I’m no foodie, but… the best sugar cookie (and royal icing) recipe ever. Period.

Cathy ZielskeCZ Life53 Comments


cathyzielske.com | the best sugar cookie recipe ever
First things first: I am no baker.

Sure, you are looking at the photo above thinking, “WHAT? I thought you always said you didn’t front? This looks like you’re fronting!” It’s true. I don’t front. What you see is mostly what you get but every time I post photos of my freshly made sugar cookies on Instagram or Facebook, people go crazy and say, “I DEMAND YOU TELL ME HOW YOU DO THIS!”

Today I will tell you how. True, I’m no master say, like my friend Shannon, whose work slays me, but my efforts are pretty impressive for a novice. And hella tasty, too.

When I say I’m no baker, I mean it. I don’t bake often because a) I don’t love to bake, and b) I tend to eat everything I bake while no one is watching. This is not good for my middle-aged waistline. That, and it’s just a ton of work. Let’s be real here.

But a few years back, I kept seeing my friend Susan’s cookies on the Facebook and for some Martha Stewart wanna-be reason, I decided to email her and ask her the very same question: TELL ME HOW YOU DO THIS! Susan, who is a veritable cookie-making master, agreed to share her time-tested baking secrets* with me and today, I share them with you. Let us all bow down before the Gods of confectioner’s sugar and give thanks for the miracle we are all about to witness.

*The recipe I’m sharing today originated from Sara Fehling, who shared it with Susan, who passed it along to me! I am literally no baker but this recipe makes it seem like maybe I am.

In December of 2013, I took my first baby steps into the world of iced sugar cookies using this adorable Christmas bulb cookie cutter and I ended up with a first batch that looked like this:

cathyzielske.com | the best sugar cookie recipe ever
I know what you’re thinking. They are the very essence of cookie perfection. How could a self-proclaimed non-baker like myself achieve such a high level of excellence? Two things. First, a great recipe, and second, a little life-changing gadget called The Cookie Thing. 

cathyzielske.com | the best sugar cookie recipe ever
The Cookie Thing has one purpose: to help you roll out perfectly even dough in the thickness of your choosing. That’s it. Susan simply uses 5/16″ dowels from the craft store to achieve the same end. True, they are much cheaper than The Cookie Thing, but some of us are suckers for a well-designed product.

I don’t have any well lit shots of me rolling out the dough but if you want to see this thing in action, watch this, made by The Cookie Thing’s creator. (This was the video that made me click BUY.)

Note: I used the second smallest of the slats to make my cookies. I always think I should go up to the next depth of slat. But nope, it’s that second to narrowest slat that works like a charm. It measures 4/16, for those who are curious.

Next you need to have the tools of the trade. Now I ain’t gonna lie. My KitchenAid stand mixer makes the process so much more do-able. I have bird wrists. I’m not a good by-hand mixer kind of gal.

But for achieving that smooth, flooded cookie look you need to have the following:

• disposable decorating bags (I use these)
• icing tips (I use No. 3 as my main size, and No. 2 and No. 1 for smaller detail work)
• couplers (I use these.)

I had to look up how to put the bags together on the YouTube. (This video is helpful, if this concept is new to you.)

You’ll also need to get gel coloring for your icing. I presently use this set and a few pots of Wilton, but plan to get some of the AmeriColor by Easter.

So now that you have all the tools and you’re ready to go, how ’bout I give you the recipe?

HERE YOU GO: SugarCookieAndIcingRecipe

A few extra things to note:

• When I make this cookie recipe, I halve it and make a double batch. Twice. As much as I love my mixer, it has a harder time handling the full 6 cups of flour the recipe calls for. I much prefer to make a half batch, roll out the dough, pop it into the fridge to chill and then tackle batch no. 2. Yes, it makes for more clean up (I start each batch with a clean mixer bowl and paddle) but it’s easier for me to manage.

• I prefer to roll out the dough using parchment paper versus wax paper. It’s less apt to stick to the dough.

• The icing recipe calls for almond extract, but I always flavor with vanilla. It’s a personal taste. I can’t stand the taste of almond extract in anything, though I adore almonds. Go figure.

• In the icing recipe, Sara divides her icing while it is still thick, then adds water to each bowl as she goes. I tend to get my icing a bit more fluid before I divide and conquer. So I add successive tablespoons of water to the mixer until it gets a bit thinner. The danger is that you’ll get it too runny, which you don’t want. I find the icing making stage is the most tedious. Both from getting the consistency right to getting the colors right. It takes time and if you get it too runny, you can always add more powdered sugar. There is a great tip for the right consistency in the PDF.

