I hold a special place in my heart for one kind of sugar cookie. Don’t get me wrong, I like sugar cookies basically all ways. Soft or crunchy, plain or coated in frosting, offer me a sugar cookie and I’ll take it. Oh, who am I kidding, I’ll take three. But this particular kind of sugar cookie is pretty elusive. It took me recipe testing on four different occasions to come up with the recipe that was just right (which was too bad since I HAD to eat the failures, right!? My life is so hard). This sugar cookie takes me back to my childhood. I remember walking into the grocery store and seeing these crinkly little sprinkle covered soft and chewy sugar cookies on my left, and thinking nothing could be more tempting and delicious to my little childhood soul.
This post contains affiliate links, meaning that if you make a purchase from one of these links a small percentage comes back to me at no additional cost to you. Learn more by visiting my disclosure page.
Sprinkled Soft and Chewy Sugar Cookies
Yes, soft and chewy sugar cookies absolutely have my whole heart. I love the subtle crunch on the outside (made more prominent by the addition of sparkly crystally sugar sprinkles) and the soft tender chewiness on the inside. These cookies make my heart sing. But there is still one problem that I have already alluded to, there are not many recipes out there for soft and chewy sugar cookies. And, unfortunately, for me, most of them fell flat.
That’s not entirely accurate. In fact, the opposite is true. Most of the sugar cookie recipes that promised to be soft and chewy, were instead puffy and cake-y. Now don’t get me wrong, they were still a combination of butter, eggs, sugar, and flour so of course they weren’t entirely disappointing. They were still tasty, but not exactly what I was looking for. They were not a homemade version of the grocery store bakery delights I had grown up with.
After wallowing in self-pity (and over-indulging in the cookie dough from my third failed attempt, I had an epiphany. I turned to a familiar and trusted recipe for inspiration. I just knew this was the answer I was looking for. I was so confident that this recipe would be a success that I even turned over the baking to my husband and took a nap. When I awoke to the aroma of freshly baked cookies, I knew my hunch had been correct.
What I realized during my epiphany, is that the perfect soft and chewy texture that I was looking for was actually more similar to a snickerdoodle than any other sugar cookie I had tried. I figured I would take my classic snickerdoodle recipe, replace the cinnamon sugar with coarse decorating sugar, and bada-bing-bada-boom. The perfect soft and chewy sugar cookie. It turns out that the secret ingredient is the cream of tartar. The cream of tartar plays a pivotal role in achieving a snickerdoodle’s chewiness, and classic somewhat tangy flavor. Both of these were characteristics I wanted to be emulated in my chewy sugar cookies. Thanks to cream of tartar (and my ingenious brain) I know have the perfect chewy sugar cookie recipe in my arsenal (and so do YOU!)
Baking the perfect soft and chewy sugar cookie
Though it took me awhile to perfect this recipe, it’s certainly not difficult. You do have to follow all of the rules that I know you already know about baking cookies. The butter needs to be soft. No you cannot microwave it. I repeat, no you cannot microwave it. I will have none of your comments telling me your cookies didn’t turn out after you microwaved the butter. Understood!? Phew, okay, good. Just leave some butter on the counter a few hours before you are ready to bake your recipe. Cool?
Some people also swear by room temperature eggs. I have never done a side by side comparison, but I hardly ever remember. If I remember, I do it, if I don’t, I don’t. I have never had utter failures from cold eggs so don’t stress too much. If you do remember, it can’t hurt to take the eggs out when you take the butter out, right?
It’s also important to correctly measure your dry ingredients, particularly the flour. If you use the measuring cup as a scoop, the flour will be much too dense and will probably mess up the texture of your cookies. Instead, spoon the flour into the cup before leveling it off.
The decorating sugar on my cookies is homemade. You certainly don’t have to make your own, but it’s so easy, and much cheaper. I just use a coarse sugar (like turbinado sugar) and add food coloring (this is my favorite kind, lots of vibrant colors). All you do is mix until the desired color is achieved. If you have time to let the sugar dry a bit, it turns out a little better, but I made these cookies immediately after making the decorating sugar and it turned out just fine.
Lastly, these cookies actually prefer to be slightly under-baked. Over-bake them and they will seem just a bit to crispy instead of soft and chewy. Definitely check them at 8 minutes, and even if they look a SMIDGE underdone, don’t be afraid to take them out. They will continue baking a bit as they cool on the pan before you can move them to a cooling rack and will be just perfect.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to sip some lemonade and munch on some chewy sugar cookies while dreaming about the good ol’ days.
What foods take you back to your childhood?
Chewy Sugar Cookies
- 1 C Butter
- 1 1/2 C Granulated Sugar
- 2 Large Eggs
- 1 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
- 2 1/2 C All-Purpose Flour
- 1 tsp Baking Soda
- 1 tsp Cream of Tartar
- 1/4 tsp Salt
- 1/2 C Coarse Sugar (like raw cane sugar or turbinado sugar)
- Food Coloring
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
- Cream butter until light in color and fluffy (2-3 minutes)
- Add Sugar and cream until well-combined.
- Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides as needed. Beat in Vanilla.
- In a separate bowl whisk together All purpose flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt until combined. Add to wet ingredients in 3 steps, beating between each addition and scraping down the sides as needed.
- In a small bowl add food coloring to coarse sugar and stir with a fork until the color is even. You may do multiple colors if you desire.
- Roll the cookies into 1.5 inch balls. Roll the balls in the colored sugar mixture until coated.
- Bake 8-10 minutes on cookie sheets with parchment paper spaced~2 inches apart (you can fit 12 per pan). These cookies turn out better slightly underbaked, so don't be afraid to take them off a bit early.
- Let cool on pan for 3-4 minutes before removing to cooling rack to finish cooling.