Make decorated Christmas cookies with these no-fail recipes for cut-out cookie dough and perfect royal icing. The cookie recipe cuts out and bakes beautifully without changing shape, and the icing dries well enough for handling, freezing, and shipping, but it tastes delicious.
As I said above, and as I’ve said repeatedly in the past 20 years, these are my never-fail, go-to recipes for cut-out cookie dough and royal icing. You can find all of my cookie and cupcake decorating recipes HERE in one place. Or, you can find a copy of my book, Sugarlicious, somewhere in the world where it still exists. As the busy season approaches, here are some how-tos to make perfect decorated Christmas cookies.
no-fail cut-out sugar cookie dough
Let’s talk about the cookie dough, first, and how it’s so awesome. It is only six ingredients, and it’s easy to whip up quickly. It never spreads. At all. Like even a millimeter. So you can cut out intricate shapes and not worry about losing the details. It also tastes delicious, especially if you choose to add another extract with the vanilla (almond extract is my favorite). I’ve seen people at parties hide cookies in their pockets because they are just that delicious. As for the chilling, you don’t necessarily need to chill the dough, but I find it’s so much more user-friendly if you do.
Cream butter and sugar. Add egg and blend well. Add extracts and blend. Mix flour and salt and gradually add. Cover dough with plastic wrap (I usually put mine in a gallon size Ziploc bag) and chill dough for about 2 hours. Working with about 1/3 of the batch at a time, briefly knead the chilled dough and roll about 1/4 inch thick. Cookies on a stick are rolled out 3/8 inch thick. Cut out shapes. Insert a lollipop stick about half way into the cookie, if using. Bake cookies on parchment paper-lined baking trays at 375 for 12-14 minutes. Thicker cookies may need up to 20 minutes. Just watch for edges that are nicely golden.
Now, some make-ahead tips: You can make the dough and freeze it. Just let it rest at room temperature until it’s still cold, but easily pliable, when you’re ready to use it. You can also cut out the cookies, bake them, and freeze the undecorated cookies. (For tips on freezing decorating cookies, see below).
perfect royal icing
Next up, the perfect royal icing. This is similar to traditional royal icing, in that it dries hard enough to handle (and package! and ship!), but I add a couple more ingredients to make it taste delicious and to ensure it doesn’t become brittle and rock hard.
Whip the meringue powder and water on high speed for until it’s fluffy and peaks form (use an electric hand beater or the wire whisk of your standing mixer). Add 4 cups of the confectioner’s sugar and blend. Add the extract, Crisco, and light corn syrup and blend well. Add 3 to 4 more cups of confectioner’s sugar until desired consistency. Store at room temperature in a sealed container for up to a month.
I prefer to make my royal icing on the thick side. It’s always easier to thin the icing with water later. The thicker the icing, the less likely you’ll have splotches, too. You may see the lines more, but the pros are worth it. If you let the cookies dry overnight, you can handle the cookies and package in cello bags with ribbon.
TO FREEZE decorated cookies, place the well-dried cookies in a freezer-safe ziploc in a single layer. Seal. For extra measure, stack the cookies in a large tupperware container to prevent breakage in the freezer. TO THAW: Remove the cookies from the freezer and let them thaw completely in the ziploc. Do not open the ziploc until they thaw (it won’t take long, maybe an hour)
TO DECORATE THESE CHRISTMAS COOKIES
To decorate the snowman and swirl cookies, I cut out small circles. For the snowman, I outlined and filled the circle with Bright White icing using a size 4 tip. After letting the icing set a bit, I topped the snowman with black dots using a 2 tip and an orange carrot nose using a 3 tip. For the swirl, I first piped a red swirl with a 5 tip and immediately coated the swirl with red sprinkles. Then, I piped a white swirl.
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