Always a favorite on holiday tables, sugar cookies look especially cheerful with this festive stacked display.
Back in the day all recipes were done by hand, so it’s fine if you don’t have an electric mixer. (We’re big fans of whisks.) It will take a bit more time, but you get a nice arm workout!
Not sure how tall 1/8 inch thickness is? It’s about the height of two quarters stacked. Your cookie thickness should be just a tiny bit higher than the quarters.
Use royal icing immediately or it will harden. As you transfer the icing to a piping bag, cover the bowl with plastic wrap to prevent drying.
Confectioner's sugar is used to "flour" your surface in this recipe! That's because sugar cookies bake best without added flour, or gluten, when being rolled and shaped.
Cookies will keep for up to 2 weeks; cover with foil or place in an air-tight container.
Wow, you’ve got some beautiful ingredients! Once you’ve unpacked your Red Velvet kit, take out 1 egg from your refrigerator. Let butter come to room temperature. Preheat oven to 325°F. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, cream together the butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and half of the vanilla extract (save the rest for step 4). Slowly add in the flour mixture and mix with a spatula until combined.
Divide dough in half and pat to flatten into 2 disks. Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze until firm, at least 20 minutes. (Or, place in fridge overnight.) Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper provided. Remove one disk from freezer or fridge, then second when ready. Dust a work surface with confectioner’s sugar provided for surface prep. Using a rolling pin, roll out dough to 1/8 inch thick. With cookie cutters, stamp out 36 stars, 6 of each size. Using a metal spatula or your hands, carefully transfer to prepared baking sheets and chill in the fridge for 10 minutes. Repeat until scraps are used up.
Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until slightly golden, 10 to 18 minutes. Note: some of the smaller cookies will bake faster than the larger ones. You can remove them from the baking tray, and put it back in for another few minutes if the larger ones are not yet done. Cool completely on wire racks.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the confectioner’s sugar and meringue powder. Add the remaining vanilla extract. Add 3 tablespoons of lukewarm water, 1 tablespoon at a time. The icing will start out thick and lumpy. Slowly add 1 more tablespoon of water (you may not need all of it) until the icing resembles thick honey. Continue to whisk for 2 to 3 minutes until thick and fluffy.
Using a spatula, fill the piping bag with royal icing. To fill the bag, fold over the top to form a cuff, scoop in frosting, then unfold and twist to push frosting down, releasing any air bubbles. Twist and seal the top of the bag. When you’re ready to pipe, cut a tiny corner off the piping bag. This will be about 1/4 inch from the tip. (Start very small with a test). Decorate cookies! Use royal icing to pipe icing patterns on cookies. Let dry for a few hours before constructing your “tree”.
Construct a cookie “tree” by using two layers of three cookies each. Start by placing three of the largest size on your serving plate, then top with three more of the same size, staggered so that all cookies are visible. Repeat with remaining cookies until you have a cookie stack. You can also use royal icing to glue each piece together for a permanent seal. Add final silver pearl and/or red sanding sugar decorations to the cookie stack. Allow to dry for a few hours. Break off and enjoy!