vegan cut-out cookies and dc water

Finally… a vegan version of my basic cut-out sugar cookie. A friend of mine requested some vegan decorated cookies for his co-workers who worked hard to create a new campaign for DC Water. Check out their snazzy new logo.

the journey to reach a yummy vegan cut-out decorated cookie:
1. I remembered a reader who had sent me suggestions for her vegan version. 2. I couldn’t find the reader’s suggestions (feel free to resend them, and I’m happy to post links!) 3. I googled “vegan cut-out sugar cookies” to limited success. 4. I tried a vegan cut-out sugar cookie recipe I found on google and knew from the crumbly, oily dough it wouldn’t work. 5. I baked them anyway and they didn’t work. Wow. They so didn’t work. 6. I started from scratch, literally, to make some substitutions to my basic almond sugar cookie.

the substitutions
eggs. I found ENER-G Egg Replacer at a natural foods store. It’s a powder that comes in a box. Chances are this is in the baking aisle of Whole Foods, but I didn’t know to look there when I stopped there first.
vegan butter. Well, earth balance vegan buttery sticks, to be exact, from the natural foods store but probably also more widely available, had I looked more thoroughly.
powdered sugar. Here is the tricky one. I’ve read that powdered sugar is processed through bone char, made from cows, to whiten the sugar. Eew. So I got the organic powdered sugar from Whole Foods. Given the organic sugar is more ecru than bright white, I’m making an educated assumption the organic isn’t filtered through the bone. I just couldn’t find confirmation of this on the packaging or online anywhere. If anyone out there has any more information on the organic powdered sugar, feel free to send along!

the recipes vegan almond sugar cut-out cookies
2 sticks vegan “butter” (earth balance vegan buttery sticks)
1 cup organic powdered sugar
1 1/2 tsp egg replacer mixed with 2 Tblsp water, mixed well (the equivalent of 1 egg)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp almond extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt (I used 1/2 tsp, but 1/4 is probably better)

With a handheld electric mixer or in a standing mixer with the flat beater, cream together the vegan buttery sticks and sugar. Add the egg mixture and blend. Add the extracts and blend. Mix the flour and salt and gradually blend into the wet mixture. Place dough in a Ziploc bag and refrigerate about 2 hours. Roll out on a floured surface, cut out shapes, and bake on parchment paper-lined baking trays in a 375 degree preheated oven. Let cool and decorate. Makes about 25-30 cookies (or about 15 large ones).

vegan decorating icing
2 cups powdered sugar, plus more (this should probably be sifted, though I didn’t)
3 tsp light corn syrup
5 tsp soy milk, plus more

Mix all ingredients with a wire whisk until very well blended. This icing is very forgiving. Play around with adding more powdered sugar or milk to thicken or thin, respectively, to reach the right consistency. See below for decorating tips.

reader recipes
Check out Nicole’s recipe in the comments below. Sounds super-yummy. (And check out her fabulous cookies here.)

And click HERE for Rainbow’s recipe at Sugar High.

the results
Overall, yum. I’ll definitely make these again. The dough was very easy to work with, pliable and rolled out smoothly. When baked, they held their shape exactly, not one milimeter of spreading, and they turned the perfect shade of gold with lightly browned edges. They were flakier and lighter in texture than the original version, which made them more fragile, but I like what that did for the taste. The almond extract added a nice, subtle flavor. They had a bit of a powdery, flour-y aftertaste, I thought, and I would decrease the salt to 1/4 tsp for the next batch, but these were only minor gripes.

