Over the holidays, I love to make and decorate sugar cookies for gifts and parties. Sugar cookies are the perfect cut-out cookie, because they hold their shape and are perfect for decorating! During this busy time, I like to simplify how I decorate. A water glaze is perfect, because it won’t dry out quickly, can stay at room temperature for days, and provides the functionality of royal icing. It is especially useful for adhering sprinkles and colored sugar to the cookies.
This recipe provides a lightly sweetened and soft sugar cookie, with simple and quick decorations. The recipe yields one average-sized platter of cookies (see photo).
1 cup powdered sugar (plus more for adjusting thickness if using food color)
2 Tbsp. water
assorted colored sugar and sprinkles
green and brown food color
food safe paint brush or pastry brush
Zest one lemon and set aside. Sift the flour and baking powder together and then add salt and whisk until combined.
Place the softened butter and sugar in the mixer and cream them together, by mixing on high (start on low until sugar is incorporated) until light and fluffy (3-5 minutes). Scrape the bowl as needed throughout this process. Add the egg and mix until incorporated, and repeat with the vanilla, lemon zest, and milk. While the mixer is on low, steadily add the flour mixture. Mix until the dough is formed.
Place the dough on a large sheet of parchment paper, and pat the dough down slightly. Place an equal-sized piece of parchment paper on top. With your roller, roll out to 1/4 inch thickness. The parchment paper on top makes the rolling easier and cuts down on mess. Once rolled, keep the dough covered and place in the fridge for at least 1 hour. It is best to keep it flat (a baking sheet or pizza pan works well).
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Remove the dough from the fridge and place the dough with the parchment paper underneath on your work surface. Cut out your shapes and place on a greased baking sheet and in the oven (you can put a little powdered sugar on the cutters if needed). Re-roll as needed (the dough gets a little easier to work with after the first re-roll).
Place in the oven and bake for 11 minutes. They are done when the bottom is very lightly golden and the tops are just beginning to get light gold around the edges. Place on cooling racks.
Once the cookies have cooled, get out all of your colored sugar and sprinkles and place a sheet of wax or parchment paper over your work surface (this will help with clean-up). Make your glaze by mixing the water and powdered sugar together well. The glaze will be used to decorate, as well as, the ‘glue’ for the sprinkles and colored sugar. Use green food color for the Christmas trees and brown if you are decorating gingerbread men. If you are using food color, add a little powdered sugar, because the food coloring will thin it out. Use a food safe paint brush or pastry brush to paint the glaze on the cookies and then add sugar and sprinkles (you may need to gently shake off extra sugar). Let the glaze dry on the cookies for at least 30 minutes. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container for several days. Enjoy 🙂
#1 You can make this dough ahead and keep in the fridge for a few days or even the freezer for at least a few weeks (thaw out ahead of time).
#2 This is a great activity for children. They can paint on the glaze and decorate themselves. My little ones enjoy decorating cookies this way. This is also a great group activity for kids 🙂
#3 These cookies make great gifts and are perfect for holiday parties!