Before my daughter’s second birthday, my mom gave me alphabet and number cookie cutters. It started with pink “2” cookies and a new family tradition was born. I have made them annually ever since. 🙂 We put them in birthday party goodie bags, bring them into school to celebrate, and serve them at birthday parties. On my mom’s 75th birthday we served purple 75’s to her friends! Fun.
I use the sugar cookie and royal icing recipes from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook. I weigh the flour and the dough is always perfect. I cut out the shapes, stack them with a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper between each layer, cover, and refrigerate overnight. I also briefly freeze the cut shapes just before baking. The shape seems to stay more intact.
For the Sugar Cookies:
- 4 sticks (1 pound) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3 cups sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 5 cups all-purpose flour (21.25 oz or 1 lb 5.25 oz)
- colored sanding sugar, or royal icing
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
- Add eggs, vanilla, and salt; mix on medium-high speed until combined.
- With mixer on low speed, add flour in two batches, mixing until just incorporated.
- Turn out the dough onto a clean work surface. Divide in half, a pat into flattened rectangles; wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 1 week. (I have also had success rolling the warm dough 1/4-inch thick between plastic wrap and parchment prior to placing it in the refrigerator.)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection, with racks in the upper and lower thirds. Line large baking sheets with parchment paper.
- On a lightly floured work surface (or between layers of plastic wrap and/or parchment paper), roll out one rectangle of dough to approximately 1/4-inch thickness.
- Using cookie cutters, cut out shapes. Using a small offset spatula, transfer shapes to prepared sheets, placing about 2 inches apart.
- Chill in freezer or refrigerator until firm, about 15 minutes (or overnight if in refrigerator). Set scraps aside. Repeat the process with remaining rectangle of dough. Gather all the scraps, and roll out again. Freeze for 15 minutes; cut out more shapes, and place on sheets.
- Decorate cookies with sanding sugar or sprinkles, if using, before baking.
- Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until cookies are golden around the edges and slightly firm to the touch, about 9-12 minutes on convection.
- Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Decorate with royal icing, if using. (recipe below)
- Top icing with sanding sugar or sprinkles, if using.
Note: Cookies can be kept in an airtight container, layered between sheets of waxed paper or parchment paper, at room temperature for up to 3 days. Makes about 3 dozen.
For the Royal Icing:
- 1 pound confectioners sugar
- 5 T meringue powder
- liquid or gel-paste food coloring
- sanding sugar or sprinkles, as desired
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine sugar, meringue powder, and a scant 1/2 cup water on low speed. Beat until mixture is fluffy yet dense, 7 to 8 minutes.
- To thin the icing for flooding (filling in areas with additional icing), stir in additional water, 1 teaspoon at a time. Test the consistency by lifting a spoonful of icing and letting it drip back into the bowl; a ribbon should remain on the surface for 5 to 7 seconds.
- To tint icing, dip a toothpick or wooden skewer into food coloring, and gradually mix it in until the desired shade is reached.
- Decorate with sanding sugar or sprinkles before the icing has set, if desired.