Painted Sugar Cookies

No Photo



  • 2/3 cup butter, margarine or shortening, at room temperature
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Dash of salt
  • Liquid food coloring

Royal Icing

  • 3 jumbo or 4 large egg whites (see note)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 pound (about 4 cups) confectioners' sugar


  1. Cookies: Beat butter, margarine or shortening with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add the egg, sugar, milk, vanilla extract, about half the flour, the baking powder and salt. Beat until thoroughly combined. Mix in remaining flour with a wooden spoon.
  2. Divide the dough in half, wrap well and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours, until firm.
  3. Roll dough 1/4 inch thick. Cut into 3-inch rounds (or other shapes if desired).
  4. Re-roll scraps once. If you don't want to frost and paint cookies, you can sprinkle colored sugar on them at this point.
  5. Bake at 375 degrees F for 8 to 12 minutes or until the edges are firm and slightly brown. Let cool on wire racks.
  6. Spread Royal Icing thinly, yet thoroughly over each cooled cookie. Icing should be thick enough to coat cookies without running, but thin enough to form a smooth surface as it dries. If too thick, beat in a little water; if too thin, beat in a little confectioners' sugar.
  7. Royal Icing: Beat egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Add all the sugar and beat for 5 to 7 minutes, until icing is thoroughly mixed, glossy and stands in peaks.
  8. Be sure to keep icing tightly covered so it doesn't dry out. If you're piping dots of "snow" onto cookies, keep the tip of the icing bag covered with a damp paper towel when you set it down.
  9. Store in airtight tins.

Makes about 2 1/4 cups icing, enough to ice 2 dozen (3-inch) cookies, with leftovers.

Using sable watercolor brushes, put drops of liquid food coloring on a clean white plate and use that as your palette. Mix colors as you wish and thin with water as needed. To make falling snow, use the paintbrush to dab on dots of royal icing.

Clean the watercolor brush with warm water and a little dishwashing liquid.

Royal icing can stand, tightly covered, for up to 3 days, and is ideal for decorating gingerbread and other cookies.

If you prefer not to use raw egg whites, use powdered egg whites or meringue powder. Follow the instructions on the container for making royal icing.