See how to make the best no-spread sugar cookies that hold their shape perfectly in the oven! These cut-out cookies without baking powder or baking soda are made with simple ingredients and have a soft, melt-in-your-mouth texture. Included are lots of baking tips, decorating ideas, and 9 flavor variations!
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No Spread Sugar Cookie Recipe for Decorating
Looking for the best cut-out sugar cookie recipe? This is it! My sugar cookies are pillowy soft, delightfully thick, and sweet, but not too sweet. And the best part? They don’t spread and keep their shape perfectly.
These no-spread cut-out cookies are bakery quality, but surprisingly simple to make, great for everyday baking, the holiday season, parties, and gift giving.
Throughout this guide, you’ll learn my easy recipe for sugar cookies that don’t spread. I share plenty of tips for rolling and cutting the dough into shapes and baking the most incredible cookies.
My favorite part is the variations sections! Aside from the classic vanilla sugar cookies, I created 8 yummy flavor variations such as chocolate chip, coffee, citrus, hazelnut, and spiced brown sugar.
We also discuss decorating the cookies with buttercream, chocolate frosting, and a simple cookie icing. So many delicious options – you’ll love it!
This is a fairly long post. Use the Table of Content to navigate. Or tap the Jump-To-Recipe button at the top of the page to go to the recipe card right away.
Sugar Cookie Ingredients
Made with just a few basic pantry staples, you likely have all the ingredients you need to make these no baking powder sugar cookies. Please see the recipe card below for exact measurements.
- Butter: I recommend unsalted butter to control the amount of salt in these cookies. If you have salted butter, just omit the salt. The butter should be softened for 10 to 15 minutes, but not so soft that it’s oily or melting.
- Sugar: White granulated sugar gives these cookies sweetness and great texture, with crisp edges and a soft interior.
- Egg: A single egg binds the dough together. Make sure the egg is at room temperature, so it incorporates best.
- Vanilla extract: Vanilla adds warmth and depth to these cookies. Choose a pure, high-quality extract for the best flavor.
- Almond extract: It’s optional, but adding almond extract gives your sugar cookies that classic bakery-style taste.
- Flour: All-purpose flour (plain flour) works best here. Be sure to read my tips for measuring flour below. You also need a little extra for rolling the dough and preventing it from sticking.
- Salt: A little salt helps to balance the sweetness and enhances the other aromas. Again, if you have salted butter, skip or reduce the salt.
Let’s talk about the key ingredient in these cookies, butter. For the best results, your butter shouldn’t be rock hard, but it shouldn’t be too soft or greasy either.
I recommend letting the butter sit on the counter for 10 to 15 minutes. The texture is perfect if it still feels cold, and you can press the butter and leave a small imprint.
If you can easily press your finger into the butter and leave a deep indent, then the butter is too warm and soft. Return it to the fridge for a few minutes.
How to measure flour
Measuring the flour correctly is so important! You need to have just the right amount, or you could end up with cookies that are dry (too much flour) or spread (too little flour).
I highly recommend using a digital food scale to measure dry ingredients. It delivers the most accurate results.
To properly measure flour with measuring cups, you want to employ the spoon and level method. Here’s how you do it:
- Fluff up. First, use a spoon to fluff the flour in the bag or canister.
- Overfill. Then lightly spoon it into your measuring cup until overflowing.
- Sweep. Without packing, use a straight-edged butter knife or spatula to level the excess flour until it’s even with the top of your measuring cup.
Why no baking powder or baking soda?
Without any leaveners, the cookies maintain their shape and stay flat. You are also able to form thicker cookies.
The extra thickness means extra sturdiness, which makes this the best sugar cookie recipe for decorating and shipping to faraway family and friends.
Can I skip the almond extract?
Yes, you can omit the almond extract. Simply replace it with the same amount of vanilla extract. If you are worried about a nut allergy, you can also use artificial almond flavoring.
- Digital kitchen scale to weigh the ingredients. Alternately, use measuring cups and spoons and read my tips on measuring flour.
- Stand mixer with the paddle attachment to combine the ingredients. You can also use a handheld mixer and a large mixing bowl.
- Rubber spatula to scrape down the bowl.
- Rolling pin to roll out the dough.
- Cookie sheets – I recommend light-colored aluminum sheets.
