Sugar Cookies 101

filed under: Miscellaneous on July 6, 2009

Wanna know how I decided to start making sugar cookies?  I saw Martha Stewart do it and thought to myself, “That look easy enough for me to do!”

So I went out and bought a bunch of supplies and baked cookies and started to prepare all the frosting for the cookies and I realized…this is a lot of work!

And NOT easy.

And then to top it off, they were not very tasty and they looked like baby poo with barely legible words on it.

Fast forward 3 years and I am still in learning stages, but now, you can sometimes read what I am trying to write and occasionally, they even taste good.

Thought I’d share how I have been doing things thus far, and if you have any tips or recommendations that would make my life easier, please tell me immediately just leave a comment whenever you get a chance.

This is the recipe I use.  It’s the kind that yields a thicker, more chewy cookie.  I am not a huge fan of the paper thin ‘crispers’ some grandmas I know try to pass off as sugar cookies.   You know who you are Grandma.


  • 1 1/2 cups butter, softened
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Roll em out, pick your favorite cookie cutter, bake for 6 minutes and cool for however long you want.

Now, to the fun part.

I use a version of Royal Icing…

1cup powder sugar
1 tablespoon corn syrup
1 teaspoon milk
1 drop lemon juice

Except I usually make about 8 cups at a time.  Really thick, then I can just add milk if I need it to be thinner for ‘spilling’ and stuff.  Just grab a bowl, take about a cup of frosting out and then add the food coloring of your choice.

I always do the ‘line and spill’ method.
I make a thin outline of the cookie with a thick frosting (just use less milk).  Then I can go back and ‘spill’ in with a thinned out frosting.


I fill up some cheap pastry bags I get at Michaels and throw on the smallest tip I can find.

*When not using frosting thats in a bag, place bag in a drinking cup with a wet paper towel stuck in the bottom.  Your frosting and tip won’t get all hard and icky.

See that tiny little tip?  The harder your frosting the harder it is to use.  If you’re a beginner, use a really thin frosting.  You won’t have as much control over it, but you also won’t develop carpal tunnel.

Once you have filled in or ‘spilled’ your frosting, and let them sit for a few minutes, you can start decorating.

It was July 4th recently, so I had a pretty specific color pallet.


If you are a brave soul you can use fondant.  I adore this cookie…


…but I cannot stand how fondant tastes, so I don’t dare serve it to anyone.

I will have many more pictures in the next two weeks, as I have 2 very big projects coming up!  Wish me luck!





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  • Aimee says:

    First of all, love your cookies! They are great, and have inspired me to give it a try! 🙂 I have tried making sugar cookies in the past, and just can’t get them thick enough. About how thick do you roll out your dough. And about how many cookies does your recipe yield. Thanks for sharing!

  • Amanda Rettke says:

    The recipe yields about 24 cookies (2 dozen) depending on the size and shape of your cookie cutters.  I prefer a thicker cookie, so I roll mine out anywhere between 1/4 and 1/2 inch thick!
    If you do try to recipe, be sure to take pictures and then submit them to the flickr group… there are going to be some fun and different prizes in store for that!
    God bless!

  • Karen says:

    I understand the ‘line’ concept, but what is the ‘spill’ method?…is that just using really runny icing?

  • Amanda Rettke says:

    Yes… it is a thinner, easier to pour icing! 🙂

  • Karen says:

    Thank you so much for the quick reply. I’ve got a cookie exchange next week and your decorating has inspired me. Thank you so much for sharing both cookie and icing, as well as the rest of your blog! 🙂

  • MandaKay says:

    Amanda – can the dough stay in the fridge overnight?! And for the frosting, if I am going to store it overnight, do I just make it the thicker way first and then I can thin it down when ready to use it if I need?
    My email is if you have a second to email me! I am hoping to make the stuff today yet and then frost them tomorrow and bring to a party! I LOVE your Santa cookie post – too cute!

  • Latrice says:

    These looks so buttery, crispy, and oh so delicious! I think this will be our all time favorite sugar cookie dough…thanks so much for sharing!

