My Best Snickerdoodle Recipe
When I wrote my cookbook, Weeknight Baking, my goal was to build a collection of recipes that were timeless. I avoided baked goods with trendy flavors like spirulina or activated charcoal. I instead focused on chocolate chip cookies, brownies, and yellow cake with creamy chocolate frosting. Why? I figured that was these were the types of baked goods that people were craving at home on a weeknight. Sometimes, however, that meant including recipes that weren’t a personal favorite—like snickerdoodles.
Prior to writing my book, I thought that snickerdoodles were kind of, well, meh. I always thought that snickerdoodle cookies just seemed a little too one-note. That they tasted like a lot of cinnamon and nothing else, lol. And the texture seemed off, too—many snickerdoodles were either too hard or puffy. But honestly, that’s because many of the snickerdoodle recipes I’d previously tried were bad? Because once I figured out my recipe, I gained a brand new appreciation for the classic snickerdoodle.
What makes THIS recipe my best snickerdoodle recipe?
To me, a really, really good snickerdoodle starts with a buttery and flavorful sugar cookie. But of course, it’s accompanied by lots of cinnamon flavor from the cinnamon sugar snickerdoodle topping. Unlike other snickerdoodle recipes that make fat, thick, and puffy cookies, this recipe makes snickerdoodle cookies that are flat and similar to the size and shape of a chocolate chip cookie. And like a good chocolate chip cookie, the snickerdoodle cookie is soft and chewy in the center (to the point of being almost a little too doughy, even!), with crispy and puffed edges.
But before I share the recipe, let’s rewind. Because first of all…
What is a snickerdoodle?
When researching snickerdoodle recipes, I discovered that snickerdoodles are basically sugar cookies, but with one important distinction: sugar cookies are leavened with baking powder, whereas snickerdoodles use cream of tartar. Cream of tartar is ever-so-slightly more acidic than baking powder. As a result, the cream of tartar gives snickerdoodles a slight sour-flavored tang (similar to how buttermilk and/or sour cream can give baked goods a tangy flavor, too). This flavor is unique to snickerdoodle cookies.
Where do snickerdoodles come from and how did snickerdoodles get their name?
A few cookbooks explain that snickerdoodles are German in origin, stating that the cookie’s name comes from the German word shneckennudel (which is a kind of cinnamon bun). Others trace its origin to New England’s tradition of whimsical cookie names. Meanwhile, Stella Parks, one of my all-time baking heroes, writes in her cookbook that snickerdoodles evolved from a popular cinnamon-scented cake recipe called the “snip doodle”. But the TL/DR is this: there seems to be no consensus on where snickerdoodles actually came from… or how they got their name, for that matter.
What does snickerdoodle taste like?
A classic snickerdoodle should taste like a sugar cookie, but a little bit tangier from the cream of tartar. It should be flavored with lots of cinnamon and sugar from the snickerdoodle topping, too.
What flavor is snickerdoodle?
Traditional snickerdoodles are flavored with cinnamon and nothing else. But I’ll be honest—cinnamon has never been my favorite flavor in the spice rack. It usually works best when it’s paired with other spices, too (I mean, think about it—”pumpkin spice flavor” is technically cinnamon plus loads of other spices, right?!). When developing the snickerdoodle recipe for Weeknight Baking, I had the brilliant idea to swap out the cinnamon for other spices. In my book, you’ll find other snickerdoodle flavors like “black sesame snickerdoodles”, “matcha snickerdoodles”, and my personal favorite, “raspberry sumac snickerdoodles” (they’re pink!!!). Heck, even on this blog I have recipes for raspberry lemon snickerdoodles (also pink!) and black halva snickerdoodles. Moral of this story? If you’re not a fan of cinnamon, don’t be afraid to swap out the cinnamon in the recipe for your favorite spice and/or other flavors to make a unique snickerdoodle flavor.
My Best Snickerdoodle Recipe Ingredients and Substitutions
Now that I’ve hopefully convinced you to make this snickerdoodle recipe, here’s the recipe’s shopping list:
Shopping List For My Best Snickerdoodle Cookie Recipe
- granulated sugar
- ground cinnamon
- all-purpose flour
- cream of tartar
- baking soda
- kosher salt
- unsalted butter
- large eggs
- pure vanilla extract
And let’s talk about some of the key ingredients you need to make the snickerdoodle cookies themselves:
My best snickerdoodle cookie recipe needs 2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon to make the cookies.
