Over the holidays, I was really in the baking spirit. I see so many beautifully decorated cookies on Instagram and Pinterest and really got the urge to try my hand at it. The first few attempts weren’t exactly successful, but nevertheless, I persisted.
I read about painting cookies instead of frosting them. Painting involves flooding the cookie with royal icing and then painting over it once it has dried. Diluting gel food coloring with vodka creates the perfect paint. It perfectly thins the color, but why vodka, you ask? Vodka evaporates almost instantly and the cookie dries beautifully. Using water keeps the cookie wet for a very long time and doesn’t produce the result you are looking for.
Have you ever bought a cookie so beautiful that you almost didn’t eat it, then you did, and wished you hadn’t? You need a cookie to look AND taste good! Here is a great sugar cookie recipe that is the perfect base for your decorating needs.
- 3-1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1/2 cup margarine**
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
**I have tried using just butter and just margarine, and the half and half blend is best!
In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and cream of tartar. Set aside. In a large bowl, beat butter and margarine with an electric mixer on medium-high speed for 30 seconds. Beat in sugar, scraping sides of the bowl as needed. Add in eggs, vanilla, and almond extract. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour with a wooden spoon.
Divide dough in half, and flatten each portion to make 2 round disks. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to overnight until dough is easy to handle.
Preheat oven to 375˚ F. On a lightly floured surface, roll out door to 1/8″ thick. Cut dough into desired shapes. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet. I love using a silpat mat on my baking trays. You CAN reroll the scraps. This dough is sturdy and I’ve never noticed a difference in the cookies that came from the first roll or second… or third 🙂
Bake until edges are firm and bottoms are lightly browned, 8-10 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool. Decorate as you wish! If you plan to paint your cookies, the royal icing MUST be completely dry before you start painting.
- 3 tablespoons meringue powder
- 1 lb. powdered sugar
- 4-6 tablespoons water
In a medium bowl, beat together the meringue powder, powdered sugar, and water for about 10 minutes, until peaks form. I usually start with less water to make a thicker icing for the borders on the cookies, then thin it out slightly to flood the cookies. Royal icing is VERY forgiving, which a beginner like me really appreciates! Add more water if it gets too thick, or more sugar if it is too thin.
- gel food color
My first batch of painted cookies turned out like this — I used an old eyeshadow brush I found in a drawer, which I don’t recommend. LOL. The brush is too wide and doesn’t give you much room to get creative, but I learned a lot, so don’t laugh at the result!
After this experience, I went to Amazon and ordered two cheap sets of paint brushes and a little plastic tray to hold the paint while I work. I started with wreaths and chickens and I’m very pleased with the results!
These are not perfect or anywhere near the level of what I’ve seen online, but can we agree my second batch is better than the first? Ha!