Design to Dish: Painted Heart Sugar Cookies

I’ve fallen in love! While browsing Minted’s selection of classroom Valentines with my kids, I spotted these darling striped heart cards and fell head-over-heels. They’re cute enough for the classroom, but sophisticated enough to give to grown-up friends. In fact, I’m ordering some to tuck into little Valentine’s Day treats I’m sending to friends across the country.

minted classroom valentines heart sugar cookies Layered Heart Classroom Valentines by Amber Barkley; Painted Heart Sugar Cookies (recipe below)

Sugar cookies are particularly addicting and heart-shaped ones are perfect for Valentine’s Day. When I saw these striped heart Valentines, I immediately wanted to make cookies that looked just like them. Painted sugar cookies look really beautiful and fun, and they’re surprisingly easy to make. The instructions may seem long but they’re detailed, not difficult. Make sure you leave yourself plenty of time to make these—there are a couple of steps that involve some waiting time.

Click through for the cookie recipe and directions on how to paint them

minted classroom valentines painted heart sugar cookies

Painted Heart Sugar Cookies
Makes 2 dozen 3″ cookies
This recipe is great because the cookies taste scrumptious and hold their shape really well. 

14 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
Pinch of salt
3 cups flour

Cream together the butter, sugar, and vanilla. Beat in the egg and salt until well combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Add the flour and mix on low until dough forms. Knead into a ball and divide into 2 pieces. Roll out each portion between parchment paper to a thickness of about 1/4″. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Once chilled, peel off parchment and place dough on a lightly floured surface. Cut out hearts with a 3″ heart-shaped cookie cutter. Re-roll scraps as needed until all dough is used up. Arrange hearts on parchment-lined baking sheets and refrigerate for another 30 minutes to an hour. Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake until cookies are set but not turning golden, about 10 minutes. If you see the edges beginning to brown, pull them out immediately. Allow to cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Cool completely before icing.

Royal Icing
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, plus another 1-2 tablespoons
2 large egg whites
2 tsp lemon juice

Beat egg whites with lemon juice until combined. Add 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar. Beat on low until combined and smooth. Scoop about 1/2 cup icing into a small bowl, and add enough powdered sugar to thicken it to the point where it will hold it’s shape when piped. This smaller, thicker portion of icing is for outlining the hearts with a pastry bag and piping tip. The rest is for flooding, or covering the outlined area with icing. Scoop the thicker icing into a pastry bag fitted with a round piping tip, the kind you would use to write Happy Birthday on a cake. Pipe a heart onto each heart cookie. Stay about 1/8″ away from the edges and use firm, steady pressure to squeeze the bag. After you’ve outlined each heart, fill it in with the thinner frosting. I just used a small spoon to scoop icing and pour it into the outlined area. Allow the icing to set completely before painting. I let mine sit out overnight uncovered and they were perfect the next morning.

Painting the Cookies
Gel food coloring
Vodka or any clear food extract
Thin-tipped paint brush

Use a toothpick to scoop a small blob of gel food coloring out of the container; place it on a waterproof surface like a dinner plate or a piece of foil or some freezer paper. Pour a few teaspoons of vodka or extract into a small bowl. To paint, simple wet your brush with the alcohol, dab it on the colored gel, and paint! It works just like the watercolors you used as a kid. Make sure you rinse the brush really well with water and dry it off between colors. Allow the cookies to dry before eating or packaging or giving.

Tips for painting on royal icing:
• I picked my ugliest cookie and use it to experiment with my colors. Some colors, like the pink, were much brighter than I wanted, so I dabbed the wet brush on the gel very lightly. Other colors, like the red, were pretty pale, so I tried to pick up lots of color with my brush. Each color is a little different, so spend a few minutes experimenting before you begin in earnest.
• Yes, you can actually just use water instead of alcohol to wet your paintbrush. But I found that the results were much more intensely colored and stayed oddly shiny, even after drying, when I tried using water. It just wasn’t the look I was going for. And if you use water, the paint takes much, much longer to dry. The whole point of using alcohol (or something alcohol based) is that the alcohol will evaporate (dry off) really quickly.
• Vodka is great because it doesn’t impart any flavor to the cookies, but any clear, alcohol-based food extract will work just as well. And you’re using such minuscule amounts that you really won’t notice much of a change in flavor. I used clear lemon extract, and I couldn’t tell at all. The finished cookies did not taste lemony to me at all, and the only comment I got about the flavor was from my mom who wondered if there was something vaguely lemony about the cookies. I’d love to try peppermint on some holiday cookies to see if it would be noticeable.
• If you don’t have the exact color of gel food coloring that you want, you can always mix your own colors. Just use a little dab of each gel and mix them on your plate the way an artist would mix paint on a palette.

paint on royal icing sugar cookies valentines hearts

More Easy Recipe Ideas:
Homemade Blood-Orange Sherbet
• Pink and Blue Oreo Pops
• The Best Red-Velvet Cupcakes
• Crispy Sweet Potato Fries (with printable cone!)

Find more of Melissa on her blog.

  1. Annie


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