• Tie off your pastry bags very tightly. What has happened to me on numerous occasions is that I’m so focused on piping on that frosting, I don’t notice that I’m squeezing it up and out of the bag. And yes, that’s a messy clean up.

• Lastly, have fun. Experiment. Make mistakes and practice. Making cookies with Aidan is such a joy, especially on the holidays, so get a partner to help and have at it.

cathyzielske.com | the best sugar cookie recipe ever
This photo was from Christmas. It’s a total set up. You put wet paper towels in glasses to keep the icing from caking up and you get to work. We keep toothpicks handy to create fun designs. Sara explains how to do that in the PDF. It’s truly an all-day affair. I like to make the cookies the night before, and get to frosting the next day.

Of course, the best part about all of this is that if you like sugar cookies, you are going to love how they taste. Seriously. I don’t make these often because as was the case on Valentine’s Day, I pretty much ate cookies for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

What’s a few days out of the year lost to sugar coma, right?


cathyzielske.com | the best sugar cookie recipe ever
Note: for my Valentine’s Day cookies, I used this cutter for the big hearts and this set for the smaller, scalloped-edge ones.

Note No. 2: I may have left the smaller cookies in the oven about a minute too long. I always tend to want to see brown edges, but honestly? They’re done before that happens.




Cathy ZielskeI’m no foodie, but… the best sugar cookie (and royal icing) recipe ever. Period.

53 Comments on “I’m no foodie, but… the best sugar cookie (and royal icing) recipe ever. Period.”

    1. #1.1
      Cathy Zielske

      From the internet: We call for meringue powder in recipes that do not reach safe enough temperatures to use fresh egg whites, such as Royal Icing Recipes. Meringue powder is a dried egg white product containing a little sugar. You can find it where cake decorating supplies are sold.

      🙂 You can get it at Michael’s or Hobby Lobby. Or on Amazon! I had never used it either.

  1. #3
    Renee T.

    Thank you! Your cookies are always so gorgeous, and I remember quite a while back you mentioning your “cookie thing”, but I could never remember the name of it! Now I need a tutorial regarding how you put that recipe sheet together! Seriously, your instruction is always so clear and detailed – you really have a gift.

  2. #4

    Thank you SO much for this. After seeing you Christmas cookies I totally loaded my Amazon cart with cookie decorating supplies and swore I’d learn how to make beautiful cookies in time for Valentine’s Day. That stuff is still in the cart.


    Hello UPS Driver, I’ll be seeing you in two days shamrock cookies will be mine!

    1. #4.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Ha! Yolanda. I love it. This is the first time I have ventured beyond Christmas. I fully plan to do Easter because last year I bought the cutest carrot cookie cutter.

  3. #5

    Thank you so much for all these deets!! They are GOR-GE-OUS, and now I can’t wait until Easter to give it a try. I had given up on iced sugar cookies many, many years ago after one super disastrous Valentine’s Day cookie baking event. Excited to try it again with proven techniques. Pinned!

  4. #6
    Lisa Cole

    Thanks C! I’ve always wanted to try this, and I have to say, you tipped me over the edge. The recipes are fantastically detailed…. and your hearts? Swoon 😉

    1. #6.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Yes! Just make sure you download the recipe now. I had to change one thing. The extracts are not supposed to be alcohol free. Doh! It’s hard to find a good vanilla extract that is alcohol free.

  5. #8

    The freakishly analytic geek in me notices that “The Cookie Thing” doesn’t come with 5/16″ slats. So… are you using 5/16″ dowels you bought or one of the sizes of slats that are included in the “Cookie Thing”?

    Because you know… that tiny 1/16″ can make or break my cookies! 🙂

    1. #8.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Hey Kelly, I use the second to smallest of the slats for my cookies and it works like a freaking charm! Not using the dowels, but that is what Susan uses for her original recipe!

  6. #9

    Thanks Cathy!!! I never thought of dowels from the craft store!! I love The Cookie Thing but at the moment can’t get one. Going to try the dowel idea. And your cookies are beautiful! Thanks for sharing!!

  7. #10
    Jenny B.

    YAY! I’m so glad you took the time to put all this info together! We do not have a stand mixer, so I’m hoping my husband (who does ALL the cooking and baking) can pull it off with a hand mixer. 🙂

  8. #11
    Kim L

    Thank you! I can hardly wait until Easter to try this. Maybe I’ll make some green shamrocks for St. Patty’s Day!

