special equipment: Assorted geometric-shaped cookie cutters
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Royal Icing (see below for recipe)
Food coloring in assorted colors
Colored sanding sugars (I like India Tree brand)
White sugar pearls for decorating (I like Wilton brand)
Silver dragees for decorating
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the granulated sugar with the butter until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until well combined. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture, and mix until a dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and divide it into quarters. Form each quarter into a 5-inch disk. Wrap each disk with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thick. Using the geometric-shaped cookie cutters, cut out whatever shapes you like and transfer them to 2 parchment-lined baking sheets. Leave at least 1 inch space between the cookies. Bake until the edges are golden brown, 7 to 10 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack and let them cool completely. Decorate the cookies using the Royal Icing (see below), sanding sugars, sugar pearls, and dragees.
Makes 3 cups
1 box confectioner’s sugar (1 pound), 2 large egg whites, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract.
In the large bowl of an electric mixer, combine the egg whites and vanilla and beat until frothy. Slowly mix in the confectioners’ sugar and mix on low speed until the sugar is incorporated and the mixture is glossy. Increase the speed to high and beat until the mixture forms stiff peaks, about 5 minutes. For a thinner consistency, add water one tablespoon at a time. Separate the mixture into small bowls and add food coloring as desired. The icing can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
When you’re ready to apply the icing, transfer each colored icing to a disposable pastry bag fitted with a round tip (such as Wilton No. 3).