Staying In Shape

For the last several years, I’ve been disappointed with my cut-out sugar cookies because of the “spread” factor. It seemed lately, that no matter when I baked them, the designs would not hold their shape. Until I came across the recipe for the recent football cookies that I made for our Super Bowl party, shown below. Nice crisp edges and no spread whatsoever!


Russ claimed they were the best simple chocolate cookie he ever ate. That’s the problem though, they were chocolate and I wanted a plain vanilla recipe for decorating purposes. So I thought there must be a white dough that won’t spread and engaged in an online mission to find one. It seems that I have…


Valentine’s Day was a few short days away, so BINGO, perfect timing to try out the new process. I was a little skeptical at first when I saw one of the ingredients was lemon zest because I didn’t want a tart cookie. And I was intrigued by the fact that you didn’t have to refrigerate the dough before rolling it out. What a great time saver! In my old recipe, it required refrigeration for at least 4 hours, but usually overnight—and the dough was still difficult to handle.

Yeah, these babies held their shape! It seems the major trick here is that after you put the cookies on a baking sheet, you put them in the freezer for 10 minutes, then straight into the oven from there. I’m half-tempted next time to skip the freezer trick, and slide them into the oven as soon as I cut them out—at least a few for testing purposes.

The dough was such a dream to work with. In fact, I not only made the dough, but also cut out the shapes, baked AND frosted the hearts all in one day (a long day, but still, it used to be a 3-day process.) And of course if you don’t get as detailed with the icing designs, you can frost them simply and save more time.

They were perfect, and the bit of lemon zest added a nice perkiness without overpowering the subtle sweetness of the cookie. Now I have both chocolate AND vanilla cut-out cookie recipes that hold their shape—although you have to be careful how many you eat, or you won’t be holding your shape…

Staying-in-Shape Sugar Cookies

  • Servings: 3 dozen
  • Difficulty: very easy
  • Print


  • 2 sticks (1 cup), room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • Zest from ½ the lemon (about 1 teaspoon)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups unsifted flour (plus more for rolling cookies out)
  • ½ tsp salt


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Add the butter sticks and the sugar and cream together in a stand mixer, about 3 minutes.
  3. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the egg, lemon zest, baking powder and vanilla extract, then beat again for 2 minutes until a creamy.
  4. Add 3 cups flour and ½ teaspoon salt and mix on low speed to combine about 2 minutes.
  5. When done, form the dough into a ball.
  6. On a floured surface or pastry cloth, roll out the cookie dough ball to desired thickness level, about an 1/8″ or a little thicker. Cut out shapes and place on an unrimmed baking sheet.
  7. Reform any leftover dough into another ball and repeat the process.
  8. Put baking sheet(s) in the freezer for 10 minutes.
  9. After 10 minutes take the baking sheet out of the freezer and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until edges just start to turn a light brown. (Mine took the full 12 minutes.)

Remove cookies from oven, allow to cool for a few minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting. Decorate—or not—with Royal Icing.

Additional cookies from this recipe made about one month later during a late-Winter Nor”easter while I was thinking of Spring:


Some of the latest batch for the 2019 Holiday Season:

snowmen best

4 thoughts on “Staying In Shape

  1. It’s Royal Icing made with meringue powder, confectioner’s sugar, vanilla and water. Some of it is stiffer for piping, the rest is watered down a bit more for flooding.


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