snickerdoodle recipe without cream of tartar

About My Best Snickerdoodle Recipe Without Cream of Tartar

Behold—a snickerdoodle recipe without cream of tartar!

When I first published My Best Snickerdoodle Recipe earlier this year, folks loved the recipe. I got a ton of people raving about its strong buttery and cinnamon flavors, as well as its perfectly chewy texture. Because unlike other snickerdoodle recipes that make fat, thick, and puffy cookies, my recipe makes snickerdoodle cookies that are flat and similar to the size and shape of a chocolate chip cookie. They were a hit—many considered them to be one of the best cookie recipes on Hummingbird High!

But many were also dismayed by their use of an “obscure” ingredient—cream of tartar. I got many emails and DMs: “What even is cream of tartar?” and “Do I really need cream of tartar to make snickerdoodles?” I 100% get it. It’s a shame because most snickerdoodles are pretty “pantry-friendly” recipes. That is, most people have all the ingredients to make snickerdoodles in their pantry already—butter, sugar, flour, eggs, and the like. Except for cream of tartar! And sadly, the homemade substitutions available online (like lemon juice, vinegar, and more) add too much liquid to the cookie dough, altering the cookies’ texture.

So since then, I’ve been working hard to develop a snickerdoodle recipe without cream of tartar. And this is it! Similar to my best snickerdoodle recipe, this recipe makes flat snickerdoodles that are soft yet chewy in the middle, with crispy and lightly puffed edges. And of course, they are buttery, cinnamon-y, and delicious. The best part? Absolutely you don’t need cream of tartar to make them!

@hummingbirdhigh google “snickerdoodle recipe without cream of tartar” for the recipe with weight measurements; my recipe is the first result on hummingbirdhigh.com! #bakingrecipe #baking ♬ Jiggle Jiggle – Duke & Jones & Louis Theroux

What is a snickerdoodle?

But hold the phone. What even are snickerdoodles, anyway?

Snickerdoodles are sugar cookies rolled in cinnamon sugar. The cinnamon sugar gives the cookies their distinct flavor, texture, and appearance. Some food historians argue that sugar cookies recipes use baking powder to leaven the cookies, while snickerdoodles recipes use cream of tartar instead.

What is cream of tartar?

Cream of tartar is an acidic by-product of fermenting grapes into wine. In baking, it’s primarily used for stabilizing meringues and whipped cream. Baking powder also typically consists of a mix of baking soda and cream of tartar. You can learn more about why in this Kitchn article talking about the difference between baking powder and baking soda.

Because cream of tartar is slightly more acidic than baking powder, it gives the cookies a slight sour-flavored tang unique to snickerdoodles.

Can you make snickerdoodles without cream of tartar?

However, Stella Parks, the main pastry expert at Serious Eats, argues that snickerdoodles don’t necessarily need cream of tartar. In her cookbook, she writes that the earliest recipes for snickerdoodles used baking powder. She cites that Cleveland Baking Powder, a prominent baking powder brand in the early 1900s, used a snickerdoodle recipe in its advertising as early as 1891.

Unfortunately, back then, baking powder was considered a luxury good. Many home cooks wanted to try the snickerdoodle recipe, but couldn’t access baking powder. As a result, these home cooks made their own by mixing together baking soda and cream of tartar. Eventually, snickerdoodles became known for this combination of leaveners. However, Stella argues that a snickerdoodle recipe without cream of tartar is the more authentic, original thing.

What does snickerdoodle without cream of tartar taste like?

Even without the cream of tartar, snickerdoodles have a unique flavor and taste. A classic snickerdoodle should taste like a buttery sugar cookie, but with lots of cinnamon and sugar from the snickerdoodle topping.

That being said, if you were to use a snickerdoodle recipe WITH cream of tartar, you’d end up with a different cookie. 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. 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.

If that’s the kind of cookie you’re looking for, check out my best snickerdoodle recipe! It’s the snickerdoodle recipe in my cookbook, Weeknight Baking, and uses cream of tartar.

holding snickerdoodle recipe without cream of tartar

Why You Should Make This Recipe

Here are all the reasons to make this snickerdoodle recipe without cream of tartar:

The recipe comes together quickly.

These snickerdoodles come together SO quickly. In fact, making the dough for these cookies only took me 10 minutes or so, with another 5 minutes to assemble into cookies. Cool, right? That being said, it’s worth investing in a 3-Tablespoon cookie dough scoop to help portion out the dough. I swear that’s the “secret” to making cookie recipes fly by.

The recipe uses basic pantry ingredients.

