Frosted sugar cookies are a staple on almost everyone's Christmas baking list. I've made them lots of different ways over the years but my favorite recipe is this one. These cookies bake up without changing shape so its easy to see the details from the cookie cutter. They stay fresh for quite a while and don't turn rock hard as long as you keep them in an airtight container. The almond and vanilla extracts give them great flavor without being too sweet.
Recipe slightly adapted from Annie's Eats
1 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp almond extract
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for rolling out cookies
Cream butter in a large mixing bowl on medium high speed, about two minutes. Add powdered sugar and beat until well incorporated. Add in egg, almond and vanilla extracts, and salt and mix until well incorporated. Add in flour and beat on low speed just until mixed. Transfer dough to a large sheet of plastic wrap, form into a disc and wrap well. Refrigerate dough for at least one hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or silpats. Flour counter to roll out cookies. Also flour rolling pin. Roll to approximately 1/4" thick and cut with cookie cutters as desired. Transfer cookies to prepared pans and bake about 8 - 10 minutes. Cookies should not brown. Gather scraps and re-roll. If dough becomes sticky, return to refrigerator briefly before rolling. Recipe yields about 4 dozen cookies depending on size of cookie cutters.
Recipe from Bake at 350
4 T meringue powder
Scant 1/2 cup water
1 lb powdered sugar, sifted
1 tsp corn syrup
1/4 tsp almond extract
Combine water and meringue powder in mixing bowl. You can make royal icing without a stand mixer but its a lot easier with one, your arm will get tired with a hand mixer! Beat until slightly foamy. Add powdered sugar, corn syrup and extract, beat on low speed until combined. Increase speed to medium high and beat about five minutes until stiff peaks form and icing is glossy. Divide icing into small containers to color. Add gel coloring as desired and press a piece of plastic wrap directly against the surface of the icing and cover with a lid.
To do the shimmery snowflakes, I added sanding sugar over the thinned icing after letting the cookies stand about five minutes. For the Christmas trees, I let the flood icing dry completely before piping on the swirl lines with the original outline icing. If you leave the outline icing in the piping bag, make sure you cover it with a damp towel to keep it from drying out.
This recipe should be enough for the above cookie recipe unless you need to use lots of colors/layers of icing.
See other examples here: