How to bake perfect cut out cookies

Baking great cookies often takes practice and I’m not only sharing with you my tips and tricks that baking thousands and thousands of cut-out cookies taught me,  I am also sharing the items I use to create such great cookies that all look consistent.   

a tray of christmas tree cookie dough with overlay of cookie, making, baking, icing, freezing, shipping, tips

If you would have told me about 10 years ago that I would bake thousands of cut-out cookies I would have told you, you’re nuts!

Cut-out cookies, rolled cookies, cookie-cutter cookies, decorated cookies, cookie baking, no matter what you call them, I have lots of resources listed to help you perfect your cookie baking.

Simply because I didn’t always love baking them, they seemed fussy and with little kids, I was always fussing with so many other things that I gave away all my cookie cutters. A huge tub, some I had for years, some were from my grandmother, I had alphabet letters, numbers, and at least 100



It took me time to collect new cookie cutters, they are readily available. Keep your eyes open.



I typically sort my cutters by type or holiday and put them into gallon plastic bags and put the bags into a tub. That way they are all in one place and it’s easy to find what I’m looking for and they don’t get bent or stuck somewhere.

After many batches of cookies, I learned what worked and what doesn’t.

There are many items I use and really wouldn’t know how to bake great cookies without them.

  • I like when all my cookies look the same…
  • I look for my cookies to be all the same thickness
  • light in color (no brown edges)
  • the shape of the cookies are “clean” meaning they are not distorted, puffy, shapeless edges.

I created a list of my must-have items, and even when I go to my mom’s to bake, I make sure I bring them with me. It certainly makes baking lots of cookies easier. No matter if they are drop cookies or cut-out cookies.
If you’d like more tips on drop cookies click here!


These are my MUST-Have Baking items!!!

Here is my recipe for Sugar Cookies This recipe will create delicious cookies that hold their shape when cut with a cookie cutter, you can alternatively roll the cookie dough into balls and bake them too.

This is my Italian Cut Out Cookie Recipe: this recipe is different because it’s more cake-like. The cookies are firm, yet tender. There are a lot of eggs in this recipe and that is what gives them a cake-like quality. These cookies also hold their shape when cut and baked. These cookies freeze well.

icing cookies @createdbydiane


Be sure to follow the recipe instructions. Each cookie recipe will have different ingredients and steps. It’s best if you start baking by having ALL the ingredients you need in front of you. You can measure them into separate bowls if that helps you to be more organized. Be sure you are using fresh ingredients, If you have baking powder from a year ago…. buy new baking powder it’s the one thing that can mess up any good cookie recipe.

cut out cookies, no spread, no chill, perfect rolled cookies cookie cutter cookies


Freezing Cookies:

Both cookie recipes freeze well. Be sure to double wrap the cookies. An example of double wrapping would be to put the cookies in a zipper freezer bag and then into a plastic container, or wrapped in plastic wrap and then put into a zipper freezer bag. Be sure all the air is removed. Use a straw and suck out the air, so the cookies will be really fresh tasting when they are thawed out. You can freeze un-iced cookies really well. I do freeze iced cookies, I find it works best with white icing and I wait two days to freeze them so all the moisture in the cookie and icing will have had a chance to “dry” so the cookies won’t get freezer burn, I’ve frozen iced cookies wrapped individually for 3 months and they tasted just like freshly iced cookies.

star gingerbread cookies with icing to look like santa cookies

Shipping Cookies:

It’s best to wrap cookies in plastic, removing as much air as possible. You can wrap iced cut out cookies individually, or place drop and similar cookies in a bag together. Place them in a box or container (metal tin) or decorative box so they don’t move too much. There should be plenty of room between the box they are in and the shipping box you place the smaller package(s) in. Two boxes, yes. If you wrap cookies and put them into a box without the added box for cushion, they’ll move and break more easily. Bubble wrap or the foamy type of plastic wrap will help cushion the cookies, Air bags, or sandwich bags full of air will help. 