the decorating
Depending on how many cookies you have, you may need two batches of frosting, one for background color and one for details. To flood the background of the cookies: take about a cup and a half of frosting of the right outlining consistency. The consistency should be slightly thick, it should cling to the spoon when overturned, then slowly fall to the bowl, but err on the side of thicker, as you’ll be adding a lot of coloring which will thin it a bit. Tint the frosting white. Because of the brownish hue added from the non-whitened powdered sugar and the soy milk, this will take a LOT of white food coloring (I use Americolor soft gel paste). Fit a disposable frosting bag with a coupler and size “4” decorating tip and fill with half of your white frosting. Tie closed with a rubber band. Pipe an outline on your cookies and let set about 20 minutes. Thin reserved white frosting with water until frosting falls into itself when drizzled, but is still viscous. Using a little spoon, squeeze bottle or an empty frosting bag with about 1/8 inch snipped from the end, pour or loosely pipe frosting in the center of the cookies. Let flood to edges, encouraging with a butter knife or the back of the spoon as needed. Let set very well, a couple hours at least, before adding details on top. To add details, tint the original, thicker icing desired colors and fill frosting bags fitted with sizes “2,” “3” or “4” tips and pipe to decorate.

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  1. jonnajonna says

    Yay! Thanks for the recipe! I went vegan a year ago and have worked a lot with the Ener G Egg Replacer and it hasn't failed me yet! :)

  2. Alan Heymann says

    They were delicious. And I have to admit, a few of our folks saved theirs without eating them.

  3. Nicole says

    I have a very similar recipe that happens to be Vegan. I had to make egg free, dairy free, soy free, peanut free cookies for my daughter's b-day at school. My recipe was
    2 sticks butter (dairy free, soy free, vegan)
    1 c granulated sugar
    1 egg worth of Ener-G
    1 T vanilla
    1 T vanilla rice milk
    3 c Flour
    3/4 t baking powder
    1/4 t salt

    I dare say they were better than my original recipe. I wish I could figure out what made such a big difference, but they were fab!

  4. Chic Cookies says

    Thanks Nicole! I added a note above for readers to look to the comments. And a link to your blog…

  5. pointyebt says

    I'm intrigued by the egg replacement powder. Eggs are a wet ingredient and powder… isn't. How did this affect the overall dryness of the dough, being you replaced a wet thing with a dry one?

    Do you have any celiac recipes (gluten/wheat free etc)?

  6. Helen says

    Yeah… Buttery Sticks are very salty. If you're used to baking with unsalted butter they can be a surprise.

  7. Susie says

    Thank you so much for doing all the work to create a good-tasting vegan cut-out. I haven't had much success with my versions so I can't wait to try this.

  8. Lorraine says

    Hi Chic Cookies:

    I have converted your sugar cookie recipe to vegan using the same ingredients in your recipe – Earth Balance Sticks, Ener G egg replacer, etc. I too found the cookies to be flakier and even more buttery. I also have read different things about powdered sugar so I am not sure. I have never heard of it containing the bone char you wrote about but I am going to look into it. I never made a Vegan royal icing and wanted to know how you thought it compared? In your photo it looks great. Thanks so much for this post.

  9. Chic Cookies says

    If you find anything out about the bone char, let me know! I really think the organic is OK because the bone is used for whitening and the organic is not bright white, but I just haven't found anything definitive on it.

    I thought the vegan icing worked surprisingly well. I liked the taste (a wee bit sweet, but so is royal icing). Some things to note though: because of the non-white powdered sugar and soy milk, the icing has a brownish hue. So tinting is a bit more of a challenge. The blue and green worked fine, but it took a LOT of white coloring to make white, which in turn thins the icing (just add more powdered sugar in that case). Also, the icing won't fully dry. It dried enough for me to wrap the cookies when left overnight, but be wary of packing them too tightly because of soft spots! Overall it worked great; those are small things.

  10. Jennifer says

    We need to be nut-free. Can't use the almond extract. Should I just replace it with equal amounts of additional vanilla? COmpletely omit it and not bother with a replacement? Or try an equal amount of something else like lemon extract? I am soooooo not a baker – but I need to learn quickly to accommodate my daughters food allergies!

  11. Jennifer says

    We need to be nut-free. Can't use the almond extract. Should I just replace it with equal amounts of additional vanilla? COmpletely omit it and not bother with a replacement? Or try an equal amount of something else like lemon extract? I am soooooo not a baker – but I need to learn quickly to accommodate my daughters food allergies!

