My favourite way to decorate cookies which requires no piping, precision or skill (phew!). These heart shaped cookies look beautiful but are really simple to make and decorate with only a handful of ingredients from start to finish. A light, buttery shortbread base and simple royal icing topping. The most important thing to nail for the royal icing is it’s consistency, see the recipe notes for all my tips and tricks!
Total time to make : 20 minutes + 30 minutes chill time
Time to bake : 14 -16 minutes
Makes : 24 (depending on size)
250g salted butter, room temperature
125g caster sugar
375g plain flour
Heart cookie cutter, mine is about 6.5cm
If you want to make yours from scratch, I've shared my recipe below. Alternatively if you don't have egg whites, glucose syrups or much time - I also love using this Royal Icing mix (just add water). I use about half a pack for these.
Royal Icing Recipe
2 egg whites (60g - important to weigh for consistency)
2 tbsp glucose syrup (widely available supermarkets baking aisle or online)
500g icing sugar, sieved
2 tbsp+ water (for consistency)
Food dye (preferably gel) - I used red and pink here, but you could use just 1 colour
Edible shimmer (optional)
Line two baking sheets with baking paper and set to one side.
In a mixing bowl, beat the butter for a few minutes until it’s pale and fluffy. You can do this by hand or using a hand-held or standing mixer (paddle attachment). Add in the sugar and continue to mix until it’s all incorporated. Add in your flour and mix until it starts to come together. I find using my hands in the final stages really helps bring it into a dough ball. Don’t worry if it’s a little crumbly to start - it will come together!
Lightly flour a surface (I like using a silicone pastry mat*) and tip out your dough. Roll the dough out to about 1cm thick. Dip your cookie cutter in flour and cut out shapes, placing them onto the baking sheets. Roll and repeat until all your shapes have been cut out. Place these in the fridge to chill for at least 30 minutes.
Pre-heat a fan oven to 160C. Once chilled, bake for 14 - 16 minutes (depending on size, smaller shapes will be much quicker) until just starting to go golden around the outside. Remove from the oven, they’ll continue to bake on the baking sheets so don’t be tempted to bake them for longer in the oven.
As soon as you take them out the oven, use the back of a fork to gently comb over the top of the cookies. This will smooth out any air bubbles and create a flat surface.
Put the measured egg whites into a large mixing bowl. Use a hand-held whisk or standing mixer with whisk attachment to whisk for 1 minute on a high speed until frothy. On a low speed, continue to whisk to egg whites and then gradually add in the sieved icing sugar - 1 tbsp at a time until it’s all mixed in. Add the glucose syrup along with 2 tbsp of water to start and continue to whisk until all you get a thick, glossy mixture with soft peaks. Add more water as required until you achieve the right consistency (see notes below).
I like to pour this white base colour into a clean, shallow bowl - it makes the dip and wiggle technique a bit easier than in a big mixing bowl! Be sure to cover your icing bowl with a damp tea-towel to keep the icing from drying out, which happens quickly.
Scoop 8 tbsp of the white base mixture into another seperate bowl. Add the food dye and mix until you’re happy with the depth of colour. Repeat this with the other colour if you’re using 2x food colours. Pour each colour into it’s own piping bag (no need for a nozzle) or ziplock bag.
Snip off the tip of the piping/ziplock bag and zig-zag the coloured icing into the white icing base. Use a cocktail stick to swirl together into a marble affect (see video below for technique).
Take a cookie shape and lightly drop it into the marble mixture, don’t move the cookie around but use fingertips to tap and press the cookie in. Use your fingers to ‘peel’ the cookie off the icing (like you’re peeling a sticker off an apple) - rather than lifting it straight up. Gently shake and wiggle the icing and then flip the cookie over, place on a cooling rack to let any excess icing drip through. Don’t worry if it has an icing ‘tail’, this will sink in and even out as it settles if the consistency is right. Use a cocktail stick to pop any air bubbles that have formed and gently smooth any icing. Do this as soon as you can, the icing will start to set within a few minutes.
Repeat! You can re-marble the icing (step 2) every 3 - 4 cookies. Finish with edible shimmer if using.
Leave cookies to air dry for a few hours (overnight is best).
Good to know
It's really important to have room temperature butter here for your dough to come together into a smooth ball. Silicone pastry mats are great when making dough or cookies as they're none stick and prevent you adding too much flour when kneading/rolling out the dough (which affects the recipe). They also make cleaning up easier!
Chilling the shapes prevents them from spreading in the oven. You can also flash freeze them for 10 minutes. At this stage, unbaked shapes can be frozen for up to 3 months (in airtight container with baking paper to seperate them).
Sieving the icing sugar is really important here for smooth icing.
The consistency we're looking for here is 'soft peaks' or like toothpaste. The icing needs to be thick enough to coat the cookie but not so thick that it doesn't smooth out by itself. The best way to test this is to look at the icing trail it makes - use a spoon to dip into the icing then pull it out and draw a figure of 8 shape on the surface of the icing. It should take 4 - 6 seconds before it sinks back in.
For any leftover icing, swirl it all together until it forms one base colour (light pink here) and freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight, whisking again before using.
Store iced cookies for 3 - 4 weeks (yep!) in an airtight container. That makes these great for posting.
Store unbaked shapes in the freezer for up to 3 months. Bake from frozen, add 2 mins to baking time.