Wondering why your sugar cookies spread so much they look as flat as a pancake? Or do you have awesome cookie cutters but your cookies never look as cool as your cutters? Let's troubleshoot together and help you create cutout cookies that hold their shape.
We also discuss how to keep your chocolate chip cookies from spreading too.
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Imagine this - you are super excited about your sugar cookies. You have them all cut out and ready to go in the oven.
But when they come out, they don't look right.
What should be an array of Christmas trees, reindeer, Santa Claus helpers, look more like the single cell amoeba than any of those things.
For many of us we don't have to imagine that, because we have lived it.
Or maybe you are here right now because your cookies in your kitchen are suffering through an identity crisis.
Don't worry. We are here to help. I can't fix the mistakes already made but we can navigate you away from making those same mistakes again with your next batch of Christmas cookies.
🧈 Why Do My Cookies Spread?
The biggest problem I think people have with trying to get their cookies to keep their shape is that they spread too much. So let's look into why that is.
The number one reason that sugar cookies spread has to do with the fat. When fat usually butter, heats up, it's going to melt, and thus spread.
In order to minimize that spreading, we need that fat to be cold. Keeping your dough cold will help that, which is one reason I always chill my dough before I pull out the rolling pin.
You also can put the cookies back in the fridge or freeze once they have been cut.
⭐ Simple Cookie Cutters
One of the easiest solutions to help your sugar cookie keep their shape is by choosing simple cookie cutters. If your cookie cutter has a lot of details in it then it's hard to have it come out looking right.
Let's say you have a cookie cutter that is shaped like a reindeer, antlers and all. It might look cute, however the shape is too complex. Your cookies are more likely to have the appearance of an amoeba than a reindeer.
Simple shapes like circles, simple stars, candy canes, stockings, and trees are usually reliable. Let your creativity run wild with the decorations on the cookies and keep the shapes simple for best results.
💡 Tip - If you do have a reindeer antler cookie cutter or other cookie cutter with lots of details, you might be better off using it to make fudge. Either try to cut the fudge with the cookie cutter or pour the fudge into different cookie cutters before it cools.
👩🏼🍳 Embossed Cookies
So if going with just ordinary shapes is too boring for you, another way to elevate your cookie appearance is using an embossed rolling pin. You can find ones that are more Christmas themed or one that would work for any time of the year. If you make a lot of cookies this might be something fun to consider buying.
The designs should show well on the cookies. I have heard people having mixed results with pie crusts, but that dough is quite different from cookie dough.
🛑 How to Keep Them From Spreading
Here are some other methods for keeping your cookies from spreading that will help them better keep the shape of the cookie cutter.
- Add cream of tartar to the dough to give them a vertical lift
- Use powdered sugar instead of granulated sugar
- Never place cookies on a hot baking sheet pan
- Line your sheet pans with parchment paper, not a pan sprayed with oil
- Choose a recipe that weights the ingredients (not enough flour could lead to spreading)
These are all simple fixes that will give you a leg up.
I think the biggest skill you need is patience - I know how boring! Patience to keep the dough cold and patience to only bake on a cooled pan. Your patience will be rewarded 🙂
🍪 Chocolate Chip Cookies
Maybe your aren't making cut-out cookies. Maybe you want your chocolate chip cookies to hold their shape better and not spread flat on the cookie sheet.
The tip above about freezing the batter should also be applied with chocolate chip cookies.
You can consider recipes that use shortening instead of butter. Shortening melts slower, so your cookies are less likely to spread. However, the flavor of butter is so key to a good cookie I just can't recommend shortening. Yes I know they make butter flavored shortening but it doesn't cut it.
📚 Cookie Recipes
Here are some of our favorite recipes from the blog.
- Alton Brown's Gluten Free Sugar Cookies
- Pink Peppercorn Sugar Cookies
- Paula Deen's Sugar Cookies
- Sumo Citrus Sugar Cookies
What has been your biggest problem when making sugar cookies? Share it with us below by leaving a comment.