Easy Easter sugar cookies decorated with royal icing. These sweet and buttery, vanilla-flavoured cookies are crispy around the edges and soft in the middle. They will make a delicious and lovely looking treat for family and friends during Easter holidays.
Decorating these cut out cookies is a fun part for kids and adults alike, and using the coloured royal icing will make them stand out and become an eye-catching treat, which is also perfect for gifting.
What I love most about the sugar cookies, other than delicious flavour and cute design, is how versatile they are. You can use this cookie/ biscuit dough as a base for any seasonal or special occasion bake. I use this very same dough recipe in my Valentine's Heart Sandwich Cookies and in my Birthday Sugar Cookies.
By using different shapes of cookie cutters you can turn them into Easter, Christmas, Valentines, Halloween (check out this fun Candy Corn Sugar Cookies recipe) or any other in-between celebration. The dough is quick and easy to make, it can also be made well in advance and it is suitable for freezing.
Here are the simple ingredients you will need to make these sugar cookies and icing:
- Flour - Use plain / all purpose flour.
- Sugar - I like to use the white caster sugar, but you can also use granulated or golden caster sugar.
- Butter - Unsalted butter at room temperature.
- Vanilla - Use good quality vanilla extract to add hints of flavour to the cookies.
- Egg - One large egg at room temperature.
- Baking Powder
I'm using the royal icing coloured with pretty pastel food gel colourings to decorate the cookies with. The icing is sturdy enough to be used for drawing the border lines as well as for 'flooding' the cookies.
To make the royal icing, you will need:
Royal icing sugar - Make sure to sift the sugar before. This will get rid of any lumps and bumps. Check out the 'Substitutions' part below for the alternatives, if no royal icing sugar is available.
Food colouring gels - I recommend using gel food colouring and not the liquid food colouring. The colour in gel ones is much more concentrated than in liquid, so you will need much less of it. Adding liquid to the icing will change the consistency of it, and it may simply become too runny/ watery.
Watch the video in the recipe card to see how I made these cookies!
Start by creaming the butter for a couple of minutes until it is pale and fluffy. Add the sugar and continue to whisk for another couple of minutes. Next, add an egg, vanilla and the dry ingredients. Mix until all ingredients are well combined.
Divide the dough into two equal parts. Place a silicone mat or a sheet of baking paper/ parchment paper on a flat working surface which has been lightly floured. Roll the dough into at least 5mm thick, and transfer it into the fridge for at least a couple of hours, or ideally to chill overnight (just make sure to cover the top of the dough with some baking paper or clingfilm to stop it from drying).
Once the dough is chilled enough, use cookie cutters to cut the desired shapes and transfer them into baking sheets. Re-roll any scraps of the cookie dough and repeat, until you used all of it.
Bake them for about 10 minutes. They are ready when the edges are just starting to brown up.
Hint: If the dough becomes too soft to handle, simply place it back in the fridge for 30-40 minutes. You can also cut out the desired shapes from the chilled dough, transfer the cookies into the baking sheet, and then into the fridge for an additional chilling time. This will prevent them even further from spreading and loosing their shapes.
When the cookies are completely cool, you can start decorating them with the royal icing. As mentioned before, this icing is great, because it allows you to use it for drawing the borders and for filling the cookies.
Prepare the different colours of icing by mixing it with few drops of the food colouring gels, then transfer each colour into its own piping bag. Snip the very tip of each bag to create a small opening. You can also fit each piping bag with a small, thin, round piping nozzle, but it is not necessary.
Firstly, you want to draw a border line around the edges of each cookie. It is easier to draw the borders in the whole batch first, allow it to dry and then start to flood them with more icing. When flooding the cookies with icing, work from one end of the cookie to another (top to bottom or bottom to top), or fill it from the edges towards the centre, rather than doing it in random pattern.
Use the toothpick or a skewer to spread the icing towards any edges that you have missed, and tap each cookie gently few times against the surface (or give it a very gentle shake), to distribute the icing evenly on the surface.
Allow the icing to dry completely before adding another colour or detail into the cookie. You can also draw the eyes with black food colouring gel if you'd like.
Sugar - If no caster sugar, feel free to use granulated sugar instead.
Vanilla extract - Can be swapped for almond extract.
Large egg - You can use medium egg too.
Royal icing sugar - If no royal icing sugar is available, you can use the combination of traditional icing / powdered sugar and meringue powder. That is what you will see me using in the video below. Use 480g of icing sugar mixed with 3 tablespoon of meringue powder and about 9-10 tablespoon of room temperature water.
