One of the best things about sugar cookies is that they freeze super well! No matter if you baked too many cookies or if you were given cookies as a gift, freezing is a great way to elongate their life and enjoy them over the span of a few months, while maintaining maximum freshness and avoiding stale cookies. I've been decorating sugar cookies for over ten years now, and I've put together all of my best tips to freeze your sugar cookies!
This is especially useful during the holiday season when you have Christmas cookies coming out of your ears. It always becomes less enjoyable when you are force-feeding yourself sugar cookies before they go bad… or worse, having to throw away a bunch of cookies. You can follow a few simple steps and enjoy your sugar cookies well into February.
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Types of Decorated Sugar Cookies
The two major types of decorated sugar cookies use royal icing or buttercream frosting.
Royal Icing Cookies: This type of decorating is generally far more intricately decorated than buttercream decorations. Due to the ingredients in royal icing, they dry hard which makes it slightly easier to store them. You'll typically use roll-out cookies with royal icing.
If you are new to the decorating process of royal icing, check out my Ultimate Guide to Royal Icing Cookie Decorating for more information.
Buttercream Cookies: This type of decorating tends to be more simple than royal icing. With a butter base, the icing can somewhat harden, but not like royal icing cookies do. If you press hard enough on a dried buttercream frosting, it will typically ruin the decoration.
While the process of storing either of these kinds of cookies is the same, royal icing tends to be a bit more finicky when defrosting. We’ll get there as we go through the sugar cookie freezing process!
Supplies for Freezing Sugar Cookies
While you won’t need every single one of these items as there are a few different ways to freeze cookies, I wanted to list many of the common supplies for freezing cookies.
- Airtight, Freezer-Safe Container: Making sure your cookies are well protected in the freezer is clutch and not all plastic containers are created equal. In my opinion, the best container brand is Rubbermaid. I use these air-tight containers for decorated cookies and these containers for standard cookies. Whatever brand you go with, make sure it’s truly airtight.
- Press N’ Seal: While I would never freeze cookies in this alone, it is a great extra buffer to protect cookies from freezer burn inside airtight containers. I personally only buy Press N’ Seal over traditional plastic wrap for everything. It is SO much easier to work with and doesn’t stick together as badly as classic plastic wrap.
- Plastic Freezer Bag: These can be a great option when storing cookies for a short period. I wouldn’t leave cookies in a freezer bag for months, as I don’t feel it protects quite as well as solid Tupperware. Also, it leaves your cookies much more vulnerable to breaking as you lose the protection of the hard shell of an airtight container. However, if you’re short on space or only freezing for a few weeks, freezer bags are a great option.
- Cellophane Bags and a Heat Sealer: I heat seal all my decorated sugar cookies in individual bags, whether I’m freezing or not. These bags help lock in freshness and also provide protection to protect your cookie decorations as they will not be directly stacked on each other. Heat sealers are relatively cheap and if you bake enough (especially if you are selling cookies) it can be a game changer.
- Wax Paper or Parchment Paper: Great for placing between layers of decorated cookies to protect decorations.
How to Freeze Sugar Cookies
Let’s start simple. If your sugar cookies are undecorated, gently stack them in an airtight container. You can also more easily freeze undecorated cookies in a ZipLoc freezer bag. Without decorations, there is less risk of ruining your hard work. However, make sure to place cookies in a spot in the freezer where they won’t break.
Whether you are freezing royal icing or buttercream-decorated cookies, this process is pretty similar. I HIGHLY recommend freezing in an airtight container over a freezer bag. You definitely don’t want all your hard decorating work to be destroyed if they get jostled in the freezer.
Gently stack your iced cookies in an airtight container. As mentioned before, a container with greater surface area is best for royal icing so you don’t have to stack too many on top of each other. I personally don’t like stacking more than about 3 layers of royal icing cookies on top of each other. Especially if they are large cookies or have very intricate details/designs on them.
Pro Tip: Stack the more delicate cookies or potentially breakable cut-out shapes on the top. They have more chance of breaking at the bottom layer.
I highly recommend putting a piece of parchment paper or wax paper between each layer of cookies, or alternatively, heat sealing each cookie individually. This adds an extra layer of protection for your beautiful decorations. It is optimal if they can be stored in a single layer, however, due to space constraints, that is not typically an option.
How to Heat Seal a Cookie
This is actually the most simple process! Place each cookie in a cellophane bag and close down the sealer as close to the cookie as possible for a few seconds. I recommend starting on a lower heat and increasing it if the bag does not seal. After, simply trim off the excess bag with scissors!
They also make this type of cellophane bags with a little sticky tab you can fold over and stick, completely avoiding having to use a heat sealer. I still always use the sealer as it’s more airtight than the stickies, but both are good options!
How to Defrost Sugar Cookies
The best way to defrost sugar cookies is by simply removing them from the freezer. However, do NOT open the airtight container, and allow the frozen cookies to come to room temperature. This usually takes a few hours.
If you are defrosting undecorated or buttercream cookies, it is less important if you remove them from the airtight container before they have come to room temperature.
However, if you are defrosting royal icing-decorated cookies, this step is integral. Royal icing is very finicky and if removed before they are defrosted, condensation forms and will ruin your decorating. Also, make sure you are defrosting them in a cool, dry environment.
Pro Tip: If you are defrosting royal icing cookies in the summer without air conditioning I would recommend either defrosting overnight or in the basement. If you have a room with a window AC, then defrost there!
How Long Can You Freeze Sugar Cookies?
This is dependent on your specific cookie recipe. However, MOST sugar cookies can be frozen for up to 3 months including my classic cutout cookies.
If you have extra royal icing you can store and save that as well!
I hope this helps with some ideas of how to freeze your sugar cookies and store them so you can enjoy them at a later date.
Looking for more royal icing tutorials, check out these:
A few of my favorite cut-out cookie recipes: