Photo by Rachel Dillin
Years ago, I learned how to make the best ever cutout sugar cookies from a baker I met in an online forum. These are the kind that you always want Christmas cookies to taste like. Over the years, I adapted the following recipes, including the icing, which a modified royal icing suitable for stacking.
Sugar Cookie Recipe
I use salted butter in the recipe, but you could also use unsalted with good results. I use margarine, which helps keep the cookies softer and they stay fresh longer. If you do not like to use margarine, substitute it with another cup of butter.
- 1 cup salted butter
- 1 cup margarine
- 2 cups sugar (white granulated)
- 2 eggs
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract or desired flavoring
- 6 cups flour
- 3 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. salt
Preheat Oven to 350 degrees F. Cream butter and sugar in a stand mixer or by hand until light and fluffy. Next, add eggs and vanilla, and mix. Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Add the flour mixture a little at a time to the butter mixture. Mix at low speed until the dough forms a ball.
Photo by Rachel Dillin
Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Divide dough mixture into two pieces, placing one on each parchment-lined cookie sheet. Place another parchment paper over the dough and use a rolling pin to roll out between one-half to three-quarter inch thickness (note: do not roll out too thin). Repeat on the second cookie sheet. Chill rolled out dough for one to two hours.
After chilling, cut into desired shapes. Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet at 350 degrees F for 10 to 12 minutes. Hint: you can rotate cookie sheets and change positions in your oven at 6 minutes if needed.
Cool on the cookie sheets for 5 minutes and then transfer to wire racks. Cool completely before icing.
Combine scraps and roll out between parchment paper again. Repeat steps until all the dough is gone.
Modified Royal Icing
This icing makes a delicious topping for the cookies that dries to allow for stacking while staying soft and easy to bite into, unlike a traditional full royal icing that gets hard.
- 1 lb. powdered sugar
- 2 TBS. butter
- 2-3 TBS. merengue powder
- 1-2 TBS. light corn syrup
- 2 tsp. vanilla (or desired flavor like almond)
- 6+ TBS. water
Mix on low speed until ingredients are well incorporated. Add water to reach desired consistency, and mix an additional two to four minutes for a smooth icing.
Ice fully cooled sugar cookies by using a spatula or the back of a spoon.
Alternatively, you can use a decorator bag and number 5 tip to outline the cookie, creating a dam. While piped icing dries, thin the remaining icing using small amounts of water until the desired consistency is reached. Put thinned icing into a bottle, and slowly flood the cookies until the surface is covered.
To use more than one color, allow the first color to dry completely before applying the second color.
After eight hours, these cookies should be ready for stacking.
WARNING: If you perfect these Christmas sugar cookies, you will forever be the cookie baker in your family and among your circle of friends. Be prepared!