Baker Bettie

Sour Cream Sugar Cookies

Soft sour cream sugar cookies are a holiday must have with our family! These cookies hold their shape well for making cookie cutouts and remain very soft after baked. Like a Lofthouse Cookie but better!  

Soft sugar cookies frosted and lined up on a sheet pan with rainbow sprinkles. One has a bite taken out of it

Sour Cream Sugar Cookies Overview

These soft sour cream sugar cookies are my all time favorite sugar cookies! The sour cream adds such a nice tangy flavor and keeps the cookies super moist and soft! 

If you had to compare these to a store bought cookie, you could definitely say they are a like a Lofthouse cookie, but they are so much better! In my opinion, real Lofthouse cookies are too overly sweet and one note. These cookies have a nice balance and taste more grown up! 

How to Keep Sugar Cookies Really Soft

Frosted sour cream sugar cookies lined up on a sheet pan with rainbow sprinkles. One has a bite taken out of it.

These sugar cookies bake up really nice and soft, but there are a few things that help keep them that way. Keeping the dough slightly thick when you roll it out helps them stay really soft in the center. I like to roll mine out just a little thicker than 1/4″. 

It is also important that you don’t over mix your dough. Once the flour is added into your mixing bowl, mix until it is just absorbed. This will keep your sugar cookies soft. 

I also find that keeping the cookies in an airtight container is absolutely key to keeping them soft. Even if the edges do get a little crispy while baking, putting them in an airtight container will soften them. 

How to Get Sugar Cookies to Hold Their Shape

Cooke dough rolled out and a being cut into circles with a round cookie cutter

The best way I have found to get sugar cookies to hold their shape is to make sure the dough is really chilled when it goes into the oven and to bake them at a higher temperature. These two things will allow the outside of the cookie to set before the butter melts and spreads the cookie out. 

How to Quickly Chill Cookie Dough

Many sugar cookie recipes, and other recipes like gingersnap cookies, call for a long chilling time. However, I have figured out how to chill dough very quickly. 

I like to press my cookie dough between two pieces of parchment paper and then transfer it into the refrigerator. Creating a thinner piece of dough allows it to chill much more quickly. 

For these sugar cookies we are actually going to put it in the freezer for just about 10-15 minutes and then cut them out. This will help them hold their shape well and makes for a very quick sugar cookie recipe! 

How to Make Sour Cream Sugar Cookies

These cookies use the classic creaming method for cookies. It is a very quick and easy process. You do want to be careful not to over mix your dough or your cookies can become tough. 

Step 1: Mix the Cookie Dough

This cookie dough has the standard lineup of ingredients for sugar cookies except it has the addition of sour cream. I also like to add in a bit of lemon zest. But that is optional. I think the tanginess of this cookie dough is what makes it so special! 

When creaming your butter and sugar together make sure you do it until it is just slightly light and fluffy. You don’t want to cream too much or this will make your cookies spread out and not hold their shape as much. 

Step 2: Roll out the Dough and Chill

Transfer the dough between two pieces of parchment paper and roll out to a little bit thicker than 1/4″ thick. I go somewhere in between 1/4″ and 1/2″ thick. 

Rolling out sugar cookie dough in between two pieces of parchment paper

After you roll out the dough, transfer it to the freezer for about 10-15 minutes to firm up. This will allow you to cut out the cookies without needing a lot of extra flour. This also helps the cookies to hold their shape when baking if you want to make cutout cookies. 

Step 3: Cut out your Cookies & Bake

Once your dough is firm, cut out your cookie shapes. I used round cutters to keep the look of these cookies neutral for any occasion. But use any shape you like! 

If your dough starts to get soft again, pop it back in the freezer for a few minutes!

Step 4: Frost!

Once your cookies have cooled completely, you can frost them with any frosting you like. I like to use my easy buttercream frosting with a bit of lemon juice added to it. This really helps balance the sweetness and makes the sugar cookies extra delicious. 

If you want to do more intricate designs, or if you want the frosting the set hard, like in the picture below, I recommend using a classic royal icing. 

Sugar Cookie Christmas Tree

Sour cream sugar cookies cut out in varying sizes of stars and stacked to form a christmas tree shape

When I first published this recipe back in 2012, I used it to make a sugar cookie Christmas tree! In order to make one you need a star tree cookie cutter set

Make the full recipe as written below, and use the star cookie cutters to cut out the various sizes of stars. The packaging of the cookie cutters should specify how many of each size you need to make your cookie Christmas tree. 

Instead of using the buttercream frosting in the recipe below, I recommend using a classic royal icing and color it green. Then after you stack the cookies into the tree shape, you can dust with a little powdered sugar to look like snow. Top with a cranberry! 

Soft Sour Cream Sugar Cookies

Soft Sour Cream Sugar Cookies

Yield: About 25- 3 1/2" Round Cookies
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 8 minutes
Chilling Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 38 minutes

Soft sour cream sugar cookies are a holiday must have with our family! This sugar cookie Christmas tree is made with these cookies because they hold their shape well and do not spread during cooking. The cookies stay pale in color after baking and are very soft and tender.

