I'm featuring two Easy Sugar Cookie Recipe both using similar main ingredients of flour, sugar, eggs, vanilla. The difference between the two, one is using butter, baking powder and milk while the other uses vegetable oil, baking soda and cream of tartar.
These Sugar Cookie recipes are both easy, delicious and uses ingredients that are pantry staples. Eat them as is or decorate with frosting, icing or sprinkles.
Decorating these cookies is great activity for your kids that they will enjoy. Also, these classic festive sugar cookies are wonderful addition to your celebration spread.
Why am I featuring 2 sugar cookie recipes
Originally, I was making Alton Brown’s recipe and the other day, I happened to see an article featured in Yahoo about Samantha Black's great-great-grandmother, Lewellyn Kerstetter, whose sugar cookie recipe was passed on for generations. Thank you to Samantha for sharing this wonderful, delicious cookies.
Mrs. Kerstetter was born in Pennsylvania and her grandparents immigrated to the US from Germany.
If you read on Wikipedia, sugar cookies originated in Pennsylvania created by German settlers. It is possible this recipe could be the original version.
Anyway, I have a thing with old recipes since they are usually easy and tasty, so I got intrigued. I have all the ingredients used by both recipes, so I decided to make them at the same time.
Guess what, the other night before going to bed at 5 am, I was making both recipes at 4 am. I stored both dough overnight in the fridge and last night I cut them out and baked.
Making them at the same time saved me time washing dishes. Both recipes used the same kitchen tools plus I can compare the baked cookies side by side.
Do I prefer one over the other? No, that’s why I am featuring both.
Here’s my verdict why I like both recipes
If you have been following my other dessert post, I am very particular about the sweetness of my dessert. I love desserts but I can’t handle an overly sweet ones.
When it comes to cookies, I don’t care for hard cookies but prefer soft, chewier cookie dough.
(1) Grandma’s sugar cookie recipe were soft and flavorful. People who reviewed the recipe were right that cream of tartar gives it flavor and the cookies were soft due to the vegetable oil.
The dough rolls out smoothly, easy for cut out that hold its shape. After baking, some were not precised with some cracks but they were fluffy, chewy and delicious.
When I make a recipe, I usually reduce the amount of sugar but I wanted to compare the 2 recipes so I didn’t changed anything. Also, looking at the flour and sugar ratio, it looked fine to me. So, I followed it to the T.
Verdict: If you prefer soft, chewy and flavor over precise cut outs, then you will love this recipe.
I can’t stop eating the ones whose shapes were not too recognizable. As a food blogger, I have to save the best for pictures.
It is delicious and not sweet. For people who love their cookies sweet, decorating with icing will work well with these cookies.
(2) Alton Brown’s Sugar Cookie Recipe – As reviewed by most, it is easy, buttery and easy to cut out.
These cookies were also smooth, not sweet with precised shapes. It turned out perfect for decorating.
Verdict: If you like butter instead of vegetable oil, then this is the recipe to make. Also, if you like cut-outs that are perfect, these cookies hold their shape well. They are delicious as well but my taste bud is gravitating towards great great grandma’s recipe.
Tips to make the best sugar cookies
(1) I easily whipped up grandma’s recipe in a bowl while Alton Brown’s recipe in a stand mixer.
(2) Spoon and level flour. After measuring, sift flour. Place butter in room temperature a few hours before making dough. Butter should be soft but not too soft or hard. When you press butter with your finger, you should be able to leave an indent.
(3) Leavening – Grandma’s recipe uses the combination of baking soda and cream of tartar. Cream of Tartar is not a leavening agent but when baking soda is added, it has the capacity to be one.
Alton Brown’s recipe uses baking powder.
If you asked me if you can tweak the recipe, instead of baking soda, use baking powder. I’m sure it is possible but I haven’t experimented with these recipes.
(4) Chill grandma’s dough for at least ½ a day and 2 hours for Brown’s recipe. Note: I refrigerated both overnight. If you do, before rolling out Alton Brown's dough, leave it in room temperature for about an hour.
(5) Coat working surface, cookie cutters, rolling pin and all kitchen tools with flour or powdered sugar so cookie dough doesn’t stick. Grandma’s dough is much softer and stickier so make sure to coat working surface generously.
(6) If you are slow, it is best to cut the dough in half and refrigerate the other half. It will be easier to cut when chilled.
(7) Before rolling out the dough, it was easier to have 2 sticks about ¼ inch thick on both sides of dough. Place rolling pin on top of sticks as guide to have even dough. I got this great technique from Wilton.
(8) Place cut outs close to one another to get more done. Pull leftover dough with fingers or spoon.
Since I have enough cookie cutters, I left them sitting on the dough. It was easier for me especially with grandma’s recipe to use a spoon to pull the leftover dough.
Use a flat kitchen tool and carefully remove cut out dough from working surface then transfer to greased baking sheet.
