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Signature Vanilla Shortbread Sugar Cookies

The Messy Cookie's go-to recipe for the perfect treat to decorate


  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  •  ½ lb. (2 sticks) room temperature butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbs vanilla extract
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 sheets parchment paper


  • Stand mixer or electric hand mixer
  • Mixing bowls
  • Parchment paper
  • Whisk
  • Spatula
  • Rolling pin (or use an empty wine bottle instead!)


  1. Set the oven to 350ºF and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Put to the side.
  3. With either a stand mixer or an electric hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. The mixture will begin to get lighter in color and grow in volume.
  4. Turn the mixer off and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Turn the mixer on to low and add vanilla and eggs. Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed and continue to mix until fully incorporated.
  5. Gradually add the flour mixture one cup at a time and mix on low or low-medium until the dough starts to pull from the edges into a ball around the beater.
    • You may need more flour—don't be alarmed! I usually say that if your dough is sticky, there’s not enough flour. Add an additional ¼ cup at a time until you get the right consistency: the dough should pull away from the edges of the bowl and should no longer be sticky. Be careful not to over mix!
  6. Lay out a sheet of parchment paper on your counter for easy clean up. Taking about a softball-sized ball of dough from the batch, roll it between the two pieces of parchment paper with your rolling pin until it is about ¼” thick.
    • Dip your cookie cutters in fresh flour before cutting for the cleanest cutting results.
  7. Place the cut cookies onto a baking sheet. Fill the sheet, leaving about 1” between each cookie. Refrigerate the sheet for 2 hours or pop it into the freezer for 30 minutes. This will help prevent your cookies from expanding in the oven so they retain their shape for optimal decorating.
  8. Place the cookie sheet into the oven for 9-12 minutes. If you prefer a crispier cookie, leave them in until they start to brown on the edges. You’ll know they're near done when you can smell them!
  9. Once out of the oven, let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes, then move them to a cooling rack until cool. Enjoy!

Do you prefer a softer cookie? At the 9-minute mark of baking your cookies, try nudging one of the cookies while the baking sheet is still in the oven. If the cookie glides, it's fully baked, even if the edges haven’t yet begun to brown. If the cookie you nudge sticks to the sheet, it's not done yet. Be patient—it’ll be worth the wait!

Pair these Signature Vanilla Shortbread Sugar Cookies with The Messy Cookie's favorite royal icing for decorating. Visit for the recipe!