Perfect Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies

I am solidly convinced that holiday cookie exchanges were invented precisely because committing to one single cookie for the entire holiday season (let alone the entirety of a holiday afternoon) is impossible. Maybe the Grinch could manage it, but certainly not this unabashed Christmas-cookie lover. I like to try a few new cookie recipes each season, and I also have my favorites, the ones without which my holiday season would not feel complete. These Perfect Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies are one of those special recipes. Soft, tender, and surprisingly easy to make, they are easily the most popular cookie recipe on my site. This is my go-to sugar cookie recipe, and I’m betting that once you try it, it will be yours too!

The BEST Cut Out Sugar Cookies from scratch with no-fail icing. A foolproof Christmas cookie recipe that even kids can make!

When it comes to baking cookies, I’m usually of the mindset that the sooner the cookies can be out of the oven and in my mouth, the better. Christmas cut-out cookies are the exception. The process of making and decorating them is as much a part of the fun as eating them. This year I’m especially excited to bake and decorate these treats with my two-year-old niece, who is already quite the little kitchen assistant.

Soft and fluffy Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies with Perfect Icing. The only cut out cookie recipe you will ever need!

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.

The combination of the cream cheese, almond extract, and lemon zest makes these sugar cookies taste special. They still have that classically buttery, lightly sweet flavor that you’re seeking when you reach for a sugar cookie in the first place but are elevated just enough to keep you reaching back into the jar. Trust me when I say that one cream cheese sugar cookie will never ever suffice.

The BEST Cut Out Sugar Cookies from scratch, with step-by-step photos. Cream cheese is the secret ingredient that makes the sugar cookies super soft, even days after they are baked. This is the only cut out Christmas cookie recipe you will ever need!

Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies recipe with step-by-step photos

Cream cheese is the secret ingredient that makes this sugar cookie dough ultra easy to handle (even kids can make these cut-out cookies!), and it adds a subtle tang to the cookies that balances the sweetness of the frosting. If you are a fan of soft cookies, you’ll love this recipe too. They are pillowy and tender, even days after they are baked. Honestly, the hardest part about this cream cheese cookie recipe is choosing which shape to eat first!

The other half of these cream cheese cookies is the frosting. I consider it a crime against cut-out-cookie kind to take a perfectly soft sugar cookie and deck it with a frosting that hardens into a brittle sheet, which is why I love this particular frosting recipe so much. It’s glossy, sets up beautifully, and remains pleasantly soft beneath its shiny exterior.

In all flavor and texture categories, this frosting recipe is perfect…but—let’s address the reindeer in the room now—it contains some corn syrup.

I realize that corn syrup is a divisive ingredient, but I haven’t found an adequate substitute for it in this recipe yet.

Maple syrup is too runny. Honey creates a nice shine, but the frosting doesn’t set well and the honey throws off the flavor also.

Can we each agree to eat a frosted cream cheese sugar cookie, ignore the you-know-what, and say we do this once a year?

How to make cut out sugar cookies, step by step. This cream cheese sugar cookie recipe is so easy and foolproof! Even kids can make these.

I think I’ll eat the mitten first. Or the snowflake. Or the sparkly star…

Soft Baked Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies with Perfect Frosting. This is the only cut out sugar cookie recipe you will ever need!

Tips for Cut-Out Cookie Dough Success:

  • Chill Out: Keeping roll-out cookie dough cold is critical for easy handling. If there is any portion of the dough you aren’t working with immediately, keep it in the refrigerator until you are ready to roll and cut. If at any point the dough becomes too sticky to handle, simply pop it back into the refrigerator and sip your hot chocolate, and in a few minutes, it will be good to go again.
  • Lay Flat: Why is it that we roll cut-out cookie dough (and pie crust for that matter) into a big ball prior to chilling it then go to all the trouble to roll it flat again afterwards when it’s cold and inflexible? If you will be using the cookie dough within a few hours, instead of patting it into a ball to chill it, roll it out between two pieces of parchment paper and place it in the refrigerator in its rolled-out state. Then, once the dough has chilled, there’s no need to re-roll. Simply place it on your counter in its nicely flattened shape, remove the top sheet of parchment, and cut away.