Ingredients

For the Cookie Dough

  • 1/2 cup (113 gr) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup 200 gr) granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp lemon zest (*optional)
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (112 gr) full fat sour cream
  • 1 1/2 tsp (6 gr) baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp (2 gr) kosher salt
  • 2 3/4 cups (330 gr) all-purpose flour

For the Frosting

  • 1 sticks (113 gr) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups (240 gr) powdered, icing, or confectioners sugar
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla extract
  • 1 TBSP (15 ml) lemon juice (*optional)
  • 2-3 TBSP (30-45 ml) milk or heavy cream

Instructions

For the Cookies
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fit with a paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, cream together the butter, granulated sugar, and lemon zest (if using) together until lightly fluffy. Mix on medium/high speed for about 45 seconds-1 minute. You don't want to cream too much or the cookies won't hold their shape as well when baked.
  2. Add the egg and sour cream into the mixing bowl and mix until absorbed. Add the baking powder and salt and mix until absorbed.
  3. Add the flour into the mixing bowl and mix until it is just absorbed. You don't want to mix too much once the flour is added. The dough will be sticky.
  4. Divide the dough in half and transfer each half onto a piece of parchment paper. Top each half of dough with another piece of parchment paper. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out between the parchment to a little thicker an 1/4" thick. I like to go in between 1/4" and 1/2" thick to keep the cookies super soft.
  5. Transfer the rolled out dough into the freezer for 10-15 minutes until very firm. This will allow you to be able to cut the cookies out without needing to add a lot of extra flour.
  6. Preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C). Line two sheet pans with parchment paper.
  7. Dip cookie cutters in flour, and stamp out cookies in your desired shape. This dough will hold its shape well if you want to make shapes. Transfer the cut out cookie onto the parchment lined baking sheets. You can press the scraps together and chill and cut out again. Only do this once, because working the dough too much will create tough cookies.
  8. Bake 375 F (190 C) for 6-9 minutes, or until the edges are firm and very lightly browned. These cookies will not turn golden brown, they should still be white in the center. They will cook quickly and you don't want to over bake them.
  9. Allow the cookies to cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheets and then transfer to cooling racks to cool completely before frosting.
For the Frosting
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter on high speed until light and fluffy.
  2. Add the powdered sugar into the mixing bowl. Start mixing on low and then gradually increase the speed to cream the sugar into the butter. Beat on high speed for 3-4 minutes until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the vanilla extract and the lemon juice if using. Add a bit of milk or heavy cream to thin out the texture if needed.


To Assemble:

  1. Frost the cooled cookies as desired. The frosting does crust over slightly, so if you want to add sprinkles you do want to do it right when you frost.
  2. Store cookies in an airtight container for 3-4 days. This will keep them very soft. You can store them at room temperature or in the refrigerator. I actually think they taste better cold!

Notes

*The lemon zest can be left out of the cookies and the lemon juice can be left out of the frosting if you prefer. It adds a slight tangy flavor and helps balance the sweetness.

*If you would like to prep the dough ahead and bake later, make the cookies all the way up to step 7. Place the raw cut out cookies in the freezer until solid. Transfer to a freezer ziplock bag for up to 3 months. When you are ready to bake, you can bake straight from frozen but add about 2-3 minutes onto the baking time.

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Nutrition Information:

Amount Per Serving:Calories: 0

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93 comments on “Sour Cream Sugar Cookies”

  1. I love what you guys are usually up too.

    This sort of clever work and exposure! Keep up the terrific works guys I’ve included you guys to my personal blogroll.

  2. Where can we get the cookie cutters?

  3. This exact set is no longer available but you can find a similar set here: http://www.wilton.com/store/site/product.cfm?sku=2104-1555

  4. Is saled butter ok?

  5. sorry…that would be salted butter..ok?

  6. Lemon in sugar cookies – that sounds so good! Somewhere in the chaos of my garage, I have those cookie cutters. I made sugar cookie trees one year.

  7. this is so pretty and looks like a lot of work!

    • Thanks Dina! It was actually incredibly easy to assemble. The cookie cutters are a set of different sizes. I made one batch of dough, cut out the cookies and baked them, iced them, and then just stacked all the cookies up from largest to smallest. For the pictures I just sprinkled some powdered sugar over top.

      • How many cookies does one batch make?

        • It really depends on the size of cutter you use. If you use this cookie cutter set it is enough to make 1 tree (17 cookies of varying sizes) plus about 1 dozen smaller stars. So if you are using a regular smallish cookie cutter you should be able to get about 3 dozen cookies.

  8. Mine didn’t come out quite as good-looking as yours, but practice makes perfect I guess! it was like the Leaning Tower of Piza. 😛

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  10. Sour cream sugar cookies have been a favorite part of my Christmas memories for over 60 years! My grammy’s recipe is very similar to yours. So glad to find someone else who appreciates the deliciousness of these cookies!

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  28. Hello.  My first attempt to make this star tree.  I was wondering:  did you make 2 ea of each star size to make your tree?  Also do the sour cream recipe make the cookie real soft  for presentation  or will it be hard enough to decorate?  Thanks and Merry Christmas.

  29. Hello.  I want to make this Christmas Star tree.  I have the cutters.  Will the sour cream cookies be hard enough to stand up to decorating each cookie?  Also  did you make 2 of each stars for  stacking?  Thanks and Merry Christmas, Deborah

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  32. When do you put on the powdered sugar? Right away, or do you let icing harden first? 

  33. These are the worst tasting cookies I have ever made.  They leave a weird after taste.

    • Hi Peggy! So sorry to hear you didn’t enjoy these cookies. They are a favorite with my family and everyone loves them. I’m curious if by chance you may have accidentally used baking soda instead of baking powder? That could definitely add a strange flavor to the cookies. Sorry to hear they didn’t work out for you.

  34. hello, I want to make these cookies but I am confused or missing something. please help. in instructions it says to beat butter and shortening, i do not see any shortening listed in ingredients, in step 2 it says add lemon juice and none is listed in ingredients, also when do you add lemon zest? thank you

    • Hi Geraldine! Thank you for pointing out this! I recently updated this recipe to reflect the way I now make it, but apparently the instructions did not get saved properly. I have now updated to reflect the way I make it now!

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