  9. #13

    I had to giggle at your almond extract comment. I LOVE almond extract in any sort of sweet thing. But I cannot stand actual almonds. I’ve never known anyone out there at the other end of the almond extra spectrum. 😉

  10. #14

    thank you for sharing, I might just give these a try for Easter. I used to make sugar cookies all the time for Christmas, but not decorated so well. I will probably just get myself some painter stirrers from the hardware store to roll them out… that’s what I used to do back in the day with paper clay! But the cookie thing looks amazing!

  11. #15

    You are so impressive. Thanks for the recipe and specific, detailed instructions…I can’t wait to try it. One question: you said that you put cookies on top oven rack, then rotate them when another tray goes in oven. Does this mean the very TOP rack? Like way up there close to the broiler?

    P.S. If you ever get tired of your day job, you could moonlight cookies!

    1. #15.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Marilyn, I’m not sure if that is what Susan does. I neglected to mention: I do one tray of cookies at a time. My oven is far to irregular. 🙂

  12. #17

    Thanks for the recipe. Definitely want to give it a try. Cookie Thing is interesting (although I really don’t need it) … and $50. Maybe you could get the Cookie Thing lady to share a promo code with your followers… just an idea… I saw on her Facebook page that she has done a 25% promo in the past.

  13. #19
    Teri F.

    Oooh thanks so much! I have been searching for this recipe for awhile. You rock (and the cookies look amazing)!

  14. #20
    Abby P

    Wow – gorgeous! Once again, you are rockin’ the world, one craft at a time! Thanks for the tips

  15. #22
    Christine (A&M Momma)

    I’ve long admired your beautiful cookies! Thanks for sharing the recipe and all the tips. Now I just need to steal my daughter from her dorm so we can make these together. Best blogpost ever! 🙂

  16. #23

    I have simply adored scrolling over your cookie photos in the past, you had me at the lightbulbs! Thank you for sharing, I can’t say mine will look anything like this but I’ll give it my best.

  17. #24

    Thank you so much for this! I have had many sugar cookie failures. I’ve accomplished many baking triumphs in my time…sugar cookies is not one of them. I am trying recipe today. I purchased a cheaper Williams Sonoma rolling pin as my tool of choice. I am very excited and hope that the results are as beautiful as yours and as tasty as they look!

  18. #25

    WOW! Those are some gorgeous looking cookies. My girls love to make (and decorate) cookies so I am totally going to try this in the hopes that people will be able to tell which ones are mine and which ones are theirs, because right now it’s a toss-up (and they’re 2 and 5!). Sigh.

  19. #26

    How did I miss this??!! I must have been buried in cookie dough! Thanks so much for the shout out! Your cookies look fantastic! Be careful…it can get addicting! (especially the eating dough part;))

  20. #28

    I’m having the same problem. Icing is very liquid. I have followed all the directions. Are we really supposed to use paddle attachment? Elizabeth, did you solve the problem?

    1. #28.1
      Cathy Zielske

      I just realized I never replied to this comment. You can always add more powdered sugar. 🙂 It’s kind of by feel. I do it differently than the woman I learned it from.

  21. #29

    I’m looking for an icing that is firm enough to travel with (to a party) but soft enough to eat. Would you say these are like that? I fee like the harder frosting doesn’t taste good but if it’s soft the design get ruined or sticks to the packaging I transport in. I’m new to this, any help would be great! Also, great blog post! Very helpful 🙂

  22. #30

    Do you use unsalted butter? The recipe calls just for butter. I notice you do add a teaspoon of salt, which seems to imply you’d use unsalted butter?

  23. #33

    Hi Cathy, what is the dough supposed to look like after it is mixed? Mine looks crumbled like a big bowl of crumbs. It took a while to smash it all together before I was even able to roll it into a ball. What am I doing wrong? I took a picture of it if you have an e-mail address I could send it to. I am worried that when I go to cut the cookies that they will just completely fall apart.

  24. #34

    hi there, in the pdf of the recipe for the icing she calls for 5 ‘T’ of meringue. is that teaspoons or tablespoons?

  25. #35

    Can these be made and frozen? I have a party coming up but don’t want to be baking the entire night before and want to keep the cookies as fresh as possible. My mother in law freezes chocolate chip cookies and they turn out fine, just wondering about these.

    1. #35.1
      Cathy Zielske

      I don’t know, to be honest. I have never frozen any dough. But what I do, is half the full recipe. Not sure if that would work for you. : )

    1. #36.1
      Cathy Zielske

      They are hard enough to frost, but not hard and crunchy. They are a very tasty final cookie.

    1. #38.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Honestly? We have still been munching on ours a week after and they are delicious! Just keep them in an airtight container!

  26. #39
    Lisa Johnson

    I made these last year and they were incredible. I tried two different batches today and they spread way out and lost their shape. Any suggestions? It’s so sad.

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