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How do I prevent sugar cookies from spreading and losing their shape during baking?

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner; Styling: Jan Gautro

Here are some tips for keeping sugar cookies from spreading during baking:

  1. Don’t over cream the butter and sugar: when you beat them too vigorously, you incorporate extra air into the batter, which will expand as they heat up, causing the cookies to spread.
  2. Chilling the cookies after you cut them out also helps retain the shape
  3. Use an oven thermometer to be sure your oven is hot enough. Too low a temperature gives the batter time to spread before it firms into cookies
  4. High-fat European butters like Kerrygold and Plugra are more stable than their lower fat American counterparts, which contain more water. Similarly, vegetable shortening doesn’t contain any water, so you get less spreading (and somewhat firmer cookies).


For more tips on baking cookies, see Top 10 Cookie Secrets and  our collection of Cookie Recipes.

Recipe: Classic Iced Sugar Cookies