Alternatively, if you don't have any meringue powder (you can find it online or in special baking ingredients shops), you can also make your own royal icing with raw or powdered egg whites. To do so, mix 460g of icing sugar with 6 tablespoon of raw egg whites (roughly about 3 egg whites). Use an electric mixer to beat the ingredients together for about 4-5 minutes on medium speed. Add food colouring to the icing as desired.
Dairy-free sugar cookies - Check out this Dairy-Free Sugar Cookies recipe from Clean Eating Kitchen blog.
Gluten free cookies - Use good quality gluten free flour instead of the plain flour. Make sure the baking powder is also gluten free.
Plain cookies - You can also enjoy these easter cookies plain, without the icing on top. They are equally delicious on their own!
Add a different flavour - Swap the vanilla extract for almond, lemon or orange extract instead. Add some freshly grated lemon or orange zest to the cookie dough for an extra flavour.
Chocolate dipped cookies - Instead of adding the icing, why not dip the cookies in some melted dark or milk chocolate? You can also add some sprinkles on top of chocolate for an extra decoration.
- Freestanding or handheld electric mixer.
- Rolling pin.
- Baking paper.
- Silicone mat (optional).
- Cookie cutters (I used Easter egg, bunny and chick shaped cutters).
- Piping bags (alternatively you can also use zip-lock style bags with one of the corners cut off).
- Toothpicks or skewers.
Storage & Freezing
You can store plain or decorated cookies in the airtight container for up to 6-7 days at room temperature. Plain or decorated cookies are also suitable for freezing, for up to 3 months.
If freezing cookies decorated with icing, make sure to allow the icing to dry out completely. Layer the cookies between baking paper and place in the freezer-friendly container. Thaw them at room temperature overnight.
Cookie dough can also be frozen for up to 3 months. Divide the cookie dough in half, as per the recipe instructions. Flatten each half into a disc, then wrap in a double layer of clingfilm and freeze. Thaw the cookie dough in the fridge, then bring to room temperature for about 45 minutes and roll into the recommended thickness (about 5mm). Place back in the fridge for an hour before cutting into shapes and baking.
Royal icing can be made 2-3 days ahead of time. Transfer it into smaller bowl or container and seal it well before placing it in the fridge. Bring it to room temperature before using it. Whisk it few times, as it may have separated a little. You can also add few drops of water to loosen it up.
You can also freeze this icing for up to 3 months. Transfer the royal icing into a zip lock style bag and squeeze as much air out of the bag as possible. Thaw it in the fridge overnight or at room temperature.
What's the difference between royal icing and glaze icing?
Glaze icing is made with only two ingredients: icing/ powdered sugar and water. It is softer and more prone to cracking, while the royal icing is harder and much sturdier, as it also contains powdered egg whites. Both types of icing can be used for decorating purposes, but royal icing will produce shinier, thicker and neater results. Royal icing also sets noticeably quicker than glaze icing, and it is less sweet in comparison to glaze.
Can I use glaze icing on these cookies instead then?
You can, just be aware that glaze icing will look different. It is thinner and more watery, so you won't get the same amount of detail with it.
What is the meringue powder?
Meringue powder is a special ingredient made of a mixture of dried/ powdered egg whites, cornflour, sugar, citric acid and some other preservatives. It is often used in baking and creating decorations like royal icing and stabilizing frostings.
Is meringue powder same as powdered egg white?
No, they are slightly different. Powdered egg white is exactly just that, a dried out and powered egg white. Meringue powder has other additives in it, as explained above. In my personal experience, you can make royal icing with either of them.
Help, my dough is too sticky to handle!
Add a little bit more flour (only about a tablespoon at a time) to the dough. You can also place the dough in the fridge before and after rolling it into the recommended thickness. Rolling the dough between two sheets of baking paper will also prevent it from sticking to the rolling pin and to the surface. You can also roll the dough directly onto the silicone baking tray.
How can I make sure my dough is rolled to the even thickness?
Use a special rolling pin, which allows you to adjust and set the desired thickness for the dough. You can be purchase them online or in shops with baking equipment.
My cookies didn't hold their shape, why is that?
This is likely due to the cookie dough not being chilled enough. Allowing the dough to chill for at least couple of hours (or ideally overnight) will solidify the butter. This will help your cookies to hold their shape while they are baking, and will stop them from spreading too much in the oven.
If the dough is too sticky to roll it, place it in the fridge for 30min - 1hour.