- Parchment paper (baking paper) or non-stick cooking mats.
- Cookie cutters to cut out shapes.
How to Make No-Spread Sugar Cookies
Whipping up a batch of sugar cookies without baking powder is a cinch. You can use a stand or hand mixer – both work great. Let me walk you through how to make sugar cookies without baking powder!
How to make sugar cookie dough
- Cream butter and sugar. Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, or a handheld mixer and a large mixing bowl, beat the butter, sugar, and salt on high speed until creamy and pale, about 2 minutes.
- Add wet ingredients. Add the egg, vanilla extract, and almond extract. Mix on medium speed until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Add dry ingredients. Turn down the mixer to low and gradually Add the flour. Mix until you no longer see streaks of flour. Be careful not to overmix. At this point, the dough may seem crumbly, which is okay.
- Divide dough. Knead the dough gently together until smooth. Then divide your dough into 2 equal portions and shape each piece into a flat disk. Continue to the next step or roll each dough disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to bake.
How to roll, cut, and bake sugar cookies
- Preheat oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F / 180°C / gas mark 4. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or non-stick baking mats.
- Roll out cookie dough. Dust your work surface and rolling pin with flour. Roll out one dough disk at a time until 1/4 in / 6 mm thick. Start rolling from the middle to the edges and occasionally turn the dough to avoid sticking.
- Cut out shapes. Using cookie cutters, cut out shapes. Press the cutter all the way down to create clean edges. Transfer the cut-out shapes onto the prepared cookie sheets.
- Repeat. Repeat the process with the remaining dough and re-roll the dough scrapes. If the dough gets too warm, chill it in the fridge.
- Bake. Bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes, until the edges start turning lightly golden.
- Cool. Remove the cookies from the oven and let them cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes. Then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
How thick do I roll sugar cookie dough?
For soft, pillowy sugar cookies, roll the dough about 1/4 inch / 6 mm thick.
With that thickness, your sugar cookies are sturdy enough to be handled and decorated. They remain soft in the center but become a little crunchy around the edges.
Tip: Roll the cookie dough between 2 perfection strips (pastry rulers). They ensure that your cookie dough is perfectly even and has at same thickness throughout.
Do I need to chill the cookie dough?
Chilling the dough is not necessary with my sugar cookies recipe without baking powder. However, you can refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes to an hour if it seems soft and sticky.
Divide the dough into 2 portions and pat each into a flat disk. Wrap each dough disk with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
How many cookies does this sugar cookie dough recipe make?
This simple sugar cookie recipe produces plenty of cookies, but the actual number depends on the size of your cookie cutters. Using a large, round cookie cutter, I made 40 cookies. Cut the recipe in half if you only need a couple of cookies.
Tips For The Best Sugar Cookies
When it comes to baked goods, no-spread sugar cookies are pretty straightforward. But nailing that perfectly soft and beautiful cut-out cookie isn’t always easy. Lucky for you, I have all the tips and tricks you need!
Making the dough
- Room temperature ingredients: Cold ingredients like butter and eggs should be at room temperature, which means not cold out of the fridge. If you forgot to take the egg out in time, place it in a bowl of warm water for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Measure flour correctly: Use kitchen scales for the most accurate measurements, or try the spoon and sweep technique. Never scoop flour directly from the container, and don’t pack it into your measuring cup.
- Cream butter and sugar: Creaming the butter and sugar incorporates tiny air bubbles in the mixture and makes the cookies light and tender. For the best texture, beat the sugar and butter on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Mixing the dough: Mix in the flour on low speed and stop when you no longer see streaks of flour. Don’t overmix the dough at this point, or you’ll end up with tough cookies.
- Scrape down the bowl: Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl a few times to ensure all ingredients get mixed in.
Rolling the dough
- Flour the surface: Liberally dust your work surface and rolling pin with flour to prevent the dough from sticking. If necessary, sprinkle on more flour while rolling the dough.
- Roll from the center to the edges: Start at the center and roll the dough away from your body, rotating it 90 degrees every few rolls to ensure even thickness and prevent sticking. Aim for even thickness.
- How thick do I roll the dough? The ideal thickness for no-spread sugar cookies is 1/4 inch / 6 mm.
