Table of Contents
  1. The ingredients that make these the best cookies
  2. Why use royal icing?
  3. Watch how to make these sugar cookies
  4. Christmas Sugar Cookies Recipe

Growing up, we always made decorated cutout sugar cookies. The kitchen would be a mess from all the sprinkles, sanding sugars, candy, and frosting used by my sister and me. Honestly, after Christmas, the cutout cookies were usually the variety that had the most remaining. As fun as they were to decorate, they really didn’t have much flavor. The cookie itself was more of a vehicle for whatever we piled on top.

These are a better cutout cookie and I find myself craving these, even without the decor on top. The texture is soft and almost melts in your mouth with incredible flavor. Decorate them however you wish or leave them plain. They’re just that good!

Top down view of Christmas sugar cookies after being decorated sitting on white countertop

The ingredients that make these the best cookies

  • Butter imparts a great underlying flavor. And as always, the better the butter, the richer the flavor. Use unsalted butter to control the amount of salt in the recipe.
  • Cream cheese, a little of which goes a long way. The cream cheese plays a crucial role in creating the perfect texture with just a hint of tanginess to offset the sweetness.
  • Vanilla extract is often viewed as a standard prerequisite, but in these cookies, it’s a consciously-added ingredient. Make sure to use real extract for a clean vanilla flavor.
  • Almond extract gives the cookies that “it” factor that people fall in love with. Since almond extract can be strong, adding it with the vanilla helps to balance out the almond. Think of this as a slight wedding cake flavor vibe.
  • Orange zest and orange juice play with the almond and add a hint of citrus that feels very festive. This is what truly helps make these cookies taste as good as they look.
Top down close up view of green colored Christmas tree shaped sugar cookie sitting on white countertop

Why use royal icing?

The classic choice for frosting is royal icing. As opposed to heavy buttercreams, royal icing offers just a thin layer of sweetness. It also provides the best way to decorate in more intricate patterns.

The trick with royal icing is to give oneself some grace if it has not been worked with before. Consistency is key in creating the correct ratio that pipes easily and dries quickly. When mixed correctly, the icing should be thick and pour out like a ribbon, retaining some viscosity. Humidity and temperature make a huge difference and may need adjustments to make it just right.

Hand holding squeeze bottle filled with red food coloring decorating Christmas sugar cookies sitting on white countertop

Watch how to make these sugar cookies

Decorated Christmas tree sugar cookie sitting on white countertop with other cookies all around

Christmas Sugar Cookies

4.54 from 15 votes
Author: Kaleb
Honestly, there's no better time of the year to make sugar cookies than during the holidays. These light and airy cookies are made with a bit of citrus, which is perfect for winter. And when topped with a royal icing, they're a festive treat!
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 14 mins
Chill Time 30 mins
Total Time 1 hr 4 mins
Servings 30 cookies (approx.)

Ingredients

For the cookies

  • 1 cup butter room temperature
  • 2 oz cream cheese room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp almond extract
  • 2 tsp orange zest
  • 1 ½ tbsp orange juice
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt

For the royal icing

  • 3 oz egg whites (about 3 egg whites)
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla powder (or vanilla extract)

Instructions
 

For the cookies

  • In an electric mixer, cream the butter and cream cheese until smooth, 1-2 minutes. Add the sugar and cream until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Mix in the egg, orange zest, orange juice, vanilla, and almond extract. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix well and scrape the bowl to ensure everything is incorporated.
    1 cup butter, 2 oz cream cheese, 1 cup sugar, 1 large egg, 1 tsp vanilla extract, ½ tsp almond extract, 2 tsp orange zest, 1 ½ tbsp orange juice, 3 cups flour, 1 ½ tsp baking powder, ½ tsp salt
  • Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap. Chill for at least 30 minutes or overnight. The dough may also be frozen for up to one month.
  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Once well chilled, roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to ¼- to ½-inch thick and cut with desired cookie cutters. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets. Place in the preheated oven and bake until slightly puffed and just beginning to turn golden, 10-14 minutes.
  • Once baked, remove from the oven and cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes. Transfer to cooling racks and cool completely. Frost with favorite icing or try royal icing (instructions below).

