Yields 18 - 24 cookies
Bake Time - 10 minutes
Prep Time - 1 to 2 hours
Decorating time - variable
Baking and decorating sugar cookies for the holidays is an American tradition that I have come to enjoy. Although they can be time consuming, there are a great way to bond with the family. My sugar cookie recipe makes for delicious crunchy cookies that are easy to handle, roll, and cut. They are sturdy for decorating, yet crumbly so that you actually enjoy eating them. The royal icing recipe is also super easy to make with just eggs, powdered sugar, and cream of tartar (optional). I will also explain some tricks to help get a nice smooth finish on your cookies. Happy baking!
For the Sugar Cookies:
1/2 cup of butter (salted or unsalted)
1 1/2 cups of flour
1/2 cup of sugar
1 egg lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 to 1 tablespoon water or milk (optional)
For the royal icing:
3 large egg whites
4 cups icing sugar
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
Food coloring of your choice
Make the sugar cookies:
1. Combine the dry ingredients for the sugar cookies and mix with a whisk to combine them.
2. In a bowl, mix the butter and sugar for a few minutes till they are combined, using a hand or stand mixer. Add the lightly beaten egg, vanilla extract and continue to mix.
3. Add the dry ingredients from step one and combine. You may use a ladle at this point.
4. When all the ingredients are combined, mold into a ball. If the mixture is overly dry or crumbly add 1/2 tablespoon of water. You can repeat this if needed but try not to.
5. Wrap the dough ball in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour before baking.
6. When you are ready to bake, take out the dough and let it sit at room temperature for 10 minutes. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
8. Roll out the cookie dough on a lightly floured surface and cut to your desired shape using cookie cutters. Transfer to the baking sheets.
9. Bake for about 10 minutes, one tray at a time. You know your cookies are done when the edges are slightly brown.
10. Take them out, let rest on the cookie sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Let them completely cool before frosting.
Make the royal icing:
12. Continue until your mixture has a glossy texture and forms soft peaks.
13. Divide into small portions and add food coloring.
Note: Royal icing dries hard so make sure to keep covered while you are not actively using.
Decorate your cookies:
14. Transfer a portion of your colored icing batches to a piping bag. Fit the bag with the smallest circular piping tip you have. Test that you have the correct consistency for piping - it should come out of the bag easily but not too runny. If it is too runny add more powdered sugar and if it is too hard, add a few drops of water.
15. Outline the edge of your cookie with the color you desire the cookie background to be. This step is called damming and prevents the icing from spilling over the edge of your cookie when you cover its surface in the next step.
16. The icing for this step needs to be the same color as the previous step but a bit runnier than that in the piping bag, for easy spread. Apply some icing over your cookie. You can pipe it on with a larger tip and watch it spead, tilting the cookie to help it spread all across the cookie. It should blend with your damming line. I have found it easier to spread it over the cookie using a small paint brush that I have repurposed for baking. You can also use a small spoon. When the top layer of your cookies are covered, let them dry before moving on to the next step. This takes about an hour.
17. Now comes the super fun part, fit a piping bag or bags with a small piping tip, same size you used for damming in step #15. Transfer your desired color royal icing to the bag. The icing consistent needs to be the same as in step 15.
18. Now draw whatever design you like, let dry and enjoy or gift these delicious beauties.