Holiday Sugar Cookies

Sugar Cookie Trees

These cut-out cookies are a classic, and always part of my holiday cookie baking. I will confess to having an enormous assortment of cookie cutters, so there is almost no end to the shapes I might use.  This time of year I am making trees, stars, snowmen and more.

These cookies are crisp and sturdy enough to stand up to frosting, without being too hard. They also hold their shape well when baking.

I use royal icing to frost them, and an assortment of sprinkles and other candies. Royal icing is made with egg whites or  powdered egg whites. The advantage over a butter cream, is that royal icing hardens, making the cookies easy to pack and stack. You don’t need much- just a thin layer. Tinting the frosting different colors is a big part of the fun. Depending on how much time you have, you can get really creative with decorating.

Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies

1 c. butter
1 c. sugar
1 egg
1 t. vanilla
3 c. flour
2 t. baking powder
3 T. milk
Extra sugar for sprinkling, if desired
Beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Combine dry ingredients and add to butter mixture. Beat in milk. Heat oven to 375-degrees. Roll dough on lightly floured surface to about 1/3- inch thickness. Cut out with lightly floured cutters and sprinkle with sugar or colored sugar if you like and if you are not going to frost them. Bake on an ungreased baking sheet for 10-12 minutes. Cool on baking sheet 3 minutes before placing on wire rack to cool completely. Frost when cooled. Makes about 4 dozen.
Decorating your cookies:
You can use a buttercream frosting, if you like,  however the topping I prefer is royal icing. Because royal icing contains egg whites it gets hard. Cookies have a smooth appearance and can be stacked. When making royal icing, use pasteurized egg whites or powdered egg whites. Raw egg whites pose a risk of salmonella.
You can also use colored sugar and sprinkles and mini chocolate chips for eyes.

Royal Icing
1 lb. powdered sugar
½ t. cream of tartar
5¼ t. egg white powder
6 T. water
½ t. vanilla, optional
Assorted food coloring
In large mixing bowl combine dry ingredients and mix well. Add water and vanilla and beat until light and fluffy, about 10 minutes. Divide into small bowls and tint each batch as needed. Keep bowl covered with a damp towel while waiting to use so frosting will not dry out.

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