Without the use of cream of tartar, I swear that most of you will already have all the ingredients you need for these cookies on hand. All you need is flour, baking powder, salt, butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and cinnamon! Okay, now that I list it out, it sounds like a lot (lol). But if you bake frequently (or even occasionally!), you probably already have all these ingredients at home.

The snickerdoodles store well.

I love making snickerdoodles, especially around the holidays. Why? Their high butter ratio means that they keep well for days, making them great for presents sent over the mail and more. Furthermore, the snickerdoodle absorbs a lot of flavors from its coating over time. Doing so deepens their cinnamon sugar flavors!

Ingredients and Substitutions

Now that I’ve convinced you to make these snickerdoodles, here’s your shopping list for the recipe:

Shopping List for Snickerdoodle Recipe Without Cream Of Tartar

  • granulated sugar
  • ground cinnamon
  • all-purpose flour
  • baking powder
  • kosher salt
  • unsalted butter
  • granulated sugar
  • large eggs
  • pure vanilla extract

And let’s talk about some key ingredients and their potential substitutions:

Ground Cinnamon

You need 2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon to make this snickerdoodle recipe without cream of tartar.

2 Tablespoons seems like a lot of ground cinnamon! Is that amount correct?

Yes! 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.

I don’t like cinnamon. Can I still make this snickerdoodle recipe?

Er… I already mentioned that snickerdoodles’ main flavor profile is cinnamon! But okay, you don’t have to use the cinnamon sugar topping. In fact, you can omit it completely and make plain old chewy sugar cookies instead! There’s no need to change Bake Time.

And if you’re feeling creative and want to do some experimenting, check out my cookbook, Weeknight Baking. In my book, I admit that cinnamon isn’t my favorite spice. So instead I provide toppings for my snickerdoodle recipe made with different toppings like black sesame, matcha, raspberry powder, and even sprinkles.

If you don’t want to buy my book (sad face), no worries! You can see some examples of “creative experimentation” on my blog too. In the past, I’ve made Black Halva Snickerdoodles, Raspberry Lemon Snickerdoodles, and these Tangy Meyer Lemon Sugar Cookies (which are pretty much snickerdoodles, anyway).

Baking Powder

You need 1 teaspoon baking powder to make this snickerdoodle recipe without cream of tartar.

I don’t have baking powder. Can I still make these snickerdoodles?

LOL. If you don’t have baking powder, check out this recipe for my best snickerdoodle recipe. It makes an equally delicious snickerdoodle cookie but with baking soda and cream of tartar instead.

holding snickerdoodle recipe without cream of tartar

How To Make Snickerdoodles Without Cream of Tartar

Here are your basic steps on how to make snickerdoodles from scratch:

First, prep the ingredients.

  1. Prep the ingredients. (Prep Time: 5 minutes)
    Thankfully, prep for this recipe is fairly easy. Simply measure out all the ingredients and make sure they are at the temperatures specified in the recipe. That’s it!

Next, make the different components for the recipe.

  1. Make the snickerdoodle topping. (Work Time: <5 minutes)
    Whisk together the granulated sugar for the topping and the ground cinnamon in a shallow bowl. A shallow bowl makes it easier for you to coat the cookies completely.

  2. Make the snickerdoodle cookie dough. (Work Time: 10 minutes)
    This snickerdoodle cookie recipe follows most standard cookie recipes. First, cream the butter and sugars, then add the egg, vanilla, and dry ingredients.

Then, assemble the snickerdoodles.

  1. 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.

  2. Roll the cookie dough balls in the snickerdoodle topping. (Work Time: <5 minutes)
    Once the cookie dough balls have been formed, roll each one in the bowl with the cinnamon sugar topping. Toss and coat every single dough ball completely.

Finally, bake the snickerdoodles.

  1. Bake the cookies. (Bake Time: 12 minutes)
    The snickerdoodles need 12 minutes in an oven preheated to 375℉. 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 between 375℉ and 400℉. 

    Why?

    This higher temperature encourages the baking powder to activate 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. 
bite of snickerdoodle recipe without cream of tartar

Recipe Troubleshooting and FAQ

FAQ: Questions About SnickerdoodleTechniques

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! 

FAQ: Questions About The Recipe’s Results

Why are my snickerdoodles flat?

Snickerdoodles can come out flat if 1) the baking powder you used is 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 baking powder by adding a pinch of it to a bowl of hot water. If the water slightly fizzes, that’s a good thing! It’s still good to go. If it doesn’t fizz, your baking powder 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. 

Help! I have the opposite problem. Instead, my snickerdoodles came out too puffy and didn’t flatten like yours. What did I do wrong?

Okay, there are several things that could be responsible for overly puffy cookies.

Possibility #1: You altered the quantities of the ingredients in the recipe.

