My favorite recipe for making sugar cookies with royal icing comes from the venerable Martha Stewart. It's a classic recipe for perfect sugar cookies, the kind that are light and crisp and perfect for decorating. I recommend using brandy or cognac, which adds a butterscotch note to the cookies. These recipes can be found on the Martha Stewart website here and here. These cookies are the perfect blank canvas for beautiful creations. Just add creativity, royal icing, and, if you'd like, decorative sugar.
Learn The Technique!
Right this way for a step-by-step slideshow of the techniques used in this recipe!
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons brandy, or milk
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Sanding sugars, optional
- Royal Icing:
- 1/2 cup meringue powder
- 8 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
- 1 cup cold water
Whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar; mix until light and fluffy. With mixer running, add egg, brandy, and vanilla; mix until well combined. With the mixer on low, slowly add reserved flour mixture. Mix until just combined.
Transfer dough to a work surface. Shape into 2 discs, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with nonstick baking mats or parchment paper; set aside.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes, and transfer to prepared baking sheets, leaving an inch in between. Leftover dough can be rolled and cut once more. Bake until lightly golden, about 10 minutes; do not allow to brown. Transfer to wire racks to cool.
Royal icing: Using a hand mixer with the beater attachments or a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat together confectioner's sugar, water, and meringue powder and continue mixing until the mixture becomes smooth and thick, about 7 minutes. If mixture seems too thick, add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and mix until desired consistency is reached. If mixture seems too thin, add confectioners' sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached. To make "flooding" icing, add the water a couple of tablespoons at a time, until the mixture is thick, but runny. Store the icing in airtight containers immediately; exposure to air will cause it to crust over and harden quickly.