Sugar cookies are a staple in my baking repertoire – I can’t think of a holiday or special occasion that doesn’t warrant a purchase (or 2) of new cookie cutters, food coloring and all sorts of sprinkles and decorations. I’ve been using the same cookie dough recipe for over 20 years now, as well as the royal icing recipe which follows.

sugar cookies, royal icing

sugar cookies, royal icing

Iced and decorated sugar cookies look impressive but are actually very easy (and fun) to prepare. The trick, I’ve found, is to start at least 2 days prior to serving so that you have enough time to properly execute each step without rushing through. As both the dough and icing can be prepared in advance, it’s easy to plan ahead.

sugar cookies, royal icing

sugar cookies, royal icing

sugar cookies, royal icing

Throughout the year I’ll be sharing some of my favorite seasonal sugar cookies and decorating ideas. First up – these adorable  “starburst” cookies that were recently on the cover of Martha Stewart Living – perfect for tomorrow’s celebrations.

Have a Happy Independence Day!

sugar cookies, royal icing

sugar cookies, royal icing

sugar cookies, royal icing

sugar cookies, royal icing

sugar cookies, royal icing

Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing
decoration inspired by Martha Stewart Living

Sugar Cookies:
½ c. butter, room temp
1 c. sugar (200 g.)
2 c. sifted flour (8 oz.)
¼ t. salt
½ t. baking powder
1 egg
½ t. vanilla

flour for dipping cutters

Royal Icing:
2 egg whites, room temp (from your frozen stash, of course…..)
½ t. cream of tartar
2 t. water
1 lb. confectioners’ sugar

red and blue food coloring

Make cookie dough:  Cream butter and sugar. Sift dry ingredients together and add to the butter mixture, beating well. Add the egg and vanilla and beat again until well mixed. Divide the dough into two even pieces; roll each half between two pieces of parchment paper to 1/4″ thick. Cut dough into circles (dipping your cutter in flour between cuts) and freeze for at least 30 minutes.

Pre-heat oven to 350.

Place one sheet of dough onto a cutting board – remove both pieces of parchment paper. Using a thin spatula, carefully transfer cookies to your baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes, till lightly browned around the edges. Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

Re-roll scraps until you’ve used up all of the dough.

Make royal icing: Place all of the ingredients in mixing bowl. Beat on low till blended, then increase speed to medium high till icing runs in thick ribbons when beater is raised (the consistency should be that of white glue). You can add more sugar if the icing is not stiff enough, or a few drops of water if it is too stiff.

Take 2/3 of the icing and place in a squeeze bottle or a pastry bag fitted with a small tip (size 2). Divide the remaining icing in half and tint one half red and the other half blue. Transfer to squeeze bottles or pastry bags fitted with very small tips (size 0).

To decorate: Starting with the white icing, pipe a ring about 1/4″ from the outer edge of the cookie. Immediately fill in (or “flood”) with more icing. Then, starting with the red or blue icing, pipe a dot in the center. Pipe concentric rings around the dot (in alternating or the same colors as the dot). Using a toothpick and starting in the center dot, drag through the icing to create a starburst pattern. You can go around the cookie in the same or opposite directions, or curve the tip as you drag for a pinwheel effect.

Repeat with remaining cookies, allowing icing to dry completely before storing or serving (to store, place in layers separated by wax paper in an airtight container for up to 3 days).

1. Cookie dough can be made in advance – up to 5 days in the refrigerator and up to 1 month frozen (thaw before using).
2. Royal icing can also be made in advance – up to 2 weeks. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap to prevent drying out. Stir icing prior to using (do not rebeat).
3. To tint royal icing, I prefer paste or gel food colors over the liquid version sold in the supermarket. Paste colors are highly concentrated, and result in deep, vibrant colors. You can find them in most craft and party stores, or on-line .

(print this recipe)

This delicious recipe brought to you by Sheri Silver


  1. mary cohen on September 18, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    Will you be posting the recipe for the cookies in “A Proper Goodbye?” They are so pretty.
    Thank. you

    • sheri silver on September 18, 2011 at 8:57 pm

      Thank you! Yes, soon!

  2. Sarah BB @ East9thStreet on January 24, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    You made this look so simple! Definitely on my to-do list and I’m pinning it!

    • sheri silver on January 24, 2012 at 10:16 pm

      Thanks so much! Super easy, promise (send me a picture if you make them!) 🙂

  3. Eve on February 20, 2012 at 10:33 am

    SO awesome!!! You’ve got mad baking skills and I’d love to have you guest post on Mama’s Hungry! Check it out! (

    • sheri silver on February 20, 2012 at 1:36 pm

      Thank you so much! Will check it out right now and would LOVE to guest post (will have to work on my mad “funny” skills, though………) 🙂

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