Tools to Make Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies:

How to Store Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies:

  • An airtight container at room temperature is best. Once the cookies are baked, they will stay delightfully soft for up to 5 days and still taste great even after a week.
  • Separate layers of frosted cookies with waxed paper or parchment paper.
  • Unbaked, unshaped cookie dough can be frozen for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then roll, shape, and bake as directed.
  • Baked cookies can be frozen for up to 1 month, frosted or unfrosted. Let the cookies cool to room temperature, arrange them in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet, then place the baking sheet in the freezer until the cookies harden. Transfer the cookies to a ziptop bag and place the bag in your freezer. When ready to eat, remove as many or as few cookies from the bag as you like. Place in an airtight container and let thaw overnight in the refrigerator or at room temperature.

More Favorite Christmas Cookie Recipes:

Watch How to Make Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies (1 minute):

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Soft Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies with Perfect Frosting

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.

Yield: 2-3 dozen sugar cookies, depending upon size

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours, 45 minutes (includes chill time)

Ingredients:

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, as desired
  • Sprinkles, colored sugar, or other cookie decorations, as desired

Directions:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

Cookie recipe adapted from The Kitchn

// All images and text ©/Well Plated.

Nutrition Facts

Serving Size: 1 cookie (out of 3 dozen)

  • Amount Per Serving:
  • Calories: 146
  • Total Fat: 6g
  • Saturated Fat: 3g
  • Cholesterol: 20mg
  • Sodium: 30mg
  • Carbohydrates: 22g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Sugar: 15g
  • Protein: 1g

Did you try this recipe? I want to see! Follow Well Plated on Instagram, snap a photo, and tag it #wellplated. I love to know what you are making!

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About Erin Clarke

I’m fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food taste incredible. Wearer of plaid, travel enthusiast, and firmly convinced that sweets and veggies both deserve a place at the table. MORE ABOUT ERIN…

78 comments

  1. First I had to look up what track #5 was on Bublé’s album.
    Second, I had to look up when my local cookie exchange is this year–not schedule yet, so I’d better get on top of that.
    Third, I think these look delicious enough to warrant using corn syrup, esp if but once a year…though I’m not sure I’ll be able to make these but once. Maybe once before Thanksgiving. I might lose track between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I’ll go ahead and blame that on the corn syrup in my system ;)

  2. I do love the Christmas carols, but they started playing them 24/7 last week. As in, November 11th. Have they lost their minds?!
    These cookies are fabulous, though, anytime, anywhere. So pretty!

  3. And how perfect they do look! I’ve never tried cream cheese cookies before but clearly it’s a holiday must!

  4. They look so cute! I can already feel Christmas :D

  5. This is seriously my fave time of the year. .  I LOVE these cookies, Erin! They make me so happy! :) I shot a holiday cookie video over the weekend so we channeled Christmas Day and it was awesome! I love your two key tips!!! These cookies are perfection! 

  6. I can’t do it yet! If it was colder here, I think I could, but it’s been crazy warm, and I just don’t associate that with Christmas…Next week is when I’m starting it, including putting up my million Christmas decorations. Back when I didn’t’ really like cookies (crazy, I know), sugar cookies were basically the only cookie I liked. These make me remember why I love them so much, plus, they’re so flipping cute! 

  7. Looks great! And how convenient to freeze the extra batches of dough- cookies ready to go throughout the season without additional prep. Good thinking!

  8. I am definitely going to try this recipe. I am a cookie-making machine at Christmas time and I am always in search of the perfect rolled/cut-out recipe. I can just imagine the flavors of the cream cheese, almond and lemon combination. Can’t wait!

    Also, the “so-simple-why-didn’t-I-think-of-that” hack for rolling the dough between parchment paper to chill is GENIUS! Thanks again Erin!

  9. Oh my goodness! These look so good! And they are so pretty to! 

  10. ooo, I’m soo not ready for Christmas yet. But, I guess it’s good to have the recipe ahead of time. Sugar cookies are always hard and not usually my fave but if you say these are soft I will have to give them a try! I will make them with my niece when I get back to America!!

