Too pretty to eat? Close, but there’s no comparison for these cute and summery sugar cookies. The key is in the icing technique — check out the images below to get a better idea of how to create your very own cookie garden. This is also a festive project for warm-weather parties and get-togethers. Just provide the icings and tools, and let your guests do the rest!
Garden Flower Sugar Cookies
For the cookies:
3 cups (15 oz/470 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon baking powder 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (8 oz/250 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
11⁄4 cups (10 oz/315 g) sugar 1 large egg
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon heavy cream
For the icing:
4 cups (1 lb/500 g) confectioner’ssugar
3 tablespoons meringue powder
1⁄2 teaspoon extract such as vanilla or almond (optional)
Gel-paste food coloring in desired colors
Sanding sugars for sprinkling
Assorted flower-shaped cookie cutters
*Makes 30 – 40 cookies
In a bowl, whisk together the 3 cups flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 2—3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and beat on low speed until the egg is completely incorporated. Beating on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture and continue to beat until almost incorporated. Add the cream and beat on low speed until just incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Press the dough into a rough rectangle, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour or up to overnight. (The dough can be wrapped well and frozen for up to 1 month.)
Follow the desired recipe for rolling and cutting, or do the following: Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line 3 baking sheets with parchment
paper. On a lightly floured work surface, using a floured rolling pin, roll out the chilled dough until about 1⁄4 inch (6 mm) thick. Using cookie cutters or a paring knife, cut the cookies into the desired shapes. Use a metal spatula to transfer the cookies to the prepared sheets, spacing them 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart. Press the dough scraps together, roll out, and cut out additional shapes.
Bake 1 sheet at a time until the cookies are lightly golden around the edges but the tops are barely colored, 12—15 minutes for smaller cookies and 16—19 minutes for larger ones. Let cool, about 30 minutes.
Depending on how many color combinations you want, divide the icing among small bowls. Add a very small amount of food coloring to each bowl and mix well (if needed, add more food coloring until the desired color is reached). Spoon each batch of icing into separate paper cones or pastry bags with 1⁄8-inch (3-mm) round tips. Pipe the icing around the edge of each cookie to form a border.
Using the same color or a contrasting color, pipe the icing into the middle of the cookie, letting it run to the edges of the border. Gently tap the cookie twice to settle the icing. If desired, sprinkle all over with sanding sugar.
To create a two-tone appearance, wait for the initial layer of icing to harden, about 2 hours. Cover and refrigerate the icing until needed; stir vigorously before use. Pipe an outline or accent of contrasting color on top of the first layer of icing or the sanding sugar.
After the accent layer of icing has almost dried, about 1 hour, choose another contrasting color and pipe a circle in the middle of each cookie. If desired, use another contrasting color to pipe small dots on top of the circle. (Alternatively, sanding sugar can also be sprinkled in the center.) Let the cookies dry completely, at least 6 hours or up to overnight.
Store the cookies in an airtight container, layered between sheets of parchment paper, at room temperature for up to 3 days.