I’ve shipped cookies for over 20 years, double boxing works well, or wrap cookies in “small party bag” then place them in a decorative/plain bag, and then place it all in a shipping box. Label well, try to ship in a 2 day USPS shipping box for quick delivery so they will arrive fresh.

baking sheets and parchment paper for baking great cookies

Baking Sheets: I use thick 16×20″ baking sheets that have a rolled edge. They are 1/2 sheets. They are used by bakeries. They produce even heat and even baking. Thin sheets tend to flex with the heat and bake the cookies quickly on the bottom. This results in dryer cookies and dark bottoms, depending on the cookie recipe, the butter can also spread the cookie really quickly and the result will be flatter cookies with a crisp edge but really no rise in the center and the cookies can even fall apart easily.

Parchment Paper Sheets: Parchment sheets prevent cookies from sticking to the baking sheet. Butter or shortening used to be a typical way for people to “grease” a cookie sheet, but that results in darker bottom cookies and darker equals over baked and dryer cookies and sometimes they have a greasy bottom because of it.

Parchment can be used multiple times, how many times depends on the brand you purchase. The thicker the parchment, the more uses you’ll get out of it.

Rolling cookie dough in between wax paper sheets with dowels to be sure cookie dough is even.

Dowels: the thin wood dowels are used to roll the cookie dough out evenly. Evenly cut cookies result in even baked cookies. I prefer 1/4 inch. Dowels come in round and square.

Wax Paper: Roll the cookie dough between wax paper. This avoids using excess flour and drying out the cookie dough. Dry cookie dough results in tougher, drier, more crumbly cookies.

Mixing Bowls: I prefer metal bowls on my mixer and off. They are lightweight, and they don’t chip or break like glass. They clean easily in hot soapy water and when filled the hot water helps remove sticky items quickly.

cookie, making baking, icing, shippings tips

Gingerbread Cookie Recipe

Having extra Kitchen Aid Mixer bowls has made baking days WAY easier than it was with one bowl.

Cooling Rack: This item is so great, I can’t rave about it enough. I have two of them. This allows you to free up counter space, cool cookies without having to move the trays multiple times when you are baking. They are great for any baking project and crafts too.

Rolling Pin: a long even rolling pin will glide over the dowels smoothly and evenly to create great cookies.



Small Offset Spatula: Using a spatula that is thin and close to the size of the cookie is best for transferring cookies from work area to baking sheet without messing up their shape.

Mini “Brownie” Spatula for 2 1/5 inch cookies


My cookie recipes listed above bake up cookies that are the same size and shape of the cookie cutters, no distortion. You can see by the photo above that the wavy edge on the cookie is still there when the cookies are baked and that the cookie is the same size as the cutter even after baked.
Be sure to evenly roll out the cookie dough, as I’ve shown you above. You will end up with great cookies.

This is the cookie cutter shown above, Crinkle Heart Cookie Cutter.

What causes spreading in cookies, or cookies that don’t hold their shape? 

All good questions, here are my answers…

Cookies can spread because of a few reasons, heat is one. An oven that is not properly pre-heated can cause the butter to melt slowly and the cookies will start to spread, rather than rise. When the beeping sound goes off that your oven is to the temperature that you set… it actually is not the best time to open the oven and put the cookies in. You’re oven just reached the temperature opening the door can let out too much heat and drop the temperature rapidly, so be sure to preheat the oven well, so it’ll hold the proper temperature. Use an oven thermometer, buy a thermometer and place it in the bottom of your oven, then you’ll have a good idea of what the temperature really is.

The temperature of your ingredients is another, if the temperature of the butter called for is room temperature the butter should be about 65-67° so warm butter will result in quickly spread cookies, and greasy cookies. So don’t melt your butter in the microwave and expect the same result. Don’t use butter that has been sitting out on the counter for days and thinks that is what is referred to as room temperature, it could be warm as I mentioned. Room temperature is referred to quite a bit, if you take the butter out of the fridge, cut it into small pieces and allow it to come to “room temperature” for 30 minutes on the counter on a plate or wax paper I find works great. Can you use cold butter? you can but it often doesn’t mix well in all recipes. Although truth be told my sugar cookie recipe is so flexible that you can use cold butter or even add all the ingredients in the bowl at once and still have great cookies, I tried it all sorts of ways after readers had questions and the cookies still came out great, did not spread, tasted great, so if there is a problem with my cookie recipe message me, I’m here to help.