  11. Michael Buble will do that to ya :) These look amazing- love the idea of cream cheese for texture and flavor here :)

  12. These cookies are so pretty :) I’ve never heard of cream cheese sugar cookies before, but I so want to try them now.  I’ve been on the hunt for an easy sugar cookie recipe, and this sounds like a great one to try!

    Dani | http://www.styledvariety.com

  13. I have big sugar cookie fans here who can’t wait to try these but, unfortunately, one of them has a tree nut allergy. Would you recommend adding additional vanilla extract in place of the almond extract or would this compromise the taste you’re going after in the recipe? I am so intrigued with the cream cheese/soft texture…I hope we can make this work!

  14. Thank you!

  15. Oooo a girl after my own heart! I SWOON over Michael Buble during the holidays. I made my hubby put up our tree last weekend. Hehehe. I love Christmas too much!! Actually, lies – you can’t love Christmas too much. I also LOVE this recipe – my sugar cookies always end up hard and taste ‘meh’. THESE look so soft and amazing!!! Pinning!

  16. Can I double this recipe and still get great results?

    • Chelsea, I’ve never tried doubling it myself, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. Just be sure to work with the dough in batches, keeping whatever portion you are not rolling immediately in the refrigerator. I hope you love the cookies!

  17. Made these over the weekend with my kids, and you are right—they are PERFECT! This will be my go-to cut out cookie recipe now. The cream cheese makes them so soft and the dough was really easy to work with too. My only regret is not doubling the recipe. We devoured the whole batch in 2 days!

    Rating: 5
  18. These cookies were amazimg! Perfectly soft and yummy. I hand wrote this recipe to keep in my box! :) Thanks so much for sharing! Many people loved them!

    Rating: 5
  19. If you have an egg allergy can you omit the egg? Would you reduce the amount of flour then?

    • Hi Angie! Unfortunately, the egg is quite critical in this recipe. You could try substituting additional cream cheese or reducing the flour, but it would be an experiment. I’m sorry I can’t give you more direction, but I have never tried the recipe this way.

  20. Hi there Erin,ur cookies look wonderful..and of course I making this soon,so I would like to ask,once I’ve frost the cream cheese cookies into the fridge will the frosting melt easily??because this is the first time of doing it..tq

  21. I am so pleased to see you highlight this recipe. It is now the only sugar cookie I make for decorating….have already made two batches this holiday season! I highly recommend it to your readers. Your tip regarding chilled dough is spot on….I additionally place the cookie sheet with cut-out dough in the freezer five minutes before baking (keeps them from spreading and leaves the edges nice and straight). I allow them to air-dry after decorating for about 12 hours (or overnight) if they’re going to be stacked for gift giving (yes, they remain soft!). Thanks again for a great recipe…hope you don’t mind my additional tips. Happy Holidays!

    Rating: 5
    • Thank you SO MUCH, Sandra! This is such a wonderful endorsement, and I’m thrilled that you consider these your go-to decorating cookies! Your tips for freezing before baking and letting the frosting air-dry are excellent and will be so helpful to other readers. I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to leave this comment! Happy holidays to you too!

  22. These remind me so much of what my grandma used to make!!! And she would be right there with you on the “do not use fat-free” cream cheese train. :)

  23. These look so festive and delightful for the holidays!

  24. Does the frosting get permanent enough that it won’t get everywhere after t has dried? Wanting to add one of each to a cookie bag I make for friends but not sure if it will be a disaster with the frosting? Appreciate the guidance!

  25. Wow, gorgeous! I never make cutouts bc I don’t have the patience…lol. Can you make all of mine for me? Thanks :)

  26. Mafe your cream cheese cut out yesterday with granddaughters we loved them

    Rating: 5
    • Hi Tamara, I’m so happy you and your granddaughters loved the cookies! Thank you so much for taking the time to leave this kind review!