  12. Chic Cookies says

    I would just omit it Jennifer! Can always add an extra 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract, if desired, but no biggie to omit the almond and not change anything else. You can also check into imitation almond extract for the flavor, but I'm not sure how it's made (if it's derived from almonds), so that would be important to check out!

  13. Anonymous says

    Gonna give these a try for my vegan daughter, now that I'm sending her care packages (recently moved to Denver). I also appreciate the hints from those who have been baking vegan for longer than I.

    BTW, there should be no worries about powdered sugar–it's just sugar and a little cornstarch.

  14. Anonymous says

    Regarding powdered sugar, those that have kosher certification will for sure contain no animal products. Look for a U in a circle or a K in a circle (generally referred to as 'O-U' or 'O-K') somewhere on the package–that indicates that the product is kosher. I know that Domino has the O-K on the side of the box)

  15. Chic Cookies says

    perfect, thanks Anonymous!! That's good to know. I used the organic for these, but Domino is usually my brand of choice, so yay.

  16. Cookie Girl says

    I have tried vegan sugar cookies basically the same recipe as you but used granulated sugar instead of powder sugar and it just tasted a little off to me maybe cause i prefer the taste of butter, did they taste off to you or just slightly different than your regular sugar cookies? I am going to try a shortbread recipe without egg, with powder sugar and vegan margarine and buttery sugar dough emulsion i just got and see if that helps, wish me luck lol! I use the glaze on all my cookies, i love it!

  17. Cookie Girl says

    I just veganized joy of baking shortbread cookie recipe on their website and it worked and i loved it 😀

  18. spookercat says

    Regarding 'bone char' and powdered sugar. I have a B.Sc. in Food Science (food processing) and worked for over a decade in QC in the beet sugar industry, so I do know what I am talking about!

    In general sugar is extracted from either the cane or beet tissue with water, which also contains colored matter (plant proteins, etc. FYI: Sugar beets are whitish/yellowish, not red!). In the beet sugar industry NO CARBON is used to remove color. Activated granular carbon IS used in the cane sugar industry, but I believe is is from plant or oil sources (again, my experience is ONLY in beet sugar). The decolorizing is done in the liquid stage, prior to crystallization, to change the liquid from yellowish to clearish. AFTER crystallization, the crystals are dried and stored. To make powdered sugar (icing sugar), the crystals are crushed to powder and a small amount of starch is added to avoid lumps. NO color is removed OR added! The whiteness of icing sugar is because the crystal has been smashed to powder.

    BTW; IF bone charcoal WAS/IS used in the cane sugar industry (and my reading indicates it probably isn't), "organic" sugar merely means no pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, right? it has nothing to do with presence/absence of animal products in the refining process. I have run across this confusion between "organic" (no pesticides/herbicides/syn. fertilizers) and vegan/vegetarian (no animal products) with others; just keep in mind that 'organic beef/chicken/pork' are REAL, while, 'vegan beef/chicken/pork' do NOT exist!

  19. spookercat says

    oh, and I meant to say, if you are in the US, it would depend upon your region and the brand of sugar you are buying whether it was cane or beet sugar. If it does not say on the package (I'm in Canada and we don't have to label whether it's cane or beet, but maybe you do in the US), I would call the company and ask. You could also then find out if cane processors use plant or animal source carbon.

    Hope this is helpful!

  20. Doreen says

    I am TOTALLY making these for my vegan friends (OK and for myself too)!! :-)

    Also, if you want to avoid using royal b/c you're uncertain about the bone char, Satin Ice fondant is vegan, so cutouts would be easy + food writer pens!!

  21. Chic Cookies says

    I was wondering if fondant was vegan, so good to know. And Satin Ice is one of the finest brands, much better tasting than most.

  22. luisa says

    hi, those look gorgeous. Thanks for the recipe. I made a batch, however, mine ones expanded! :( any suggestions?. Xx

    • meaghanmountford says

      Yikes, I’m not entirely sure why, Luisa, since the is no leavening in this recipe. It could have been in the butter substitute (was it too soft when added?). Also, was the dough chilled well before using? Too-mushy dough can be the culprit, too.

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