Apr 25


Top 8 Tips on Preventing Cookies from Spreading

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Hope you had an awesome weekend!

Besides eating lots of chocolate, I had some time to sit down and respond to a question I’m frequently asked, “Why do my cookies spread so much when I bake them?

So to answer, and to celebrate the upcoming royal wedding, I made a few of these little cookies:


I knew I wanted them to stay small so that the crowns almost fit on the base, so it was important to me that they didn’t spread too much. (I had made the royal icing transfer crowns first.  Cookies are 4.5 cm / approx. 2 inches across).

One thing to mention; the little jewels are inedible; they’re actually Swarovski Elements craft jewels.  I just had to add some truly sparkly bling in honor of the royal wedding. 😉  To prevent the whole cookie from being inedible though, I made the crown a royal icing transfer and just barely iced it to the cookie base, so that it could easily be removed.  Another point to mention; the cookie design came from here.

Several of these tips are already in my Sugar Cookie Recipe, and a few are new.  By communicating with some of you, I’ve realized a few key things which helped me which I hadn’t thought to mention before.

A quick note first, a little bit of spreading is normal (see photo above with cookie cutter and cookie); but there are things you can do to help cookies keep their shape!


Tips on Helping Your Cookies Keep their Shape

1. Baking Powder

Whichever recipe you’re using, don’t use baking powder in the dough. I used to take it out only for more detailed cookies, now I omit it all the time.

2. Oven Temperature

Check to make sure your oven really is at the right temperature by using an oven safe thermometer.  If your oven isn’t hot enough, the cookies don’t ‘set’ quick enough, and the cookies have more time to spread. Also remember that opening your oven up to peek on the progress of the cookies, will make the oven lose heat and affect ‘cookie spreadage’.

3. Incorporating Too Much Air

Be careful not to mix the butter and sugar too long (Usually the first step of making the dough; called creaming). Overmixing the butter and sugar will cause too much air to be incorporated. I usually mix mine just until the ingredients come together.

4. Correct Measurements

Baking is like a science… If your measurements are off it can change the whole recipe.  For example, too much sugar will affect your dough. Sugar becomes liquid when melted and more liquid causes spreading. You can’t avoid having some sugar though, after all, we’re talking about cookies. 😉

5.  Butter

Speaking of liquid, the amount of water in the butter you buy will affect the spreading factor.

As for how to know which butters have more/less water content, so far I’ve just had to experiment with different brands to see what works best.  I haven’t found any indication on packaging mentioning percent of water etc.  If anyone has more information on this, I’d love to hear your input!

Generally, I’ve found that the cheaper the butter, the higher the water content seems to be.  🙁

I can’t talk about shortening or other types of fat (sorry!), as I don’t bake cookies with any other fat than butter.

6. Baking Sheets

It may be that I simply like my shiny, new baking sheets, but it seems to me that cookies baked on a thick baking sheet seem to spread less than on a thin one.  Here’s a link to the ones I prefer (click here), and, so you can see what I mean, a link to the other ones (click here).

7. Cookie Thickness

How thick are your cookies? The thicker they are, the longer it takes for the heat in your oven to help the cookies ‘set’, and the more time they have to spread. Mine vary depending on how thick I feel like making them, but in general, they’re about 3/4 cm – 1cm thick.

If you would like a thicker cookie, try raising the temperature of your oven a few degrees to bake them.  Each oven and recipe are different, so you’ll have to play around with this a bit and see what works best.

7. Parchment Paper

Cover your baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpatrather than greasing your pan with any type of oil/fat. Cookies seem to spread/slide more when resting on a greasy surface.

8. Chill the Dough

Once you’ve made the dough and it has rested for at least an hour, cut your cookie shapes out and put them back in the fridge for at least an hour or more before baking.

Regarding re-rolling dough scraps – I’ve noticed that the very first batch of dough which has only been rolled once, spreads the least, even if I’ve chilled them for minimum one hour.  I’m wondering if it has something to do with the gluten in the flour being overworked.

Hope these tips help!  If you have any more ideas, comments or questions, please feel free to share them here, in the comment section, or on my facebook page here.

Happy baking!