Not enough flour if there is not enough flour and the dough seems greasy, add some flour a tablespoon at a time until the texture is smooth, not greasy, but not dry.

A hot kitchen! If it’s hot (warmer than 70°) you’ll often find that cookies will bake differently, the dough will be warm and cookies being a small baked good, can be affected by the temperature in the room as well as humidity. 

Cookies don’t hold their shape, often this happens if the cookies are rolled out too thin, I recommend 1/4″ thick and to be sure the cookies don’t get crisp or brown on the edges, I roll the dough evenly using two 1/4″ dowels on each side of the dough to ensure the cookie dough is even and smooth from edge to edge.

Egg size, the standard egg size in baking recipes (across the board, from box mixes to bloggers) use large eggs (not extra-large or jumbo) the added liquid may not seem like a lot but in a cut-out cookie, it can make a huge difference.

Don’t grease your pans, this will cause cookies to spread, use parchment paper to line the baking sheets, often there are problems with thin cookie sheets, dark cookie sheets, and inexpensive “cheap” cookie sheets. I use thick baking sheets with a rolled edge, I bake hundreds of cookies at a time with no issues, so trust me on this the cookie sheets matter. I use heavy 4 sided rolled edge cookie sheets like they use in bakeries, they are my favorite!

Plan ahead and have enough cookie sheets, allow the cookie to cool completely on the cookie sheet you baked them on, don’t move cookies to a cooling rack… 1) it makes a mess 2) you risk goofing up your cookies 3) and this recipe is made to bake and cool cookies on the baking sheet. So this should go without saying, don’t put cookie dough on a warm cookie sheet.

Do you have to refrigerate or chill the cookie dough? Using my recipe. No, I do not refrigerate or chill my dough. I make the dough, roll it out, cut the cookies, place them on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake them. I then allow the cookies to cool completely. Then I either ice them or I eat them un-iced! If I’m not icing them right away I lay a clean thin, soft dish towel over the cookie sheets to ice in a day or two. They do not go stale, they taste great. This cookie recipe freezes well too, I suggest freezing up to 60 days for best results.


How to make better tasting cookies

Cookies lack flavor, I give my recommendation for flavor on my recipes, most often the vanilla is one of the main sources of flavor in cookies, the better the vanilla, the better the flavor. I’ve had many people say they make their own vanilla (and they rave how good it is, but as soon as it’s heated its flavor dissipates) I often use vanilla bean paste, specifically Neiman Massey, the quality is worth the price. I have purchased SO MANY varieties of vanilla, and it’s interesting to me how if you smell the bottom of the baked cookie great vanilla smells amazing… don’t believe me, I did a smell and taste test and had 5 people smell and taste different vanilla extract/emulsion/bean paste if my cookie recipes and buying a large bottle at a big box store with a well known name on it isn’t always the best flavor. I recall baking two batches of cookies with a new bottle one year and they tasted so bland. It was the vanilla. If you want to add more vanilla, go right ahead.

baking perfect cut out cookies @createdbydiane

cookie cutters: You will find cookie cutters in lots of places, Amazon, Walmart, baking supply stores, and antique shops always have fun shapes you don’t see everywhere.

glaze icing on sugar cookies, learn how to ice cookies the EASY way from @createdbydiane


Icing: I have two ways to ice cookies

one is How to Ice Cookies WITH a Piping Bag

the second way is How to Ice Cookies without a Piping Bag.

The posts include recipes for icing as well as how to apply icing to cookies.

cut out cookies


If you have a specific question on baking cookies feel free to leave it in the comments. I do read all comments personally.




Find more great info on baking cookies here:


perfect no spread cookies

STILL looking for more, below you will find a delicious list of sugar cookie recipes lots of great flavors perfect for your next baking adventure!

bake perfect cookies each and every time with these instructions and tips @createdbydiane


  1. Canyou show à picture of rolling the dough including the dowels. Please. I really cannot picture this in my head.
    Thank you

    1. I’m still trying to locate this recipe on mobile. Please add a jump to recipe option at the top. Would’ve enjoyed baking these.

