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Gluten Free Cutout Sugar Cookies | For Celebrations!

Gluten Free Cutout Sugar Cookies | For Celebrations!

These soft gluten free cutout sugar cookies with a meringue-type frosting are in a class by themselves. They’ll hold any shape you like!

Gluten free soft frosted sugar cookies decorated with sprinkles, sitting on rack

A cutout cookie with clean edges

Every holiday and every season needs its own cookie: St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Spring celebrations, Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day… Need I go on? We all need a cookie that can hold its shape, so we can use whatever cookie cutter we please.

These gluten free cutout sugar cookies are seriously so easy to make from scratch. The dough has very few ingredients so it comes together very quickly.

It’s super simple to roll out, and stable enough that it’s even simple to cut out shapes and transfer them to the baking sheet. There is nothing fragile about the dough, but once you bake the cookies they’re tender and light as could be.

The cookie dough will have to be kneaded

This cookie dough can be made, rolled out, cut out and baked without any change in temperature (no chilling the cookie dough!) because the moisture balance is just right. You’ll find that the dough resembles moist crumbs and clumps, and you might be tempted to add more moisture.

Please don’t add anything extra—but do make sure you’re measuring your ingredients by weight, not volume, since the right balance of ingredients is essential to this simple recipe. Once you reach a uniform mixture that resembles moist crumbs and clusters, knead the dough with clean hands to bring it together before rolling it out.

If you’re planning to make a double recipe, you may want to use a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment instead of a bowl and spoon. A stand mixer will make quick work of bringing the dough together into a cohesive whole, ready to be rolled out.

Gluten free soft frosted sugar cookies raw cutouts being separated from rest of the cookie dough.

Remember Lofthouse cookies?

Whenever I go into the grocery store, those bakery cookies catch my eye, the little vixens. They’re in a plastic clamshell case, stacked in that half-overlap manner, thick (usually pink) frosting above a pillow-soft, light, and sweet cookie.

I might just be there for some bananas, lettuce and maybe an avocado, some spices and, say, some rice and beans. You know, exciting stuff. But those cookies are right there, right as you walk in.

I know what sort of foods are good for me and my family. I know those sugar cookies do not qualify as healthy. But there’s just something about biting into that impossibly soft sugar cookie with the thick icing that says celebrate!

These soft gluten free cutout sugar cookies with a meringue-type frosting are in a class by themselves. They'll hold any shape you like!

Sugar cookie buttercream frosting

This frosting recipe is super thick, and unlike what I would generally use to frost cupcakes. It’s very stable because we add a touch of meringue powder to the mixture.

Like Lofthouse cookies, these gluten free cutout sugar cookies can travel. If you don’t have meringue powder, you can leave it out, and the frosting will be softer.

How to use the frosting

In the how to video for the recipe, at precisely the 50-second mark you’ll see me pipe the frosting onto 3 cookies and create 3 different designs. One is a classic cupcake-style swirl, which is easy enough using a medium-sized open piping tip.

The second and third frosting shapes begin with a simple mound of dough piped onto the cookie with the same medium-sized open piping tip. The second shape is the swoop, made with a moistened tea spoon that is inserted into the center of the frosting at an angle and then swirled lightly in a circle.

The third shape is the flattened top, which is made using a small moistened offset spatula or a simple wide butter knife. Simply use the spatula or knife to flatten the mound of frosting into a disk and smooth the top as evenly as possible.

Allow the frosting to set at room temperature until it becomes semi-hard. That will allow you to transport the cookies if needed. You can even layer them if you place a sheet of waxed or parchment paper gently between layers.

For a truly hard surface, use royal icing in place of frosting. Simply click the link in the previous sentence for a royal icing recipe with complete instructions. I used a #4 piping tip to outline and then “flood” the center, sprinkling decorations immediately before the icing has dried at all.

Gluten free cutout sugar cookies on display, each with royal icing and sprinkle decorations.

Can I color the frosting or icing?

