To some people, frosting dozens of cut-out cookies might be stressful. But for me, it’s Zen time; this endeavor allows me to be completely focused on one task. And that task, when complete, will bring joy to others. It’s a win-win for my mental health, I’d say.
Yesterday I baked a batch of pumpkin-shaped cut-outs for Halloween and decided to frost them with various shades of orange, along with green and white. They turned out really well, and Mike will take them to work tomorrow for his colleagues to enjoy. Granted, I’m keeping a few back for us – I think the green ones are my favorites.
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
- 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, yellow, red, moss green, and brown gel food coloring
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. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper.
Roll dough to 1/8 inch thickness and cut into desired shapes; I used large, medium, and small pumpkin-shaped cutters. Be sure to bake like-sized shapes on one sheet – otherwise you’ll have an uneven bake.
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.
Tint to your desired shades; I used a very light orange with just one drop of orange coloring, then darker shades that blended yellow, red, and brown into the already-orange frosting. For the stem colors, use brown for some and moss green for others; the green pumpkins are tinted with a generous amount of moss green coloring.
Frost to look like pumpkins, using your knife to make the ridges. Allow icing to set before storing cookies between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight container. Makes about 5 dozen, depending on the size of your cutters.