For the royal icing

  • Mix the egg whites, 3 ½ cups powdered sugar, and vanilla powder together until smooth. Add the remaining ½ cup of powdered sugar until the frosting is thick and like a ribbon when pouring out.
    3 oz egg whites (about 3 egg whites), 4 cups powdered sugar, ½ tsp vanilla powder (or vanilla extract)
  • Separate into bowls and color with food coloring.
  • Use pastry bags or a plastic cookie decorating bottle to decorate the cookies.

Nutrition

Serving: 1cookieCalories: 190kcalCarbohydrates: 30gProtein: 2gFat: 7.1gSaturated Fat: 4.3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.3gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gCholesterol: 24.4mgSodium: 54.4mgPotassium: 78.6mgFiber: 0.4gSugar: 19.9gVitamin A: 60.3IUVitamin C: 0.6mgCalcium: 28.9mgIron: 0.7mg
Course Cookies
Cuisine American
Difficulty Intermediate
Method Baking

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Kaleb

I’m Kaleb! I'm not a chef, professional baker, landscaper, or designer, but I like to play each on Knollgate Farm. Come join me on my journey and let's learn together!

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13 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    We have needs in our family for gluten-free dairy free and vegan recipes this Christmas so I am trying your sugar cookie recipe – 🤞🤞🤞 that this recipe will work with almond flour vegan butter and egg substitute!!!

    1. 5 stars
      Cookies are yummy! Not your usual bland crispy sugar cookie. The orange and almond fives flavor but doesn’t over power. I didn’t try the royal icing, maybe next time!

  2. I so love watching all you videos Kaleb. I’ve learned ALOT from you and I thank you for that. I’ve always wanted to try making a sugar cookie with royal icing and your recipe seems very simple. Im going to give them a try. I sure hope they look as good as yours and taste amazing. Merry Christmas from Baden, Ontario Canada. 🎄

    1. 5 stars
      Just a question every time we make sugar cookies when we bake them they puff up so much that you can’t even tell what the cutout was they all just look like blobs..lol.. any ideas why that is happening. We are going to try your recipe this weekend.

      Thank you for the YouTube videos we love to watch them.

  3. I just made these sugar cookies and I have to say that out of all my sugar cookie recipes this one is the BEST! That hint of orange and almond with that cream cheese which makes the cookie velvety smooth and so delicious! I know I am going to have to make more batches of this one! I am so happy to have this recipe. Thank you Kaleb!

  4. Kaleb,
    OMG, your sugar cookie recipe was not only simple but the flavor was on point! Also, your peanut brittle was awesome as well. Thanks for sharing not only your recipes but also your memories as you made them.

  5. Shipping to Fam in USA … any special packing recommendations to prevent cookies from breakage while in transit?

  6. 5 stars
    Your sugar cookie recipe is the very first one not to “flop”!!! This being after many attempts of others over the years. They were easy and dough stored in fridge for five days, no problem, until I had time to do cut outs. (Just as you mentioned)
    Thank you thank you thank you for sharing all that you do with us. I love learning from you! Oh yes, your Ultimate Chocolate Chip cookie….. Is truly ULTIMATE!
    Hugs from St Louis

  7. 5 stars
    Made these cookies and they are delicious and also the nicest decorated cookies I’ve ever made thank you for the how to video 😊

  8. Kaleb, love watching you on Facebook!!! I was wondering if your cut out sugar cookies can be used for valentine cut out cookies or should I change out the orange juice, vest and almond extract for something else, thank you

  9. I just used this recipe to make Easter cookies with my 4 year old daughter. Wow! They are absolutely outstanding. I never write comments but needed to with this recipe. The orange and almond extract really give excellent flavour and the cookies are soft and delicious. Thank you!!