No spread sugar cookies are a classic treat that can be enjoyed any time of year. But have you ever struggled with cookies that spread out too thin and lose their shape during baking?
The solution is finally here!
This tried and tested recipe ensures soft, tender sugar cookies that hold their shape and make for the perfect base for all your decorating needs.Jump to Recipe
Why do sugar cookies spread in the oven?
Sugar cookies spread in the oven due to a combination of factors, including the amount of sugar, butter, and flour in the dough, as well as the baking temperature and time.
When the dough is too soft or contains too much sugar, it melts in the oven, causing the cookies to spread out. This is something to remember when we get to the recipe as it will be the temperature of your butter that is important here.
Additionally, if the oven temperature is too high or the cookies are baked for too long, this can also cause spreading. To prevent spreading, it’s important to use the right balance of ingredients, chill the dough before baking, and bake the cookies at the proper temperature for the recommended time.
Do I need to chill cookie dough to make sugar cookies?
This is entirely up to you, if you get the butter to the correct temperature before making this cookie dough then I don’t believe you do. If the weather is extremely hot or even if you are in the summer months then it would be best to chill the cookies. Pop them onto your lined baking tray and put them into your fridge for 20 mins before baking.
I use this recipe a lot and over the years I have been able to tell when my dough is too soft. Therefore I know if this needs to be pre-chilled or not. If you are a complete beginner and not sure then I suggest you chill if you want them to not change shape.Jump to Recipe
How can you tell when sugar cookies are fully baked and ready to come out of the oven?
There are a few signs to look for to determine when sugar cookies are fully baked and ready to come out of the oven:
- Color: The edges of the cookies should be lightly golden brown and the tops should look set.
- Texture: The surface of the cookie should feel firm to the touch and not appear glossy or wet.
- Sides: The sides of the cookies should be slightly firm, not soft or gooey.
- Bottom: The bottom of the cookie should not be too brown or dark, indicating that it has been over-baked.
It’s important to keep an eye on the cookies as they bake and remove them from the oven as soon as they are fully baked. Overbaking can cause the cookies to become dry and hard. To avoid over-baking, it’s best to check the cookies a few minutes before the recommended baking time is up and remove them when they meet the criteria mentioned above.
How long do sugar cookies stay fresh and what is the best way to store them?
I make these cookies a lot and they are a part of a lot of the Treat boxes I sell on Etsy, so if you don’t want to bake your own, take a look in my shop! Anyway, I advise customers that the sugar cookies last for 3-4 weeks so these do have a decent shelf life.
When I ship my boxes the cookies are wrapped in a cellophane wrapper.
To store the cookies, place them in a single layer in an airtight container and cover them with a lid.
Can I freeze sugar cookies?
For longer storage, sugar cookies can also be frozen. Place the cookies in a single layer in a freezer-safe container and freeze for up to 3 months. To serve, simply remove the desired number of cookies from the freezer and allow them to thaw at room temperature for about 30 minutes before serving.
When I have frozen sugar cookies, I have kept them naked with nothing on, no chocolate, no icing. They defrost quickly enough and you can decorate them at that point.
What tools do I need to make sugar cookies?
Stand Mixer, I would highly recommend that you have a stand mixer but a hand whisk will do the trick, it’s the first part of the recipe where the butter is still quite firm that is the most difficult part.
Greaseproof paper- I like using Tesco baking paper. Look out for a comparison post of different types soon.
Rolling pin – I have a large nonstick one, similar to this one.
Spacers – These are great, you place them on either side of your dough to ensure the dough is rolled out to an even consistency.
Rolling pin with spacers – If you don’t have either of the above then this is a great purchase as it has the two in one!
Cookie Cutters- these come in all shapes and sizes, as a starting set this is great for round cookies.
Ready to bake? Let’s preheat your oven and let’s get started on making the perfect sugar cookies that don’t spread.
No Spread Sugar Cookies: The perfect base for decorating
- 220 g unsalted butter
- 200 g caster sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 425 g plain flour
- Preheat the oven to 180c (fan)/200c/ Gas Mark 6
- Pop the butter and caster sugar into a bowl and cream together, this will take longer than when butter is softened beforehand but it will be worth it.
- Add in the egg and vanilla extract and beat well to combine.
- Next, add the flour, I do this in sections, adding a bit at a time.
- You will find that the beater attachment (if using a stand mixer) will bring the dough together as one. When this happens stop mixing, your dough is ready.
- If you are using a hand mixer you will want to hand knead the dough.
- On a clean surface, lightly dust with plain flour and hand knead your dough a little. Next, split your dough into 3 (refer to the tips in the post as to why we do this)
- Using your rolling pin and spacers roll out your dough to around ¼ inch thick
- Avoid the dough sticking by adding some flour to the surface, and after you have rolled out once lift and rotate the dough.
- Line a baking tray with baking or greaseproof paper.
- Cut out your shapes and transfer them to the tray.
- This will give you around 30 medium-sized cookies.
- You don’t have to use all the dough in one go, you can store this in the fridge but I recommend freezing instead. Wrap in cling film and freeze.
- I cut out the number of cookies I want and bake them all in one go.
- These take around 8-10 minutes in the oven, I suggest putting the timer on for 8 minutes and checking at this point. They are ready when they are a golden brown colour around the edges.
- Leave these for 5 minutes on the tray to cool slightly, then transfer onto a wire rack to cool completely before either decorating or popping in an air tight container for another day.
What tips and tricks are there for making sugar cookies?
Roll the dough to an even thickness: Use either the spacers or the recommended rolling pin further above to help with this. Aim for about 1/4 inch thick if not using spacers. Having even dough will help ensure that the cookies bake evenly and have a uniform shape.
Use a sharp cookie cutter: Make sure the cookie cutter is sharp to cleanly cut through the dough and avoid distorting the shape of the cookies. Some of the newer 3D-printed plastic cookie cutters don’t have the sharpest of edges.
Chill the dough before cutting: I don’t feel this is necessary when using this recipe but you can either chill the dough in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to an hour before cutting. This will help firm up the dough and make it easier to handle. Or you can chill the shapes once you have cut the cookies out.
Once you have cut out the shape use a palette knife to transfer the cookie to the baking tray, this will help the cookie hold its shape, if you move using your hands it increases the risk of the shape changing.
As stated in the method above cut the dough into 3. This means that the dough doesn’t get oveover-handledhich would lead to a soft dough. You can re-roll the scraps, after cutting out the cookies, re-roll the scraps, and cut out more cookies. Leave enough space between the cookies:
When placing the cookies on the baking sheet, make sure to leave enough space between them so they don’t touch or overlap. This will help ensure that the cookies retain their shape and don’t spread too much during baking.
How can I decorate my sugar cookies?
Here are some ideas but do let your mind run wild and get creative to come up with your ideas
Stuffed cookies with a cut out shape…. I made these cute reindeer ones Christmas time
Fondant icing (you get all sorts of embossers to produce patterns or use lettering to pop on a message)
Chocolate Dipped (see here for my method of tempering chocolate)
I hope you enjoyed this recipe and as always happy baking and creating!