Daring Bakers: Get Creative – Sugar Cookies

The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of “What the Fruitcake?!” Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking. We were to decorate our cookies in the theme of September – whatever that means to us. For me, I created fall leaves, pumpkins, and apples.

I used to bake sugar cookies at Christmas-time every year with the kids, the same way my mother did with us when I was young. However, I haven’t made them since going gluten-free, and I never made them with royal icing. While royal icing wasn’t mandatory, I wanted to challenge myself with this decorating technique. So in addition to the challenge to make decorated sugar cookies, I had the additional challenge to make them dairy and gluten-free. I also opted to use natural food coloring (I used India Tree food coloring).

Mandy did suggest a gluten-free recipe for sugar cookies – a recipe from Gluten Free Girl and the Chef! How could I not follow it – every one of their recipes is amazing. The only changes I made: I substituted the butter with coconut oil and the margarine with Earth Balance soy-free buttery spread. I also added 1/4 teaspoon of almond extract. They were simple to make, and tasted just like the sugar cookies I grew up with.

As for the royal icing, it was actually easier than I thought it would be. However, it was time-consuming, and my hat is off to people who do this on a regular basis. I’ve seen some intricate cookies in my day, and I now have a deeper appreciation for all of that hard work.

The verdict on these cookies? Well, sugar cookies aren’t my #1 favorite, but they were well-enjoyed by my family this weekend. Delicate, not overly sweet, with that lovely hint of almond, they were definitely a treat.

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Sugar Cookies recipe, adapted from Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef

1 1/2 c sweet white rice flour

1 c tapioca starch

2 1/2 t xanthan gum

1 c granulated sugar

1/2 c unrefined coconut oil

1/2 c Earth Balance buttery spread (or other dairy-free butter substitute)

1 egg

2 t vanilla extract

1/4 t almond extract

Mix all of the dry ingredients together well in a large bowl. Set aside. In a separate bowl, cream the sugar with the coconut oil and buttery spread until well-blended. Beat in the egg, vanilla, and almond extract very well. Add the dry ingredients and mix well. Divide in half, and roll out each half between two sheets of parchment paper to about 1/2 inch thickness. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove dough from refrigerator and roll out just a bit more, to about 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes, and re-roll the leftover dough to cut additional shapes. (You might find that it’s easier to refrigerate the dough scraps periodically if they become overly soft.) Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the edges just begin to start to color. Allow to cool completely before decorating with icing.

Makes about 3 – 3 1/2 dozen cookies, depending on size.


  1. says

    I love your decorations – those leaves make me sad that we’re not seeing them here now. But then I remember that is because we are enjoying spring, and I’m happy again ;)

    I like the use of natural colourings too. You certainly haven’t lost anything by opting for that!

  2. says

    YOU ARE AWESOME!! I haven’t made these since I’ve been dairy free!!! Crossing my fingers Spectrum Palm Shortening will work instead of buttery sticks!! (Can’t find those here!) THank you thank you thank you!! Holidays are not holidays without sugar cookies!

  3. says

    Your cookies look so beautiful! I must get my hands on some of that food colouring. I’ll have to see if we get it in Canada. If not I might have to get you to send me some :)

  4. IndiaTree says

    You did a lovely job on the royal icing, especially where the yellow and orange and red blend on the multi-colored leaves. Well done! It’s nice to see such a beautiful use of our natural food colors. Thank you for baking and blogging. We’re honored to have had a place in your recipe.

    –India Tree

  5. says

    Hey, these cookies r so cuuuuuuuute!! Love it :)
    Sorry haven’t visited for a while. I was following u for a while but somehow it got lost.

    I managed to trackback & saw your previous comments. Do visit Luxury Indulgence again & remember to follow me too. Hahaha! I’m subscribing via ur email now, to ensure it doesn’t get lost again.

    R u one of the Foodbuzz contenders? Tried to vote for u but can’t find ur blog there…..

  6. says

    We’ve been making recipes out Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef this past week too. My kids are past the decorating sugar cookies stage and have moved on to the pasta and a pear tart. I do miss those little kid days, but they are better at doing the dishes now. Well one of them is. :) I love your autumn leaves.

  7. says

    I am not a gluten-free cook and get a little snotty at times about “healthier” varieties of cookies. Cookies are held sacred in my house. That being said, your sugar cookies look like the real deal! They LOOK like you wouldn’t be able taste a difference. And I love that there are not so many flours you have to mix together to substitute for wheat flour! Yay for you!

  8. says

    Another amazing job, Alta! I especially love that last photo. Oh, how pretty they’d look on the table for our support group meeting next week! I don’t think it will happen, but I’m dreaming about them now. Do you take orders? ;-)


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