Be still my heart! This weekend at Snowflakes & Coffeecakes Cooking School it was all about the sugar cookies...and more specifically, all about the world's BEST Soft Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies, decorated with colorful Easy Royal Icing and LOTS of Valentine sprinkles!
For those of you that love sugar cookies, this is my favorite recipe and decorating techniques to share. Skipper likes to say that decorating sugar cookies is just "grown-up arts and crafts", and he may be right! We had so much fun baking these soft and perfect sugar cookies, and the hours flew by the next day when we got around to decorating them.
Day One we started with baking cookies. Thick and soft Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies (my Mom's recipe) will always be our childhood favorite, but for those times when you need a perfect Sugar Cookie that has an easy dough to mix up, roll out and work with, one that will hold its shape and edges, and have a wonderful surface for fun decorating, this is my go-to recipe. The softest, thickest and creamiest sugar cookies - perfectly simple and wonderful!
This cookie dough is soft and creamy, and one of my favorite tricks is roll the cookie dough out BEFORE chilling it, which isn't typical for most sugar cookie recipes. The dough is just so stinkin' easy to roll out before it's chilled. After rolling the dough directly onto parchment paper in a smooth 1/4-inch thickness, we simply stack it up and let it chill out for at least two hours. Chilling is mandatory for most cookie doughs, but even more important for these sugar cookies, as it helps the cookies keep their sharp shapes when baked.
We actually had a dozen different Valentine cookie cutters, all shapes and sizes, ranging from one inch up to six inches each. It really works best to keep the same "size" cookies on each baking sheet for baking if you can, so that you'll have consistent golden edges on all your cookies and no dark brown or burnt little tiny cookies (they do seem to be the most particular). And having a lot of variety makes for fun decorating tomorrow!
Day Two started with preparation. Lots of baking sheets filled with cookies, lots of bowls of fun Valentine sprinkles and sparkling sugar, and three batches of Easy Royal Icing - traditional white, pink and red for this holiday. I recommend and use AmeriColor Soft Gels for ease and consistent coloring. Everyone had three piping bags, fitted with couplers and an assortment of tips ready to go. Time to crank on some fun Valentine-themed music, pour a glass of wine, and get the party started!
For decorating ease, we cut the parchment paper so that each large cookie sits on its own smaller piece of parchment paper - this will allow you to twist and turn individual cookies while you are decorating them, and lift them off for sprinkling or set them down on baking sheets to set-up between layering, or to dry when finished. Much easier than having everyone twisting baking sheets round and round on a countertop, getting in each other's way, and having sprinkles flying everywhere!
By the end of the afternoon it was a whirl! There were cookies on every flat surface of the kitchen, frosting bags and sprinkles EVERYWHERE, but it was so worth it. It is so fun seeing what others come up with for decorating ideas and the smiles of accomplishment. You're never too old to learn new tricks, and this was just so relaxing and fun!
Kelsey was declared the official cookie-decorating winner - you would never know that it was her first time working with royal icing! She has such wonderful ideas, steadiness of hand and concentration that made her decorated cookies like works of art!
If you're going to be decorating soft sugar cookies with little ones, I'd recommend switching over to Bakery Frosting or your favorite buttercream frosting - much easier for little hands! All they need to do is swirl and twirl the frosting around with a little spreader and load on the sprinkles!
And at the end of the day, these are the BEST soft sugar cookies you will ever have - and so much better than anything you can buy at a bakery or cookie shop. You'll have to excuse me now, I'm off to pick out my favorite cookie!
Hope you get a chance to bake these, decorate them with every shade of love, and enjoy with your favorite valentine!
CREAM CHEESE SUGAR COOKIES:
3 cups (390g) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter (softened to room temperature)
4 ounces block cream cheese (softened to room temperature)
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
1 large egg (room temperature)
2 teaspoons Pure Vanilla extract
1 teaspoon Pure Almond extract
FROSTING: (for Bakery Frosting see SnowflakesandCoffeecakes.com)
EASY ROYAL ICING:
4 cups (480g) powdered sugar
3 tablespoons Wilton Meringue Powder
10-12 tablespoons water (room temperature)
AmeriColor Soft Gel Food Coloring (strongly recommended!)
FOR DECORATING: Holiday Sprinkles and Sparkling Sugar (both optional)
HOW I MAKE THESE:
YIELD: Makes about 36 (three-inch) cookies
NOTES: These cookies will stay fresh in an air-tight container at room temperature for up to 3 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
MAKE AHEAD TIP: Plain baked cookies freeze well up to 1 month. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before decorating.
FOR PARTIES: I package cookies individually in self-sealing clear cellophane cello bags (Pack It Chic are my favorite brand). Make sure cookies are completely dry after decorating before packaging. To make ahead, place individually wrapped and sealed cookies in a larger airtight container and freeze. Thaw on your countertop before serving - do not thaw in refrigerator (you are trying to minimize moisture during defrosting, which can cause your frosting designs to run or bleed).
TO KEEP THESE COOKIES SOFT: I keep a slice of sandwich bread in the container to keep the cookies soft – replace every day or so, as soon as the slice of bread dries out. It’s a sweet little trick! These cookies will stay fresh in an air-tight container at room temperature for up to one week.
Originally published December 2010, Revised & Republished February 2018
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