I LOVE these cookies. They’re just so, so pretty. My watercolor red velvet sugar cookies are super delicious (hello, red velvet in cookie form), but they are super easy to make, with minimal supplies and they make awesome gifts. Decorate these for Valentine’s Day for your loved ones, or switch it up and make them for the holidays with the cookie cutter of your choice.
Red Velvet Sugar Cut Out Cookies
This cookie has all the flavor of red velvet cake in sugar cookie form. This recipe is similar to my go-to sugar cookie recipe, but with the addition of cream cheese, cocoa powder and red gel food coloring. This recipe comes together fast and easily, and can be made in advance and frozen. Bonus, especially if you’re planning on making a lot of cookies.
Room temperature butter and cream cheese is beaten with sugar until just combined. An egg, red gel color, and vanilla are mixed in, followed by flour, cocoa powder and salt. Be sure to beat the butter and sugar together until *just* combined. No need for “light and fluffy” for these cookies. Incorporating air during the beating process contributes to spread as it causes the cookies to puff up and deflate and spread while baking. Chilling the dough before baking is also an important step to help keep the cookies from spreading.
The thinner you roll and cut out the cookies, the more crisp they will be. I like to roll my dough out to about 1/4″ thick to make sure they’re softer towards the center, and crispy on the outside. Once you cut out the cookies, they need to be chilled. Chilling is important with sugar cookies as it helps them retain their shape. Once the cookies have been chilled throughly, they are then baked and cooled.
While the cookies are cooling, make the royal icing. I decorated my cookies with my go-to royal icing. This recipe is slightly different from some recipes because it contains corn syrup, which gives the icing a bit of shine when it dries, but also gives it a bit more elasticity when when piping. Additionally, it helps the royal icing to be a bit softer and not as rock hard when it’s dried.
I used the same icing consistency (15-20 second icing) to outline and fill in my cookies. Thin out stiff royal icing with a few drops of water at a time until a toothpick or spatula that is ran through the icing creates a line that fills up and flattens out within 15-20 seconds. For this consistency, the icing has to be thin enough to flow, while remaining thick enough that it doesn’t fall off the side of the cookie. Pipe a border around the perimeter of the cookie and fill it in. Let the royal icing dry completely before painting.
To make my watercolor paints, I used edible powder colors. You can certainly use gel color if you like, but I like the powder color because of more color options and the color dissolves better. Make a paint by adding vodka to the color until you reach the desired color. Test the color by dipping the clean paintbrush into the watercolor paint and paint a stripe on a paper towel. Make any adjustments, like adding more color to make the color darker, or adding more vodka to make the color lighter.
Instead of using paintbrushes for this project, I used cosmetic sponges. I find that they apply the color more evenly and blend the colors better. I think there is better control over the application of the color better with the sponges. Use a separate sponge for each color used. This technique will work with brushes in a pinch. Be sure to not saturate the brushes with too much paint and dab rather than painting strokes.
Watercolor Effect Tutorial
- Work with the lightest color up to the darkest color. The watercolor effect is achieved by layering and building color. With the cosmetic sponge, dab on lightest color over the surface of the cookie.
- Repeat with the second lightest color.
- Repeat with the next color, and proceeding colors. I used 4 colors but you can use as many as you would like.
- Dab the darkest color on to the cookie. Use a clean sponge to blend the darker color into the rest of the watercolor design.
- Use a clean paintbrush (used for food only) to clean up and dab a bit of color around the perimeter of the cookie to make sure all the white of the royal icing is covered.
- Leave to dry for 15 minutes.
- For the gold splatter, measure out a 1/2 teaspoon of edible gold dust powder. Add 2 – 3 drops of vodka and mix until you have a thick but liquid paint.
- Saturate a clean paintbrush (used for food only) and with a gloved hand, pull the bristles back with your thumb, release the bristles and flick the paint onto the cookies. Repeat a couple times until you like the way the gold splatter looks.
- Leave to dry completely before packaging or serving.
If you make these watercolor red velvet sugar cookies, let me know! Drop a comment or tag me on Instagram. I love seeing your bakes and creations.
For more decorated cookie recipes, check out these posts:
Red Velvet Sugar Cookies
- 2 ¾ cups (330g) all purpose flour
- 1/4 cup (21g) cocoa powder, natural
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 3/4 cup (227g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 4 oz (114g) cream cheese
- 1 cup (198g) granulated sugar
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons red gel food color
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa and salt. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter, cream cheese and sugar until thoroughly combined.
- Add the egg, followed by the vanilla extract and red gel color, beating until just combined.
- Scrape down the bowl. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the flour/cocoa mixture and beat until just combined.
- Turn the dough out onto a work surface sprinkled lightly with flour. Pat the dough into a disc shape.
- Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
- Heat the oven to 350F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
- Place the chilled dough on a work surface that has been sprinkled with flour. Sprinkle the top of the dough and the rolling pin lightly with flour to prevent any sticking.
- Roll out the dough to 1/8-3/8" thick, depending on your preference, rotating the dough as you roll to prevent the dough from sticking. If the dough is sticking, you can roll the dough between 2 pieces of parchment or wax paper.
- Cut out desired shapes and place the cookies 2" apart on the cookie sheets.
- Place the cookie sheets into the refrigerator for 30 minutes to chill.
- Bake the cookies for 16-18 minutes. Rotate the cookie sheets, halfway through baking. You're looking for the cookies to be soft when touched in the center, but fully cooked. Baking the cookies longer will result in a crispier cookie while baking them to just cooked will keep them soft.
- Let the cookies cool on the cookie sheets for 10 minutes, before transferring them to a cooling rack to cool completely.