Halloween Sugar Cut-Outs

halloween-cutoutsMike loves Halloween. Each year he impresses our neighbors with elaborately carved pumpkins, and this year I decided to make him some elaborately decorated cookies. A few weeks ago I picked up a set of Halloween cookie cutters, and I chose my favorites for this job. I admit, though, that I’ll never make 15 different varieties of cut-out cookies again in one project because it literally took me all afternoon – about four hours – to decorate them all.

Tips for decorating each type of cookie appear next to their photos below, but in general, I recommend baking the same (or similar) shape cookies in each batch so you get even browning; for example, I baked pumpkins and tombstones together because they are a similar size, but I wouldn’t put bats and pumpkins on the same cookie sheet. Also, I chose this icing recipe, my grandma Zella’s original, because it yields an easily spreadable icing that sets up very well once it dries, making stacking your cookies in a container much easier.

This batch made 70 cookies (yes, almost 6 dozen). Happy Halloween!

Ingredients

For the cookies

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1-2 teaspoons water

For the frosting & decorating

  • 3 egg whites*
  • 9 tablespoons shortening
  • Dash of salt
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
  • Orange, green, yellow, brown, and black gel food coloring
  • Bat sprinkles
  • Flower-shaped sprinkles

*Your three leftover egg yolks will be great for pastry cream, which can be used for all types of other treats. If you’d like, tint it a fun Halloween color and use it in some cupcakes. 

Preparation

Stir together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.

Cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs and beat well.

Add vanilla and about half the flour mixture, beating until combined; beat in remaining flour. If necessary, add 1-2 teaspoons of water for a less crumbly dough; you’ll need a more pliable dough to roll and cut later.

Divide dough in half and knead each just slightly until dough sticks together.  Form each half into a disc and wrap in plastic.

Refrigerate until just barely firm, about 20-30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Roll dough to 1/8 inch thickness and cut into desired shapes.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, until just golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool on cookie sheets for 2-3 minutes before carefully transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

For the frosting, combine egg whites, shortening, salt, and 2 cups powdered sugar in a mixing bowl.  Beat on low speed until combined, then increase speed to medium, then high, and beat for one minute.

Add additional cup powdered sugar and beat on low speed until combined, then on high speed for one minute.

Add vanilla and almond extracts.  Beat on high speed for one or two minutes, until very well combined.

Check the frosting’s texture; it should be like very, very soft peanut butter and very easily spreadable.  If necessary, you can add one to two teaspoons of water to thin the frosting and beat well to combine

Decorating tips for each type of cookie appear below. In general, I recommend the following:

  • Tint your frosting in small batches. You’ll use several of these colors on more than one type of cookie, but you can always make more of a certain color from your main batch of white.
  • I started with the cookies that needed white bases first, then moved onto my other colors.
  • Once you’ve used your yellow for the witch brooms, you can tint whatever you have leftover orange for the pumpkins.
  • The remainder of the gray from your tombstones can become darker gray for your cauldrons.
  • The remainder of the dark gray from your cauldrons can become black for the witch hats, bats, and piping.

tombstonesTombstones

You’ll need gray frosting and black frosting, as well as black bat sprinkles.

Tint frosting gray by adding a small amount of black food coloring. Frost cookies as evenly as you can to create a smooth surface.

Tint frosting black using a generous amount of black food coloring. Fit a small but sturdy zip-top bag with a plain frosting tip and pipe letters, then add a bat to the corner of the tombstone.

 

 

 

jackolanterns

Jack-o-Lanterns

You will need orange, green, and black icing.

Frost pumpkins with orange icing, pulling your spatula or knife downward to create the pumpkin ridges.

Fit a small but sturdy zip-top bag with a plain or leaf tip, then pipe on stems.

Using black icing, pipe faces.

 

 

skullsSkulls

You will need white and black icing.

Frost cookies with white icing as evenly as you can to create a flat surface.

Using black frosting, pipe on faces.

 

 

 

 

batsBats

You will need black icing; frost to fill in the shape, then pull your spatula or knife downward to create texture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

mummiesMummies

These cookies use a coffin cutter. You will need brown and white icing.

Frost cookies with brown icing.

Fit a small but sturdy zip-top bag with white icing and pipe on mummies.

 

 

 

 

websSpiderwebs

You will need white and black icing.

Frosting cookies with white icing as evenly as you can to create a flat surface.

Pipe on webs; start with four lines that create a star shape, then fill in web strings by connecting each line.

 

 

 

pumpkinsPumpkins

You will need orange and green icing.

Frost pumpkins with orange icing, pulling your spatula or knife downward to create the pumpkin ridges.

Fit a small but sturdy zip-top bag with a plain or leaf tip, then pipe on stems.

 

 

 

cauldronsCauldrons

You will need dark gray/light black and green icing.

Frost cauldrons with dark gray icing, coming up to the top of the cauldron but leaving space in the middle for the witch’s brew.

Using green icing, pipe on witch’s brew.

 

 

 

 

candycornCandy Corn

You will need white, orange, and yellow icing.

Begin at the top with the white and frost each cookie with a band of white, orange, and yellow icing.

 

 

 

 

 

diadelosmuertosDia de los Muertos Skulls

These cookies celebrate Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, the Mexican celebration of those we’ve lost.

You will need white, black, and green icing, as well as flower sprinkles.

Frost cookies with white as evenly as you can to create a flat surface.

Using black frosting, pipe on faces and decorative swirls.

Using green frosting, outline the eyes, mouth, swirls, and edges of each cookie. Add flower sprinkles for eyes and other embellishments.

 

monstersMonsters

These cookies are a combination of spiderweb cut-outs and the scrap cookies that were left over from all of my rolling and cutting.

You will need green, orange, black, and white frosting.

Frost cookies with green, then pipe on eyes using orange and black frosting, fangs using white frosting, and fur using orange frosting.

 

 

 

broomsWitch’s Brooms

You will need yellow, brown, and orange icing.

Frost broom bottoms with yellow, pulling your spatula or knife back and forth to create the straw. Pipe on an orange line to show where the broom is gathered.

Frost broom handles with brown icing.

 

 

 

 

ghostsGhosts

You will need white and black icing.

Frost cookies with white icing, then use black icing to pipe on eyes.

 

 

 

 

 

catsCats

You will need brown and green icing.

Frost cookies with brown icing, pulling your spatula or knife back and forth to create the fur texture.

Pipe on green eyes.

 

 

 

 

hatsWitch Hats 

You will need black icing; frost hats with black and pull your spatula or knife back and forth to create a fabric texture.

 

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