Sugar Cookie Bars Recipe (2024)

Recipe from “American Girl Cookies”

Adapted by Margaux Laskey

Sugar Cookie Bars Recipe (1)

Total Time
40 minutes, plus cooling
Read community notes

These sugar cookie bars, which are adapted from “American Girl Cookies,” are happiness in a 9-by-13 pan. The addition of cream cheese in the batter makes them very tender and slightly tangy, a perfect counterpoint to the sweet buttercream frosting. You can, and should, experiment with frosting colors and use sprinkles with abandon. Whatever you do, do not overbake these beauties. When testing for doneness, you want a few moist crumbs to cling to the toothpick. —Margaux Laskey

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Yield:20 bars (One 9-by-13 pan)

    For the Bars

    • 1cup/225 grams unsalted butter (2 sticks), at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
    • cups/350 grams all-purpose flour
    • ½teaspoon fine sea salt
    • 1(8-ounce/225-gram) package cream cheese, at room temperature
    • cups/300 grams granulated sugar
    • 1large egg
    • 2teaspoons vanilla extract

    For the Frosting

    • 6tablespoons/85 grams unsalted butter (¾ stick), at room temperature
    • 2cups/245 grams confectioners’ sugar
    • 1tablespoon milk or heavy cream, plus more as needed
    • 1teaspoon fresh lemon juice, plus more as needed
    • 1teaspoon vanilla extract, plus more as needed
    • ¼teaspoon fine sea salt
    • A drop or two of gel food coloring (optional)
    • Assorted sprinkles, for decorating (optional)

Ingredient Substitution Guide

Nutritional analysis per serving (20 servings)

331 calories; 17 grams fat; 10 grams saturated fat; 1 gram trans fat; 4 grams monounsaturated fat; 1 gram polyunsaturated fat; 42 grams carbohydrates; 0 grams dietary fiber; 28 grams sugars; 3 grams protein; 135 milligrams sodium

Note: The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

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Sugar Cookie Bars Recipe (2)


  1. Step


    Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Line the pan with parchment paper, running it up the two long sides of the pan and letting it extend past the rim by about 2 inches.

  2. Step


    Make the bars: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and cream cheese on medium speed until well blended, about 1 minute. Add the granulated sugar and beat until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the egg and vanilla and beat on low speed until well combined, about 1 minute. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula. Gradually add the flour mixture, mixing on low speed just until blended, about 1 minute.

  3. Using a spatula, scrape the dough into the prepared baking pan and spread it into an even layer. Bake just until the edges are starting to turn light golden brown, and a toothpick inserted in the middle has moist crumbs, 20 to 25 minutes. (Do not overbake! The bars should be quite moist, and almost slightly underbaked in the middle.) Remove the pan from the oven and set it on a wire rack. Let cool completely. When fully cooled, remove the bars from the pan using the overhanging parchment paper.

  4. Step


    Make the frosting: Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Add 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, beating on low speed until fully combined, then repeat with remaining 1 cup confectioners’ sugar. Add the 1 tablespoon milk or heavy cream, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, the vanilla, salt and food coloring, if using, and beat on medium speed until the frosting is light and fluffy, scraping down the sides halfway through, about 4 minutes. Add more milk if needed to thin out the mixture. Add lemon juice and vanilla to taste.

  5. Step


    Using a spatula, spread the frosting on top, then decorate with sprinkles, if using. Cut into 20 bars and serve.



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Cooking Notes

Bob D

Having read some notes mentioning difficulty in spreading the batter in the pan, I sprayed an offset spatula with cooking spray and the spreading was easy and quick


The dough is thick and sticky- use the same technique to spread in the pan you would a high hydration bread. Dip your fingers in a little water and pat into the pan. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. :)


I reduced the sugar by ¼ cup and added 1T almond extract to the batter. I made the frosting as directed, and it was delicious. In the future, I would leave the lemon juice out for Christmas bars, it didn’t seem seasonal. At other times of the year it would be great! (The batter is very thick and sticky, but worth the effort)


Made them as per recipe. The cream cheese gives them a velvety quality I hadn’t experienced in a cookie before. And The tartness from the lemon really balances the frosting nicely. Delicious! I had a slightly underdone center. It wasn’t bad enough to stop us from eating them. My edges were just golden, but my toothpick came out clean in three different places. I thought they might be overbaked based on the recipe description. Checked at 20 minutes, added 2. Will start checking at 25 next time


Many people had trouble spreading this dough. Once you have buttered and lined the pan, place it in the freezer until you are ready for it. Sticky doughs like this one are always easier to spread in a cold pan.


After making some adjustments based on the comments, these came out SO GOOD! I baked them for 40 minutes as 20-25 minutes wasn’t even close to enough time. I also halved the amount of powdered sugar called for in the icing, only using 1 cup rather than 2 cups as I saw comments saying they came out too sweet. With these adjustments, these were really amazing.

Allison R.

These are those frosted cookies people rave about from grocery stores!!! I think they’re better next day once they have had a good amount of time to set. Also, I used parchment over the top to spread evenly in the pan.


Kids loved it, I can’t fault it, but nothing spectacular.I tried putting in 50gr less sugar, but tasted the uncooked dough and it wasn’t sweet at all. I added the rest of the sugar in and it did need it.Put in about a generous pea size shape of gel food colouring and it was too much, they turned bubblegum pink, would use less next time to get the lovely pale hue in the photo.Would recommend eating upside down, so the frosting touches the top of the tongue instead of the top of the mouth.