Some snickerdoodle recipe I’d tried before developing my own were too bland and only 1 or 2 teaspoons of cinnamon. They were fine, but they were definitely more “cinnamon-flavored sugar cookie” than “snickerdoodle” (if you know what I mean). I wanted mine to be unapologetically cinnamony—there would be no confusion or doubt that my cookies were anything BUT snickerdoodles. As a result, I use a whopping 2 TABLESPOONS of ground cinnamon in my recipe.
When measuring out the cinnamon for the snickerdoodle topping, you might be shocked by how much it is and be tempted to the scale the quantity back before even trying it. But I beg you—please don’t! The generous amount of cinnamon is part of the secret to these cookies’ signature “lewk” and will be balanced out by the cookies’ intense butter flavor.
Cream of Tartar
My best snickerdoodle cookie recipe needs 2 teaspoons cream of tartar to make the cookies.
I’ve already talked about how snickerdoodles are basically just sugar cookies that use cream of tartar instead of traditional baking powder. Here’s a further breakdown as to why:
Why is cream of tartar used in snickerdoodles?
So according to Stella, the earliest recipes for snickerdoodles actually called for baking powder! Snickerdoodle recipes were used in national advertisements for Cleveland Baking Powder as early as 1891. But baking powder wasn’t readily available back then. As a result, enterprising home cooks substituted the baking powder with a mix of cream of tartar and baking soda. This substitution gave us the more “traditional” snickerdoodle recipe I’m referencing for my own recipe today.
What is cream of tartar?
Cream of tartar is an acidic by-product of fermenting grapes into wine; bakers primarily use it to stabilize meringues and whipped creams. Although not many modern recipes call for cream of tartar, it’s worth keeping around because it lasts forever and when you need it, you really need it. Store cream of tartar in a cool, dry place and always give it a quick look and a sniff before using it. It should be white in color with no major clumps, and it will smell mildly acidic.
Do snickerdoodles need cream of tartar?
Yes. I am of the opinion that yes, my best snickerdoodle recipe needs cream of tartar. Although I’m planning on developing a recipe for snickerdoodles without cream of tartar soon, I like the tangy flavor that the cream of tartar gives this pretty classic recipe. In addition to flavor, using cream of tartar gives snickerdoodles their signature appearance with pronounced cracks and crags on the surface of each cookie.
How much would it change the taste of these snickerdoodles if I left out the cream of tartar?
Cream of tartar is more acidic than baking powder and baking soda, which gives the cookies an added tanginess it wouldn’t otherwise have if I’d used baking powder. It’s worth sourcing the stuff (it’s available at most supermarkets in the herbs section), especially since it pretty much keeps indefinitely in the pantry.
In addition to having an effect on flavor, skipping the cream of tartar would also result in different textured cookies. The cream of tartar is what causes the cookies to puff and rise—without it, your cookies might spread too much and/or be completely flat.
I don’t have cream of tartar, can I substitute it with something else?
Yes, but with reservations. In theory, you can substitute the cream of tartar with other ingredients like baking powder, lemon, and vinegar. This article has a good list of common cream of tartar substitutions. However, I can’t personally vouch for any of them since I haven’t tried them myself.
That being said, I did have a handful of Instagram followers and Patreon supporters who substituted the cream of tartar with its equivalent in lemon juice and/or vinegar. Both reported back that they needed to up the flour in the recipe since the dough became very wet after doing so. Unfortunately, I don’t have exact amounts—both readers eyeballed the amount. One approximates that she used an amount that was between 2 to 4 tablespoons.
And finally, if you insist on making snickerdoodles without cream of tartar, check out my recipe for black halva snickerdoodles. The cookie dough uses baking powder in place of both cream of tartar and baking soda. You can swap out the black sesame sugar and halva and instead use the cinnamon sugar topping from this recipe for classic snickerdoodles without cream of tartar.
My best snickerdoodle cookie recipe needs 1 cup unsalted butter to make the cookies.
When making snickerdoodles, I like to use on high-quality butter to stand up to the strong cinnamon sugar flavor. Not to mention that this cookie recipe uses a fair amount of butter too—as a result, you can really taste it! This is the time to splurge on high-quality butter…think: something cultured, and something European (European butter has more butterfat than American butter, giving it a creamier taste and mouthfeel). Using good butter is really the secret weapon to taking your cookies to the next level.
How To Make My Best Snickerdoodle Recipe
Here are the basic steps needed to make snickerdoodles from scratch:
- Make the Snickerdoodle Cookie Dough (Work Time: <10 minutes)
Snickerdoodle cookie dough isn’t complicated to make; in fact, it follows a format similar to most chocolate chip cookie recipes. First, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then add the eggs, vanilla, and finally, the dry ingredients.
