My biggest cookie decorating advice is make sure the cookies are delicious, pick a limited color palate for your icing and sprinkles, and don’t worry too much about it! Have fun! Make a mess! Cover everything with sprinkles!
These are the most delicious and tender cut out cookies I’ve ever made. They have a combination of sugars and a few extra egg yolks which give them excellent flavor and texture. I add a little bit of almond extract too, but it’s totally optional.
I’ve also included some royal icing tips below, but again, my best advice is don’t worry about it too much and have fun. It takes some practice pipe perfectly.
Cut Out Sugar Cookies
makes about 3 dozen cookies, depending on size
adapted from Holiday Cookies by Elisabet Der Nederlanden
These cookies are tender, buttery and delicious. Decorate them with royal icing, leave them plain, or if you’d like to sprinkle the un-iced cookies add the sprinkles or sanding sugar before baking. Press very lightly to adhere the sprinkles to the dough.
3 3/4 cups (480g) all purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup (170g) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups (300g) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (55g) confectioners sugar
2 eggs plus 2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
1 pound confectioners sugar, sifted
6 tablespoons pasteurized egg whites
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the Cookies
Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and sugars and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs and egg yolks one at a time, mixing until each egg is incorporated before adding the next. Add the vanilla. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl to ensure even mixing.
Add the flour mixture all at once and mix on low speed until incorporated. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured countertop and divide it in half. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 2 days before rolling.
When you are ready to bake, line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Heat oven to 350ºF and position 2 racks evenly spaced in the center of the oven.
Roll one of the chilled dough rounds out onto a lightly floured surface just under 1/4-inch thick. Use cookie cutters to cut as many cookies as possible. Carefully transfer them to the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 1 1/2-inches in between the cookies. Gather up the scraps and roll and cut another round of cookies. Refrigerate the cut cookies for about 15 minutes before baking.
Repeat with the second round of dough.
Bake the cookies for 15-20 minutes or until they are light golden. Rotate the racks from from to back and top to bottom. The baking time will depend quite a bit on the size of the cookies so if yours are quite large or small, they may take more or less baking time.
Transfer the baking sheets to cooling racks and let sit for five minutes. Transfer the cookies to racks to cool completely before icing.
For the Icing
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment combine all of the ingredients. Whisk on low speed until the sugar is moistened, then turn the mixer up to medium and whisk until smooth and glossy.
For piping lines and shapes you’ll want thick icing. When you lift the whisk out of the bowl the icing should flow in thick ribbons that will hold their shape when they fall into the bowl below. Add a bit more confectioner’s sugar to the mixture if necessary to achieve this texture. Fill a piping bag with the icing and have fun!
For flooding and complete coverage of the cookies you’ll want thinner icing that holds its shape for a few seconds, then melts into the icing in the bowl. Add a bit more water, one teaspoon at a time to achieve this texture. Color the icing as desired.
Use the icing right away or store in an airtight container, with a piece of plastic wrap pressed against the surface to prevent a skin from forming, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Stir until smooth before using. Color the icing as desired.
Royal Icing Tips and Tricks
Fit a piping bag with a small round tip #1 or #2 to pipe lines and shapes and/or another piping bag with a slightly larger tip #3 or #4 for flooding. Fill each bag with the corresponding icing and have fun! Practice on a piece of parchment paper if you are nervous, but truly if you think you messed up - just cover your cookies with sprinkles!
For the trees in this post I used the flooding icing to draw a line around the border of each cookie, then filled it in completely and sprinkled to my heart’s content. After the trees had dried slightly I went back and used the piping icing to draw the trunks.
You can also use a spoon to cover the cookies with thinner flooding icing or dip them, have fun! Don’t worry to much about it!
If you are adding sanding sugar or sprinkles to your iced cookies you’ll want to add them just after you pipe the icing. Royal icing will develop a dry skin very quickly, so have your sprinkles at the ready.
If you’d like to pipe lines that sit on top on top of flooded cookies, let the flooding icing dry all of the way or the lines will melt into the flooded icing.
In any case make sure to let the cookies dry all of the way, uncovered, before stacking or packaging, I like to leave mine overnight.