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  1. sandra pass
    December 13, 2016 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    Wow! Thank you Marian! And thank everyone else for your tips. I was so frustrated when I used motorcycle and bear shaped cookie cutters and they spread into blobs. I finally found the cookie cutters that I wanted on the internet and was going to give them to the guys that my husband works with on motorcycles.I will try again with your recipe and your tips. Hopefully, if the motorcycles turn out looking like a motorcycle, and the bear looks like a bear, along with the cookies I will also give them a copy of your recipe and Your tips with a motorcycle and bear cookie cutter. Thank you so much! Yay! MERRY CHRISTMAS! FROM SPOKANE, WASHINGTON

    • marian
      December 13, 2016 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

      Thank you so much Sandra! I appreciate your comment and wish you all the best with your next batches! Definitely chill that dough (I’m leaving it overnight lately… It works with my shedule best too), and have fun! Merry Christmas! xi

    December 17, 2016 at 11:05 pm | Permalink

    I have a question…how do you think doing a mix of granulated & powder sugar will affect the cookies? How will the cornstarch affect the cookies as far as spreading? Will omitting the baking powder still allow for a somewhat soft center? I’m tired of puffy spreading cookies so I’m desperate for answers. Thank you.

    • Jill
      March 24, 2017 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

      The confectioner’s sugar will make for a more tender cookie, but it does not affect spreading. The softness of the dough because of your butter and sugar to flour ratio affects the spread. Too much flour and the cookie will taste lousy. Leave out the baking powder and chill the cookies after cutting them out. To keep a soft center, bake the cookies less, as in barely turning golden.

      I realize this info won’t help for last December’s baking, but hopefully it will for future baking!

  3. Divi
    December 20, 2016 at 2:34 am | Permalink

    What about crisco in the recipe? Does that also cause serious spreadage? *sigh cookie spreadage is so depresssing….

    • marian
      December 20, 2016 at 7:52 am | Permalink

      Hi Divi,
      I have yet to experiment with Crisco in the recipe, so I’m sorry, I don’t know yet. I will be doing experimenting with that in the new year, but it’s likely not helpful for you as you probably need it now.

    • Jill
      March 24, 2017 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

      Crisco is a hydrogenated fat. It will help keep your cookies from spreading as much. That being said, it really is very bad for you. In fact, the Government is requiring it be omitted from foods sometime in the next few years (I forget when). Instead, use butter and refrigerate your cut out or drop cookies for 10-15 minutes before baking. Do not grease cookie sheets no matter what the recipe says. Use parchment paper or a silpat instead. If you’re ever in Eugene, OR, stop by Saturday Market and say hello and get some samples of my cookies! I’m Nibbles Bakery in Booth 323 (also Thingys Emporium). Stay away from that Crisco!

  4. Sabrina
    July 9, 2017 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

    I’m am SO excited about finding your blog. I was considering making cookies for the welcome bags at my wedding but would have given up on the idea entirely had it not been for you!

    Question: Which brands of butter are your favorite?


  5. Cindy
    September 24, 2017 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    Would omitting the baking powder in gingerbread cookies keep them from spreading?

  6. Sharon
    October 7, 2017 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    I had very good luck with these. The finished pumpkin shape looked the same as before baking. I had never thought to leave out the leavening agent. Thanks for sharing.

    • marian
      November 20, 2017 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

      Thanks, glad to hear it Sharon!

  7. Trina
    October 14, 2017 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for the tips. Was making witches fingers and toes for a Halloween event and they kept flattening. You tips helped a lot, I lowered the butter and refrigerated before and after shaping and used parchment to get great looking cookies!

  8. Helsinki Dôskee
    October 17, 2017 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

    Wow! Wow! Wow! I need to try these tips! Halloween is coming up and I really want to execute the perfect spooky cookies!
    Is there a brand of butter you would recommend?

    Thank you since for sharing your tips!

    • Helsinki Dôskee
      October 17, 2017 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

      Apologies for the typo.

      Last sentence should have read:
      *Thank you for sharing your tips!

  9. Daphne
    October 18, 2017 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    I am reading post on omitting baking powder from cookie recipes, also I have notice since purchasing my kitchenaid machime my cookies seem to flatten, thus maybe your comment on mixing too much may apply to that?

  10. Lisa Sanders
    November 20, 2017 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    I took a baking class once and the baker told us to always buy butter with the highest saturated fat percentage you can find. Maybe that reduces the water content. I always look at the butter labels now.

  11. Chey
    November 24, 2017 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    Do you think with the baking soda omitted from the recipe I could use this in a pan that has the indented cookie form? I found some that are like what we used when I was a child to make Christmas cookies. Unfortunately, mom couldn’t tell me the recipe for the cookies that we made in them (she was in her mid 80s by the time I found them).