Working with smaller amount of cookie dough will make the process much easier. Make sure that any dough that you are currently NOT working with is kept in the fridge until you need it.
Rotate the baking trays/ baking sheets with your cookies half way through their baking time. This way they will bake more evenly, and you will avoid your cookies drying out or browning too much on one side.
Keep the tip of the piping bags with icing clean between decorating each cookie.
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Easter Sugar Cookies
- hand-held electric mixer or freestanding mixer with the paddle attachment
- mixing bowls
- 2 Baking trays / baking sheets
- Cookie cutters
- Baking paper or baking silicone mat
- Piping bags
- Toothpicks or skewers
For the sugar cookies:
- 280 g plain, all purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 170 g unsalted butter softened
- 150 g caster or granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the icing:
- 500 g royal icing sugar, sifted *check notes for the alternatives
- 9- 10 tablespoon room temperature water
For the cookies:
- In a medium bowl mix together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside
- In a bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter on a medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add sugar and and cream together for about 2 more minutes. Add an egg and vanilla and beat on high speed until well combined. Make sure to scrape the sides and the bottom of the bowl as and when needed.
- Add the flour mix into the butter mixture and mix on low speed until combined.
- Divide the dough into two equal parts. Place a sheet of the baking paper or a silicone mat on a flat working surface and lightly dust it with flour. Place one half of the dough onto the baking paper/ silicone mat, and cover it with another sheet of baking paper. Roll the dough between sheets of baking paper to about 5mm thickness. Transfer the rolled dough into the fridge (if stacking one on top of each other, make sure to cover the top one with some baking paper too, so it doesn't dry out). Chill for at least 1-2 hours or ideally, overnight.
- Once chilled, preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan). Line the baking trays with some baking paper. Remove one of he pre-rolled dough pieces from the fridge. Using your favourite cookie cutters, cut the desired shapes. Re-roll any remaining dough and repeat until you have used all of the dough. Do the same with the second piece of the chilled dough.
- Transfer the cookies onto baking tray and bake in the middle shelf of the oven for about 10 minutes, rotating the tray half way through. They are ready when the edges are turning lightly brown. Take out of the oven, and allow them to cool for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
For the royal icing:
- In a bowl of a standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment or hand-held electric mixer with beaters, place the sugar and water and mix together for about 2 minutes until well combined. When lifting the whisk up of the icing, the icing should drizzle down and smooth out within 10- 12 seconds ('draw' a line with the dripping icing, if it disappears after 10-12 seconds and melts back into the rest of the icing, you are good to go).
- If the icing is too thick, add a bit more water, only about a teaspoon at a time. If the icing is too thin, add a little more sifted royal icing sugar.
- Divide the icing between the bowls and add few drops of gel food colouring to them. Using a toothpick or a skewer (different toothpick for each colour), mix the icing until you reach the desired colour. Transfer the royal icing into piping bags and snip the very tip of each piping bag.
- Draw the border lines around all of the cookies and allow it to dry for few minutes. When ready, start to 'flood' the cookies with the icing. Try to work in top-to-bottom or edges towards the centre motion, rather than doing it at random order. Use a toothpick or a skewer to fill any gaps in icing. Once you finished filling the cookie with the icing, tap the cookie gently few times, to spread the icing in an equal layer. Allow the icing to dry completely, before adding another layer or more details into the cookies.
Please note that all my recipes are developed and tested in metric grams. I recommend that you use digital scales for a more accurate results. I have provided a conversion to US customary in the recipe but please note that I haven’t tested using this method.
- If no royal icing sugar is available, use 480g of the traditional icing / powdered sugar mixed with 3 tablespoon of meringue powder and 9-10 tablespoon of room temperature water. You can also make your own royal icing sugar with raw egg whites. Simply mix 460g of sifted icing sugar with 6 tablespoon of egg whites (about 3 raw egg whites).
- Rolling the dough between sheets of baking paper will prevent it from sticking. If the dough feels too sticky to handle, place it in the fridge for 30- 40 minutes.
- You can fit piping bags with very thin, round nozzles to decorate the cookies, but it is not necessary.
- If not using the nozzles, snip each piping bag at a very tip of it. You want a very tiny opening that will create thin flow.
- Allow the cookies to cool down completely before decorating.
- Allow the icing to dry before adding any more detail made out of icing again.
This recipe was originally published in March 2020. It has been updated with the new photos, video, revised recipe and tips in March 2022.