You can, of course, add some food coloring to the frosting, or to the royal icing. I recommend gel coloring because liquid food coloring will alter the moisture balance and make the frosting soft and weepy. AmeriColor brand gel food colorings are reliably gluten free, and the colors are super vibrant.

I left out the coloring here because the anti-food-coloring people seem to expect more of a gluten free recipe than I think they would of a conventional recipe. If you want to speak out against food coloring, feel free to do so elsewhere on the Internet!

Gluten free cutout sugar cookies with royal icing and sprinkle decorations, in a tall stack.

Ingredients and substitutions

Dairy-free: There is butter in both the cookie recipe and in the frosting recipe. I have successfully replaced the butter in the cookie dough with Melt brand vegan butter. The edges of the cookies aren’t quite as blunt and clean as they are when you make the recipe exactly as written, but the recipe still turns out and tastes great.

The butter in the frosting recipe can be replaced most effectively with Spectrum brand butter-flavored nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening. It has quite a lot less moisture than butter, though, so you might not need as much confectioners’ sugar to reach the proper consistency.

For the milk in the frosting, you can use any unsweetened nondairy milk. My favorite is unsweetened almond milk, but nearly any will do here. 

Egg-free: There is only one egg in the cookie recipe, so you should be able to replace it with a “chia egg” (1 tablespoon ground white chia seeds + 1 tablespoon lukewarm water, mixed and allowed to gel).

In such pale cookies, you may see some flecks of chia in the cookies. Cover them with frosting and no one will even know!

Meringue powder: Meringue powder is made of egg white powder, sugar, a starch, and some stabilizers. You can try using egg white powder in its place, but it won’t work exactly the same way.

If you can’t have eggs, I’d just eliminate meringue powder as an ingredient altogether. The frosting will just be a bit softer. I don’t know of any egg-free alternative to meringue powder for making royal icing.

Gluten free soft cutout sugar cookies with royal icing, stored in a large glass jar.

 
These soft gluten free cutout sugar cookies with a meringue-type frosting are in a class by themselves. They'll hold any shape you like!

Like this recipe?

Prep time: Cook time: Yield: 24 cookies

Ingredients

For the cookies
2 cups (280 g) all-purpose gluten-free flour (I used Better Batter), plus more for sprinkling

1 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar

3 tablespoons (22 g) confectioners’ sugar

8 tablespoons (112 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 egg (50 g, weighed out of shell) at room temperature, beaten

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the frosting
10 tablespoons (140 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/4 cup (2 fluid ounces) milk, at room temperature

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons meringue powder (LorAnn and AmeriColor brands are gluten free)

4 cups (460 g) confectioners’ sugar

Seeds from one vanilla bean (optional)

Sprinkles (optional)

Alternative to frosting: royal icing

Directions

  • Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line rimmed baking sheets with unbleached parchment paper and set them aside.

  • In a large bowl, place the flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, salt, granulated sugar and confectioners’ sugar and whisk to combine well. Add the butter, and mix to moisten the dry ingredients with the butter, until the mixture looks sandy, pressing down on the butter with the back of the mixing spoon. Add the egg and vanilla, and mix to combine, until the dry ingredients are all moistened with the wet. With clean, dry hands, knead the mixture together to form a cohesive dough. It will be thick and relatively stiff.

  • Place the dough on a clean, flat surface, and roll it into a round a bit less than 1/3-inch thick, sprinkling very lightly with flour to prevent the rolling pin from sticking. Using a 2 1/2-inch round cookie cutter (or whatever shape you like), cut out shapes from the dough and place them about 1-inch apart on the prepared baking sheets. It can be helpful to remove the surrounding dough from the cutouts, and then peel the shapes off. Gather and reroll the scraps and repeat the process until you’ve used all of the dough.

  • Place the baking sheet in the center of the preheated oven and bake until the cookies are just set on top, 6 to 8 minutes, depending upon size and shape. The edges of some of the cookies may brown slightly. Remove them from the oven before there is any significant browning, and allow them to cool on the baking sheet until set before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.