(9) Roll leftover dough into a ball then continue making more cut outs. Note: Grandma’s dough is much softer than Brown’s recipe and can be rolled out a few times. Some dough recipe can get hard and rolling out would be impossible.
(10) Bake and after 2 minutes transfer cookies in wire rack to completely cool.
(11) Place in an air tight container.
(12) Serve as is or decorate.
Can I apply frosting right after baking
After baking, transfer cookies on a wire rack to completely cool. Wait a couple of hours before applying frosting. If frosting or icing is applied while hot, it will melt.
How to decorate sugar cookies
(1) Icing – When pressed for time, I like using Writing Icing that you buy at any store.
(2) Frosting – Try my sugar cookie frosting, use your favorite frosting or buy it at the store.
(3) Sprinkles – Another easy way to dress up your cookies. Add it before baking.
(4) Colored sugar – I love using colored sugar too.
If you don't have a steady hand just like me, use frosting or icing with some sprinkles or add sprinkles before you bake these cookies.
I'm not a baker but I can bake. With some creativity and common sense, you can do it as well.
Honestly, I love eating it as is since I don’t want too much sugar. But for your holiday spread or gathering, you can dress it up with the following.
Frequently asked questions
Should I use butter or vegetable oil in sugar cookies?
It is a matter of preference.
Grandma’s cookies were soft, fluffy, chewy and tasty. During the early days, vegetable oil was more accessible. Butter was expensive and not abundant unlike now.
Find out for yourself and try both recipes. Let me know which one you prefer more.
Should I bake sugar cookies in baking sheet with or without parchment paper?
Again, this is a matter of preference. Keep in mind though, cookies in baking sheet without parchment paper will bake quicker with crispier bottom. So if recipe calls for 7 to 9 minutes baking time, start checking at 7 minutes if the edges are browning. Once it starts to brown, remove it from oven.
Make sure that you lightly grease the baking sheet with oil or butter. When I say lightly, I don’t spray oil all over the baking sheet. I usually take a paper towel with 2 to 3 drops of oil and wipe the baking sheet.
Cookies baked with parchment paper will cook a minute or so longer with bottom not too crispy.
Experiment to see which suits you better.
How to keep cut-out cookies the same thickness?
Use 2 sticks at least ¼ inch thick placed on both sides of dough. Place rolling pin on top of sticks and flatten dough evenly. Check out image on #7 tips above.
Can I freeze unbaked dough or baked sugar cookies?
For unbaked dough, divide dough to what you can consume and wrap it in plastic. Thaw overnight in refrigerator.
Yes, both unbaked and baked sugar cookies can be stored in the freezer for 2 months.
Store unbaked or baked cookies in an airtight container or food saver before freezing.
How to keep sugar cookies fresh?
To keep sugar cookies fresh (frosted or not), store in an airtight container up to 2 weeks in room temperature but cooler area. After that, it can get stale.
You can also store unfrosted sugar cookies in an airtight container up to 2 weeks in the fridge.
Store unbaked cut-out or baked cookies in layers separated by parchment paper in an airtight container or food saver up to 2 months in the freezer.
Would You Like Another Holiday Cookie Recipe, Try this Soft Eggnog Cookies.
Looking for frosting, try my Easy Sugar Cookie Frosting Recipe.
Easy Sugar Cookie Recipe
- 3 cups all-purpose flour spoon and level
- ¾ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 egg beaten
- 1 teaspoon milk
- Powdered sugar for rolling out dough and coat rolling pin and cookie cutter
- Sift flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
- In a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until combined over medium speed.
- Add and beat milk and egg until combined.
- Reduce to low speed and gradually add flour.
- Use a spatula and scrape the sides and bottom of mixer to fully mixed the ingredients.
- Once dough starts to pull away from the side of mixer. Remove dough from mixer.
- Form dough into a rectangle and divide in half. Wrap each dough in plastic and refrigerate for 2 hours.
- Pre-heat oven at 375 degrees F.
- Sprinkle working surface and coat rolling pin with powdered sugar then roll out dough to ¼ inch thick. Work on dough one at a time. Leave the other dough in the fridge. Note: It is easier to use 2 sticks with ¼ inch height placed on both sides of dough. Put rolling pin on top of these 2 sticks and roll out the dough.
- If dough has warmed during rolling, place cold cookie sheet on top for 10 minutes to chill.
- Dip cookie cutter in powdered sugar and cut into desired shape, place at least 1-inch apart on greased baking sheet, parchment or silicone baking mat and bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until cookies are just beginning to turn brown around the edges.
- Rotate cookie sheet halfway through baking time. Let sit on baking sheet for 2 minutes after removing from oven and then move to a wire rack to completely cool.
- Serve as is or ice as desired. Store in airtight container for up to 1 week.
Adapted from Alton Brown Sugar Cookies recipe.