When a small conversation heart just won't do, try making these conversation heart sugar cookies! These large sugar cookies are buttery and soft, with sweet royal icing decorations that make them look just like oversized conversation hearts! They make adorable gifts for Valentine's Day - consider personalizing them and gifting them to your nearest and dearest!
- For the Sugar Cookies:
- 4 1/2 cups/20.25 ounces all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter (at room temperature)
- 1 3/4 cups sugar
- 2 large eggs (at room temperature)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (can substitute lemon or almond extract)
- 2 tablespoons buttermilk (can substitute regular milk)
- For the Royal Icing:
- 4 tablespoons meringue powder
- 1/2 cup water
- 4 cups/1 pound powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon light corn syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract (can substitute lemon or clear vanilla extract)
- 1 tub gel food coloring
Note: while there are multiple steps to this recipe, this Valentine's day dessert is broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for preparation and baking.
To Make the Sugar Cookies:
In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt, and set aside for now.
In the bowl of a large stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the butter and sugar, and mix everything together on medium speed until fluffy and well-mixed.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, then add the vanilla extract and buttermilk.
With the mixer running on low, add the dry ingredients, and mix until they're just about incorporated.
Stop the mixer when only a few streaks of flour remain. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl with a spatula, and finish mixing all the dough by hand.
Divide the dough in half and press each into a thin disc, wrapping well with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firmer but not hard, about 30 minutes.
When you’re ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 F.
Place a disc of dough between two sheets of parchment or waxed paper, and roll out until it is 1/4-inch thick. Use a 3 1/2-inch heart cookie cutter to cut out your cookies and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Combine the scraps and re-roll the dough to cut more cookies. You should get about 24 large heart cookies. Put the sheet in the freezer for 10 minutes before baking to help the cookies hold their shape.
Bake the trays of cookies for 10 to 12 minutes, until the edges are just starting to take on color and they have lost the raw shine in the middle.
Let the cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then remove them to wire racks to cool completely before decorating them.
Combine the meringue powder and water in the bowl of a large stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix them together on medium-low speed until frothy.
Add the powdered sugar, corn syrup, and flavoring extract, and mix on low until the powdered sugar is moistened.
Turn the mixer speed to medium and beat for 5 minutes, until the royal icing is shiny, stiff, and voluminous.
Decide how many icing colors you want, and divide the icing into that many bowls. Add a few drops of gel food coloring to each bowl of icing, stir well, and add more as desired. Be aware that royal icing tends to darken a bit as it dries, so if you want pretty pastel colors like conversation hearts, keep that in mind and don’t add too much coloring.
Fit a piping bag with a small round tip (I recommend a #2 tip) and fill it half-full of one of the colors. Decide how many cookies you want to make in that color. Draw a thin outline with the royal icing around the outside of each cookie.
Squeeze any remaining icing from the bag back into the bowl, and thin out the icing by adding a teaspoon of water and stirring. Continue to add water, a little bit at a time, until the icing flows thickly like corn syrup. This thinner icing will be used to “flood” the inside of the cookie.
Put the thinned icing back into the piping bag and pipe it in the center of your icing outline, going all the way to the edge. If you miss any spots, use the tip of the piping bag to nudge the icing into place, or use a toothpick to smooth out any rough lines.
Repeat the process until all of the cookies are decorated with royal icing. Let them sit out overnight to dry before decorating or storing them.
Once dry, use a food coloring marker to write short conversation heart-inspired phrases on them.
- For the best results, the royal icing on the cookies needs to dry overnight before you package, store, or decorate them. So be sure to factor this drying time into your cookie preparation.
- These conversation heart sugar cookies keep well and can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for a week.