  • While the cookies are cooling, make the frosting. In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, place the butter, milk and vanilla, and mix on medium speed until combined. Turn the speed up to high and mix until creamy. Add the salt, meringue powder and about 3 1/2 cups of confectioners’ sugar. Mix slowly until the sugar is incorporated. Turn the mixer up to high and beat until it becomes uniformly thick. Add the optional vanilla seeds and as much of the rest of the confectioners’ sugar as necessary to thicken the frosting, and beat to combine well.

  • Once the cookies are completely cool, pipe or spoon a generous amount of frosting onto the top of each, and spread into an even layer with a wide knife or offset spatula. Scatter sprinkles, if desired. Allow to set at room temperature until the frosting hardens a bit. Store any leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature.

  • Originally posted on the blog in 2012. Recipe unchanged, photos mostly original, video new.

Love,
Nicole

  • Ella
    March 8, 2020 at 10:50 AM

    Hi Nichole, just wondering if these can be recreated using xylitol instead of sugar?
    I have numerous allergies and sugar triggers them.

    • Nicole Hunn
      March 8, 2020 at 1:06 PM

      Hi, Ella, since these are sugar cookies, I’d be really hesitant to use an alternative sweetener. That being said, you might try Lankato brand monkfruit granulated sugar substitute—but it’s drying. Since this is already a relatively dry dough, you’ll struggle with that as well. Sorry!

  • Susan
    March 6, 2017 at 9:38 AM

    Does making the dough & freezing it until ready to bake cookies affect the texture, etc?

    • Nicole Hunn
      March 6, 2017 at 12:10 PM

      As long as you wrap the dough very tightly and prevent any air at all from getting into the container, you should be able to freeze the cookie dough raw, Susan. But honestly I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s so easy to make, I would recommend making it fresh. If the dough dries out at all, you won’t be able to roll it.

  • Anna
    March 2, 2017 at 7:58 PM

    Long time follower. Thank you for all your recipes. I have done several and you are amazing! I have two questions for you. Can you use egg whites instead of meringue powder? And you use a butter substitute?

    • Nicole Hunn
      March 3, 2017 at 8:19 AM

      Hi, Anna!
      I’m afraid that you can’t use egg whites in the frosting, no. You can leave out the meringue powder, and the frosting just won’t set up like it would with the powder. The meringue powder really just makes the cookies, well, stackable once they’re set. Does that make sense>
      And for a butter substitute, I would try Spectrum nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening in butter flavor (by weight). Earth Balance has way too much moisture and the cookies would likely not hold their shape. Hope that helps!

  • youngbaker2002
    March 1, 2017 at 8:40 PM

    One of our favorite cookies!

    • Marcia
      March 2, 2017 at 8:08 PM

      One of the easiest GF cookies I have made. Will use this recipe over and over. Dipped mine in melted chocolate.

      • Nicole Hunn
        March 3, 2017 at 8:19 AM

        Woohoo! Dipping them in chocolate sounds decadent, Marcia. I like the way you think. 😊

  • Anneke
    October 14, 2012 at 10:13 PM

    Made the cookies today, Tim ate FOUR in one sitting!  Made my teeth hurt just watching him.  He was quite happy, and I am sure he will have more for breakfast.  They are so delicious, just like I remember, you are a genius!

    • gfshoestring
      October 15, 2012 at 9:22 AM

      Four of these cookies, frosting and all, is like an extreme sport, Anneke! If anyone can do it, a teenage boy can, though. So glad you liked them. See – you can make cookies!
      xoxo Nicole

  • kclark
    October 14, 2012 at 2:21 AM

    I made these today and my friend who is Celiac had them. She said that they were BETTER than what she remembers those store bought cookies to be. Really, it was a Meg Ryan moment. I thought I should leave the room because she was so excited.  Not Kidding!

