Making decorated sugar cookies has been an annual tradition since I was a young child, especially at Christmas time. This year I had lots of fun by using the simple circle shape to create snowmen (and women) heads, adding them to my growing sugar cookie repertoire. But you don’t even need the cookie cutter if you don’t have one, just roll the dough into a ball and smash it down to an even thickness of about 1/8″.
For some reason my tried-and-true cookie dough recipe was not baking properly so I increased the amount of flour and they are now coming out perfectly. (Don’t ask me why, it worked for decades!) The following recipe reflects the increase—and it is doubled because one small batch just does not cut it. Once the dough is finished, refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. When ready to cut out shapes, it helps to dip the cutters into flour so the dough doesn’t stick.
My kitchen island makes a perfect assembly line for icing cookies.
When it comes to decorating I use the Royal Icing recipe, both thicker for outline piping, and thinned down for flooding. Also, because I’m frosting with several colors at once, I find it’s easiest to use the disposal pastry bags (such as Wilton’s brand.) Mind you, the entire process takes a few days, so plan ahead.
Not content to create just the snowmen, I also made Santa hats and Christmas trees.
- In a stand mixer, beat on medium 1 1/3 cups softened, unsalted butter (room temperature) and 1 1/3up granulated sugar until thoroughly mixed and fluffy.
- In a separate bowl, beat together 4 large eggs with 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract; then add to butter mixture until it all comes together.
- Meanwhile, sift flour to measure 5 cups and sift in 1 tablespoon of baking powder and 1 teaspoon salt.
- With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the sifted flour ingredients, once combined raise the speed to medium for several minutes.
- Divide dough in half; wrap in plastic wrap or wax paper; chill until firm—a minimum of 4 hours.
- When ready to bake, preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- On floured surface roll portions of the dough until an even 1/8″ thick; cut into shapes and transfer to ungreased baking sheet(s). You can mash together the leftover dough and repeat the process.
- Bake until just starting to get golden around the edges, about 10 minutes. (Some ovens bake quicker, so start checking the first batch at 8 and 9 minutes.) Let cool for 5 minutes before transferring to racks to finish cooling.
- Once completely cooled, decorate to your hearts content!
- In a stand mixer, beat 3 tablespoons meringue powder with 1/2 cup warm water. On low, beat in 1 pound confectioner’s sugar, then turn up the speed to high, beating the contents until thick, 5-7 minutes.
- Divide icing into separate bowls depending on the number of colors you will be using. Tint with food coloring until you get the desired shades.
- Add small circle nozzles to your pastry bags then insert some of the icing, reserving portions of each color for flooding.
- For the reserved portions, add about 1 teaspoon water to each color to thin, and put the icing into plastic squeeze bottles with thicker openings for flooding/glazing purposes.
- Pipe an outline for the desired base colors. I do many cookies at once. Then add the same color using the thinner icing to flood inside the piping. To spread it into the corners, use a toothpick or similar tool.
- When adding decorative details, like the faces, wait until the base coat is completely dry. You can change the tip to make fluffy trim such as that on the Santa hats.
- Once you are finished decorating, make sure all of the icing is completely dry before you pack them into airtight containers.
You can store the icing in the refrigerator for up to a week, just bring it to room temperature before icing cookies. You can also freeze the cookies for several months, which, when we were kids was great because Mom would bring them out weeks after the holidays and we’d get a treat all over again!