Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Cookie Party v.2.0 - Frosted Sugar Cookies

For the past several years, my friend Kristi has thrown a cookie making/decorating party for the ladies of Capitol Hill. And let me tell you, when it comes to throwing a cookie party, this girl is a veritable Martha Stewart. She orders adorable invitations (remember those? before evites?), prepares the cookie dough in individual portions, whips up loads of different colored icing in piping bags, has more cookie cutters than probably Martha herself and just generally knows how to make people feel welcome (usually with warm drinks and fudge). Last year, I braved one of the worst storms in DC history just to make it to Kristi's cookie party.

Since last December, however, Kristi has - gasp - moved off the Hill (i.e., out of the Capitol Hill neighborhood). In all fairness, it was Kristi's first chance to live with her new husband, who had been either deployed or stationed out of town until then, so we don't blame her. In any event, since everyone else still lives on the Hill, this year she asked if I would co-host by having the party at my place so that people wouldn't have to travel as far. No problem . . . but could I live up to the legend? Just kidding. I didn't have to live up to anything except a clean house, because Kristi still handled everything (she's a great co-host!). 

I did make some delicious mulled cider and shared my 4 holiday cookie cutters.

In past years, everyone would get a mound of unrolled dough, but this year, Kristi decided to roll out the dough in advance and store it in the fridge between parchment paper. She gets more advanced every year.

Erica brought this fancy-pants decorating sugar that I LOVED. I had to refrain from pouring it all over every single cookie.

Look at that smile on Laura's face! So fun right?

Until it turned into a cookie making sweat shop. Kristi may think twice about having it at my house next year.
Kirsten was churning them out like a pro.

Laurel made a sheriff's badge for her boyfriend Phil who likes to think he's in charge. (Not really, but looks like it, right?)

Suzanne brought the newest addition to their family, Beck, who was a perfect little angel the whole afternoon. He even assisted with some of the more detailed cookies.

Snowman on steroids?

Amy took a more minimalist approach (she's a doctor for goodness sake - they don't have time for frills).

Some beautiful finished products from the cookie party queen herself.

Since I didn't make these cookies, I don't have an official recipe to share, but I have picked up some pointers watching Kristi over the years. She starts with the "No Fail Sugar Cookies" recipe, which is praised by bakers across the internet (though I know she has also eyeballed the Alton Brown recipe, which is slightly different). Recipe is as follows for 4 to 5 dozen cookies:

This is a big batch, even for a standard Kitchenaid mixer. You may want to mix the dough in two halves.

6 cups flour
3 tsp. baking powder
2 cups butter
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract 
1 tsp. salt

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix well. Mix dry ingredients and add a little at a time to butter mixture. Mix until flour is completely incorporated and the dough comes together.

Put a handful of the freshly made dough between two sheets of parchment paper and roll to desired thickness. Repeat with the rest of the dough. Put the rolled dough, including the parchment paper, on a cookie sheet and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.  

Immediately out of the fridge, cut dough into shapes with your favorite holiday cookie cutters (if the dough is sticking, it has gotten too warm; put it back in the fridge for a bit). For intricately shaped cookies or for dough that has gotten warm, place tray of cookie shapes back in the fridge before baking (otherwise your cookies will spread and lose their shape in the baking process). The key to success in every step is cold dough!

Bake on ungreased baking sheet at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes or until just beginning to turn brown around the edges. 

Icing: I'm not sure how Kristi prepares the icing. It's top secret. But the standard recipe for royal icing, the kind that will harden on your sugar cookies, is as follows (from Alton Brown):

3 large pasteurized egg whites
1 tsp. vanilla extract 
4 cups confectioners' sugar 
gel paste food coloring

Combine egg whites and vanilla with a mixer until frothy. Add confectioners sugar gradually and mix on low speed until sugar is incorporated and mixture is shiny. Turn speed up to high and beat until mixture forms stiff, gloss peaks (5 to 7 minutes). Add food coloring, if desired. Transfer icing to ziplock bags or closed tip pastry bags so that you can keep the icing from the air until ready for use (air will cause the icing to harden). Icing can be stored in refrigerator for up to 3 days. If using pastry bags, fold ends over tightly and store in airtight container. When ready for use, snip the corner and pipe onto cookies.

For thinner icing that will coat or "flood" the cookies more easily, add extra water to the icing before storing in pastry bag, or spread icing on cookies with a knife that has been dipped in water.

OR (if you're not cool with raw eggs or have pregnant ladies in attendance):

3 tbs. meringue powder
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 cups confectioners sugar
6 tbs. warm water
gel food coloring

Using an electric mixer, beat the confectioners sugar and meringue powder until combined. Add water and beat on medium to high speed until very glossy and stiff peaks form (5 to 7 minutes). If necessary to get the right consistency, add more powdered sugar or water. Add food coloring and follow same storage directions as above.


  1. Thank you so much for agreeing to have us all invade your home! The cider was amazing, and you forgot to take pictures of your fabulous cookies -- you really are the queen of decorating!

    I used both of these recipes (no fail cookies & alton's royal icing), although on advice of many reviewers, I cut the baking powder to 2 tsp for the cookies. And for the royal icing, I use a carton of eggbeaters "just whites" because they are pasteurized...and already separated :)

  2. I want to come to your cookie party!! I think we dropped you off there last year on our way to the airport in the midst of the snow storm? Maybe next year, Steve's conference will fall at the right time so I can come to the 2011 cookie party!


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