love these sugar cookies. nice and soft, with a good vanilla flavor (i use 2 teaspoons of mexican vanilla instead of 1 1/2). we made some for valentine's day and topped them with buttercream frosting. royal icing is so pretty, but buttercream tastes so much better and if you thin it out just a bit you can have a nice smooth finish. top them with sprinkles or sanding sugar if you're having a hard time smoothing out the frosting, it will hide imperfections. if you're not a big sugar cookie baker, here are a couple of tips:
1. roll out your dough between layers of plastic wrap. this prevents having to use extra flour and making your cookies tough. it's also much easier to clean up.
2. i always bake my cookies (all kinds) on parchment paper. it keeps them from sticking and then you don't have to wash your cookie sheets. parchment paper is one of those kitchen items that not everyone uses, but everyone should.
3. to get bright, vibrantly colored frosting, always use gel colors. along with great color, they won't thin out the frosting like food coloring drops. you can find these at walmart or michael's down that great baking isle. i bought a box with eight colors and it's all i need. this will cost about $10, so wait for that 40% coupon!
4. while you're down that baking isle, get a small metal spatula for icing your cookies (about $4). don't use a butter knife; you really can't get the same results.
1 stick butter, softened
1 lb. powdered sugar (3 3/4 cups)
1/4 c. milk (plus more to thin)
1 t. vanilla
mix together with whisk attachment. add more milk as needed.