08 Dec Pastel Christmas Tree Sugar Cookies
Hello and happy December! I’m so excited that it’s FINALLY sugar cookie season! I’m in the kitchen constantly and of course, I make sugar cookies all year round, but it’s only at this time of year that I can make them in festive shapes without people looking at me like I’m living in some sort of weird Christmas bubble. So bring on the trees, reindeer, snowmen and everything in between!
Another reason that I’m excited about it being December is that my online shop finally launched this month! It’s basically a boutique version of the merchandise shelves I had at my shop in Vancouver, featuring lots of girly things like pretty mugs, cake plates and a handful of other sweet things. To check it out, you can click here!
But back to sugar cookie talk. This recipe is a slight modification of the one I learned when I attended the Peggy Porschen Academy a few years ago. It’s incredibly delicious (to me, the addition of vanilla bean paste makes this recipe) but also wonderfully reliable, as all good cookie recipes should be! Be sure to chill the dough long enough before it goes into the oven (at least 25 minutes) and you won’t have any trouble with your cookies spreading into weird, terrifying shapes.
When it comes to icing the cookies, the one thing I’ve found is that it’s so important to remember to wipe out the bowl, as well as all utensils and piping tips, with vinegar. Even the slightest trace of grease residue (think butter, oils, etc.) can keep your icing from drying properly, which results in a sugary mess, not to mention ruined cookies. Additionally, royal icing doesn’t like humid environments. If the room you’re allowing your cookies to dry in is too humid (in my experience, anything over 55% humidity is too high), the icing may not fully dry. Such fussy things these cookies can be, right?! However, if you be sure to follow these tips and the directions carefully, you’ll be just fine!
Cookies for everyone! Happy baking!
Pastel Christmas Tree Sugar Cookies
Makes about 25 medium sugar cookies. Adapted from Peggy Porschen.
For the Sugar Cookies
- 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
- 1 egg
- 3 cups (375 g) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the butter, sugar and vanilla on medium speed until creamy. Add the egg and mix to incorporate. Stop the mixer, scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again until well-blended.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and the salt. Dump it all into the bowl of the mixer and mix on low speed to blend. Stop the mixer and scrape down the flour clinging to the sides of the bowl and mix again on low speed until incorporated.
The next steps are important for achieving a perfectly flat, evenly-rolled dough, which will result in evenly-baked cookies. A few years ago, I made a video detailing the next steps, which can be really helpful! You can watch it over here on the videos page, which has a handful of other tutorials too!
Remove the dough from the bowl and divide it into two balls. Place one ball on a sheet of parchment paper, flatten it slightly, place another sheet of parchment paper on top and roll out, using rolling sticks for even thickness. Repeat with the other ball of dough. Flip a baking sheet upside-down and slide both sheets of dough onto it, then place the baking sheet in the fridge to chill the dough, about 25-30 minutes. While the dough is chilling, line baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
Once the dough is chilled, remove one of the doughs and place it on the kitchen counter. Peel off the top sheet of parchment paper and cut desired shapes, placing them on the prepared baking sheets. Repeat with other sheet of dough. This dough can be re-rolled without problems, yay! The dough can spread every-so-slightly during baking, so it’s always safe to space the cookies 1-2 inches apart. Once the cookies have all been cut, place the baking sheets with the cut cookies into the freezer for 25-30 minutes. Having very cold dough helps the cookies maintain their shapes while baking.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Once the cut cookies are completely chilled, transfer to the oven and bake for 15-18 minutes, until cookies are just barely brown around the edges. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheets for about 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Cookies will keep for up to 2 weeks in an air-tight container.
- 1/4 cup white vinegar (to clean bowls & utensils)
- 4 cups / 500 g icing sugar
- 3 Tablespoons + 1 teaspoon meringue powder
- 1/2 cup water + more as needed
Using a clean paper towel, thoroughly wipe down the inside of a stand mixer bowl, as well as the paddle attachment and any spoons or piping tips you’ll be using with the white vinegar. This removes any greasy residue (butter, oils, etc.) that can affect the drying process of your icing.