First things first: did you make the recipe with the ingredients exactly as written? That is, you didn’t increase decrease the amount of sugar (a lot of folks do this because they are worried about their health or think that the recipe will be too sweet) or use an egg substitute?

Because if you did, bad news: doing so likely affected the texture of these cookies. Sugar and eggs are what give the cookies their signature look, taste, and texture. Specifically—sugar helps baked goods spread and brown properly. If you reduce the sugar, the cookies won’t spread in the same way and will stay puffy.

By the way, recipe developers love when people complain that the recipe “didn’t work” or come out as expected…only to find out that the maker changed the ingredients. LOVE IT.

Possibility #2: You didn’t measure the ingredients properly.

You swear you followed the recipe exactly as written. But your cookies still came out puffy! What gives? Okay, another question for you: did you use measuring cups?

If you used cup measures as opposed to weight measures, there’s a larger chance your cookies will come out puffy. Why? As weird as this sounds, there’s a LOT of variation in how people use measuring cups. Like, somebody who scoops ingredients into a measuring cup and packs it down as they go will have a cup that has way more ingredients than somebody who simply scoops the flour into a cup and levels it off as its filled. This is why bakers love measuring by weight with a digital scale. It’s much more reliable and completely eliminates any inconsistencies.

While these variations aren’t a big deal for many recipes, they can be a big deal for cookies. Specifically: if you pack a heavy cup of flour, your cookies will come out too puffy. They won’t fall and sink in the same way as mine did.

So the correct way to fill a measuring cup is this: set the measuring cup on a flat, level surface like your kitchen counter. Spoon the ingredient you’re measuring into the measuring cup until it forms a small mound within the cup. Use a butter knife or bench scraper to level off the mound so that the ingredient is flush with the top edges of the measuring cup. If you’re measuring a dry ingredient that has a tendency to clump or get packed down (like flour, confectioners’ sugar, or cocoa powder), give them a quick whisk in their bags or containers first before scooping into the measuring cup.

I told you a digital scale was easier, right?

FAQ: Storing The Snickerdoodles

How To Store Snickerdoodles

The cookies can be stored in an airtight container or zip-top bag at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Can you freeze snickerdoodles without cream of tartar?

Yes! You can freeze the snickerdoodles in two ways:

Freeze the unbaked snickerdoodle cookie dough.

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 14 minutes. 

Freeze the baked snickerdoodle cookies.

Individually wrap any leftover cookies in two layers of plastic wrap, then a layer of aluminum foil. The aluminum foil will prevent the cookies from absorbing any other flavors or odors in the freezer. When ready to serve, transfer to the refrigerator to chill overnight. Rewarm in the microwave before serving.

Best Recipe Tips

Best Technique 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).

Best Baking Tip

  • 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.

Video Tutorial for The Recipe

Use the video player below to watch my Instagram Story tutorial on how to make snickerdoodles without cream of tartar! The arrows to the left and right of the frame allow you to skip through the different recipe steps. You can also hit the “pause” or “enlarge” buttons on the upper right hand side of the frame to pause or enlarge the frames accordingly.


Alternatively, head to my Instagram profile to watch these Stories on mobile! The circles underneath my bio indicate saved Instagram Story highlights for various recipes. Click on one of the circles to play the video tutorial for the recipe. You may need to swipe left or right to find this snickerdoodle recipe.

More Snickerdoodle Recipes

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Get the Recipe: Snickerdoodle Recipe Without Cream of Tartar

This snickerdoodle recipe makes snickerdoodles that are soft and chewy in the middle, yet crispy and lightly puffed around the edges. The best part? Unlike most traditional snickerdoodle recipes, this recipe does NOT use cream of tartar. The recipe uses baking powder instead! As a result, it's likely that you already have all the ingredients you need to make these cookies at home!
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Ingredients

For the Snickerdoodle Topping

  • ¼ cup (1.75 ounces or 50 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon

For the Snickerdoodle Dough

  • 2 ⅓ cups (10.5 ounces or 298 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup (8 ounces or 227 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups (10.5 ounces or 298 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Instructions
 

For the Snickerdoodle Cookies Without Cream of Tartar

  • Prep the oven and pans. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F. Line two half sheet pans with parchment paper.
  • Make the snickerdoodle topping. Whisk together ¼ cup (1.75 ounces or 50 grams) granulated sugar and the ground cinnamon in a shallow bowl.
  • Make the snickerdoodle cookie dough. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, 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 egg and 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.
  • Assemble the cookies. 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 12 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.

Notes

  • 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.
Did you make this recipe?Please leave a star rating and review in the form below. I appreciate your feedback, and it helps others, too!
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Weeknight Baking:
Recipes to Fit your Schedule

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.

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