Need a cute, fun Halloween dessert? Try these Halloween sugar cookies! Using pumpkin spice and topped with royal icing decoration, they're simple enough to get kids involved but can be decorated into something spooky or really beautiful, too.
The cookie base is a classic sugar cookie that's solid enough to be iced but still soft and tender when eaten. These have a great flavour from the spice and vanilla, just like fall. For another seasonally inspired cookie, try our cinnamon sugar cookies or chewy vegan ginger cookies.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Butter: it needs to be at room temperature before beginning. It should be too soft, so don't leave it near a radiator or warm oven.
- Sugar: this is plain white sugar, not cane or icing sugar. You need the fine grain for the cookies to have the correct texture.
- Butter: these will work with stick margarine (vegan butter) but not the kind that comes in a tub.
- Spices: if you don't want to use pumpkin spice, sub cinnamon or make them with just vanilla.
Step 1: Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy.
Step 2: Add the egg and vanilla extract.
Step 3: Beat again until the egg is fully incorporated.
Step 4: Add the flour, pumpkin spice, baking powder, and salt.
Step 5: Mix on low speed until just combined. Don't over mix.
Step 6: Roll the dough out to ¼ inch thick (about .5 cm).
Step 7: Cut the dough into your desired shapes.
Step 8: Place the shapes onto a parchment-paper lined baking sheet and bake, then cool and decorate.
1. Add highlights to black icing with a little bit of white for extra depth (see witch hats).
2. Let the first layer of icing dry on the cookies for at least an hour before adding any extra details, like eyes or smiles.
3. Add the food colouring to the icing bit by bit until you get the colour you need.
If you don't have Halloween specific cookie cutters, try using a snowman and turning it upside-down to make a skull, for example. Get creative!
Check the cookies at the 10-minute mark if they're on the smaller side to avoid browning them too much.
Work in smaller batches for easy rolling, especially if you don't have lots of counter space (divide the dough into three or four parts).
How to Store
Storage: decorated cookies should dry fully (at least six hours) before being places into an airtight container. Layer parchment paper between stacked layers to ensure the colour doesn't bleed into the cookies above. Refrigerate for up to a week.
Freezing: follow the same method as to refrigerate, and freeze for up to three months in an airtight container.
- Witch hats: do an outline and then flood, both with black icing. Let this dry for at least an hour before adding a thin line of white as a highlight on one side.
- Coffins: add an orange outline on the outer edges of the cookie and write 'RIP' in black icing in the middle.
- Skulls: outline in white and then flood. Let the icing dry for at least an hour before adding black eyes, nose markings, and a smile.
- Pumpkins: outline in orange before flooding. If desired, dry for an hour before adding jack o' lantern faces. Alternatively, do outlining as seen on our cinnamon sugar cookies.
- Candy corn: pipe an outline of yellow on the bottom third, orange on the middle third, and white on the top third. Flood with the same colours.
- Bats: outline the body in black and flood also in black. Pipe the lines of the wings, then optionally add two small white eyes after drying for an hour.
Should sugar cookies be soft or crunchy?
The best sugar cookies, like these ones, are tender but not so soft that they fall apart when handled. This isn't gingerbread, but a sturdier cookie that has a soft bite.
Are sugar cookies the same as shortbread?
The main difference is that shortbread is short - right there in the name - meaning it contains more butter. It's dense while sugar cookies are lighter and much less crumbly after baking, perfect for cutting out and decorating.
How many days ahead can you make decorated sugar cookies?
While you can make the sugar cookies several days in advance and refrigerate, they're best if served within about three days. Any longer and the icing can start to bleed into the cookies or into other colours in the decoration.
If you make these Halloween Cookies or any other cookie recipes on the Baked Collective, please take a moment to rate the recipe and leave a comment below. It’s such a help to others who want to try the recipe. For more baking, follow along on Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube.
Halloween Sugar Cookies
- Measuring cups and spoons or a digital kitchen scale
- Large bowl
- Hand or stand mixer
- Rolling Pin
- baking sheet
- Parchment paper
- Cookie cutters
- Wire rack
- 1 ¼ cups plain sugar
- ¾ cup butter room temperature
- 1 large egg room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 batch royal icing coloured as needed
- Add the sugar and butter to a large bowl (or the bowl of a standing mixer) and use an electric mixer to beat on high speed for about 5 minutes. It should be fluffy and lighter in colour.
- Add the egg and vanilla and beat again until well combined.
- Add the flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, and salt to the bowl. Mix again until the flour has been well incorporated and the dough is mixed, but don't over mix. It will be slightly crumbly but hold when pressed between finger and thumb.
- Divide the dough into two parts for easier rolling. Turn the cookie dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Roll the dough with a rolling pin to about ¼-inch (6-mm) thick.
- Cut the dough into your desired shapes. Any extra dough can be re-rolled once.
- Place the cut-out cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place the sheet in the freezer for 10-15 minutes.
- Place the tray of cookies in the oven and bake for 9-13 minutes, or until the edges are very lightly golden. The baking time will vary depending on the size of the cookie cutters. Repeat for the remaining dough.
- Remove the cookies from the oven and cool on the baking sheet for 5-10 minutes.
- Remove the cookies from the tray and let them cool completely on a wire rack before icing.