    2. The recipes are at the bottom of each post. Except posts like these which are in round up form and include MANY recipes. Each recipe is link to the title. (just click and it’ll open the individual post) I have a few cut out cookie recipes on this post assuming that is what you are looking for.
      Sugar Cookie Recipe
      Italian Cookie Recipe

      The post you’re reading has lots of information on items used, recipes such as cookie recipes, icing recipes, freezing cookies etc. So this particular post would not have a jump to recipe as there are many recipes linked throughout the post.

      Adding the jump to recipe button is in the works, sadly it can’t just be added.It’s” in progress with a site wide redesign.

      If you ever have trouble locating a recipe on my site, email me. I’m happy to send a direct link.
      HAPPY BAKING! -Diane

  2. How long do you leave the cookies on the sheet pan before putting them on the cooling rack? And do you pick them up one by one or slid the parchment paper with the cookies onto the cooling rack?

    1. After cutting the cookies out, I pick up each cookie with a small spatula or offset spatula if they are really small cookies, and place them on the parchment-lined baking sheets. Once the cookies are baked I do not transfer the cookies to a cooling rack, I keep them on the baking sheets. This avoids the cookies from breaking, and it much cleaner without all those crumbs everywhere too.

    1. Hello Diane
      I’m late to your party. But, I new to baking sugar cookies. I can’t seem to fine your cookie recipe for your perfect cookies. Would you be so kind to advise me where I can find it.
      Maria Pignone

  3. Would you make any adjustments for cooking at 5280 ft? I’m in Denver now after living in Houston, and I have trouble baking at altitude :/


    1. I’m in Southern California at 1100 feet. I do know many who are at elevation adjust things for baking but since I have no experience at an elevation above mine I’d suggest googling it. Sorry, I can’t be more helpful. If you are going to test cookies. I’d bake 2 cookies at a time if you are adjusting the temperature. I’d say try the recipe as written and then you can message me with the results and we can discuss what you can do if it needs adjustments. I’m hoping it will be fine 🙂

  4. HI
    Are these cookies a soft sugar cookie or do they “crumble” when you bite into them
    I’m looking for a recipe for cut out sugar cookies that remain soft when you bite into
    them, but not cake like as in your italian recipe
    thanks much

    1. These have a medium firmness, they don’t crumble like a dry sugar cookie, and they aren’t moist like a drop cookie. They are not cake-like. They have a nice bite when you bite into them, but don’t make a complete mess. If you want to give them a making a smaller batch by halving the recipe (you can use 1 large egg or use 1 1/2 tablespoons of an egg that is mixed to test them out, without making a lot of cookies) A soft sugar cookie that is almost flexible, in my opinion, would be more of a butter cookie. But this is a true sugar cookie without being overly sweet and sugary and great with icing.
      Happy Baking!

  5. I don’t think that I can make it like this anyway in my lifetime 🙁 it is saddening but I will do try all my best. thank you for teaching.

  6. I just LOVE this and can’t wait to perfect my cookies so they look just like yours. I’ve tried a few times to make cut out cookies, but thanks to your tips I really think I’ll have better success next time.

  7. Hi Diane,

    I would like to speak with you by phone or on Skype at your convenience about a business idea. I am currently in Central Mexico, and if you wish I’d be happy to call you or you can call me. This is primarily creating nut-based, fruit-based and savory new lines, with additional new features, and being impressed with your background and repertoire I think this might be of interest to you. You can reach me at egtaylor1 on Skype or via my email address (I could not locate you in Southern California). The plan is for the entire continent gradually and later who knows, both from here and from the North…We have the facilities, experts here, but not in the North. I hope that you will contact me soon.

  8. Diane,

    Do you have any tips or recommendations for a red velvet cookie recipe that I can use for cookie cutting? Is there a specific ingredient that can reduce the fluffiness of a red velvet recipe? I’m using a cookie cutter it many lines and I don’t want the cookie to get so fluffy that i will look like a blob. I hope you can help!

    Thank you!

    1. Glaze icing has more of a shine to it when it’s dry (it has some corn syrup in it which I feel adds to the glossier finish, like in the red cookies in the post) royal icing dries with a matte finish. Both recipes are linked in the post, let me know if I can help you with anything else.

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