I have a confession to make. I’ve had sugar cookie envy for many, many years. Year after year at Christmas time I made sugar cookies; they were not a pretty sight! They tasted great but the icing was put on with a knife and decorated with sprinkles. There is nothing wrong with that, except I always loved looking at pretty decorated sugar cookies and I didn’t know how to replicate them. I lived with my envy of the beautiful decorated cookies that others made; until this year when I ventured into an unknown territory of royal icing, decorating tips, disposable pastry bags, and gel food coloring! I owe it all to bloggers! I found quite a few bloggers with step by step directions for decorating sugar cookies with royal icing. I could hardly wait to try it out. I discovered a few things: I love decorating cookies, I especially love the end result; and decorating cookies like this definitely takes some time! My first batch went terrifyingly slow … I won’t even tell you how many hours it took!! The second batch, I cut my time down in half … phew … sigh of relief! I had fun with it – I sat at the kitchen table, put some Christmas music on and away I went into a new adventure with royal icing.
I’ve been using this recipe for sugar cookies for year – we love them!
The Ultimate Sugar Cookie
3/4 cup Golden Crisco or Butter-flavored Crisco (shortening)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
Coloured decorations or icing
Cream Crisco, sugar, eggs and vanilla in large mixer bowl at medium speed of electric mixer until light and creamy. combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add to creamed mixture, mixing on low speed until well blended. Cover dough and chill 1 hour, if desired, for easy rolling. Preheat oven to 375°F. Roll half of dough at a time. Roll out dough on lightly floured surface to 1/4-inch thickness. Using a cookie cutter, cut in desired shapes. Place on ungreased baking sheets. Roll leftover pieces. Sprinkle with coloured decorations or leave plain to decorate when cool. Bake at 375°F for 8 to 10 minutes, or until edges are light brown. (Time will vary with cookie size.) Cool slightly, then remove to cooling rack.
Decorating with Royal Icing
The best directions I found were here at Annie’s Eats. She details everything with pictures so it is easy to follow along – great job Annie!! Thank you.
Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until the sheen has disappeared and the icing has a matte appearance (about 7-10 minutes). Transfer the contents of the mixing bowl to an air-tight container. This will be the stiffest consistency of the icing, and at this point it is still too stiff to use for decorating. Add water a very small amount at a time and stir by hand until fully incorporated. Continue until the icing has reached a consistency appropriate for piping. (Remember, if you are having any difficulty piping, it is still too thick. Add a little more liquid and try again.) Using a pastry bag, pipe around the edges of each cookie. Let stand so the icing will set. Make sure to keep the leftover icing covered at all times when not in use so that it does not begin to harden.
Once all the cookies have been edged, transfer some of the remaining icing to a separate air-tight container. Thin out by incorporating a small amount of water at a time, until the icing drips off the spoon easily when lifted and then smooths in with that still in the bowl. If you go too far and the icing is too thin, add more sifted powdered sugar to thicken it again. Once the icing has reached the desired consistency, transfer it to a squeeze bottle (or a plastic bag with a hole in one corner), and flood the area surrounded by the piping on each cookie. If it does not completely spread to the edges, use a toothpick to help it along. Allow to set.
Use the remaining thicker icing for piping decoration as desired. Gel icing color is best as it does not add a significant amount of liquid. Liquid food coloring can be used as well – add powdered sugar as needed to compensate for any thinning that occurs.
Give it a try – you will love the results!