Most people only bake cut-out sugar cookies during the Christmas season, but I decided to switch it up and bake some during the hot summertime. Earlier in the summer I had picked up some Wisconsin Badger cookie cut-outs from a local baking shop, Downtown Dough, and decided it was finally time to use them for the first time.
I invited a few of my friends over to bake and decorate cookies with me who also just so happen to go to UW-Madison. Emily, Emily, Kate and I craft and bake together from time to time and this night was no different.
Earlier in the day, I had made two batches of the cut-out sugar cookie dough, cooled, cut, and baked the cookies so that they were ready to be decorated when the girls came over. E.K. decided that she was dying to bake her own cookies as well, so we quickly ran to the store for more ingredients before our night truly began.
Once back at my house, E.K. whipped up her own batch of cookies, meanwhile the rest of us began to make the icing for the cookies. The blog that I found the cookie recipe on, Sally’s Baking Addiction, suggested using icing for the cookies instead of a thicker frosting. An icing is much easier to decorate the cookies with as you can dunk the top of the cookie in the icing to fully coat it because it is thinner than a frosting. If desired, the icing can even be painted onto the cookies for more intricate decorating. I found the blog’s suggested icing recipe from AllRecipes, and we used that as the base for our icing recipe. We tripled the icing recipe so that we could color enough of it for our decorating. Also, as we began to mix the ingredients together, it was much too thick and we continued to add milk to lighten the consistency of the icing.
After the icing was made, we split it, coloring a portion of the icing red and leaving some white. Some of the cookies were in the shape of footballs, and because of this we needed to make a brown frosting color. Online, we found the idea to add coco powder to the icing to turn it brown and we attempted to do this with a portion of our white icing. It actually turned out great and I would suggest doing this if you ever need to make a shade of brown frosting or icing.
Emily G adds some details to her iced cookie using a toothpick.
As I mentioned before, our go to way to completely cover the cookies in icing was to dunk the tops of them in the icing (which we had in a few bowls). This was very effective and dried evenly within about 8 minutes. After we had the base layer of icing on the cookies, toothpicks were used to create designs which included basketballs, footballs, the details of Bucky Badger, and some nifty red and white swirl designs.
Our night of baking and decorating these cut-out sugar cookies lasted about 5 hours. Needless to say we really got into the decorating! Plus making and coloring the icing took us awhile as well as completely cleaning up the decent sized mess we made. Which we did—no worries there! (AKA no complaints from my parents the next morning! 🙂 )
From Left: Emily G, Emily K, me, and Kate L hard at work decorating our cookies.
Below is the sugar cookie recipe as well as the icing recipe we used. For most of the recipes that I use, I usually find myself adding a bit more vanilla extract than they list. I find that this helps add a bit more flavor to the recipe and I did this again for both the cookies and the icing. The cookie recipe also calls for almond extract and a bit more can be added to enhance the flavor of the cookies.
Let me know what your favorite cookie decorations are that we did and happy baking!
Sugar Cookie Recipe
- 3/4 cup (170g) unsalted butter, slightly softened to room temperature
- 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract (makes the flavor outstanding)
- 2 and 1/4 cups (281g) all-purpose flour (spoon and leveled)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until creamed and smooth – about 1 minute. Add the sugar and beat on high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 or 4 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Add the egg, vanilla, and almond extract and beat on high until fully combine, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.
- Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. Turn the mixer down to low and add about half of the flour mixture, beating until just barely combined. Add the rest of the flour and continue mixing until just combined. If the dough still seems too soft, you can add 1 Tablespoon more flour until it is a better consistency for rolling.
- Divide the dough into 2 equal parts. Roll each portion out onto a piece of parchment to about 1/4″ thickness. Stack the pieces (with paper) onto a baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day. Chilling is mandatory. If chilling for more than a couple hours, cover the top dough piece with a single piece of parchment paper. Chill up to 2 days (max).
- Once chilled, preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Line 2-3 large baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. The amount of batches will depend on how large/small you cut your cookies. Remove one of the dough pieces from the refrigerator and using a cookie cutter, cut in shapes. Transfer the cut cookie dough to the prepared baking sheet. Re-roll the remaining dough and continue cutting until all is used.
- Before baking, you can apply sprinkles like I did on the rainbow sprinkle lined cookies shown in this post. If you’re planning to only ice them instead, or you just want to keep them plain – skip the sprinkles.
- Bake for 8-11 minutes, until very lightly colored on top and around the edges. Make sure you rotate the baking sheet halfway through bake time. My cookies took 9 minutes. Allow to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before icing. I always let mine cool overnight, just to be sure.
- Make the icing and decorate the cooled cookies however you’d like. I doubled the frosting recipe to frost a majority of my cookies. I used a paint brush for some and double-dipped others directly into it. I did not color the icing, as you can see. Add sprinkles on top of the icing if preferred. Once the icing has set, these cookies are great for gifts, sending, or munching on right away. I find they stay soft for about 5 days at room temperature.
- Make ahead tip: Unfrosted cookies freeze well up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Frosted cookies do not freeze well at all. You can chill the cookie dough for up to 2 days (step 3). You can also freeze the cookie dough before rolling for up to 3 months. Then allow to thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Then allow to come to room temperature for about 1 hour. Then roll and continue with the recipe as directed.
- Room temperature egg is preferred to be easily dispersed in the cookie dough. Good rule of thumb: always use room temperature egg if recipe calls for butter at room temperature or melted.
- Edited to add: Lately, I’ve been preparing this dough with a little salt and I love the way it brightens the flavor of the dough. You can leave it out for super sweet sugar cookies, but its addition is fabulous.
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 2 teaspoons milk
- 2 teaspoons light corn syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
- assorted food coloring
- In a small bowl, stir together confectioners’ sugar and milk until smooth. Beat in corn syrup and almond extract until icing is smooth and glossy. If icing is too thick, add more corn syrup.
- Divide into separate bowls, and add food colorings to each to desired intensity. Dip cookies, or paint them with a brush.