Decorated Christmas Sugar Cookies
I don’t know if there is anything that makes it feel more like the holiday season than a decked out tree and a plate full of Decorated Christmas Sugar Cookies.
Let’s first start by talking about the cookies.
The base of the masterpiece.
These sugar cookies have been made for generations in my family. Passed down from my grandma’s Aunt Lizzie. Also known as, Tante, which is German for Aunt.
What makes Aunt Lizzie’s recipe for sugar cookies so famous is how soft they are.
So if your preference is for a crisp, chewy sugar cookie. This one is probably not for you.
But if an almost cake like texture is what you are aiming for, I got you my friend!
I attribute it to two things.
Rolling out at least a half inch thick dough.
And sour cream. Yep I said it, sour cream is the secret ingredient in this dough!
Trust me. It sounds weird, but it tastes oh so fantastic.
Now it wasn’t until last year, and after watching one too many episodes of Christmas Cookie Challenge on Food Network, that I decided to try my hand at royal icing to decorate my sugar cookies.
The best part about using royal icing to decorate is that it allows for so many more details on the cookie.
Now here are my tips for decorating with royal icing:
- Use small plastic squeeze bottles for piping on the icing. It allows for more control in the design.
- Use gel food coloring. It allows for better colors and doesn’t leave a strange taste in the icing
- Look for decorating inspiration on Instagram. Search #snowmancookies and be met with adorable ideas on how to decorate your different shapes.
- Don’t feel the need to be perfect. You are not a professional! Just have fun and if some cookies don’t turn out just right. Eat them first. I speak from experience on this one.
So bring in some friends and family, bake a few delicious sugar cookies, and get to decorating.
Just remember Christmas calories don’t count!
- 1/2 cup Butter, softened
- 1 cup Sugar
- 2 Eggs, slightly beaten
- 1/2 cup Sour Cream
- 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
- 2 1/2 cups Flour
- 1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- 1/4 tsp Baking Soda
- 2 Tbsp Meringue Powder (I bought mine on Amazon)
- Scant 1/4 cup Water
- 1/2 lb Powdered Sugar, sifted
- 1/2 tsp Light Corn Syrup
- Splash Vanilla Extract (a clear extract works best)
- Various Gel Food Colorings
In the bowl of a mixer, cream together butter and sugar. Add in eggs, sour cream, and vanilla extract. Stir to combine.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Mix dry ingredients into butter and sugar.
Form dough into a disc shape, place in a Ziploc bag and chill dough overnight in the fridge. (I have made this dough before without chilling overnight, just stick the dough in the freezer for 30 minutes to an hour to chill.)
Once chilled, roll the dough out between two piece of parchment paper (or on a lightly floured surface). Make sure the thickness is somewhere between 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick.
Once rolled, cut out shapes and place onto a baking sheet. Continue to gently reform, roll, and cut the dough until all of it is used.
Bake at 350°F for 10-12 minutes, or until edges become golden brown. (Bake time greatly varies based on shape and size of cookie. Pay attention and remove the cookies as soon as the edges start turning brown. The cookie will set as it cools).
Once the cookies are baked, let them rest on the baking sheet for 2-3 minutes before removing to a cooling rack. Let cookies cool completely, before decorating.
Basic Royal Icing
In the bowl of a mixer, combine the meringue powder and water with the paddle attachment. Beat until mixture is combined and starting to foam.
Add in the sifted powdered sugar, stir to combine. Make sure to scrape the sides and paddle with a spatula, if necessary.
Next, stir in the corn syrup and vanilla extract.
Now increase the speed of the mixer to medium-high. Beat the icing for about 5 minutes, until the icing has formed stiff peaks.
This icing consistency is "Home Base". White and the correct thickness for stiff boarders and hard details. Press a piece of plastic wrap onto the surface of the icing while you make colors and flood icing.
How to Color Royal Icing
Take a large spoonful of the basic royal icing and place into a small bowl. Stir in a drop or few drops of gel food coloring to the icing until it reaches your desired shade.
How to Create "Flood" Royal Icing
The basic royal icing consistency is too thick to fill in color on the whole cookie. I decorate all my cookies at a "flood" consistency. Which is just thinned icing. To your colored royal icing from above, add a teaspoon (or half a teaspoon) of water at a time. Stirring after each teaspoon until the icing can be "drizzled" in a ribbon pattern into the bowl and "disappear" back into the surface of the remaining icing within 2 seconds (counting one thousand one, one thousand two). Anything stiffer than that will not flood and anything thinner risks the icing flooding right off the cookie onto your counter.
Pour thinned and colored icing into a small plastic squeeze bottle and enjoy decorating your Christmas Sugar Cookies!
- Americolor Gel Food Coloring works and tastes best (Find a variety pack on Amazon)
- Keep plastic wrap over basic royal icing while you mix, thin, and color different icings. This prevents it from drying out and creating a “crust”.
- Small plastic squeeze bottles are really the easiest utensil to decorate with. You can use a piping bag and tip, but I find I have more control with the bottles. Note that depending on their size, they maybe a little hard to fill.
- Use a toothpick to spread icing into “holes” or missed spots of the cookie. It can also be used to “drag” colors together creating different patterns and designs on the cookie.