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Soft Gluten Free Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies

Soft Gluten Free Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies

Soft and tender gluten free cream cheese sugar cookies with slightly firm Lofthouse-style frosting. Basically, they’re the perfect cookie.

Soft and tender gluten free cream cheese Soft and tender gluten free cream cheese cutout sugar cookies with slightly firm Lofthouse-style frosting. Basically, they're the perfect cookie.

What makes a great cutout sugar cookie?

A proper cutout sugar cookie rolls out smoothly and easily and can take any shape. It doesn’t spread at all during baking, which can ruin the shape in a hurry.

Because we already have a perfect recipe for Lofthouse-style gluten free soft frosted sugar cookies, it might seem like we’re all set for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter and everything in between.

And then you see these soft gluten free cream cheese cutout sugar cookies. And you know.

Soft and tender gluten free cream cheese cutout sugar cookies with slightly firm Lofthouse-style frosting. Basically, they're the perfect cookie.

The cream cheese in the cookie dough makes these a wee bit more tender than our original cutout sugar cookies, but the real difference is in the taste. They roll out just as easily as our “originals.” But the cream cheese flavor in both the cookies themselves and the frosting is just something special. 

When I first gave these cookies to my children, I didn’t really say anything about them. They just were all, “sugar cookies!!” and dug in. I expected them to assume they were eating the originals, which they have done dozens of times. And then my son said it:

“Mom? Are these, like, cheesecake cookies or something?” Bingo, young man. Bingo.

Soft and tender gluten free cream cheese cutout sugar cookies with slightly firm Lofthouse-style frosting. Basically, they're the perfect cookie.

Cheesecake, I clearly love you

Anything with cream cheese tastes something like cheesecake, I guess. But especially since a classic cheesecake has little more than cream cheese, sugar, eggs, and vanilla, and so do these cookies, they’re nearly a cheesecake in cookie form.

Since we just made mini cheesecake cookie cups, these cookies might seem a bit like overkill. Not only can these cookies contain their cheesecake essence right in the cutout cookie itself, but they can be cut into any shape, and covered with royal icing for any celebration. 

Soft and tender gluten free cream cheese sugar cookies with slightly firm Lofthouse-style frosting. Basically, they're the perfect cookie.

About that Lofthouse-style frosting

When I first made this frosting, I made it with 8 ounces of cream cheese and no butter. More recently, I’ve switched to 4 tablespoons (56 g) of unsalted butter and 4 ounces of cream cheese.

I find that the frosting is a bit more stable that way. It also makes the recipe simpler overall since you need one 8 tablespoon-stick (112 g) of unsalted butter total and one 8-ounce package of cream cheese total. 

Whatever you do, don’t leave out the salt, since any frosting without salt will just taste too sweet. It’s easiest to make if you have a stand mixer, but of course, a simple hand mixer will do. Just use a large bowl so you can beat the frosting until it’s thick and smooth. 

Soft and tender gluten free cream cheese sugar cookies with slightly firm Lofthouse-style frosting. Basically, they're the perfect cookie.

Ingredients and substitutions

If you can’t have dairy, you might want to consider making our recipe for conventional cutout sugar cookies instead since cream cheese is nearly impossible to replace successfully with a dairy-free alternative. I even have a chocolate cutout sugar cookie version.

But if you’d like to go ahead and try to make this recipe, here are my best guesses for how to go about it:

Dairy-free: To make these cutout cookies dairy-free, you’ll need to replace both the butter and the cream cheese in this recipe. I have tried many dairy-free versions of cream cheese, and although Daiya is my favorite brand, it still has something of a strange aftertaste that becomes more pronounced the more of it you use.

For that reason, I’d recommend replacing the butter and cream cheese with the following: 3 ounces dairy-free cream cheese substitute + 3 tablespoons (36 g) Spectrum nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening + 4 tablespoons (56 g) vegan butter (Melt brand is my current favorite, but Earth Balance buttery sticks are fine, too). To make the frosting dairy-free, I’d make the same adjustments as I recommended for the cookie dough.

