Makes:24 to 36 cookies (depending on the size of your cookie cutters)
Whether you’re cutting out classic Christmas shapes, or want to make custom cookies for a baby shower, Valentine’s Day, or a birthday party, this no-frills sugar cookie recipe is all you need. If you want, make the dough ahead of time and keep it in the fridge, or freeze it until you’re ready to use it. And unlike many sweets that go stale after a day, these baked cookies stay fresh up to 4 days in a sealed container, even with the icing, so they’re ideal for shipping as a gift or serving on a cookie plate, and you can make them with basic pantry ingredients.
Whisk together the measured flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl to aerate and break up any lumps; set aside.
Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on medium speed until creamy, about 1 minute. With the mixer running, gradually add the sugar and mix until the butter is lighter in color, about 1 minute total. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle with a rubber spatula.
Whisk together the egg and vanilla in a small bowl. Return the mixer to medium speed, add the egg mixture, and mix until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle. Turn the mixer to low speed, gradually add the reserved flour mixture, and mix until just incorporated, about 1 minute total.
Scrape the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap and pat it into a 1-inch-thick disk. Wrap tightly and refrigerate until firm enough to roll, at least 2 hours or up to 3 days.
When you’re ready to bake the cookies, heat the oven to 375°F and arrange the racks to divide the oven into thirds. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.
Flour a work surface and a rolling pin. Unwrap the dough and set the plastic wrap aside. Place the dough disk on the work surface and lightly dust both sides with flour. Roll out the dough to a 3/16- to 1/4-inch thickness, frequently dusting the work surface and using an offset or flat spatula to gently slide under and release any dough that sticks to the counter.
Make one final pass under the dough with the spatula, then use the desired cookie cutters to cut out the cookies (no need to flour the cookie cutters). Remove the dough scraps from around the cookies and set them aside. Using a flat spatula, transfer the cookies to the prepared baking sheets, leaving at least a 1/2 inch of space between them. Form the scraps into a flat disk, wrap it in the reserved plastic, and refrigerate.
Place both sheets in the oven and bake for 5 minutes. Rotate the baking sheets from front to back and top to bottom and bake until the edges of the cookies are just starting to brown, about 5 to 6 minutes more.
Remove the baking sheets from the oven and let the cookies sit on the sheets for about 1 minute. Using the flat spatula, remove the cookies to a wire rack and let them cool completely. Let the baking sheets cool, reserving the parchment, then repeat rolling, cutting, and baking the dough scraps. Decorate as desired.