  • Betty-Gayle Dove
    October 12, 2012 at 4:15 PM

    Thank you Nicole for working so hard and then sharing your fantastic results with us.  I want you to know that I love your reading your blog.  There is rarely a day that your posts do not bring a smile to my face.  Today…..I am quite literally laughing out loud! Thanks again and these cookies look amazing.  My sister & I have always called the bakery version of these cookies “chemical” cookies, because they stay soft no matter what. LOL

  • Lauren Olson
    October 11, 2012 at 9:52 AM

    I made these last night for my kiddos (and for my husband to have for breakfast, just don’t tell the kids) they are fantastic! I love the at the dough does not need to be refrigerated, and the cookies hold their shape with minimal to no spreading, perfect for all of the upcoming sugary holidays!

  • Beth Welsh
    October 10, 2012 at 8:56 PM

    We’re dye-free too because my son has varying degrees of almost psycho reactions to them. India tree makes vegetable based dyes and most recently a sugar dyed the same way. You can buy them on Amazon. There will be sticker shock, but keep them in the fridge and they last much longer. You can’t make ever color, but at least everything doesn’t have to be white. Caramel color doesn’t bother my son, so we can use things with that.  Also, I’ve noticed that you’ll get a pretty intense blue from dehydrated blueberries (powdered with smashing). Any fruit that has intense color is probably pretty similar. Pay attention to which fruit dye your fingers. Those are the ones you want. 

  • October 10, 2012 at 8:42 PM

    Oh, Nicole, I know those cookies of which you speak – I run my daughter by them quickly when we are in the grocery store so she doesn’t get sad that she can’t eat them. They are so alluring with their puffy white domes covered in unnaturally bright icing, often color coded by season or holiday. So THANK YOU for this awesome looking recipe. Yet – your conundrum, is totally valid! I have been wondering how you handle the whole recipe-a-day thingie versus publishing cookbooks. It’s kind of insanely amazing and generous of you to give us so many recipes for FREE when it’s your job to um, not really do that, at least not all the time. Maybe because I used to work in book publishing, or maybe because I’d like to write my own (fiction) book some day, that I really do understand what you’re saying, and my two cents is, do what you need to do and I’ll still be here, reading whatever you feel like writing, clone recipes or not. 

  • Margaret
    October 10, 2012 at 5:36 PM

     I couldn’t help it.  I already made them.  But I did make one tiny change.  It’s a secret (not so secret now) ingredient that I have always added to sugar cookies.  I added 1/2 teaspoon almond flavoring.  And let me tell you this.  If I had kids around today (which I don’t) they would already be gone.  Gone as in zip, nada, zero. As it is, my husband and I will have to endure and find a way to eat them or share them or somehow get rid of them.  Hmmm….I don’t think it will take very long to find takers.  So simple!  So good!  Thank you, thank you!

  • cynthia
    October 10, 2012 at 5:25 PM

    Once again you have come to save the day! I was thinking of making a 45 min drive to gluten free bakery to get soft frosted sugar cookies for Camden today….low and behold you post this! (insert claps and cheers). I can’t make them today (missing one ingredient) but I will be whipping some up tomorrow! Thanks!!!

  • Anneke
    October 10, 2012 at 4:49 PM

    Well, ’cause they are cookies?  And I am not good with cookies?  You are so right, I must have complete faith in my son’s best friend, Nicole, who can do anything!  Usually, I don’t know that I need the recipe until you post it, then I need it RIGHT NOW!  Like these cookies.  Yum.

    Anneke

  • Mrsthe97
    October 10, 2012 at 4:12 PM

    Nicole,
    Thank you sooo much for this recipe!! I want to make this for Hallowe’en. Do you think I would need to bake them longer if I made bats instead of circles? I bought the black gel food coloring recently for my zombie costume, so I’m all set for the frosting. I’m happy and excited to make these!! <3
    Debrah

  • kclark
    October 10, 2012 at 12:34 PM

    Dewd, really? Jordan asks me about those crazy pink frosted cookies A LOT.  Now they have orange frosted ones with black sprinkles for Halloween.  I could reach across all the States that separate us and kiss you.  I need to figure out where to buy meringue powder cuz I want them to be like yours.  You mentioned your hair flying behind you and I laughed.  Isn’t that a picture of all of us working moms in general?  And isn’t your hair pretty short?  I think I may need to see a re-enactment, lol.  

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