- Form the Cookie Dough into Balls (Work Time: <5 minutes)
Each cookie will need to be rolled in the cinnamon sugar snickerdoodle topping before baking. To make things more efficient, I create a “snickerdoodle cookie assembly line” that starts with using a cookie dough scoop to portion the dough into even cookie dough balls.
- Roll the Cookie Dough Balls in the Snickerdoodle Cinnamon Sugar Topping (Work Time: <5 minutes)
Once the cookie dough balls have been formed, roll each one in a shallow bowl with the cinnamon sugar topping. Toss and coat every single dough ball completely.
- Bake at a High Temperature (Bake Time: 10 minutes per batch)
Snickerdoodle cookies are baked at a higher temperature than most other drop cookie recipes (most cookie recipes are baked at 350℉; snickerdoodles are baked at 400℉. This is to encourage the leaveners to activate really quickly, puffing the centers of the cookies as they bake. When pulled out of the oven, the centers then fall, giving each snickerdoodle cookie its signature crispy edges.
My Best Snickerdoodle Recipe Troubleshooting and FAQ
FAQ: My Best Snickerdoodle Cookie Storage
Can you freeze snickerdoodle cookie dough?
Yes! You can freeze snickerdoodle cookie dough just like you can freeze your favorite chocolate chip cookie dough recipe. After portioning the dough into balls, place the balls on a parchment lined sheet pan and freeze for 30 minutes, or until the dough is hard enough to handle without being sticky. Transfer to a zip-top freezer bag and freeze for up to 3 months.
Note that the dough will be frozen WITHOUT the snickerdoodle topping. When ready to bake, you’ll need to roll the cookie dough balls in the snickerdoodle topping. There’s no need to thaw the cookie dough balls before baking. Follow the instructions for baking in the recipe, but increase the Bake Time to 12 to 14 minutes.
Can you freeze the baked snickerdoodle cookies?
Yes! I love freezing baked snickerdoodle cookies and snacking on them (while still cold from the freezer!) in the summertime. For softer cookies, thaw them overnight in the refrigerator, then for a few hours at room temperature before serving.
FAQ: My Best Snickerdoodle Cookie Recipe Results
Why are my snickerdoodles flat?
Snickerdoodles can come out flat if 1) the leaveners you used (for this recipe, it’s both the baking soda and the cream of tartar) are on the old side and no longer work, and 2) if you baked them at a lower temperature.
First, figure out if it’s your leavener. First, test the cream of tartar by adding a pinch to a bowl of hot water. If the water slightly fizzes, that’s a good thing! It’s still fresh and good to go. Then add the baking soda. If it really fizzes, you’re all set. But if the water stays flat, then you’ve got a problem. Figure out if it’s your baking soda by pinching a small amount into a bowl and adding a splash of vinegar. If it doesn’t fizz, your baking soda has gone bad.
Next, double check your oven. In Weeknight Baking, I always insist that people get an external oven thermometer. Hang the thermometer on one of the center oven racks to monitor the temperature inside. Although most modern ovens come with their own thermometers, these internal thermometers degrade over time, giving you inaccurate readings. To wit—many years ago, when I still lived in San Francisco, I rented an apartment with a faulty oven. Although its internal thermometer always read 350℉, I burned almost everything I made. When I finally shelled out for an external thermometer, I discovered that the inside of the oven was actually a full 100 degrees hotter, despite the oven telling me that it was at the perfect temperature! No wonder I burned everything.
This can go the other way too. If your cookies are coming out flat, it’s likely that your oven is too cool, baking the cookies at a lower temperature, and causing them to come out flat.
How to bake snickerdoodles that stay soft
For soft snickerdoodles, it’s better to pull them out when they’re underdone. Specifically, bake only until the edges are set, but the centers are still gooey. Immediately transfer to a wire rack and let cool for at least 20 minutes. The residual heat from the pan will continue to bake the cookies to the perfect texture. Do not pull your cookies out only when they’re set and crispy. The pan will continue to bake them even after you pull them out of the oven, leading to hard and overdone cookies.
How to decorate snickerdoodle cookies
I am of the firm opinion that snickerdoodle cookies need no decoration. I think their craggy surfaces are beautiful, and I love the way that their cracks hold cinnamon sugar. If you insist on “decorating” snickerdoodles, I suggest using your favorite ice cream or buttercream frosting recipe to make snickerdoodle sandwich cookies!
