Full Disclosure: Never have I ever baked homemade frosted sugar cookies... and I volunteered to make them as a favor for my soon-to-be sister-in-law's baby shower in a few short days. Perfect.
I decided to implement the "measure twice cut once" theory used in carpentry and applied it to baking. Basically, I looked up every recipe known to man and read everyone's feedback on said recipes. The consensus was as follows: the cookie itself is good 'ole Betty Crocker's Classic Sugar Cookie recipe. It was extremely simple and baked up beautifully. The cookie wasn't too too sweet which lends well to a sugary icing.
As for the icing, there are a million opinions and even more FAILS; however, my mom remembered she had seen this great video on YouTube about frosting sugar cookies. It turns out that Julia Usher is an expert on the subject. Thank you Julia! Her icing recipe is simple and well thought out. You start with a "glue" which gets thinned out in smaller batches based on what type of coating you will be doing on your cookie. Will you be piping, flooding et cetera?
The process was a lot easier than I had thought and it may have been because of the use of Julia Usher's secret weapon: the parchment cone. Forget messy pastry bags or clumsy ziplock bags with a pasty tip that moves around when you decorate. What you will need: parchment paper and a pair of scissors. Thats it. Watch the video on YouTube a few times, then grab your parchment roll and make a few. They're super simple to make and work great! I will use this method for cupcakes too... gone are the days of the difficult pasty bag! And, clean up is a snap! Hooray!
The weather at the lake was cold and rainy so I enjoyed having this project to keep me busy for the greater part of the afternoon. There's no doubt that it took a long time but it was worth it. There's just something more special about a homemade cookie and one that's cute to boot!
BETTY CROCKER CLASSIC SUGAR COOKIE (bettycrocker.com)
1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar
1 cup softened butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
Mix sugar, butter, vanilla, almond and egg in bowl
Stir in remaining ingredients
Cover and chill for at least 2 hours
***DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP! It is virtually impossible to roll out warm dough
Heat oven to 375 and lightly grease cookie sheet
Divide dough (website recommends in half, I did it in 1/4 because I felt rolling the dough was much easier while working with small batches. I also kept additional dough in the fridge to keep cold) and roll on floured surface to 1/4 inch thick. The website also says to sprinkle cookies with granulated sugar but skip this step because you'll be icing them.
7 Bake for 7-8 minutes or until edges are light brown.
8 Cool on wire rack (cookies must be totally cool prior to icing)
JULIA USHER'S ROYAL ICING (juliausher.com)
*** I highly recommend watching Julia's videos on YouTube, it makes this process a lot easier when you see it in action
2 lbs powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
5 egg whites
flavoring to taste
gel food coloring
Dump all ingredients into a bowl
Mix ingredients until incorporated
Jack up the speed and beat the mixture (MUST use electric mixer)
That's basically it but it takes a little bit. Julia says it takes 2 minutes on high though I'm not sure if it was because I used a hand-held mixer but it took mine much longer. When do you know you're done? The mixture will become extremely white and very, very thick (hence Julia calls it glue).
To flavor and color the mixtures, divide about a cup in a bowl, add flavor/gel coloring and water to desired consistency. ***This is why I say watch her YouTube because you'll get a feel for what it should look like.