A few weeks ago we had an office baby shower for a coworker of mine. We have started a tradition of hosting potluck baby showers at work, and naturally I bring the dessert. I asked what the new mom-to-be would like, and she chose sugar cookies.
When she said those words, I was both grinning with glee and shaking with terror. I knew that the time had come for me to finally try making sugar cookie cutouts with royal icing.
There are so many talented bloggers out there that make incredible looking cookies, and they intimidate me with all of their posts! I really don’t have much artistic talent at all, which I think is the biggest reason why I have been avoiding trying these cookies. I really don’t think I have made sugar cookie cutouts since college, when I smothered them in red and green icing and called them Christmas cookies.
I have definitely progressed.
While I would never want my cookies compared side by side with someone like Bridget or Amanda, for my first attempt I was fairly pleased with myself. I mean hey, my decorating skills can’t get any worse right?
I was really happy with how the sugar cookies baked up. I love adding almond extract to just about anything and I thought it added a nice extra flavor. This was the first time I have ever made royal icing and Bridget’s tutorial was incredibly helpful. I was surprised at how long it needed to mix compared to buttercream, but I will be more patient next time. I wanted to start myself off pretty simple, so I chose to work with just three colors. Make sure that you keep the icing covered with plastic wrap if you aren’t using it, because it will harden fairly quickly.
The most frustrating aspect of the process for me was the time. From start to finish these took about 4 hours. Next time I plan to make the cookies ahead of time, then make the frosting once I am ready to decorate. I’ll be sure to share the outcome with you. Enjoy!
Vanilla Almond Sugar Cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, cold
1 cup sugar
¾ tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp almond extract
3 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream together the sugar and butter until well combined. Add egg, then vanilla and almond extracts. Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl to fully incorporate all ingredients. In a separate bowl combine the flour and baking powder, then add to wet ingredients. The dough will be crumbly.
Roll out dough on a well floured surface, making it as thick or thin as you’d like (i made mine about ¼ inch). Cut into shapes and place shapes on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes, then remove from oven. Let cool on cookie sheet for a few minutes, then place on a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
4 Tbsp meringue powder
Scant ½ cup water
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
½ tsp light corn syrup
A few drops of clear almond extract (optional)
Using an electric mixer combine the meringue powder and water (scant means just under). Beat until light and foamy. Sift powdered sugar (don’t skip this step!) and add to mixture. Add corn syrup and extract (if desired). Increase the speed of the mixer to medium high/high and mix for at least 5 minutes, or until stiff peaks form (check out Bridget’s excellent tutorial for pictures). Separate icing depending on how many colors you are using. Gel coloring should be used, and can be found at most craft stores, and even Wal-Mart.
This stiff icing is what you will pipe the outline of the cookies with. Using bottles or pastry bags outline all of the cookies and let the icing dry completely. To “flood” the cookies you will need to thin the icing by adding a tsp of water at a time until you reach your desired consistency. Squeeze icing into the middle of the cookie and spread out using a toothpick.
I put about ¼ of each color of stiff icing into pastry bags fitted with a #3 tip. I used these same bags to pipe on the details after the flooded icing was dry. For flooding, I used squeeze bottles that can be found any at craft sore.
Do not stack the cookies until they are completely dry, ideally overnight.