Egg-free: Since there is only 1 egg in this recipe, I think it should be able to be made egg-free by using 1 “chia egg” in its place (1 tablespoon ground chia seeds + 1 tablespoon lukewarm water, mixed and allowed to gel).

Since these are cutout cookies and the texture of the dough matters a lot, you might want to try using a boiled flax egg, like we did in our vegan black bean brownies recipe.

The frosting calls for some meringue powder, which helps it harden as it sets, much like the Lofthouse cookies you find in the grocery store in those plastic clamshell boxes. Without the meringue powder, it will not harden as it sets, though, so the cookies cannot be stacked on one another without the meringue powder in the frosting.

If you don’t have meringue powder, simply add more confectioners’ sugar by the tablespoonful, beating well, until the frosting thickens enough that it holds its shape well when scooped. 

Corn-free: At first glance, it seems like these cookies are naturally corn-free. But conventional confectioners’ sugar has cornstarch added to it to help keep it from clumping. There are corn-free brands of confectioners’ sugar, though. 

If you can’t find corn-free confectioners’ sugar, you can make your own confectioners’ sugar from granulated sugar and a starch. In place of the cornstarch that is called for in that recipe, I’d use arrowroot to make it corn-free. 

 

Soft and tender gluten free cream cheese cutout sugar cookies with slightly firm Lofthouse-style frosting. Basically, they're the perfect cookie. Soft and tender gluten free cream cheese sugar cookies with slightly firm Lofthouse-style frosting. Basically, they're the perfect cookie. #glutenfree #gf #cheesecake #Lofthouse

Like this recipe?

Prep time: Cook time: Yield: 18 cookies

Ingredients

For the cookies
2 cups (280 g) all purpose gluten free flour

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

5 tablespoons (36 g) confectioners’ sugar

4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

4 tablespoons (56 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

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

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the frosting
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

4 tablespoons (56 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons meringue powder (LorAnn brand gluten free)

4 cups (460 g) confectioners’ sugar

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. In a separate bowl, place the cream cheese, butter, egg and vanilla, and mix to combine well. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the cream cheese mixture. Mix to combine, and then knead it together with your hands until a smooth dough forms. Place the dough between two sheets of unbleached parchment paper and roll out a bit less than 1/3-inch thick. Using a 2 1/2-inch round cookie cutter, cut out rounds of dough and place them about 1-inch apart on the prepared baking sheets.

  • Place the baking sheet in the center of the preheated oven and bake set in the center and just beginning to brown on the edges, about 10 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven and allow them to cool for 10 minutes before transferring 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 or a large bowl with a handheld mixer, place the cream cheese, butter, 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 rest of the confectioners’ sugar if necessary to thicken the frosting.

  • Once the cookies are completely cool, pipe or spoon a generous amount of frosting onto the top of each in whatever pattern you like. Allow to set at room temperature until the frosting hardens and is firm to a light touch. Store any leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature.

  • Adapted from my recipe for Soft Frosted Gluten Free Sugar Cookies. Originally published on the blog in 2015. How-to video and some photos new; many photos original; frosting recipe altered very slight.

Love,
Nicole

  • Destiny
    December 16, 2018 at 2:27 PM

    I’m planning to make these this week with Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 flour. That is my go to flour, I usually have good luck with it. I read your post about the gluten free flours and am slightly concerned they won’t turn out but I can’t afford $30 for a 5lb bag of flour, I pay nearly half that for the bob’s flour. They look so good so I hope they turn out!

    • Nicole Hunn
      December 17, 2018 at 10:15 AM

      I’m afraid that I really can’t recommend Bob’s Red Mill flour, but I wish you good luck if you give it a shot!

  • Marti Steiner
    December 13, 2018 at 10:47 PM

    Must these cookies be refrigerated after baking them, because of the cream cheese in them?

    • Nicole Hunn
      December 14, 2018 at 9:19 AM

      The cookies themselves don’t need to be refrigerated any more than any other cookie does (cream cheese doesn’t spoil faster than butter).