- Freeze the dough: If it’s very warm or humid, roll out your dough between 2 sheets of parchment paper. Then pop it in the freezer for 5 to 10 minutes. The dough will now be much easier to work with, and you get cut-out cookies with sharp edges.
Cut out sugar cookies
- Dip cookie cutters in flour: Dipping your cookie cutters into flour every few cuts helps release the dough more easily.
- Cut out shapes close together: When cutting shapes, keep your cuts close together to get as many cookies out of your dough as possible.
- Re-roll scrapes: Re-all the scrapes to use all of the dough. Just keep in mind that with each re-roll, more flour is added, so you want to get as much as possible out of the first roll.
Baking the cookies
- Prep the cookie sheets: Always line your baking sheets with a piece of parchment paper or a silicone baking mat to prevent the cookies from sticking.
- Oven temperature: Every oven heats differently. To find the exact baking time for your oven, bake a single cookie and check after 6 to 7 minutes. Adjust from there.
- Rotate the cookie sheets: If your oven has hot spots, be sure to rotate the cookie sheet halfway through baking to get a more even bake.
- Bake cookies of the same size: Otherwise, the large ones won’t finish baking while the small ones burn.
- Let the cookies sit after baking: The no-spread sugar cookies are soft and delicate right after baking. So let the cookies sit for 5 minutes on the cookie sheets before transferring them to a cooling rack. Doing so keeps the shape intact and gives the cookies time to firm up.
- Cool baking sheets between batches: Allow the baking sheets to cool between batches. Otherwise, the dough will spread more on hot cookie sheets.
Sugar cookie texture
- Thick & soft: Roll the cookie dough 1/4 inch / 6 mm thick. Bake the cookies until the edges just begin to turn lightly golden, about 8 to 9 minutes.
- Thin & crispy: Roll out the dough thinner, about 1/8 inch / 3 mm. Bake until the cookies look golden brown, about 10 to 11 minutes.
Why is my sugar cookie dough crumbly?
Crumbly cookie dough happens if you accidentally over-measure the flour or mismeasure another ingredient. Read my tips above, and remember to never scoop flour directly from the bag.
Add the flour gradually, so the dough has time to absorb it. If the dough seems crumbly after adding all the flour, take it out of the mixing bowl and knead it with your hands until it comes together.
Why is my dough too soft or sticky?
Sticky, or overly soft dough is often a result of adding too little flour or using butter that is too soft. The butter shouldn’t be oily or melty; slightly cold works best.
Another reason could be that your kitchen is on the warmer side. In that case, pat the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes to an hour.
If the dough is still sticky after chilling, you probably need to add more flour. Gently knead in 2 to 3 tablespoons of flour at a time until the dough feels smooth and not sticky.
The cookies look underbaked. Should I bake them longer?
Probably not, unless you want them crispier. I recommend pulling these out after 8 to 10 minutes for large cookies, or 6 to 7 minutes for small cookies.
They will continue to bake as they cool on the hot baking sheet. After cooling for 5 minutes, transfer them to a wire rack. They will set and firm up pretty quickly.
Sugar Cookie Variations
This basic sugar cookie recipe is so versatile! You can get creative and use the basic cookie dough to create lots of different flavor variations.
In the next section, I’ll show you my favorite sugar cookie ideas. You can definitely come up with more flavors by adding different mix-ins, extracts, and decorations.
#1: Vanilla Sugar Cookies
My cookies without baking soda use vanilla extract for a delicious, balanced vanilla taste. If you want to really bump up the vanilla flavor, use 2 tsp vanilla bean paste or scrape the seeds from a vanilla bean. The little black specks of vanilla look lovely on the cookies!
To keep them soft, I slathered the cookies with vanilla buttercream. I tinted my frosting pink, but you opt for another color or leave it uncolored. I also added a few sprinkles for good measure!
The cookies have to be completely cooled before frosting because the buttercream will melt on warm cookies.
Simple Vanilla Buttercream
This recipe makes an easy, American-style buttercream frosting. I love this buttercream for sugar cookies because it crusts and holds up well. Here’s how to make it:
- In a large mixing bowl, whip 1/2 cup softened unsalted butter until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
- Next, whisk in 1 tsp vanilla extract and 1/4 tsp salt.
- Gradually add 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar on low speed until well incorporated.