In the prepared stand mixer bowl, add the icing sugar and the meringue powder and mix together on low speed using the paddle attachment. Add the water, a little at a time, until the mixture is moist, but not too thick, and mix on low speed for about 10 minutes. During this time, the mixture will thicken and should hold a soft peak. When piped, it should hold it’s shape without running. If your icing seems a little thick, add more water, a little at a time and if your icing seems thin, too much water has been added and you can add more icing sugar.
Decorating The Cookies:
Once you achieve the perfect consistency, spoon a few tablespoons of icing into a small bowl, cover the bowl with a damp paper towel and a cutting board or a plate, to prevent it from drying out, and set aside. This will be used for decorating later. Lastly, add a few drops of food colouring (I used AmeriColor gel-paste in Soft Pink) to the main bowl of icing and mix to incorporate.
Spoon some of the soft-peak royal icing into a piping bag fitted with a plain piping tip (I use a #1 or #2 tip). Cover the bowl with the remaining pink icing with a damp paper towel to prevent it from drying out. With your prepared piping bag of icing, pipe a border around the edges. Repeat with all of the cookies.
Now it’s time to ice the cookies inside the borders. Remove the paper towel from the bowl of pink icing and add a little water, 1 teaspoon at a time, mixing on low speed until fully incorporated.The consistency should be liquidy, which is what is called “flooding consistency”. Dip a clean spoon into the icing and let it drizzle back into the bowl. The drizzle of icing should disappear and blend into the icing below in about 3-5 seconds. Any faster and the icing is too thin and could run over your piped borders on your cookies, which is messy and no fun.
Fill a clean squeeze bottle, fitted with a plain piping tip, with the flood consistency icing and pipe the icing onto the cookies, being careful not to over-fill the cookies so that the icing doesn’t run over the borders.
Pop any air bubbles with a pin as you go. Repeat with all of the cookies, then allow them to dry overnight or for at least 12 hours, before moving onto the next step.
Once the cookies are dry, it’s time to decorate them! Divide the remaining soft-peak icing into two bowls. Add a drop of colour to one of the bowls (I used AmeriColour gel-paste in Turquoise”) and mix to blend. Spoon the icings into two piping bags fitted with plain piping tips (I used a #1 tip for both) and pipe swirls of garland on the trees, adding dragee sprinkles (I used dragees in silver 4 mm) as you go.
Repeat with all cookies and allow to dry for at least 5 hours. Decorated cookies will keep in little bags or an airtight container for up to 2 weeks!
alessandraPosted at 14:08h, 08 December
Buon Natale dall’Italia.
joanPosted at 16:20h, 08 December
Gorgeous cookies! I’m intrigued that you use vinegar in your icing! Why do you use it? Does it alter the flavor?
TessaPosted at 21:04h, 08 December
Thank you! The vinegar is to clean the bowl and all utensils, clearing them of any unwanted greasy residue. It’s all explained in the recipe directions 🙂
LillianaPosted at 21:20h, 08 December
Loving this recipe! If you do not have meringue powder, what could you use?
JuliettePosted at 13:04h, 09 December
I may have missed it while reading your recipe but at what temperature do you put your oven at for this recipe? 🙂
TessaPosted at 14:01h, 09 December
Oh, such an important detail for me to have left out – LOL! I’ve added it to the recipe text (350 degrees F). Thanks for pointing that out!
DanielaPosted at 12:11h, 18 December
I LOVED your cookie ideas. Maybe Christmas shouldn’t always be red and green. Why not add a little pink? Hope to see more Christmas ideas!
NicolePosted at 22:27h, 11 December
Thank you for this cookie recipe! It’s perfect!
Maria MolinariPosted at 07:54h, 13 December
Hi Tessa I made your cookies and they came out perfect! I always suspected that the baking soda was guilty of making them spread. Why is it that you do not put baking soda in your recipe?
TessaPosted at 19:54h, 14 December
I’m so glad! I’ve never put any leavener in my sugar cookies – I’ve just never felt as though they needed it! 🙂
Gail DolbyPosted at 09:18h, 04 March
Hi there, could this icing be used to do a drip cake, if made a little runnier?