I wish I had artistic talent. I wish I could draw pretty pictures or paint beautiful landscapes. I’m always amazed by people who can sit and sketch out incredible pictures without even looking at anything as a reference. And those people who can just swipe paint on a canvas and suddenly have a breathtaking scene? My “happy little trees” would end up looking like a 3 year old’s abstract art. Sadly, the best I can do is draw stick figures and color within the lines of my Hello Kitty coloring book. I missed the boat on the true talent. But there is one thing that makes me feel like I could be an artist too. Sugar cookies.
With our brand new KitchenAid mixer and my trusty Martha Stewart Baking Handbook, cut out sugar cookies with royal icing were the first things I mastered when I started baking. They’re my pride and joy, the one thing I feel I do fairly well. I love making tiny little masterpieces with a couple (hundred) cookie cutters, some sugar, a set of piping tips, and a bit of food coloring. I used to make them for every holiday, every party, or any occasion that could be celebrated with cookies. They’ve even won me a 2nd place ribbon at the Ohio State Fair! But lately, I just haven’t had time to make them. With all the rolling, cutting, baking, piping, flooding, and drying, these aren’t just whip up a batch kind of cookies. These are cookies that take planning and days worth of devoted time. Time that I can’t seem to find anymore. But I couldn’t just give up on my beloved works of art. So this year, I found a shortcut. A still beautiful, still delicious shortcut. This year, I used fondant on my cookies.
No piping, no flooding, no waiting for icing to dry. You don’t even have to roll out and cut the dough! Just make some of your favorite sugar cookies, whip up some buttercream, grab some pre-made fondant at the store, some small 2-inch festive cookie cutters, and some confetti sprinkles, and you’re on your way to gorgeous cookies in a fraction of the time. Heck, they even make fondant in multicolor packs now so you don’t even have to mess with food coloring! Cut out the fondant shapes while your cookies are baking and cooling to speed up the decorating process even more! Once the cookies are cooled, slather with a thin layer of buttercream (I made peppermint) and plop those beautiful decorations right on top. How pretty would these look on a plate at your holiday party? Or next to a glass of milk for Santa?
Don’t have time to spare for fondant? No worries. Roll the cookies in red or green sanding sugar instead. They’ll look just as pretty!
Note: If you’re not serving the fondant covered cookies immediately, store them between layers of parchment paper in a cool dry place so your decorations don’t end up looking all melty.
Adapted from Heavenly Housewife
Makes about 3 dozen
2 ¾ cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Colored sanding sugar for rolling (optional)
Peppermint buttercream (optional)
Fondant decorations (optional)
1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until combined. Add vanilla. Gradually stir in flour mixture until combined. Refrigerate dough for 2 hours, or until firm.
3. Preheat oven to 400F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking liners. Using a heaping teaspoon or 1-inch cookie scoop, shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in sanding sugar, if using, then place on prepared baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Flatten slightly with the bottom of a glass or the palm of your hand. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until lightly browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Let cookies cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
4. Once cooled, if decorating with fondant decorations, spread a thin layer of buttercream in the center of cookie. Place fondant decorations on top and press down slightly to adhere. Serve immediately, or store between layers of parchment paper in a cool dry place for up to 2 days.