Don’t try this with chocolate frosting. I used the best fudge frosting I ever made- to die for rich and creamy. It was completely wrong for the cream cheese cookie base. I think it probably needs the the sugary lemony topping recommended in the recipe for contrast. I’m putting it in the fridge overnight to see if that changes anything.

Isihir Bhan

I made this recipe as directed (using weights for ingredients), but halving all ingredients and using an 8x8 aluminum pan. I baked for 32 minutes given the comments about the recommended time being inadequate, and the cookies seemed to turn out fine (not too dry). They tasted like I imagined they would - simple, sweet, and well, like sugar cookies. I had no issues with undercooked dough and, while they were soft, I wouldn’t describe them as brownie-like.


These are wonderful! Adding 1/2 tsp of almond extract to the mix is a must. I omitted lemon juice from the frosting, but I believe a bit of lemon zest in the dough could elevate this tasty but otherwise simple recipe into something exquisite. I definitely recommend making these; perhaps I will try a Christmas version for the holidays!


Yes, most likely. This recipe specifies a baking PAN. In general, when following a recipe, a baking PAN is metal and a baking DISH is Pyrex or ceramic. Metal is a much more efficient conductor of heat, so yes, the bars would've taken less time to bake in a metal pan.


Just tossed nearly a whole batch. Cut the edges into tiny bite size pieces for people to eat. Way way too sweet (which is not usually an issue for me) and completely under baked. Baked for 25 minutes and should have trusted myself to leave them in the over longer, guessing an additional 10 minutes at least. Will try again because I love sugar cookies and frosting, would love to have a bar to substitute the individual cooking making.


I had a hard time spreading the batter in the pan. Finally used another piece of parchment paper on top and used it to spread the batter. Not much stuck to the sheet — much less than was sticking to the spatulas. Yummy cookies!!


i floured my fingers and pressed the batter into the pan since it was so thick

Colleen Trang

Some of the comments scared me that this recipe was going to taste bad or go wrong I made it by the book. The only exception was that I used meyer lemon juice instead of regular.It's so delicious. I didn't have any problems spreading the batter/dough immediately. I just used a 2nd silicone spatula to scrape the dough down if it stuck to the 1st one. I left it in the oven for 20 minutes, then checked and added the additional 5 minutes. I then left it on the rack for it to set like brownies.

Suzanne H.

I baked these at 350 for 25 min. and they were browned on top and overbaked. Next time I’ll check them at 15 min.

portion size

1 teaspoon of almond in the batter with a bit of lemon zestNo lemon juice in frosting


I followed the recipe as is and found these to be not very flavorful. I probably won't make them again!


Great! Used King Arthur’s paleo measure-for-measure flour (apparently discontinued, but it’s cassava, almond and coconut), halved the sugar overall, came out perfect. Used less lemon juice and extra vanilla, these came out like classic sugar cookie bars. Definitely do the trick of spraying an offset spatula with cooking oil to spread, that helped. Baked for about 24 minutes and they came out well, perhaps a little underdone but continued to cook a bit while cooling. Very easy and fun!


Delicious! Baked quite a bit longer (20 minutes?) than specified but I also used a smaller pan I think. I added Latte de Fiore extract along with the vanilla in both the dough and frosting. I think that punched up the cream cheese a bit. Be sure to smooth the batter in the pan before baking! I thought it might all melt a bit and settle. It did not! My family doesn’t mind but there were craters and frosting was not so easy. Fun though and very tasty! My teen loved them.

Jane R-F

My initial take on this recipe is good. I used orange zest and extract for the frosting. I shared them with friends and they loved them. My next batch will be made in a mini cupcake tin. Thanks for all the previous tips.


These cookies are outstanding. The cream cheese makes for an incredible tasting dough, worth writing home about, and the frosting is, well, frosting! I love the bar cookie format because I don’t have to bake in batches, which I detest doing. And I love going wild with the frosting color and sprinkles (I highly recommend swirling together multiple colors!). My kids get very excited about these, and so do I!!!


I used a quarter sheet pan for this recipe and cooked it for 25 minutes. Came out okay. I don't think i'd make this again only because the dough was a challenge to work with and didn't come out all that pretty. Maybe I should've refrigerated the dough for a little while and tried to smooth it with an offset spatula once chilled a bit, I don't know. I added the frosting and trimmed off the slightly browned edges for serving.


Doubled the recipe and used 1 13x9 pan and 2 9-inch cake pans. Increased baking time 10-15 minutes. The cake pan ones looked like giant sugar cookies, which was impressive in its own right. I'll serve it that way next time, not as pre-cut bars.


I love sugar cookies. These were dense and not that flavorful. Yes, I’ve had three today but no… I wouldn’t make them again.

Carol K.

I made these gluten free with Bob’s Red Mill baking flour. While the taste was delicate and buttery, the bars did not bake well in the center and were doughy and heavy. This is very unfortunate as the bars were flakey and light where they did bake on the top and sides of the pan. They were so heavy that I didn’t bother to ice them.


Hypothetically speaking, if someone forgot to add the egg and vanilla to the cookie base, what would happen?


These are so easy, so quick and so good! Follow directions as is- they are sweet (but they are a cookie after all!!!)- can cut into smaller bars….I decorate them with Christmas Colored sprinkles and add them to my Christmas cookie gift bags! They are always a hit.


30 min in glass pan. Turned out perfect. Have not frosted yet but look and feel like bars and not dry at all.

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Sugar Cookie Bars Recipe (2024)
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