  • Elizabeth Alford
    December 13, 2018 at 3:26 PM

    Is there a reason why my batter for the cookies came out liquidy? I did everything as per instructions and used gluten free flour, but there was no way to knead it. Even added more flour and it was still too much of a paste

    • Nicole Hunn
      December 13, 2018 at 4:01 PM

      This is a relatively dry cookie dough, Elizabeth, so if yours was that soft something went very wrong. You have to measure by weight, not volume, use the ingredients at the temperature specified in the recipe, not make substitutions, and only use on my recommended all purpose gluten free flour blends, as linked to in the recipe. They are far from all created equal.

  • Michele B.
    December 11, 2018 at 6:09 AM

    These cookies are the BEST. Any reason why the dough can’t be made in a stand mixer? It would save a little time.

    • Nicole Hunn
      December 11, 2018 at 10:11 AM

      Hi, Michele, you can make the cookie dough in a stand mixer as long as you’re suuuuper careful not to overwork the dough or work too much air into it. You want it to just come together.

  • Sharon Kilkeary
    December 10, 2018 at 9:01 PM

    Just finished making these. Wow! They are really delicious! And I don’t like fresh cookies. Super easy to make & the icing is really good. Great texture. I think these are my new favorite. Off to buy more cream cheese tomorrow. Making for Christmas if I can keep my family from eating them all. 🎄

    • Nicole Hunn
      December 11, 2018 at 10:12 AM

      That’s awesome, Sharon! A new favorite is the highest compliment. 🥇

  • BTG
    December 10, 2018 at 10:53 AM

    Will this recipe work with a sugar substitute such as Stevia?

    • Nicole Hunn
      December 10, 2018 at 11:09 AM

      Hi, there, I’m honestly not sure as I haven’t tried a sugar substitute in this recipe. But I don’t recommend baking with stevia. I recommend using Lankato monkfruit granulated sweetener or Swerve brand sweeteners. They do tend to be drying, though, so you might need to add a little bit of water (a tiny bit) just to get the dough to the proper consistency as described in the recipe and accompanying video. You’ll be experimenting though for sure!

  • Joan
    December 10, 2018 at 6:34 AM

    Do you happen to have the nutrition breakdown for these cookies? They sound delicious!
    Also, could almond flour be substituted for the gluten free?
    Thank you,

    • Nicole Hunn
      December 10, 2018 at 8:09 AM

      Hi, Joan, almond flour is not an all purpose gluten free flour and can’t ever be used as a substitute for it. You need a recipe specifically formulated for almond flour if that’s what you’d like to bake with. Please see my Paleo recipes category. And I’m afraid I don’t have nutrition information readily available. Feel free to plug the ingredients into an online calculator. That’s all I would do anyway!

  • Sara Stanton
    December 9, 2018 at 9:25 PM

    Do you have any tips for baking ahead and freezing cookies for your cookie boxes? You have so many yummy recipes to try, but I’d love them to taste fresh when I share them. Thanks!

    • Nicole Hunn
      December 10, 2018 at 8:13 AM

      Great question, Sara. I do have some tips! I start making cookies up to about 1 month ahead of when I think I’ll gift them, and freeze each type of cookie separately in a freezer that doesn’t get opened constantly (I happen to have a stand-alone freezer that I inherited from a relative years ago). Freezer burn is caused by trapped air that might surround your baked goods, so you’ll want to use freezer-safe containers (I use freezer Ziploc bags) and remove as much air as possible. I literally use a straw to draw air out of the bags. If you’re really willing to go all the way, you can purchase a food saver. I have one because I’ve needed it for photo shoots, but since you have to use their specific bags and you can’t really reuse the bags I rarely use it for my regular life. Hope all of that is helpful!

  • Crystal Golias
    December 9, 2018 at 7:49 AM

    A classic cheesecake also has gluten in it, due to the graham cracker crust. I love cheesecake, but not with the gluten. These look like a good alternative; I definitely want to try them. One quick question; where do you find LorAnn gluten free meringue powder? I live in Ansonia, CT.

