10 Steps to Perfect Sugar Cookies

by Jennifer on March 9, 2012

in The Basics


Cookie apocalypse!

Ever had a cookie disaster? I know I have. Burnt cookies, icing bubbles, broken lines of piping…how frustrating! I’m still learning, but I want to share my top 10 tips for perfect sugar cookies.

1. Start with a great recipe. I’ve mentioned before that sugar cookies can be a temperamental beast. It is important to find a recipe that works for you. Personally? I use Bridget’s recipe from Bake at 350 the most. You can use cold butter and start rolling right away!

2. Treat your dough gently.

You must treat your cookie dough like a fragile girlfriend following a bitter break-up. Be gentle – don’t pulverize! Don’t roll it out too many times either – it can make the cookies tough and crackly.

3. Chill out! Ever been super excited to use a new cutter, only to end up with an unrecognizable amoeba-like blob? Even if your recipe doesn’t call for it, try chilling your cut cookies in the fridge or freezer before baking. It’ll help your cookies keep their shape. Nobody wants amoeba cookies. Nobody.

4. Embrace the PP (parchment paper). I never bake cookies without it. Ever. You shouldn’t either. It saves me from making a big mess while decorating cookies too.

5. It’s gettin’ hot in here…too hot? Invest in an oven thermometer. You can save yourself so much frustration by truly using the correct temperature! Additionally – know thy oven. Does it have any hot spots? Mine does, and I bet yours does too. You can do this simple test to find out (from Bridget again – she is the cookie maven!).

6. Consistency is key. You will hear this over and over again on cookie blogs. You know why? Because it is the absolute truth. Mastering the art of icing consistency is hands-down the best thing you can do to improve  the appearance of your cookies. Experience here helps tremendously, but this helped me quite a bit in the beginning (from the venerable Marian of Sweetopia):

7. Tools of the trade. You’ll have to buy some “stuff” if you want to decorate cookies. At the very least, you will need pastry bags, couplers, and tips. Some people try to cheat the system by using ziploc bags. Like cheaters in real life, they are only hurting themselves. You won’t be able to get the same results with a ziploc bag – I promise! Invest in the right tools and you’ll see results!

8. Have a steady hand…or fake it. I’ll be honest here…I don’t have very steady hands. It makes beautiful piping a bit of a chore for me. If you’re like me, here’s what you can do. Rest your arm against the edge of the table while piping. It will help steady you. Sometimes, I also use two hands to pipe. It feels awkward at first, but it helps! Don’t let a shaky hand hold you back.

9. Leave it! (I routinely say this to my cats…like they’re dogs or any other creatures who actually care what I say. I just never learn) You have to decorate cookies in steps. It can be one of the most frustrating parts about cookie decorating. You are typically creating layers of icing to give depth and dimension. And, those underlying layers have to dry before you start piping on top of them (unless you’re going for a marbling effect, like this (design from Sweetopia – before I started blogging):

Sometimes I’m just so excited about decorating a cookie that I just want to rush through all of the steps. It never works out. You have to have patience and let those suckers dry.

10. Practice makes perfect. I know what you’re thinking, “Ugh…hard work!? Well, that sucks.” Yeah…sorry. I’m the type of person who wants to do everything perfectly the first time. These steps will absolutely help you achieve beautiful cookies, but none of it can replace practice. The more you make, the more lovely your cookies will become. I promise.

Now get out there and make some cookies! Do you have any baking/decorating tips that you would like to share? Or have a question? I’d love to hear them. Comment now 🙂

Leave a Comment

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 BertiesBakery March 9, 2012 at 4:11 pm

These are great tips!! Great post!


2 Jennifer March 9, 2012 at 4:49 pm

Thank you! Just trying to spread some cookie knowledge 🙂


3 C&C Cakery March 9, 2012 at 11:16 pm

I love all these tips – especially because I usually stop at step 5. Because, come on, why wait to decorate it when you can just stuff those warm sugar bombs in your face.

That said, you can decorate cookies for me any time. Because I would be happy to stuff them in my face.


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