These fragrant, buttery, crisp vanilla sugar cookies don’t need an embellishment. But just for fun, why not decorate them with Royal Icing?
Seriously, what took me so long? Mom always made Buttercream Icing for sugar cookies, and I followed that tradition. Now that I’ve finally tried both options, I can proclaim with absolute certainty that for taste alone, buttercream beats royal hands down. No ifs, ands, or buts: for flavor, butter cannot be beat.
Right. But sometimes, especially during the holiday season, we might make a little tradeoff on the flavor side of the quotient for an additional WOW factor. It is allowed. I’m not going to tell you, however, as is implied in many cookie treatises, that an icing made with powdered egg whites, water, and powdered sugar is scrumptious. It is not. Plus, it dries to an exceedingly hard texture, like those inedible sugar thingies you sometimes see on grocery store decorated cakes. These are truths (flavor and texture) that must be mitigated.
On the other hand, Royal Icing is so much fun to work with and yields such delicious visual effects, we might at least consider using it when the situation calls for it. Christmas cookie baking is the situation that calls for it.
You want your cookies to be beautiful and to stack layer upon layer in a large tin, without the dreaded smeared frosting issue. You want both the cookie and the icing to store for a few weeks. Uncooked, unsalted butter will turn rancid, even at cool room temperature, in a few days. Also, butter holds quite a bit of water in suspension and that water is absorbed eventually into the cookie, making it undesirably soft.
On the other hand, an egg white, aka royal, icing dries quickly and completely and stays that way over long periods of time. The hardness factor can be minimized by spreading a thin coating of icing, never more than 1/8-inch thick. This way, the silky smooth frosting is appreciated by the eyes and then barely noticed by the palate, which in the case of Royal Icing, is the best possible compromise.
Here’s the entire LunaCafe Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Deck the Halls collection. If you bake along, one cookie a day from December 1st to December 12th, you’ll have a wonderful selection of holiday cookies to share with family and friends, with time to spare.
- On the 1st day of Christmas: Lily’s Swedish Vanilla Spritz
- On the 2nd day of Christmas: Orange Vanilla Sugar Cookies
- On the 3rd day of Christmas: Decidedly Lemon Teacakes
- On the 4th day of Christmas: Once in a Chocolate-Spice Moon Cookies
- On the 5th day of Christmas: Peppermint Stick Shortbread
- On the 6th day of Christmas: Lemon-Lime Clove Sugar Cookies
- On the 7th day of Christmas: Toasted Almond Black Cherry Shortbread
- On the 8th day of Christmas: Green Tea & Rose Spritz
- On the 9th day of Christmas: Almond Butter Poinsettia Cookies
- On the 10th day of Christmas: Lemon Orange Pecan Thumbprint Cookies
- On the 11th day of Christmas: Candy Cane Butter Cookies
- On the 12th day of Christmas: Ellen’s Swedish Pepparkakor