    • Nicole Hunn
      December 9, 2018 at 3:10 PM

      I order the meringue powder online, Crystal, usually through Amazon. Every once in a while I will find it on the shelf at a crafts store, but not usually.

  • Maria
    December 5, 2018 at 3:22 PM

    Can I substitute dairy-free cream cheese?

    • Nicole Hunn
      December 5, 2018 at 4:05 PM

      Please see the extensive discussion under the Ingredients and substitutions section in the post, Maria!

  • Meghan
    December 5, 2018 at 2:38 PM

    I think this is my first ever question about a recipe. Would this dough freeze ok to bake later? We live in 300 square feet so I’ve been making as many doughs ahead of time as I can. I wasn’t sure since there’s cream cheese in it. They look amazing!

    • Nicole Hunn
      December 5, 2018 at 4:09 PM

      Hi, Meghan, Welcome! I haven’t frozen the cookie dough itself, but in general I don’t like freezing cookie dough that you roll out (as opposed to drop cookies). If it dries out at all (which it will, if it’s not sealed perfectly, and that’s hard to do), it can be difficult to roll out after it’s defrosted. I’d much prefer to cut shapes, bake the cookies, cool them and then freeze them as made (without frosting them). They freeze really well that way.

  • Marcella Gibbs
    December 5, 2018 at 12:34 PM

    Is the dough sturdy enough to cut out gingerbread men?

    • Nicole Hunn
      December 5, 2018 at 12:48 PM

      Yes, absolutely, Marcella! I do have two recipes for gingerbread men cutout cookies on the blog, too, (one crispy, one soft) if you’d like that. Just use the search bar.

  • Heather Allen
    December 5, 2018 at 12:28 PM

    I love this recipe -they are soooooo delicious and the best sugar cutout cookies I have even made-even better than any full gluten I used to make a long time ago – b4 I knew I was allergic. Just made 3 batches of the dough for my annual Xmas party. They hold their shape -don’t crumble -so soft and delicious! The perfect cookie. I love all the GFOAS cookie recipes. I make about 9 different kinds every year. Just got done baking and decorating 3batches last night. Try them you’re going to love them and so will your friends and family!

  • Patti
    October 10, 2015 at 1:02 PM

    Yum. Yum. Yum!!

  • Leo's lair4
    October 9, 2015 at 6:25 PM

    Hi, these look wonderful! Does anyone know if there is a metric version of this?

  • youngbaker2002
    October 9, 2015 at 1:38 PM

    ooooooooo!!!!!! thank you! thank you! thank you!!!!!!!!!!! saw these on the Pinterest board and was really pulling for them! i made the soft frosted sugar cookies for our Christmas cutouts last year (and LOVED them by the way!) but maybe we’ll give these a try this year. can’t wait for Christmas cookie season to finally get under way. :)

    • youngbaker2002
      October 9, 2015 at 1:43 PM

      By the way, your photos of these cookies are beautiful Nicole! All of your photos are always amazing and EVERYTHING looks so gorgeous!

  • Anneke
    October 9, 2015 at 1:24 PM

    I wonder what Tim will think of these beauties?

  • Ashley
    October 9, 2015 at 11:57 AM

    If I wanted to make these dairy free, what could I replace the cream cheese with? I love cream cheese but Sadly it doesn’t love me. Lol

    • Faith
      October 9, 2015 at 6:14 PM

      Try the original recipe for the Soft Frosted cut out cookies that does not have cream cheese. They are really good. I think they had a little milk in either the cookie or frosting, but I just used almond milk instead. Her link is above.

  • Jennifer S.
    October 9, 2015 at 11:15 AM

    Lord almighty and I didn’t think they could get any better – YEAH! :)

  • October 9, 2015 at 11:07 AM

    Yum, Nicole! I can attest to how cream cheese in a cutout sugar cookie can change things. Perspective. Life. The world. These look amazing (and your photos, as always, wow me).

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