How to Make My Best Snickerdoodle Recipe Small Batch
There are two ways to make this snickerdoodle cookie recipe small batch. The first is freezing the dough, and only baking as many cookies as you want at a time. See the section above for more instructions on how to freeze this cookie dough for baking later.
The second way is to halve the recipe. Halving the recipe will result in 10 cookies as opposed to 20. The new ingredient quantities are:
For the Snickerdoodle Topping:
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
For the Snickerdoodle Cookie Dough:
- 1 ¼ cups + 2 tablespoons (6.15 ounces or 175 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¾ cup (5.25 ounces or 149 grams) granulated sugar
- ½ cup (4 ounces or 114 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Note that you won’t need to change any of the recipe’s steps or Bake Time when halving the recipe. Everything stays the same aside from the recipe’s final yield. You can also follow the instructions above for freezing the cookie dough accordingly.
My Best Snickerdoodle Recipe Tips
Best Baking Tips
- Because this dough has a LOT of butter in it, it has a tendency to really want to stick to the bottom and sides of the bowl when mixing. For the best cookies, use a rubber spatula to scrape down the paddle and the bowl repeatedly—I like to liberally scrape things down two to three times during the creaming process (once after every minute of creaming), once after every egg addition, and finally, two more times after adding the dry ingredients (the first time after ALL the dry ingredients have JUST been added, the second time after they’ve just been mixed together).
- For the best snickerdoodle cookies, be sure to cover your cookie dough balls with a LOT of the cinnamon sugar topping. But be warned: you may still end up with some of it leftover since the recipe makes a generous amount. I like to save the leftovers in an airtight container to sprinkle on my breakfast oatmeal and toast throughout the rest of the week—I wouldn’t keep it any longer than that though (because I mean… you did roll raw cookie dough in the stuff, lol).
- I like to bake the cookies one pan at a time. I find that doing so makes the best cookies, ensuring that none of them have overly burnt bottoms or raw centers. However, to save time, you can bake two sheet pans at a time. Position a rack in the upper-third position of the oven, and a second one in the lower-third position of the oven. Bake a pan on each rack, swapping their positions half way through the Bake Time.
More Snickerdoodle-Like Cookie Recipes
- Black Halva Snickerdoodles
- Chocolate Sugar Cookies
- Raspberry Lemon Snickerdoodles
- Tangy Meyer Lemon Sugar Cookies
My Best Snickerdoodle Cookie Recipe
For the Snickerdoodle Topping
- ¼ cup (1.75 ounces or 50 grams) granulated sugar
- 2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon
For the Snickerdoodle Cookie Dough
- 2 ¾ cups (12.35 ounces or 350 grams) all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 ½ cups (10.5 ounces or 298 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 cup (8 ounces or 227 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
For the Snickerdoodle Cookies
- Prep the oven and pans. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F. Line two half sheet pans with parchment paper.
- Make the snickerdoodle topping. Whisk together ¼ cup (1.75 ounces) granulated sugar and the ground cinnamon in a shallow bowl.
- Make the snickerdoodle cookie dough. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the sugar and butter. Beat on medium-high speed until light, fluffy, and doubled in volume, 2 to 3 minutes, using a rubber spatula to scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl as necessary. Reduce the mixer to low and add the eggs one at a time, adding the next egg only after the previous one has been fully incorporated. Add the vanilla and beat until just combined. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl. With the mixer on low, gradually add the dry ingredients and beat until just combined. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl once more, and beat on low for an additional 30 seconds.
- Use a 3-tablespoon cookie dough scoop to portion the cookie dough into balls. Roll each in the snickerdoodle topping, covering them completely. Place the coated cookies at least 3 inches apart on the prepared sheet pans.
- Bake the cookies. Bake one pan at a time for 10 minutes, or until the edges have set but the centers are still gooey. The cookies will look puffed when you pull them out of the oven, but will fall and crack into the perfect cookies as they cool. Cool the cookies on the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes, or until the edges and bottoms of the cookies have set and feel firm to the touch. Repeat with the remaining cookie dough.
- Serve and store. Serve warm or at room temperature. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container or zip-top bag at room temperature for up to 3 days.
This post was last updated on 8/18/2020.
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NO TIME TO BAKE?!
Over the past several years of running Hummingbird High, I kept a crucial aspect of my life hidden from my readers: I had a full-time, extremely demanding job in the tech world. In my debut cookbook, Weeknight Baking, I finally reveal the secrets to baking delicious desserts on a tight schedule.