freezing.
- To Freeze: Stack cooled cookies. Place cookies in an airtight container and freeze. Pull out when ready to frost, and frost from frozen.
- To the bowl of a stand mixer, or to a bowl with a handheld mixer, add the room temperature butter. Whip together with the whisk attachment or beaters. Whip for a few minutes until the butter is light and airy looking.
- Add the powdered sugar, vanilla extract and almond extract if desired. Whip together.
- Add heavy cream as you are whipping the frosting, beginning with 2 Tablespoons and increasing up to 4 Tablespoons depending on how you prefer the consistency of the frosting. Add food coloring if desired.
- Continue whipping until light, creamy and whiter in color (the buttercream loses its yellow, buttery color and turns more white the longer you whip it for).
- Frost cooled cookies or frozen cookies with buttercream. Pipe around edges if desired. Enjoy!