- Mix on high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes.
- If desired, tint the buttercream with gel food color.
#2: Chocolate Sugar Cookies
To make chocolate sugar cookies, replace 1/8 cup of flour with 1/8 cup unsweetened cocoa powder.
I piped rosettes of chocolate buttercream on the cookies and finished each with a sprinkle of chopped pistachios.
This is a light chocolate cookie. Try my chocolate cut-out cookie recipe for a really rich chocolate taste.
Chocolate Butter Cream
This chocolate buttercream is indulgent and chocolatey. It’s perfect for spreading and piping onto sugar cookies.
- In a large mixing bowl, whip 1/2 cup softened unsalted butter until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
- Next, whisk in 1 tsp vanilla extract and 1/4 tsp salt.
- On low speed, gradually add 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, 1/4 cup cocoa powder, and 2 tbsp heavy whipping cream until well incorporated.
- Mix on high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes.
#3: Orange & Lemon Sugar Cookies
Citrus cookies are my favorite! I love the buttery crumb and zingy aroma of lemons and oranges. To make orange or lemon sugar cookies, add the finely grated zest of 2 to 3 lemons/oranges to the dough.
A Microplane is handy for grating the peel. I often do a combination of lemons and oranges. Limes taste fabulous as well!
As a finishing touch, I spooned lemon glaze over each cookie and sprinkled on some more grated citrus zest. The glaze really bumps up those citrus flavors and keeps the cookies soft.
Be sure to wait until the cookies have fully cooled before applying the glaze. The glaze will melt into the cookies otherwise.
Mix 2 cups powdered sugar with 3 tbsp lemon/orange juice and 1 to 2 tbsp water until thick and smooth. Spoon glaze onto each cookie. Let the glaze set before eating.
#4: Brown Sugar Spiced Sugar Cookies
For spiced brown sugar cookies, swap the white sugar for brown sugar and add 1 tbsp ground cinnamon. Rather than cinnamon, you could also add a spice mix like pumpkin pie spice or gingerbread spice.
I dipped half of each cookie in melted white chocolate and sprinkled them with ground cinnamon. Simple and so delicious!
#5: Coffee Sugar Cookies
To prepare coffee sugar cookies, dissolve 1 tbsp instant coffee powder in 1 tbsp boiling water. Let cool a little and add when creaming the butter and sugar.
As a finishing touch, drizzle melted chocolate over the cookies. Let the chocolate harden before eating and storing.
#6: Nut Sugar Cookies
To make hazelnut sugar cookies, replace 1/3 cup flour with 1/2 cup ground hazelnuts. The oils from the nuts can make the dough a little softer and stickier, which you can remedy by kneading extra flour into the dough.
Instead of hazelnuts, try other nuts such as ground pecans, walnuts, almonds, or pistachios.
The hazelnut cookies are iced with a maple glaze and sliced hazelnuts. The rustic finish emphasizes the nutty flavor and looks so pretty.
In a small mixing bowl, combine 2 cups powdered sugar with 3 tbsp maple syrup, 2-3 tbsp milk, and 1/4 tsp salt until smooth. Stir with a whisk until smooth and glossy.
#7: Peppermint Sugar Cookies
To make these festive pink peppermint sugar cookies, prepare the cookie dough with 1 tsp vanilla extract and 1/2 tsp peppermint extract. If desired, tint the dough with pink gel food coloring.
Then roll, cut, and bake the sugar cookies following the recipe instructions.
I frosted my peppermint cookies with the vanilla buttercream I showed you earlier and sprinkled on some crushed candy canes and red sugar sprinkles.
#8: Chocolate Chip Sugar Cookies
Prepare the basic no spread sugar cookie dough. Then knead 1/2 to 1 cup mini chocolate chips into the dough. Press any chocolate chips that fall out back into the dough.
Then roll out and cut out cookies. Be sure to press your cookie cutter down firmly to cut through the chocolate chips.
I used semisweet chocolate chips, but any flavor of baking chips will taste great. Try white, milk, dark, peanut butter, or butterscotch chips.
#9: Marbled Sugar Cookies
To create marbled sugar cookies, prepare a portion of vanilla and chocolate cookie dough. Roll the 2 doughs into equal length logs.
