It’s all just icing on the cookie

“We elves like to stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns and syrup.” Buddy, in Elf (2003).

Generally, my belief when decorating cookies is that the more you mess with them, the worse they taste.  While I appreciate the look real royal icing creates, I’ve always shied away from it because of this.

Using lemon juice in confectioner’s sugar, while pretty delicious does have its limitations.  Most specifically, I found no matter what I did, the colors bled.

So, this year I decided to go for it with the royal icing figuring that even if they tasted awful, they at least had a chance of looking good.

I did quite a bit of research in preparation and found the royal icing recipe and technique instructions from The Adventures of Sweet Sugar Bell made a lot  of sense.  Especially the part about the spray bottle.

I’m telling you, the spray bottle was key.

Not to get all metaphysical on ya’ll, but I can’t help but think of T.S. Elliott and his Wasteland (1922) now that all is said and done:

“We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place from the first time.”

This one was juuuuust right…reality shot added

Many thanks to Ann and Caroline for their feedback on the great love seat search!  Ann, I too am now eyeing that chaise.

On Saturday I speant some time playing Goldilocks.  I found options #1 and #3 in-store and liked neither.  Alas, option #2 was nowhere to be found.  After a quick trip to Crate and Barrel, I decided to swing by Ethan Allen…mostly because my mother told me to.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Ethan Allen.  I’d love to have a house full for furniture by Ethan Allen.  However, for this project, I thought the man was over my budget.  But, you know moms.  So, I stopped in, took half a lap and there it was.

The Chair.  In a perfect neutral fabric with enough texture to make it interesting.  It was even backlit with the natural light coming through the window behind so it sort of, you know, glowed.  To be fair, I wandered through the entire store before returning to The Chair.  I sat in it and there was clearly enough room for myself, a Kitchen God on the side and another on the lap.  I then took a deep breath and looked at the price tag.

Guess what?  The floor model was on sale.  For nearly half-off.  Which meant, I got really great chair bones for a total of $20 over my budget (including deliver).   Done.  And done.  It’s the Monterey Chair.  And here, it is in our office:

Now, I like to keep a tidy ship.  But, reality happens.  This is the reality I walked into the other day.

My chair indeed.

THE Sugar Cookies

I’ll admit, as much as I love baking, I’ve always had a bias against the cut-out sugar cookie. As a child I would carefully study the pictures of beautifully decorated sugar cookies in my mom’s illustrated Betty Crocker Cookbook. However, my batches of never looked anything close to the pictures. They’d puff. They’d bake unevenly. They’d stick to the rolling pin. Cats looked like panda bears, flowers like clouds. So, I dropped them off my list.

Until a few years ago that is.

My mom, ever the friendly consumer, somehow talked the proprieter of a cooking supply shop in Bozeman Montana into giving her their commercial recipe. Let me tell you, this recipe changed my life. Whether it has changed for better or worse has yet to be determined. You see, this recipe creates such beautiful cookies that people will beg you to make them. So you will. Then, they’ll get bitter when it’s been a couple of months and you haven’t produced any more. These may well be as close to crack as you can get with legal ingredients combined in a legal manner.

The recipe is simple if not a little labor intensive. Lots of butter. Lots of flour. Fragile, flaky, crumbly cookies these are not. The recipe is designed to get the little buggers to hold their shape when cooked. And they will—if you are careful about your technique. As good as the recipe itself is, the way in which you prepare the cookies is what makes them truly successful. That’s right, sugar cookie methodology. For this reason, I’ve listed the simple recipe below and then annotated the crap out of it with my own tips.


Once you have the dough mixed up, abandon all you were ever taught about forming it into a ball and refrigerating. First you are going to roll it out. And THEN refrigerate it. So, grab a handful of dough and place in on a flat surface between two sheets of parchment.


Now, roll it out. I like a thicker cookie (less chance of breakage), so I roll to somewhere between 1/4 and 1/8 inch. Do whatever works for you.



Now, go ahead and clear some space in the fridge and stack the rolled -out dough one on top of the next. Let the dough chill for at least an hour. I usually let it cool over night. Once the dough is chilled, cut out your desired shapes and you are ready to bake. Note-you’ll have lots of scraps. Just ball then together, re-roll them out between parchment and store in fridge until ready to cut out next batch.

If you are anal retentive like I am, you add in one more step before baking.

I cut all of the dough out at once, and stack the un-baked cookies on to a cookie sheet (with layers separated by parchment) and put them back in to the fridge. Then I begin baking.


Bake in the over for 12-15 minutes until the edges are just barely starting to brown.


What’s that you say? You want some to have sugar sprinkles? Okay, here is the super secret method to getting a ton of sugar sprinkles or sanding sugar on to the cookie. First, pour a generous amount of your selected decoration into a shallow dish.


Next, take a very cold un-baked cookie and place it front side down into the sprinkles.


Now, push the cookie into the sprinkles. Don’t be shy, the cookie should be cold enough that it doesn’t lose its shape. Flip cookie back over and then bake as directed. The results are usually pretty cool.


While we are sharing secrets, I might as well reveal what was until this very moment, my proprietary icing recipe.


Ready? You Sure? Okay. To a bowl of sifted confectioner’s sugar, add fresh squeezed lemon juice. Then mix until you get the desired thickness. Pretty mind blowing right? Of course you could also use water or any other flavoring.

I like to use a two-step decorating process (really, it’s because I’m lazy and don’t have the patience to make a border and then foundation frost each cookie). First, I ice the cookie. Then I decorate it.

To ice, I get the icing very then. Then I quickly dip the tops of the cookies.


I set the cookies on cooling racks and let the icing completely set up.


Once the first coat of icing is set up, the cookies are ready to be fancified. Decorate as desired (same icing recipe, just thicker).




And now you know all of my secrets.

THE Roll-out Cut-out Sugar Cookies

Makes about 6 dozen 3 inch cookies of 1/4 inch thickness


  • 6 C flour, sifted
  • 1 TBS baking powder
  • 1 TSP salt (I use kosher)
  • 2 C sugar (I use ultrafine)
  • 2 C unsalted butter (same as 4 sticks), softened
  • 2 large eggs, room temp
  • 2 TSP vanilla
  • Parchment paper
  • Rolling pin
  • Cookie cutters

In standing mixer, cream butter and sugar. While mixing, sift together flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl. Once butter and sugar are creamed, mix in eggs one at a time. Add in vanilla. Decrease mixer setting to low and add in flour in 2-3 shifts. Mix until dough forms.

Roll out dough between parchment paper in three batches. Refrigerate for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut dough into desired shapes and place on parchment-lined cookie sheets. Bake for 12-15 minutes until just turning gold on the edges.

I’ve added some pictures of sugar cookies past just to show they work with any shape.

bees, butterflies and flowers

B is also for baby

And break a leg.  Ironically, the only year I made these since my employment for the enemy has been the only year the blue and gold have won.  I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to realize this but next year, my work colleagues are getting more gold and cough…cough…cardinal sugar cookies around the first week of December than they’ll know what to do with.