Sugar Cookies and Royal Icing

Cookies are such a simple and fun treat to make and of course eat. I don’t remember ever making sugar cookies growing up. I only remember chocolate chip cookies being made. Maybe I only remember that variety because I always got to lick the spoon or scrape the bowl clean. Even back then, if the dough was left in the fridge I snuck a spoonful here or there. Mmm so good.

As for sugar cookies… Over the last handful of years I’ve enjoyed making them because they allow me to make fun shapes. Grab a handful of your favorite or seasonal cookie cutters and punch away. I remembered there were a few star cutters around so I thought it’d be neat to attempt to make some patriotic cookies. Afterall, 4th of July is right around the corner! Making cookies is the easy part, the hard part came later when I decided to try and decorate them with royal icing.

I tried making royal icing once before and it did not turn out at all. Even following the recipe exactly it was super liquidy and I was flat out not in the mood to play around. There were many other things going on that day so I just tossed it in the trash and moved on. Also, that day was a rather hot and humid which could have had a serious impact on the results of my icing. My second attempt went much better. Though, using three colors overall to decorate, each ended up with a different consistency. It’s one of those things you have to play around with until you are familiar with what you’re doing. After trying this just once, I’m in awe at those people who decorate cookies beautifully. They’re practically pieces of art! Mine are not disasters and are absolutely edible but in no way are beautiful works of art.

I gripe a lot when something doesn’t come out perfect. I have it in my head that it has to come out a certain way. A beautiful image and final result, only that doesn’t always happen. That leads to me being frustrated and discouraged at times. Some say I’m too hard on myself but aren’t we all in our own ways? For me it just happens to be the food I make.

Overall, yes the cookies are keepers. I’ve made them many times and have heard no complaints. Trust that. When it comes to royal icing, it’s a trial and error item. I fully believe that. Have patience, time and a steady hand, it will come out even it it’s not 100% perfect.

Sugar Cookies and Royal Icing

Ingredients:

Cookie Ingredients:
2 C flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 C butter, softened
1 C sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla

Royal Icing Ingredients:
3 tbsp meringue powder
4 C powdered sugar
4-6 tbsp warm water

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl or stand mixer, cream butter and sugar. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add eggs and vanilla, beat well. Scrape the bowl again. In general you should almost always do this prior to any new addition of ingredients. Add dry ingredients slowly. Mix well. When your dough comes together, split it into two balls. Form these balls into discs, wrap in plastic wrap or in large plastic bags. I was still out of plastic wrap so I used gallon size sealable beags. Chill dough discs for at least one hour, more is okay too.

Bring one disc to room temperature, or almost. It can still have a slight chill to it. I don't like to roll warm dough as it's more prone to sticking. Lightly flour a flat work area. Sprinkle the top of your dough with a bit of flour as well. This will help prevent the dough from sticking to the rolling pin. Roll dough to 1/4" thickness. Cut out shapes with your favorite cutters. I always start from the outside edge of the dough, use a knife to cut away any extra pieces and then carefully use a nylon spatula to scoop up the cut out dough (sometimes with cookie cutter still in place), to transfer to a cookie sheet. Leave an inch or more between cookies.

Continue this process until you have filled up your cookie sheet. Freeze tray for 15 minutes.

Bake at 350 for 15 to 18 minutes or until firm. The edges will be turning a light golden color. These can quickly turn from cooked to overcooked. Watch carefully. The thinner your cookies are, the faster they will cook. Cool and decorate as desired. Store in an airtight container for up to one  week or freeze.

The key to royal icing is to start out with it being thicker and add in more water as needed to thin it. In a large bowl, add powdered sugar and meringue powder. While mixing, add 1 tbsp water at a time. Scrape the sides of your bowl as needed. Color as desired with gel coloring. You can easily find an array of colors as your local craft store. Gel is the way to go as liquid changes the consistency of your icing. With gel, you can add just a dab or a whole glob and not change the end result of your icing. The same applies to cupcake/cake frosting, other icings, even batters.

To decorate, you need to start out with a thicker consistency of icing. Add a portion of white or colored icing to a decorator bag or sandwich bag. Use a decorator tip or cut off a tiny corner of the bag. Pipe around the edge of your cookies.

To fill, or flood, your cookie you need to thin your icing. Add more water to icing, again 1 tbsp at a time. Too thin and it will take forever to dry and too thick will be hard to spread. It needs to be thin without being runny. My three color filling icing each turned out different during this experiment. Blue was almost perfect, at least in comparison to the others. The red was a bit too thick but I hadn't realised that until I was already decorating and didn't want to go back and fix it. The white was almost too thin. It took a long time to dry, which was either due to the weather or to it's almost runny consistency.
As done previously, add flooding icing to bags, snip off a corner or use a decorator tip. Fill the cookie accordingly. Some say if you are working on a tray or platter of some sort, you can bang it on the counter to help spread the icing as well as bringing any air bubbles to the top. I'm not sure if this works or not as I didn't try it. Do remember to pop any air bubbles you see or they will pop on their own later and leave a gaping hole in your icing.

Allow cookies to dry fully, even if overnight. Package, store or eat.

Martha Stewart Cookies & Wilton Icing


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2 Responses to “Sugar Cookies and Royal Icing”

  1. #
    1
    Paula — June 22, 2010 at 9:28 am

    Your 4th of July cookies are fun! I started decorating cookies in February and you are right, it takes practice and patience to get your Royal Icing right.

    If you haven’t been to University of Cookie http://universityofcookie.com you may want to take a peek. Bridget posts some great tutorials on Royal Icing technique as does her other blog Bake at 350. http://bakeat350.blogspot.com

    Keep on decorating and having FUN with it :)

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