Piping sugar cookie dough. Sounds perplexing doesn’t it? Let me explain. I saw some beautiful Easter cookies on The Sweet Adventures of Sugar Belle. She had the lovely Miss Cuit share her method for making beautiful unfrosted sugar cookies. These were so unique, that I just had to try them! Here’s my version of those cookies, with a few extra tips and tricks.
To start, whip up a batch of your favorite sugar cookie dough minus the baking powder. Here is my favorite recipe (note the original calls for 1 tsp baking powder, but we’re omitting that today):
Mom’s Sugar Cookies
¾ cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
2 ½ cups all purpose flour
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter on low until smooth. Add the sugar and beat until combined. Add in the eggs and beat again, gradually adding in the salt and vanilla. Slowly add in the flour until combined.
A note on butter. Typically I use unsalted butter in these cookies, but oftentimes I am out, so I’ll use half salted butter and half unsalted butter and cut the salt in the recipe by half. That’s what I did today.
Dump the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into portions for tinting. I sometimes split the dough into equal portions, but this time I knew I wanted mostly white.
Tint the dough with a gel food coloring and knead it into the dough. As the dough becomes sticky, add in flour from the work surface.
At this point, form the dough into disks and chill in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours or begin working right away. I keep the colors I’m not working with in the refrigerator until I’m ready to use them.
Roll the dough to about ¼ inch thickness and cut out desired shapes. Be sure to save a small amount of the scraps for piping later on!
Note: To make the carrot shape (because who has a carrot cookie cutter anyway?) Use a large heart shaped cookie cutter, then cut the cookie in half with a sharp knife dipped in flour.
Trim edges as necessary.
As cookie sheets are filled with cookies, place them in the refrigerator to chill. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
After all of the cookies have been cut out and are chilling, start thinning the scraps to a piping consistency.
I keep about a golf ball sized amount (or less) of scraps for piping. Place each color into a small bowl. If you’re making additional colors, split the white dough into bowls as needed. I’m making some brown in addition to the other colors, so some of the white dough as some brown gel food coloring added in.
Add about 1 tablespoon of water to each bowl (less if you have a very small dough ball). Begin incorporating the water by mashing the dough with the back of a spoon.
At first the water will just tint to the color of the dough and not much will happen, but keep working.
Eventually the dough starts to break up and look chunky. Chunky dough is no good, keep stirring until it is smooth.
The color may look lighter than the original dough, but it will bake up to the correct shade!
The consistency we’re going for is soft serve ice cream. Not too runny, but not too thick. As you stir, if the dough isn’t breaking up, or is still too thick, add in more water, a teaspoon at a time.
Note: Unlike royal icing, the thinned dough is very forgiving, so if it is slightly too thick or thin, it will still work out. However if the icing is runny, it will flow out of the piping bag and spread more as it bakes.
Thin the remaining dough and place into decorating bags fitted with decorating tips. Tip sizes 1, 2, & 3 work best.
Pipe designs onto the chilled cookies as you would with frosting. Don’t worry about peaks and bumps, they will smooth out during baking.
Note: the thinner the dough, the more spread. The first time I made these cookies, I tried to pipe the carrot greens. They looked pretty when piped, but spread into very thin blobs during baking. They were also very difficult to remove from the baking sheet. The second time around, I cut out the carrot green with a small leaf cutter and only piped the detailing. Much better!
That being said, the only time that the dough is too thin is when it’s soupy or watery (think royal icing flooding consistency). Remember, the goal is soft serve ice cream consistency.
One final note on piping. I’ve noticed that the piping dough is a little harder to handle if the cookie has a lot of excess flour on top. So be sure to brush of excess flour before piping and things should go smoothly.
Bake for 10-12 minutes and voila! Beautifully decorated cookies. without frosting!