Soft Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies
Soft baked cream cheese sugar cookies. This is the best cut-out sugar cookie recipe you will ever try! Soft, easy to make, and fun to decorate.
I’ve been flying through sticks of butter testing new cookie recipes for you (a tough job, but someone needs to keep those cookie trays fresh!). Before I share them though, I wanted to kick off cookies’ biggest time of year with a treasured, classic recipe that I bake every year, perfect Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies. Soft, tender, and surprisingly easy to make, these are THE ideal cutout cookie, for the holidays…or anytime you need a soft, chewy, and utterly perfect cut out cookie.
These melt in your mouth cream cheese sugar cookies have been my go-to roll out cookie dough since well before I was tall enough to preheat the oven. I first shared the recipe a few years ago, and they’ve become many of your favorite sugar cookie recipes too.
These chewy cream cheese sugar cookies are sturdy enough to pick up with your fingers or mail in a care package, but they remain magically soft up to a week after baking.
Not that they’ve ever lasted a full week around here, BUT in the event that you happen to have some hidden away and are rationing them out, know you’ll be able to enjoy them over the course of a week or more (longer if you freeze).
Unlike many other roll out cookie dough recipes I’ve tried, this cream cheese cookie dough is easy and forgiving, so much so that little ones can easily help to make and decorate them. My four-year-old niece and I baked a batch of these sugar cookies together last year, and I can’t wait to make them with her again.
Even if you usually bypass the sugar cookies in favor of other options on the cookie tray, I am begging you to give these cream cheese sugar cookies a try. They are exceptional.
Making Perfect Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies
When you take a bite of these cookies, what you’ll taste is the most pleasing, buttery, bewitching, and un-boring sugar cookie you’ve ever had. While they don’t taste like cream cheese, cream cheese is the secret ingredient that makes this sugar cookie dough so easy to handle. It tenderizes the cookies and adds a subtle tang that balances the sweetness of the sugar and frosting.
For the Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies:
- 1 cup unsalted butter - at room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg - at room temperature
- 2 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese - at room temperature (do not use fat free)
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
For the Frosting:
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 3-4 tablespoons milk
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 3/4 teaspoon almond extract
- Food coloring
- Colored sugar
- Other decorations as desired
- In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl, then add the egg and beat until fully incorporated, about 30 seconds. Add the cream cheese and beat for 1 minute, scrape down the bowl once more, then beat in the vanilla extract, almond extract, and lemon zest until incorporated, about 30 seconds.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer running on low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients to the butter-sugar mixture, mixing just until fully incorporated and a soft dough is formed.
- Divide the dough into quarters. If using the dough within 24 hours, roll each quarter to a 1/4-inch thickness in between two sheets of parchment paper (alternatively, you can store the dough in a ball or disk and roll out when ready to cut and bake). Be careful not to roll the dough any thinner or the cookies will not be as soft. Keeping the dough flat, transfer it to the refrigerator and chill for at least 1 hour or overnight. Repeat with the remaining dough (it is fine to stack the dough "flats" on top of each other to save space). If you will not be using the dough within 24 hours, divide the dough in half, pat each into a disk, then wrap each disk tightly in plastic and freeze in a ziptop bag for up to 1 month. Let thaw in the refrigerator overnight, then proceed with the recipe as directed.
- When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Remove one of dough flats from the refrigerator. (If you stored the dough in a ball or disk, roll it to a 1/4-inch thickness now, between two layers of parchment paper.) Remove the top layer of parchment paper, then with cookie cutters, slice the cookies into desired shapes. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough.
- Bake the cookies for 9-11 minutes, until barely lightly golden brown and the edges are dry. The cookies will look slightly underbaked. Let cool completely.
- To make the frosting: In a small bowl, stir together the powdered sugar and 3 tablespoons milk as best as you can (the frosting will be very solid at this point). Beat in the corn syrup and almond extract until the frosting is smooth and glossy. If the frosting seems too thick, add more milk, one teaspoon at a time, until you reach your desired consistency. If making colored frosting, add a few drops of food coloring until you reach your desired color intensity. Frost and decorate the cookies as desired. Let the frosting set for a few minutes, then enjoy!
- Store leftover baked cream cheese sugar cookies in an airtight container at room temperature, separating the cookie layers with wax or parchment paper, for up to 4 days or freeze frosted or unfrosted for up to 2 months.
- Dough can be prepared through Step 3 and stored covered in the refrigerator for up to 1 day or frozen for up to 3 months. Let stand at room temperature until soft enough to scoop, then bake as directed (if frozen, thaw overnight in the refrigerator first).
- Shaped, unbaked cookies can be frozen for up to 3 months. To freeze: place the unbaked cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet, freeze until hardened, then transfer to a ziptop bag. Bake directly from frozen, adding a minute or two to the baking time.
- If you want to make a monster batch of cookies, this recipe can be doubled.