Everyone has their favorite cookie and favorites seem to be chocolate chip, oatmeal and peanut butter, but mine is the good o’le traditional sugar cookie, especial those that are cut-out and decorated. I love a good drop sugar cookie, too, but there’s something about the royal icing that I just love.
So, when I was asked to provide theme based sugar cookies for a ground breaking ceremony for the local humane society, I was all in. But at the moment I agreed to this assignment, I realized that I’m not really fond of decorating sugar cookies and not the greatest at it, either. Ugh! But like many other endeavors I take on, I’m just gonna go for it and assume (hope) that they will come out okay. I had previously donated cookies for their silent auction, but this style of sugar cookie was a “free-handed” frosting and fairly easy with the right consistency of royal icing.
In the past, I have always been very happy with my sugar cookie recipe and have made cookies for many occasions and have always received positive feedback, but I usually color and roll the dough into a cylindrical shape, place it in the freezer and cut 1/4″ rounds and bake. But this recipe isn’t great for cut-outs because it has a tendency to spread. So I wanted to find a sugar cookie recipe that would hold it’s shape and show the details of the imprint of the cookie cutter (I have Christmas cookie cutters that cut-out and imprint a greeting on the cookie) and I found it on The kitchn.com. I didn’t make any changes to the cookie recipe but added lemon extract to the royal icing recipe. It’s truly a “perfect” sugar cookie recipe, as the author states.
I delivered the cookies to the event and waited anxiously to hear back on the verdict of cookies. Within the hour of the event my friend let me know that they were a huge hit! They liked my “satisfactory” decorating skills and especially loved the taste of the cookie, as well! Big sigh of relief! With such rave reviews, I just had to share this recipe.
I think these cookies are great due to the cream cheese. The cream cheese give the cookies a slight tangy taste allowing the cookie to be both crunchy on the outside and still remain moist on the inside. The lemon zest and almond extract are perfectly subtle. Give them a try. The recipe is quick and easy. I suggest rolling out the dough between two sheets of wax paper or parchment to your desired thickness, then place the dough in the FREEZER, with the wax paper left on, for about 30 minutes to an hour, then cut them out. Remove the wax paper and begin cutting out your shapes. This makes the cutting process easier so the cookies don’t break when you transfer them on the baking sheet. I take the process one step further by cutting out all the cookies and placing them on the frozen baking sheet as I’m cutting them out, then bake them. This way the dough is consistently the same temperature and freezing the dough also helps to reduce further spreading. If the dough becomes soft and hard to work with, just place it back in the freezer and start again.
I really loved how these turned out. This recipe is a “keeper.” Definitely going to make star shapes for the Fourth of July neighborhood barbecue we’ll be hosting. But I don’t think I’ll be doing any real fancy decorating. 😉
I used the royal icing recipes from Julie Usher’s video on Youtube.
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature for 1 hour
- 2 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 3 cups flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl, using a hand mixer), cream the butter and cream cheese with the sugar. Beat for several minutes, or until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, vanilla and almond extracts, and lemon zest.
- Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl then gradually add to the butter and sugar mixture until fully incorporated and a soft dough is formed.
- At this point the dough can, and should be, chilled or frozen. If making cookies in the near future, divide the dough into 2 balls and roll each out to 1/4 to 1/8-inch thickness between large pieces of parchment paper. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Or freeze the dough balls, wrapped in plastic wrap and a freezer bag, for up to 1 month. To thaw, leave in the refrigerator overnight then proceed with the recipe.
- To bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350°F and prepare baking sheets by lining them with parchment or a Silpat. Cut cookies out of the rolled dough and place on the prepared baking sheets.
- Bake cookies for 8 to 12 minutes, depending on thickness. Let cool for 5 minutes on the cookie sheet, then remove to a wire rack.
- Cool completely before icing or decorating, and store in a tightly covered container.
- Makes 2 to 3 dozen cookies, depending on size
- 2 pounds of powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar
- 5 egg pasteurized egg whites
- 1 teaspoon lemon (optional)
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- food coloring
- Be sure to watch the YouTube video, it helps tremendously!
- Combine: 2 pounds of powdered sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar and blend with a whisk.
- Add the 5 egg whites with a spoon or very slowly (so you don't have powdered sugar everywhere) with a whisk attachment. The mixture will be very thick. Mix until for 1 to 2 minutes on high speed until you get a crisp white color and the icing has thicken considerably.
- At this point this consistency is good like" glue" for gingerbread houses and things that need to be stuck together. But this is the time to flavor the icing, when it's thick.
- Add: 1 teaspoon lemon (optional) and almond extract.
- At this time also add color to the icing as it sets better and has less modeling. (NOTE: If you require various colors of icing, you will need to scoop out portion of icing for each color. This recipe makes a little over 4 cups of icing). I colored 60 cookies with this recipe.
- Food coloring's: Chefmaster food coloring brand it's a gel.
- 1/2-3/4 teaspoon of water to 1 cup on "glue" for outlining cookies. This consistency should fall in blobs of the spoon.
- 1-1/2 - 2-1/2 teaspoons of water
- For icing that's smooth without piping. The icing will flow relatively slowly off the spoon.
- 2-3 teaspoons of water. The icing will run at medium speed. If it's too loose, sift some powdered to thicken.