Holiday Baking: Big Soft Sugar Cookies

Credit: Amy L. Hatch

By Amy L. Hatch

I’ve always been a fan of those big, soft sugar cookies you can get at the supermarket or the bakery.

You know the kind–the cutouts, usually smothered in buttercream and decorated so very beautifully. When you bite into one, it’s like eating a soft, sugary cloud.


My mom made sugar cookies every year at Christmas when I was growing up, and we sat around our kitchen table one night during December and decorated them. Mom set out small bowls of homemade buttercream in holiday colors and added an array of sprinkles and sugars for us to put on top.

It was a blast, and the cookies were terrific, but they were not big, soft, sugary clouds.

Then, my mom discovered the recipe I’m sharing today, which is … you guess it … a big, soft cloud of a sugar cookie. Every year I make a batch of these (and o! what a big batch it makes!) and then the kids and I hang out and decorate them. It’s a huge mess and it takes them forever to get the food coloring off their mouths, but the fun we have is worth the fact that I’m still sweeping sprinkles off the kitchen floor in March.

Credit: Amy L. Hatch

I should issue a fair warning: This recipe will make enough cookies for the whole neighborhood, which makes them great for gift-giving and cookie exchanges, but it can be very time consuming. I’ll be offering you both the full and the half version here, so pick your poison.

One more note. This is not a recipe you can make by hand, even if you halve it (and I’ll give you both versions). You might be able to get through a half-batch with a hand-held electric mixer but my advice to you is use your counter-top stand mixer. If you don’t have one, you may want to borrow one.

Soft Sugar Cookies
From Amy’s Mom

Full Batch

  • 1 1/2 cups of butter, softened
  • 2 1/2 cups of sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 8 cups of flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 tablespoons of vanilla
  • 1 cup of milk

Half Batch

  • 3/4 cup of butter
  • 1 1/4 cups of sugar
  • 1/2 of three eggs (beat them lightly and use a glass measuring cup)
  • 4 cups of flour
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla
  • 1/2 cup of milk

Cream together the butter, eggs and sugar. Add milk and vanilla and mix well. Add flour, one cup at a time, and baking power and salt. Refrigerate overnight in a covered bowl.

Roll cookies out to desired thickness (I make mine fairly thick but they will rise) and bake at 350-degrees for between eight and 10 minutes. Place a pan of water on the bottom rack of your oven to help keep the cookies soft. Do not let these cookies get brown.

I glaze the hot cookies with a mixture of confectioner’s sugar and water, with a pinch of salt. I use food coloring and a pastry brush. Sprinkle sugars and other decorations over the glaze while it is still wet — this is fun for kids! Store in a jar, tin or sealed pastic bag.

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  1. YUM! I too am a HUGE fan of the soft sugar cookies. I have never found a recipe that works. Can’t wait to try yours. :)

  2. Worked like a charm! Very easy dough to work with and deliciously tender cookie. I used Smart Balance margarine and Silk nog to make it dairy free for us. Also, I put a little almond flavoring in my glaze. The water in the oven is not something I’ve tried before, but I think it’s vital. Thanks so much for sharing the recipe. This is definitely a keeper!

  3. Also, in case anybody wondered, the half batch made about 4 1/2 dozen big thick cookies. So that means that the whole batch will make … *gulp* … a lot!

  4. I have made these three times so far. They are a huge hit! I have been requested to make them again for a bake sale and an Easter egg hunt this weekend. Thanks for sharing the great recipe :)