Place the dough logs side by side and twist. Fold the log in half and twist again until the doughs come together. Repeat this folding process 2 to 3 times, but be careful not to overwork, or the colors will blend too much.
Roll out the dough, cut out shapes, and bake.
I left these cookies undecorated, so the beautiful marble design remains visible. You could also use colored dough instead of chocolate.
How to store sugar cookies without baking powder
- Room temperature: Let the cookies cool completely. Then store them in an airtight container. The cookies will stay fresh at room temperature for 6 to 7 days.
- Refrigerator: You can also keep them in the fridge to extend their freshness for up to 2 weeks.
- Iced cookies: Add parchment paper pieces between layers of frosted cookies to keep them separated.
- Cookies with buttercream: Sugar cookies with buttercream have to be stored in the refrigerator. You can stack them inside a container once the buttercream has firmed up.
Freeze no spread sugar cookies
- Freeze: If you need your no baking soda cookie recipe to last longer, freeze them in a zip-lock bag or freezer-safe container for 3 to 4 months.
- Frosted cookies: Arrange buttercream frosted sugar cookies in a single layer on a baking sheet and flash-freeze for 1 to 2 hours. Then transfer the frozen cookies into a freezer container.
- Thaw: Leave the cookies out on the counter, and they will be ready to eat in about 1 hour.
Freeze sugar cookie dough
It’s also possible to freeze the unbaked sugar cookie dough. Prepare the dough as instructed and divide it into 2 equal portions. Flatten each piece and wrap it in several layers of plastic wrap and tin foil. Label with a date and freeze for up to 2 months.
Thaw and bake frozen cookie dough
Let frozen cookie dough defrost in the fridge overnight. You may have to bring the dough to room temperature, so it becomes pliable and rolls out.
Can I make cookies without baking powder ahead of time?
Yes, you can prepare the cookie dough several days in advance. Flatten and wrap the dough as described in the recipe and refrigerate for up to a week.
When it’s time to bake, remove the chilled dough from the fridge and roll it out. If the dough is too cold for rolling, leave it on the counter for 15 to 20 minutes.
What do sugar cookies taste like?
These cookies without baking soda are sweet and buttery (but not too sweet) and feature a soft, melt-in-your-mouth texture. You can also taste the lovely aroma of vanilla and almond.
How long do sugar cookies keep?
No spread cookies store best if you keep them in a dry, cool location like a cupboard or pantry. They will keep for up to a week in an airtight container at room temperature.
For longer storage, vacuum pack them, which will be good for up to a month. You can also freeze them for 3 to 4 months.
How do you keep sugar cookies soft?
To keep your easy sugar cookie recipe soft, place a piece of white bread into the cookie jar. The cookies will absorb moisture from the bread, protecting them from drying out. That way, your cookies will stay soft much longer.
What is the difference between cut-out cookies and drop cookies?
Drop sugar cookies are scooped onto the baking sheet, while cut-out cookies are formed with a cookie cutter before baking. Cut-out cookies are usually crispier, and drop cookies are softer and chewier.
- No spread: This recipe makes the perfect cut-out cookies. They are flat on top and maintain well-defined shapes and sharp cookie-cutter edges.
- Taste: Filled with sweet vanilla notes, the cookies taste sweet, buttery, rich, and delicious.
- Texture: The cookies have a wonderful softness in the middle and crispiness around the edges.
- Easy to make: With a short ingredient list and simple steps, this no-spread sugar cookie recipe could not be easier.
- Fun to decorate: This cut-out sugar cookie recipe is so fun to decorate. They are sturdy enough to support all sorts of toppings, from royal icing to buttercream.
- Holiday favorite: These easy sugar cookies are favorites for Christmas and other holidays such as Valentine’s Day or Easter.
There is nothing better than a tray of warm, homemade sugar cookies. With so many flavors and decorating options, I just couldn’t help sharing a few more sugar cookie recipes with you!
- Sugar Cookies Without Butter
- Pink Frosted Sugar Cookies
- Christmas Sugar Cookies
- Easter Sugar Cookies
- Vanilla Sandwich Cookies
- Rosewater Cookies
- Chocolate Cut-Out Cookies
- Fudge Stripe Cookies
This no-spread sugar cookie recipe was first published in November 2017. The post was updated with new content and photos in December 2022.