  27. I like the cream cheese twist on these and those cookies look so lovely! Like the sprinkles! :)

  28. The best sugar cookies I have ever made perfect texture and taste!  Great recipe!

    Rating: 5
  29. Corn syrup is 100% glucose derived from corn. High fructose corn syrup, the stuff everyone worries about eating too much of, has been treated to convert a portion of the glucose to fructose (normally 45%). Sucrose (table sugar) is 50% glucose and 50% fructose. Most adverse health outcomes are related to fructose consumption. I wouldn’t worry too much about finding a substitute for the corn syrup.
    Cant wait to try this recipe with my neices!

  30. The cream cheese twist with sugar cookies sound awesome! I was wondering if you thought omitting the lemon zest would greatly change the flavor of the cookie? I have everything to make them but that. Thanks for sharing!

    • Hi Raven, the flavor will be a bit different because you’ll lose the hint of lemon flavor. But I probably wouldn’t let lack of lemon zest stop me from making a batch of these cookies! I hope you love the recipe!

  31. Getting ready to try th recipie now

  32. These are also my go-to cookie recipe (for a couple years now!), and I’ve shared it with others who have asked for it as well. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing it with us!

    Rating: 5
    • Christine, this makes me SO happy to hear! Thank you so much! I’m so glad you and those around you have enjoyed them. :)

  33. Wow your tip for rolling out the dough instead of placing it in the fridge in a ball may have just changed my life! Why did I never think of that? This recipe sounds great! Think I’ll try this for some Valentine cut outs. Thank you!!

    • It changes EVERYTHING! Isn’t it funny how things like that don’t often come to mind? I hope you enjoy the cookies, Amy! These will be so cute in Valentine shapes.

  34. This recipe is perfect, thank you so much! I needed a soft sugar cookie recipe to use with an angular cutter (anchor-shaped) that would not puff out and lose details and this was amazing. Thank you!

    Rating: 5
    • YAY I’m glad it was the perfect recipe for you, Erin! Anchor shapes sound wonderful. Thank you so much for taking the time to leave this wonderful review!

  35. Do these ship well for college goody box???

  36. Could the dough be dyed black with gel color?
    Thank you.

    Rating: 5
    • Hi Erin, I’ve never tried that personally, but I know lots of bakers dye their cookie dough, so I don’t see why it wouldn’t work here. I hope you enjoy the cookies!

  37. Can regular cream cheese be used or must it be reduced fat? Bo

  38. Please please tell me I can bake then freeze prior to baking! Need to make soon for a shower and really excited about recipe

    • Hi Fran, you can freeze the dough for up to 1 month, or you can freeze the unfrosted, baked cookies in an airtight container as well. I hope you enjoy them!

  39. What could be used instead of almond extract?

    • Good question! You can swap in more vanilla extract if you don’t have or want to use almond. I hope you enjoy the cookies!

  40. Heather S Christo Reply

    I am so excited for Holiday baking!!!!

  41. Yup, gotta make these every year! Sugar cookie cut-outs are a must have a Christmas! 

  42. The cutest!!! YAY for holiday baking :) 

  43. I just made a batch of these and the kids went ape over them! The classics are the best :)

  44. These look so fun and festive! A must for the Christmas cookie platter!

  45. I just got SO excited about holiday cookie season!

  46. This looks incredible! Yum!

  47. These look amazing and I am totally making these for Christmas, my kids will love it. Plus I never knew you could freeze cookies!

  48. HI I love chewy sugar cookies, but I know that chewy cookies are difficult to do in cut out form. So are these soft and kind of chewy or are they loft house cookie soft?

    • Hi Sarah, they’re not as thick and fluffy as lofthouse cookies, but they’re not as thin as a standard cut out sugar cookie either. I think they’re somewhere in between. I hope that helps!

  49. Best sugar cookies I’ve ever had. I always thought Betty Crocker or other long-standing classic cookbooks are where I should find the “best” classic cookie. NOPE. This recipe is THE BEST roll out recipe. The lemon and almond are not overpowering but give the cookie flavor depth, the consistency is perfect and they are so think and soft. Also very happy with how the icing worked and set. I made a double batch for a holiday cookie party and the guests raved they were the best cookies ever. Make these for Christmas!!

    Rating: 5
    • <3 THANK YOU ELIZABETH! This is just the most wonderful review I could ask for. I'm honored you chose my recipe for your party and so happy they were a hit!

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