The Sad Story of the Snowflake Sugar Cookies

I was excited to help out with my daughter’s school Christmas party this past December. Since food is kind of my thing, I offered to be in charge of the treat table. I thought it would be fun for the kids to decorate snowflake-shaped sugar cookies. (I have a set of snowflake cookie cutters that I haven’t used much, and wanted to get some more use out of them). So the night before the party, I planned to stay up late cutting and baking sugar cookies.

The night before the party arrived and all was going according to plan until I pulled the first batch of sugar cookies out of the oven. Suddenly, I remembered the problem I always have with cut-out sugar cookies. My beautifully cut snowflake cookies no longer looked like snowflakes. They had spread into massive blobs that looked more like flowers. I tried adjusting cooking times and temperatures, and I added a bit more flour to the dough, but nothing was working. Maybe I could tell the kids they were poinsettias?!

Thankfully, they still tasted good and the kids didn’t seem to care what they looked like. Yet after this cookie fail, I determined that I had better do some research and start figuring out why my cut-out cookies always spread. Here are a few ideas you might want to try the next time you want your cookies to hold their shape.

  • Chill the dough! Some people like to make their sugar cookie dough and chill it over night before using it. Others like to make the dough and cut-out the shapes first, and then place the pan of cut-out cookies in the freezer for about 10 minutes before baking.

  • Don’t use baking powder. No matter the recipe, take out the baking powder completely. Since baking powder is a leavening agent that causes the batter to rise, there will be a lot let rising/spreading without it.

  • Use Parchment Paper. Parchment paper can help prevent cookies from spreading and sliding around the pan.

  • Don’t over mix the dough. Dough that is over mixed will be full of air bubbles. Air bubbles cause the dough to spread when baked.

  • Be careful with your butter. Some butter has more water content than others. This is often true of less expensive brands. Use high-quality butter; it will result in high-quality cookies. Also, make sure your butter is not too soft when you mix your dough. Some bakers even prefer working with cold, hard butter for sugar cookies.

  • Cornstarch…who knew?! One baking blogger I read swears by cornstarch! She says to substitute cornstarch for about 1/2-3/4 of the flour in any sugar cookie recipe. She says the dough is easier to work with and the edges come out perfectly.

I don’t know about you, but I am excited to try out some of these new ideas the next time I make cut-out cookies! As always, I love to hear from my readers. What are some of your tricks for perfect sugar cookies? Do you have any fail-proof recipes? Feel free to e-mail me or share in the comments below! Happy baking!


    Cristina Duke
    Monthly Newsletter Contributor since 2014
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