Chocolate Sugar Cookies
You can’t beat the delightful combo of soft chocolate sugar cookies and whipped vanilla buttercream frosting!
While my husband and I don’t typically do much to celebrate Valentine’s Day, I do have a soft spot for Valentine’s Day treats. Cookies, candies, chocolates, cake— just give me all the sugary confections. Especially anything and everything chocolate.
I discovered these chocolate sugar cookies a few years ago and they’ve been a favorite ever since. They’re soft, very chocolatey and fabulous enough all by themselves, but even better topped with vanilla buttercream frosting. It’s a fun and delicious baking project for any day of the year!
Ingredients you’ll need
How to make these chocolate sugar cookies
- Prepare the cookie dough. This recipe starts as any basic cookie dough, and uses the creaming method to come together.
- Chill in the fridge. Chilling the sugar cookie dough in the fridge gives it a little time to rest, relax and firm up so it’s ready for rolling.
- Roll, cut and chill again. You can roll the cookie dough ¼ to ½ inch thick, depending on how thick you want the cookies (thin cookies will also be slightly crispier, and thicker cookies will be very soft). Cut using whatever cookie cutters you want, then freeze cut-outs on a parchment lined baking sheet for a few minutes so they hold their shape during baking.
- Bake. You can transfer the baking sheet from the freezer straight to a 350°F preheated oven. Bake until cookies appear set in the centers, which will vary based on thickness and size (see FAQs below).
- Make frosting and decorate. Let the cookies cool on a wire rack while you make the frosting. Then frost how you like, and enjoy!
How to decorate sugar cookies
These chocolate sugar cookies are delicious enough on their own, but it’s always fun to add frosting, decorations, and sprinkles! Use royal icing to get a smooth, polished look, or use buttercream frosting for a fluffier look and higher frosting-to-cookie ratio. I personally love a generous topping of buttercream frosting on my sugar cookies.
You can use a knife or offset spatula to spread frosting onto cookies, or use a piping bag. If you want to color the frosting, divide into separate bowls and color with gel food coloring (recommended, though you can use liquid coloring if you prefer).
Sugar cookie decorating tools
- Disposable piping bags or reusable piping bags
- Piping tips
- Gel food coloring (Americolor is my favorite brand)
FAQs for this chocolate sugar cookie recipe
In some recipes it really matters which kind you use (and I go into lots more detail in my tutorial Natural Unsweetened vs. Dutch-Processed Cocoa Powder), but you can use either for this chocolate sugar cookie recipe. Natural cocoa powder will produce cookies that are lighter in color and flavor, while using Dutch-processed will yield cookies that have a darker color and richer flavor. I used Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder (which is Dutch-processed) for the cookies shown in these photos.
Chilling the dough does two things— 1) it makes it easier to work with so it doesn’t stick to the rolling pin, counter or cookie cutters. And 2) it gives the dough time to relax. During this time the moisture is distributing itself evenly throughout the dough, hydrating the flour and relaxing the gluten. This makes for cookies with soft centers and slightly crisp edges.
The key to soft sugar cookies is to not overbake them! It’s tricky with this recipe since the cookies are dark brown and you can’t see when they start to brown. For ¼-inch thick cookies, they’re done when the tops appear dry and set. For ½-inch thick cookies, bake for 1-2 minutes more. Baking time will vary greatly depending on the shape of the cookies, so keep a close eye, and bake a small test batch to help you figure it out.
Cookie dough will keep in the fridge for 3-5 days, and in the freezer (double-wrapped) for a month or more. Baked sugar cookies will keep in an airtight container for up to a week (though they are at their best within a few days). You can also freeze baked sugar cookies in a heavy-duty ziplock bag for up to a month, letting them thaw at room temperature for a few hours to serve. You can freeze frosted sugar cookies, but I prefer to frost them once thawed.
A few more tips for this recipe
- Make sure butter is at room temperature, but not at all melty or shiny looking. Cookie dough made with butter that is too warm may spread more in the oven during baking.
- Be sure to measure flour correctly! All of my recipes are tested using the spoon and level method (more info through that link).
- The espresso powder in this recipe is optional, but recommended for a rich chocolate flavor.
- These pre-cut parchment sheets are perfect for cookie baking.
- You can obviously use whatever cookie cutters you like for these sugar cookies! These cookies are great for holidays such as Valentine’s Day, Christmas, Halloween, St. Patrick’s Day, etc.
- Powdered food dye and natural dyes would also work for coloring the frosting. Use package instructions.
- This buttercream forms a slight crust after about 20 minutes so you can stack cookies gently on top of each other. However, it doesn’t harden completely.
More sugar cookie recipes
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This recipe was originally published in February 2013.
Chocolate Sugar Cookies with Vanilla Buttercream
- 1 cup (227 grams) unsalted butter , at room temperature
- 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
- ½ cup (115 grams) packed light or dark brown sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 cups (375 grams) all-purpose flour
- ⅔ cup (60 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoons espresso powder , optional
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 cups (455 grams) powdered sugar , sifted
- 1 cup (227 grams) unsalted butter , at room temperature
- ¼ cup (65 ml) heavy whipping cream
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon almond extract
- Food coloring , optional
- Sprinkles , optional
To make the cookies:
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or in a bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugars on high until pale and creamy, about 4 minutes.
- Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each. Add the vanilla extract and mix until combined.
- In a separate bowl, sift together the cocoa powder, flour, espresso powder (if using) and salt. Add to the mixer bowl in 2 additions and mix on low until just combined.
- Divide dough in half and place on a sheet of plastic wrap. Use the plastic wrap to help shape the dough into a disk (dough will be sticky). Cover completely with the plastic wrap. Chill dough for 1 hour and up to a few days.
- When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350°F and line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper.
- Working with one disk of dough at a time, roll out on a lightly floured surface to about 1/4 inch thick. Cut shapes as desired. Place on the prepared sheet pans 1/2 inch apart. Chill in the freezer for 15 minutes.
- Bake cookies just until the edges are firm, 10-12 minutes depending on the size of your cookies. Do not over bake. Since the cookies are dark in color it may be difficult to see when they are done, so you may wish to bake a few test cookies to be sure you get the timing right.
- Let the cookies cool completely before frosting.
- Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for several days. Unfrosted cookies may be frozen for up to one month, stacked between layers of wax paper.
To make the frosting:
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or in a bowl with a hand mixer, beat the powdered sugar, butter, whipping cream, vanilla and almond extracts on low speed a few minutes until the mixture comes together in a thick frosting.
- Increase speed to high and whip for several minutes until light and airy, scraping the bowl down periodically. Add food coloring and mix until smooth, if desired.
- Frost cooled cookies as desired. Frosting can be made up to 2 days in advance. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.