  12. Carito
    December 1, 2017 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    Hi Marian I love your cookies. i have one question about cookies thickness. I love them very thin. what do you think about that? i think they are a little more delicated…

  13. Pamela
    January 29, 2018 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for such great tips! I was ready to be admitted to the funny farm over the spreading issue. It is truly a blessing to find a blog that has “real” information from “real” bakers! This is my go-to site for any issues I may have.

    • marian
      January 30, 2018 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Pamela and happy baking!

  14. Carley
    February 13, 2018 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    How do you avoid re-rolling the dough?

  15. November 9, 2018 at 6:37 am | Permalink

    Marian, these tips are amazing! Thank you so much for sharing. I’m saving this in my bookmarks and will DEFINITELY be remembering these next time

  16. Rae
    November 28, 2018 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

    Do you refrigerate the cookie sheets too? Or do you put the cut outs on a pan that you don’t use and just transfer them to a room temp. cookie sheet?

    • marian
      November 29, 2018 at 11:19 am | Permalink

      Hi Rae,
      I have a lot of extra cookie sheets, so I freeze them with the cookie sheet.

    • marian
      December 18, 2018 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

      Sorry, I just saw this Rae. I do refridgerate/freeze the trays too. Just faster!

    December 17, 2018 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    I tried twice to make cherry bombs , but what started out as small balls of dough in which is hidden a cherry in each ,the ball quickly melted down into an almost flat cookie.
    I cant figure out what I am doing wrong.
    I followed your tips as described above.
    Help, please!

    • marian
      December 18, 2018 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

      Hi Lorraine,

      The cherry bomb recipe isn’t mine (as I’ve never made or posted them), so I can’t tell you 100%. The amounts of each ingredients do matter. That being said, besides the tips above, all I can think of is to freeze the cherry bombs overnight and then bake them in a really hot oven (set the oven at least 10 degrees higher than the recommended time). Also, the recipe did not have a leavening agent in it, did it?

    December 18, 2018 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, Marian:
    The recipe listed baking powder and salt.
    I just attempted my 3rd venture into this recipe:
    I omitted the baking powder as suggested, and cut down on the butter; I had no more cherries to use , but i didn’t mind since this was another trial.
    VOILA! ….the dough held its shape!
    Now, tomorrow I will buy more cherries and bake this recipe again.
    I also think that maybe if the cherries were completely dried( with a paper towel) after straining it would certainly curtail any extra moisture.
    I’ll post again after my next try. I am obsessed with getting this recipe correct.
    Thank you again for your suggestions.

    • marian
      December 18, 2018 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

      Wonderful! Glad to hear you had success! Please let me know how your next batch goes, I’m very curious!

    December 18, 2018 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    Oh. I also cut down on the sugar…no problem…they taste fine

    December 19, 2018 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    Just took the latest attempt out of the oven,and they came out perfect!….. nice and round. I am so pleased….I thank you again for all the suggestions.

    • December 19, 2018 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

      Wonderful Lorraine, glad to hear it and Merry Christmas!

  21. Judith B. Marks
    February 6, 2019 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

    I want to decorate little oscar cookies for an Academy Awards party. I plan to bake and freeze the unfrosted cookies this weekend . I bought edible gold glitter dust. Normally when I decorate before I bake I use egg white with water to stabilize the sprinkles or whatever I am using to decorate. What can I use to substitute for the raw egg white I was not planning to use royal icing.

    • marian
      February 23, 2019 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

      Hi Judith,
      I’m so sorry for the delay! What did you end up doing or do you still need an idea?

  22. Laura
    March 4, 2019 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

    Hi Marian – I’m inspired! Do you have any designs for birds, specifically hummingbirds? I have the cookie cutter, just need the design! Thank you!

    • marian
      March 5, 2019 at 11:55 am | Permalink

      Hi Laura,

      I have a cutter too, and it’s on my list to make, such pretty birds! I’m sorry, nothing yet! xo

  23. April 19, 2019 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for reminding me not to mix the butter and sugar too long to prevent too much air in them. I’m baking sports theme cookies for my son’s birthday, and I’m gonna be using a customized baby rattle cookie cutter. Thanks for providing tips in keeping the cookies in shape while baking them. I will make sure to follow them, especially the mixing part.

  24. Jessica Perdue
    August 17, 2019 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    Hi came across your tutorials when I googled how far ahead you can make sugar cookies and your tips are great. I have a quick questio. Though it doesnt have to do with cookie spreading, if I need to make a superman red and superman blue icing what do I need to do to get the colors perfect

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Sugar Cookie Recipe

Sugar Cookie Recipe

1300 Comments | Posted December 28th 2009

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