Cut-out sugar cookies with royal icing

Sugar cookies are actually more difficult than you’d expect.  Some dough is too dry, others have too much butter that causes the cookies to spread out and melt into a mess as they bake.  This cookie dough is the best around — and I won’t go back to anything else after much experimentation.

Royal icing is also something that takes practice (and really something you need a lot of time to be able to do).  I’ll admit, this is a little ambitious for a working parent to tackle.  If you’re cool with your cookies looking cute but certainly not professional, go and give it a spin.  It’s fun to experiment…but not something I can really do frequently.  It’s also something that toddlers can’t really help at (see evidence of my cookies as proof)!

Go ahead and get all your ingredients out of your messy pantry.  It’s the hardest part of this recipe.  Really.  Here are the dry ingredients:

Here are the sugar and wet ingredients.  Notice the butter is soft, NOT melted.

Combine your wet ingredients and sugar.  Beat until light and fluffy.

I have two helpers today.  One I have to constantly watch to make sure her hand doesn’t get mixed in with the dough.

With a spoon or spatula, add the dry ingredients slowly with the sugar mixture.  Don’t over mix.  Dough should be well combined though so no flour is visible.  Put plastic wrap over the bowl and stick in the refrigerator for at least two hours.

Okay, here’s the fun part.  Roll out your ball of dough (which should be really cold by now) onto a lightly floured surface.  Roll that sucker out until it’s about 1/4″ thick.

 

Cut to your heart’s desire.  Today, we’re making Easter cookies because we’re willing spring to get here!  We had no school today due to the heavy wind…so we need warm weather now more than ever!

I love when the kids do something that gets them messy.  C had so much fun making these.

Put the bad boys in the oven for about 6 minutes at 400.  Fast and easy.  DONE.

Do you notice some little fingerprints in the cookies?

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ICING TIME!  Here’s all you  need for the icing:

I recently discovered McCormick’s Color Natural food coloring.  This stuff is awesome.  You can only make pastels, but it’s worth not having all those artificial dyes in your food.

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Whisk the meringue powder and water together until a little foamy.

Add the vanilla extract and powdered sugar and beat until well combined.  It should be thick but not all clump to the beater.

Separate your icing into various bowls depending on what colors you need.  I started with doing the bunnies, so I conveniently started with white icing.  I piped an outline for the cookies and then added 1 tsp. of water at a time until I got a good icing for flooding (below).

If you have some time, which I didn’t, you should really use a tip.  I used a ziploc bag that I cut off the end of to both pipe and flood.  I had approximately 5 minutes to decorate two dozen cookies…and that’s evident by the cookies. Here’s me flooding below.  In the ideal world, you’d take a toothpick and make sure the outline icing and the flooding icing was well combined, but again, maybe one day I’ll have enough time to do that!

My yellow frosting was way too thin and globby (can you tell these were the last ones I did?)

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Still…these are pretty cute for a preschool snack!

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INGREDIENTS

For the cookies:

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3 1⁄4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon salt

DIRECTIONS for the cookies:

1.In a large bowl, combine butter with sugar, eggs, vanilla and almond extracts; beat using an electric mixer on high speed until light and fluffy.

2. In a separate bowl, combine the flour with baking powder, baking soda and salt; gradually stir into the butter mixture until well blended.

3. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill for 2 hours.

When you’re ready to begin again…

4. Preheat oven to 400″ Fahrenheit.

5. Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper (parchment paper truly works best with these cookies…don’t skimp on this step)

6. On a very lightly floured surface, roll out the dough until you have a sheet of dough that’s about 1/4-inch thick with your rolling pin.  I love this one.

7. Cut into whatever shapes you’d like using cookie cutters.

8. Place cookies 2-inches apart on cookie sheet.

9. Bake for 5-6 minutes.

10. Let sit for about 5 minutes until they are slightly cooled, then transfer to a wire wrack to cool completely.  Make sure they’re cooled 100% before icing (about 45 minutes to an hour…they cool pretty quickly).

ROYAL ICING:

Ingredients (makes enough frosting for about 2 dozen cookies)

  • 3 tbsp meringue powder
  • 1/4 cup water (plus more for thinning)
  • 1 lb (about 4 cups) powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions for the Icing: 

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together meringue powder and water until a slight foam forms.  Add in the powdered sugar and vanilla extract and mix until icing becomes light and airy, about 2 minutes.  If the mixture is too thick and sticking to the beaters, add more water, 1 tsp at a time.  You want the icing to be thick though still!

2. Separate your icing into bowls, adding whatever food coloring you want.  I prefer this food coloring because it’s all natural).  To thin the icing pour 1 tsp. of water in at a time and stir vigorously until combined or use a spray bottle (but ain’t nobody got time for that).  Keeping adding a little bit of water until you reach the desired consistency.

NOTE ABOUT THICKNESS OF FROSTING: If you’re doing flowers or small decorations, you’ll want a very stiff consistency.  If you’re using the icing to pipe, you want firm icing that still holds its shape but doesn’t need to be as thick as the flowers.  The icing should fall off the spoon and fall  into a mound for several seconds before going back to its flat shape.  This is also the same consistency you want to use when you’re doing your outline of frosting to cover cookies like I’m doing.  When you’re ready to flood, you’ll want to add even more water (but NOT runny).  It’s a little bit of trial and error.  The important thing to remember is to start thick because you can always go thinner but you can’t go the other way around.

NOTE ABOUT STORING: Put your icing in an airtight container covered with plastic wrap over the actual icing.  The icing will store in the fridge for about a week.

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