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Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies decorated using Easy Royal Icing and the usual cookie decorating sugars, sprinkles, etc.

There’s something irresistible about royal icing on decorated Christmas cookies. It looks so formal, yet appealing and downright charming. But royal icing has always seemed a royal pain — and intimidating. I tried it once years ago and didn’t like the recipe or the flavor, although the decorating part turned out OK. Then there’s the idea of biting into something made with raw eggs that sounded to me like serving up salmonella on a sugar cookie. When friend and Courier colleague Meta Hemenway-Forbes made about 7 dozen sugar cookie cut-outs, I volunteered to bring frosting to the party. I made my favorite buttercream recipe, substituting almond extract for vanilla. Then I decided to cinch the apron a little tighter and give royal icing another try. After Googling “royal icing,” I settled on a super-easy recipe from the Southern Living website. This recipe contains just three ingredients — and one of them is water! It also calls for meringue powder instead of raw egg, available at grocery stores and craft stores that sell cake decorating products. The recipe came together to create a satiny icing that actually tasted good and worked beautifully on the cookies. Our decorating supplies also included food coloring, fine and coarse colored sugars, sprinkles, gel and glitter frosting in tubes and cookie confetti — and a box of toothpicks (you’ll see why). As delicious as the buttercream was, we both decided decorating with royal icing was actually easier and more fun. Although Meta can’t share her sugar cookie recipe — given to her by a friend with the promise NOT to divulge — the sugar cookie recipe here is similar, holding cut-out shapes and baking into a tender cookie. The Southern Living Easy Royal Icing recipe couldn’t be easier to make. We’ve gathered a few tips from our experience. These suggestions are for amateurs who want to decorate their cookies, be creative, have fun and munch a few cookies. Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies 1 cup butter, softened 8 ounces cream cheese, softened 1 ½ cups sugar 1 large egg 1 teaspoon vanilla ½ teaspoon almond extract 3 ½ cups flour 1 teaspoon baking powder In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and cream cheese until well-blended. Add sugar and egg. Mix until well blended. In another bowl, mix flour and baking powder. Add to wet ingredients in several additions, mixing well after each addition. Roll out dough onto plastic wrap and shape into a disc. Chill dough in refrigerator for 2 or 3 hours. When ready, preheat oven to 375 F. Roll out dough onto a lightly floured surface until ¼-inch thick and cut into shapes using cookie cutters. Gather scraps, roll and repeat cutting until all dough is used. Bake 8 to 10 minutes. Let cookies cool completely before decorating. (You also can freeze cooled cookies in zip-top freezer bags, thaw and decorate at a later date.) Makes several dozen cookies, depending on size of cookie cutters. <&rule>

Easy Royal Icing

1 (32-ounce) package powdered sugar (about 7 1/2 cups)

4 teaspoons meringue powder 10 to 12 tbsp. warm water Food coloring (optional) Beat powdered sugar, meringue powder and 10 tablespoons warm water at high speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer, using whisk attachment, 5 minutes or until glossy. Stir in up to 2 tablespoons more warm water, 1 teaspoon at a time, until mixture reaches desired consistency. Use immediately, or store at room temperature in airtight containers up to 1 week.

There’s something irresistible about royal icing on decorated Christmas cookies. It looks so formal, yet appealing and downright charming.

But royal icing has always seemed a royal pain — and intimidating. I tried it once years ago and didn’t like the recipe or the flavor, although the decorating part turned out OK. Then there’s the idea of biting into something made with raw eggs that sounded to me like serving up salmonella on a sugar cookie.

When friend and Courier colleague Meta Hemenway-Forbes made about 7 dozen sugar cookie cut-outs, I volunteered to bring frosting to the party. I made my favorite buttercream recipe, substituting almond extract for vanilla. Then I decided to cinch the apron a little tighter and give royal icing another try.

After Googling “royal icing,” I settled on a super-easy recipe from the Southern Living website. This recipe contains just three ingredients — and one of them is water! It also calls for meringue powder instead of raw egg, available at grocery stores and craft stores that sell cake decorating products.

The recipe came together to create a satiny icing that actually tasted good and worked beautifully on the cookies. Our decorating supplies also included food coloring, fine and coarse colored sugars, sprinkles, gel and glitter frosting in tubes and cookie confetti — and a box of toothpicks (you’ll see why).

As delicious as the buttercream was, we both decided decorating with royal icing was actually easier and more fun. Although Meta can’t share her sugar cookie recipe — given to her by a friend with the promise NOT to divulge — the sugar cookie recipe here is similar, holding cut-out shapes and baking into a tender cookie.

The Southern Living Easy Royal Icing recipe couldn’t be easier to make.

We’ve gathered a few tips from our experience. These suggestions are for amateurs who want to decorate their cookies, be creative, have fun and munch a few cookies. Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies

1 cup butter, softened

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 ½ cups sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ teaspoon almond extract

3 ½ cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and cream cheese until well-blended. Add sugar and egg. Mix until well blended. In another bowl, mix flour and baking powder. Add to wet ingredients in several additions, mixing well after each addition.

Roll out dough onto plastic wrap and shape into a disc. Chill dough in refrigerator for 2 or 3 hours. When ready, preheat oven to 375 F. Roll out dough onto a lightly floured surface until ¼-inch thick and cut into shapes using cookie cutters. Gather scraps, roll and repeat cutting until all dough is used.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes. Let cookies cool completely before decorating. (You also can freeze cooled cookies in zip-top freezer bags, thaw and decorate at a later date.) Makes several dozen cookies, depending on size of cookie cutters.

<&rule>

Easy Royal Icing

1 (32-ounce) package powdered sugar (about 7 1/2 cups)

4 teaspoons meringue powder

10 to 12 tbsp. warm water

Food coloring (optional)

Beat powdered sugar, meringue powder and 10 tablespoons warm water at high speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer, using whisk attachment, 5 minutes or until glossy. Stir in up to 2 tablespoons more warm water, 1 teaspoon at a time, until mixture reaches desired consistency. Use immediately, or store at room temperature in airtight containers up to 1 week.

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Arts/Special Sections Editor

Special Sections Editor for the Courier

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