It's not difficult to use royal icing, so let me show you the way. One thing before we start is that royal icing will dry out, so you must always keep it closed and covered (I use a wet paper towel).
First of all, this is my go-to sugar cookie recipe now when I want to do cut outs (even if I'm not going to go all out and use royal icing). The one that I used growing up is awesome, but it never held its shape. So I use this one now, and I also love it because it's really soft. The one thing I moved over from my family recipe is the nutmeg. If you've never had nutmeg in your sugar cookies, I insist you try it. It's pretty much the best thing ever. Just saying. People love my sugar cookies.
Here's what you'll need to decorate these cookies:
-Two airtight containers for your icing
-Gel red food coloring
-Two piping bags
-Number 2 or 3 piping tips
-Two squeeze bottles (optional but recommended)
First you make your icing using a stand mixer and the paddle attachment. I'm sure that it would work with a hand mixer, but I've never tried it. You have to whip the frosting until it's fluffy.
While the frosting is whipping, place the cookies on a cookie sheet.
Next you divide your frosting between containers and tint it. Place some of it into piping bags--you only need to put as much in as what you'll need for piping.
Makes about 40 cookies, depending on your shape
Print this recipe
1 cup butter
1 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and powdered sugar until combined. Add in the egg and mix, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Add the vanilla, salt, and nutmeg and mix until incorporated. Add in the flour and mix until combined. Place the dough in plastic wrap and chill until firm.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
Roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thickness on a floured counter. Cut with cookie cutters and place on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes; the cookies will not brown. Remove from the pan and let cool completely before decorating.
Royal Icing Recipe
4 tablespoons meringue powder
Scant 1/2 cup water
1 pound powdered sugar, sifted
1/2-1 tablespoon corn syrup
Few drops of clear extract (I use clear vanilla)
Place the meringue powder and water in the bowl of your stand mixer. Use the paddle attachment to beat it until it's combined and foamy. Add in the sifted powdered sugar and beat on low until combined. Add in the corn syrup and extract and beat on high until the icing is thick and glossy. It should have stiff peaks. Divide the icing into bowls to tint, and make sure to keep it covered.
Cookies adapted from Annie's Eats
Icing recipe from Bake at 350
For a great decorating tutorial, check this out. For some FAQs on royal icing, check this out.