These sugar cookies with royal icing are simple and quick to whip up. The measurements are easily halved or doubled for just a few cookies or enough to share. They are delicious and pretty. Plus you can add a little cocoa for a chocolate version too. I decorated my batch for Halloween.
This is my go-to recipe for sugar cookies. Whether it is for cookies for us at home or an order, it is delicious every time. A half batch is great for adding decoration to cakes like this Baby Shower Cake. I don’t even pull out my mixer for a half batch. Since the recipe only calls for one egg, you may be asking “How do you half an egg?” Use just the egg yolk. A half batch makes about 6 large or 12 regular size cookies that are nice and thick.
Make the cookies:
First, I creamed 1/2 cup butter with 2/3 cup sugar. Then added in 1 egg, 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract and 2 tablespoons of sour cream. The sour cream helps give this cookie a flaky and dense texture. My other sugar cookie recipe calls for milk and combined with baking soda produces a chewy cookie.
In a separate bowl, whisk together 2 cups of flour with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon baking powder. For a chocolate cookie, replace 1/2 cup of the flour with 1/2 cup cocoa powder.
Add the flour to the butter mixture and stir until combined.
Preheat the oven to 350° while rolling out the cookies.
One of the awesome things about this dough is that after it’s mixed, it doesn’t even need to chill before rolling it out for cutting. To roll out the cookies, sprinkle a bit of flour on your board or mat. Roll the dough out to 1/4” thick using a rolling pin. I use dowels or bands that fit the rolling pin to get a consistent thickness. Use a floured cookie cutter to cut desired shapes. With Halloween coming up, I chose some pumpkins, ghosts, and other Halloween-themed cutters.
Place the cut cookies about an inch apart on a parchment or silat lined baking sheet. To keep the cookies from spreading too much, I pop them in the freezer for at least 10 minutes. I have been known to forget about them in the freezer for up to an hour when I am multitasking and they still turn out. Bake the chilled cookies in a 350° over for 10-12 minutes. Remove cookies the oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
Make the icing:
In the bowl of an electric mixer whisk together 2 pounds powdered sugar, 5 tablespoons meringue powder, and 1 teaspoon cream of tartar. With the mixer on low, carefully pour in 2/3 cup water and 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract. When it’s all stirred in, it will look crumbly. Turn the mixer up to high and step back and let the mixer work some magic. A teaspoon or so of water can be added if it’s not coming together. Let it whip for about five minutes or until the mixture turns white and stiff peaks form.
When the icing is ready, separate the icing into bowls and add coloring. I use gel colors for this. After the colors are mixed, it’s time to thin it back out with some water. I know we just whipped it to get it thick but a thinned icing will level itself.
I like to keep things simple with just two consistencies- one for details like writing and outlining and one for filling in or flooding. This may not be the way the cookie masters do it but it works for me. I use a spray bottle or a teaspoon to add water to the icing a little bit at a time. Stirring after each addition, checking the thickness before adding more. For the outlining consistency, I add in just enough water to make it about the thickness of toothpaste. For flooding consistency, I add enough water that it settles on its own in about 15-20 seconds. I think I make mine just a bit thicker than typical flooding. I think it’s easier to be able to use it to pipe it around the cookie and fill it in one step.
After reaching the desired consistency, I pour the icing into piping bags. For flooding, I don’t use a tip. Just snip the end of the piping bag to the size you need. For outlining or detailing, I use a round tip in whatever size fits the design
Time to decorate:
If I am not in a rush, I wait a whole day before icing. Sometimes the grease from the butter in the cookies can change the color of the icing so waiting ensures this won’t happen. I first made a base on the cookie with the flood icing. Hold the piping bag vertically over the cookie and apply a gentle pressure to make the outline the cookie or just the area to be filled. This will give a guide to fill in. After the outline is in place, fill in the area and then use a toothpick to help settle the icing. Set it aside to dry to the touch. After it was dry, I added any details or writing with the outline icing.
Take your time and try practicing on a plate or a cookie sheet to get the hang of it. But you don’t have to do any intricate designs, to use royal icing. Ice the cookie and cover with sprinkles or create a marbling effect. Flood the cookie and then with another color icing pipe additional lines through the base before it dries. Then use a toothpick to carefully drag through the lines to create a pattern or marble effect.
If you don’t want to use royal icing, marshmallow fondant is a great alternative. Check out my post 5 Cookies from 1 Dough for a step by step.
Ta-da! Halloween cookies! You’ve got to try this recipe for sugar cookies with royal icing. With a little practice, you will be serving up some professional looking cookies in no time. Now go get your cookie on!