  • michelle says:

    wow, it looks like you have perfected the art of baking sugar cookies! i am throwing a letter “I” birthday party for my 6 year old & found your site just in time. thanks for the sugar cookie 101 tutorial.
    do you mind sharing any tips on cutting out your own shapes as well as what type of cookie sheet you use? with or without a silpat? one or 2 sheets in the oven at a time? i can do cupcakes, but sugar cookies (if they are not the break and bake variety) always end up too crispy or burnt around the edges! thank you!

  • Kristin Kunoff says:

    I’m going to use this recipe this weekend! I can’t wait! Thanks for sharing it Amanda!

  • lindsey says:

    I can’t wait to use this recipe tomorrow! Thank you for sharing 🙂 Do you bake them at 350?

  • Catty says:

    I’m going to try your recipe this week and I’m very excited. Can you tell me how long the cookies will keep for?
    Thanks in advance!

  • Krysia says:

    I have a question: do I have to use a cream of tartar in that recipe?
    I’m from Poland and I have no idea what that is and where to get it in my coutry… 🙂
    I’ve tried to do those cookies, but sth went wrong, they were very hard…
    I’ll try again, but maybe this is a problem, that I have no cream of tartar…
    Pozdrawiam :))

  • Dana-from chaos to Grace says:

    Oh I am SO glad I found this!! I am having a baking night with the youth girls tomorrow night and I NOT a baker! But I can do these! Thanks for the recipe and the “how to”! Man, I needed that!

  • Irit says:

    Your cookies are inspiring 🙂
    I just now got to this page, so I don’t know if you’ve found a better recipe for fondant already. I use a recipe from Marshmallow Fluff website- Marshmallow Fluff, powdered sugar, and a bit of vanilla extract (optional- it came out well even without). That’s it. Mix it well and you have a good (mighty sugary) fondant, and I believe is the fastest to make.
    Store-bought fondant is… well, let’s say I”m still not sure how is it, or why it would be, edible…

  • elyse says:

    so, your cookies are pretty much amazing. i cannot believe how good you are at decorating… quick question though- the recipe you provide on this post is different than the ‘perfect sugar cookie’ recipe you just posted for cutout cookies. which recipe do you recommend/prefer? what are the differences in taste/texture? thanks for all the tips!

  • Kristin Kunoff says:

    How exactly do you “fill and spill” the cookies? The way I am doing it is creating too many air bubbles. Thanks Amanda=)

  • Jessica says:

    Hey there! Just wanted to let you know you put a TSP of milk for the icing in this recipe…but in your other you put a TBSP. I just thought you might want to know!
    Thanks for the recipes! I’m making them as I type this to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary!

  • Jillian Smith says:

    Hi there. I tried your recipe for the first time today and after I mixed it in my KA, I realized it turned out very soft and not so much dough like. I measured everything exactly so I know that is not the problem. Do you have any idea as to what may have gone wrong and how to remedy the problem?

  • anickh says:

    Do you ever still use this recipe? your new recipe “amandas amazing sugar cookies” is so similar to this one, but i guess 1 less egg (and yolks instead).. do you like the new recipe way more. because this recipe (the 1 above) is really similar to baking dom. which tons of people like, and you obviously really like(d). just trying to figure out if your new one is even better

  • anickh says:

    Oh your right, your recipe was posted before hers (not that it matters). i’m making sugar cookies tonight, so i was trying to figure out which recipe to use, i’ll take your word and try your newer recipe. thanks for not keeping your recipes a secret like so many other bloggers out there (who even sell their cookies online) and wont share their recipe when they’re probably just using yours or the one from bakeat350 or whatever. I have always thought egg yolks make for a richer-type cookie so that’s why i was really intriqued by yours, (i noticed another difference, your new recipe has 1 c less flour and less leavening agent.. so its a lot more different than i thought

  • Janmary, N Ireland says:

    I commented on this post WAY back in 2009. For the first time I baked some sugar cookies today!!! Inspired by you ….. better late than never!

    Merry Christmas to you and yours from Ireland.

  • Emily says:

    Thank you so much for such a great tutorial. This is the one I have come to over and over again when I am ready for my cookie-making adventures. My first attempt is pictured on my site with comical-appearing-but-super-delicious results. I am in the cookie making mood this week and thought it would only be polite to give you credit for being so awesome. Here’s where I linked to your tutorial:

  • I Am Baker Logo

    Brand new recipes that people find kinda acceptable.