Sugar Cookie Troubleshooting

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I get this question more often then not, so I figured why not just share the answer with everyone?

“My cookies spread out… what happened?”

I know that many of us are making sugar cookies for friends and family this time of year, so here are a few tricks that I hope will help ensure you have perfect cookies!


  • Use a strong, balanced recipe.  I happen to adore my recipe, but Bridget  from Bake at 350 has an amazing sugar cookie recipe and so does Marion from Sweetopia. (Those are the recipes that I have personally tried and had success with.)
  • Chill your dough.  I roll out my dough, cut out my shapes, then place on my cookie sheet.  THEN I place it in the freezer for 10-15 minutes.  If you are doing lots of cookies its easy to just have them in rotation.
  • Calibrate your oven.  I bought an oven thermometer at Target for under $5 and its been fantastic.  Sometimes cookies can spread if your oven temperature is too low.
  • Bake on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.  Some people swear by silpat but I have found parchment works very well and is fairly inexpensive.  Not having to grease your cookie sheet also means less potential spreading.
  • Use quality baking powder and baking soda.  Both are inexpensive even when you buy the best quality.  If your baking soda or baking powder is expired it can affect how your cookies rise or spread.

Ugly Sweater Christmas Cookies

Try these great tutorials for all your cookie needs!

Steps to Making the Perfect Sugar Cookie by Sweetapolita

Royal Icing Tutorial by Bake at 350

Coloring and Preparing Royal Icing by Sugarbelle

How to Decorate Cookies with Royal Icing Top 10 by Sweetopia

Outlining and Filling Cookies with Royal Icing by Sugarbelle

Alternative to Royal Icing from University of Cookie

Give It a Shpritz! by One Tough Cookies

If you have any other questions just let me know.  Also, if you have any other tips feel free to share!




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  1. Becky Knepp says

    My problem when I made the cookies was trying to ice them! Of course I didn’t get to start until around midnight. I finally gave up. When I made them again, I just decided to go with the rose design. Worked well and everyone loved them.

    Do you have a tutorial on icing the cookies? I’d love to get better at that.

  2. Amy B says

    I used sweetsugarbelle’s recipe that does not require chilling and have gotten great results! It was also my first time to ever make sugar cookies and they turned out great! No spreading! The parchment is amazing not only for not spreading, but also so the cookies don’t stick and you don’t end up with broken cookies. :) I’d like to play around with other recipes and would love to try yours!

  3. says

    I can’t thank you enough for sharing these helpful hints! I’m a good cook but my baking, well, not so much. I will now be able to create Christmas cookies to be proud of…we may even be able to tell what they are!

  4. says

    I actually had the same problem with my sugar cookies and I found adding a little shortening (which handles a higher heat than butter) and a little more flour did the trick, don’t even need to chill it. :) Oh and don’t overbake!

    • says

      From what I hear, they work well, but are somewhat difficult to get the hang of. Of course, that is just hearsay, I dont actually own one. But I would consider purchasing one and trying… they seem really neat!

  5. says

    I have trouble with the icing colors bleeding together…any suggestions??? I don’t usually use royal icing just glaze but have tried both and still have problems…

  6. Jacinda says

    I’ve been selling cookies and I just flip out when they are not consistent. I’m going to try all of the above and thank you so much for the tips. It’s a crap shoot as to whether or not they spread and it will ruin my

  7. says

    I haven’t had too many problems with the cookie baking but I had a “first” happen to me this week. I iced some heart-shaped tuxedos for a bridal shower and the butter seeped (leeched?) through the icing on some of the cookies leaving the surface kind of blotchy looking. I took Sugarbelle’s advice and left my baked cookies out for a day before decorating them. I’ve never had this happen and wondered if you know why the butter seeped through the icing on some of them but not on others? Thanks!