Handbag and Sunflower Sugar Cookies

I know, I know.  Before you say anything, yes, I do realize that this is the holiday season.  I am well aware of the fact that any sugar or gingerbread cookies that come out of my kitchen this month should be shaped like stockings, angels, snowflakes, or candy canes.  For the record, there are a few dozen of these Christmas-y varieties baked and waiting to be decorated on a wire rack in the corner of my kitchen. That is, if my golden lab hasn’t managed to get ahold of them (like he did with a dozen doughnuts…..and a loaf of bread.)  If that is the case, then there are likely only two or three in need of icing and sprinkles–the ones that he couldn’t reach.  I should probably go check….

O.K.  Amazingly, they’re all still there and intact.  I’ll probably get to decorating those tomorrow, or the next day…..or perhaps not at all, but my intentions are good.  The sunflower and handbag-shaped cookies were a priority though, and I just ran out of time–that and my back really started to hurt from 2 hours of piping royal icing.

My friend, Stephanie, hosted a post-wedding bridal shower for her friend today.  The actual wedding took place a few weeks ago.   True, it’s a bit out of order, and some of the traditional bridal shower stuff probably no longer applies, but is there ever really a bad time to have your friends give you brand new cookware at a party thrown in your honor?  I didn’t think so.

Anyhow, Stephanie asked me if I would mind helping her out with the desserts for the party, knowing full well that there is nothing I love more than to rummage through my embarrassingly large collection of cookie cutters, in search of the perfect shape for any given occasion.  I finally decided on cutters shaped like two things that women can’t get enough of: flowers and handbags.  Well, three things if you count the actual sugar cookies.  I hadn’t experimented with these shapes yet, and although I had aspirations of decorated cookies that were the spitting image of the latest Kate Spade line, that didn’t exactly happen.  That being said, I was pretty happy with how both the handbags and sunflowers turned out.  I hope that the bride to be bride was too!  Here are a few extra tips for making these stylish sugar cookies:DSC04043

  • For shaping the dough into handbag or sunflower shapes, if you don’t have the appropriate cutter, then you can always make a “stencil” of one with thick paper and then trace it with a sharp paring knife or exact-o knife.  Remember that the shapes will be covered with icing, so don’t worry about little imperfections.
  • For icing the cookies, the first stage involves outlining the handbags and the sunflower petals with your selected color of royal icing.  For outlining purposes, the icing should not be too runny so that it won’t spread when you make a line.  If you don’t have a decorating bag and tips, then just snip a very small corner off of a ziploc bag and fill it with icing to emulate a decorating bag.  Carefully outline the sunflower petals and the handbags in the color of your choice and let set for5 minutes to dry.   At this point, you can also make the dotted handles for the handbags.
  • The second stage of icing the cookies is called “flooding.”  To flood the cookies is to fill them with the solid color.  The icing should be thinned a bit with water or lemon juice for this step, as it needs to flow and spread easily inside the border that you formed in step one.DSC04051    Pour a small amount of the thinned icing in the center of the cookie, and then use a toothpick or knife to guide the icing and fill the inside of the border.  Let dry for 10 minutes.
  • Once the sunflower petals have dried, you can fill the center of the sunflowers with melted chocolate, as I did, or with black-colored royal icing, a color that is a challenge to achieve. Melt some semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, place it in a pastry bag, and then “dab” it around the center of the cookie.  This helps to create texture, simulating the center of a sunflower.  You could also use chocolate jimmies to achieve this look.  Allow the chocolate to dry.
  • For the “flap” of the handbag, use a color that contrasts with the other handbag color.  Once the icing for the original color has dried, pipe an outline for the flap, allow it to dry, and then flood the flap area as you did with the other cookies.  If desired, place a silver non-pareil in the center to simulate a snap.
  • The cookie dough can be made up to 2 days ahead of time and refrigerated, tightly wrapped.

Sunflower and Handbag Sugar Cookies

Makes about 18


3 1/4 cups flour (plus more for rolling out cookies)

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 1/2 sticks butter, softened

1 cup sugar

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon grated orange zest

For Royal Icing

4 egg whites

4-5 cups confectioner’s sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract or lemon juice

Food coloring, melted chocolate, and silver non-pareils for decorating

DSC04068 In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and salt and set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar at medium-high speed until light and creamy, 3-4 minutes.  Add the egg, egg yolk, vanilla, and orange zest, and mix until well blended.  Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture, 1/3 at a time, mixing until just combined.  Turn the dough out onto a work surface, divide into 4 pieces, shape each piece into a disk, and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350F degrees.  On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough out to a 1/8 inch thickness.  Cut the dough into desired shapes and transfer to baking sheets lined with parchment paper.  Bake for 9-11 minutes, until the cookies are pale golden brown in color.  Transfer to a rack and cool completely.

Make the royal icing:  Beat the egg whites in a clean large bowl with a mixer at high speed until foamy.  Gradually add 4 cups of the sugar and the vanilla extract or lemon juice and beat at high speed until the mixture has thickened.  Add more confectioner’s sugar if the mixture is too runny.  Separate and color the icing as desired and decorate the cooled cookies.


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