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Marbled Sugar Cookies

I rarely step outside of the realm of cakes, but my office was hosting a cookie challenge and I couldn’t resist whipping something up!

I rarely work with royal icing, but knew I could tackle these marbled royal icing sugar cookies. The design is stunning yet simple to make!

image of marbled royal icing sugar cookies that look like christmas tree

I also love my oatmeal lace cookie recipe, but thought that this might impress the cookie judges more 🙂

Making the base icing isn’t too difficult. The hard part is getting this base to flooding consistency so you can dip the cookies into it.

I found that the figure 8 test is the best way to ensure you have the right consistency (thank you Serious Eats for the tip). If the figure 8 disappears in exactly 8 seconds, the icing is ready to use as a cookie glaze (more details below!).

And then there’s the design! I’d seen marbled sugar cookies on Instagram, and when I saw these beauties by Sana Sodawala (@sugarbase_) pop up on my explore page, I was totally inspired!!

Below are the recipes I used, the things I learned along the way and a step-by-step video tutorial.

Step 1. Make the Sugar Cookies

Begin by making your sugar cookies! I love to use my soft and chewy cream cheese cookie recipe, but you can use any sugar cookie recipe!

The cookie really just acts as the canvas for our beautifully marbled royal icing.

image of christmas tree sugar cookies cut out and ready to be baked

You can also cut your dough out into any shape your heart desires.

I’ve used Christmas trees and hearts and in the past, but this design is super versatile so don’t be afraid to get creative

Step 2. Make the Royal Icing

While the cookies cool, make the royal icing.

Place powdered sugar and meringue powder in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, and combine with short, slow pulses.

Add in the water and vanilla extract, and mix on a medium speed until stiff peaks form (takes about 5 minutes).

image of whipped stiff royal icing

Next, add in water 1 Tbsp at a time until flooding consistency is reached. I had to add about 4 Tbsp of water, but it can vary batch to batch.

Testing Consistency: the Figure 8 Test

To test the consistency, I highly recommend using the Figure 8 test! Lift up your spoon or spatula and create a figure 8 with the runoff frosting.

If the figure 8 disappears in exactly 8 seconds, the icing is ready to use as a cookie glaze.

If it melts away faster, thicken by adding a spoonful of powdered sugar. Or if it takes longer than 8 seconds to disappear, thin by adding a tsp of water.

Repeat this test, making adjustments as you go, until the figure 8 takes exactly 8 seconds to disappear.

To prevent crusting, place saran wrap directly on top of the royal icing. This is very important!!

If you leave the frosting exposed to air for too long, it will crust and form a chunky top layer! Be sure keep frosting covered until right before you plan to use it.

Step 3. Marbling the Royal Icing

Once you’re ready to frost the cooled cookies, color 1/2 cup of the royal icing with gel food coloring and place into a piping bag.

Color another 1/2 of frosting a complimentary color and place in a separate piping bag. I used dark and light green frosting to make these marbled Christmas tree sugar cookies but you can use an color combination or number of colors you like.

image of marbling royal icing to make marbled sugar cookies

Then cut the tips of both piping bags to create a small opening (1/4 of an inch).

Drizzle both colors of frosting over the uncolored icing and use a toothpick to drag lines through the colors to create a swirled pattern. This creates that beautiful marbled royal icing sugar cookies!

Step 4. Dunk Those Sugar Cookies!!

The final step is to dunk your cookies into the glaze, one at a time. Be sure to cover the entire surface of the cookie.

image of marbled royal icing sugar cookies

Allow some of the frosting to run off before carefully flipping the cookie frosting side up and placing onto a wire rack to dry.

This part can get a bit messy, so be sure to have paper towels or a hand towel nearby.

After dunking each cookie, drizzle and swirl a bit more of the colorful icing into your bowl to ensure every cookie is nice and colorful.

This technique can be used on different shapes of cookies and with tons of different color combinations! Below are some marbled heart sugar cookies that I made for Valentine’s Day.

Whatever shape or color your cookies are, let them dry for at least an hour or until the icing is firm to the touch.

Tips for Making The Best Marbled Sugar Cookies

  • Liberally flour your counter before you roll out your cookie dough and move it around while you roll and cut your cookies.
  • Also flour your cookie cutters before each cut! It helps the dough easily pop out of the cutter and helps the cookies keep their shape.
  • Don’t overwork your cookie dough! It can over-work the gluten and result in tough and dense cookies.
  • Roll your cookie dough out to a consistent thickness of 1/3 inch. If some are thicker or thinner than others, they may over or under bake in the oven.
  • Chill your cookie dough. It helps prevent your cookies from spreading while they bake.
  • Don’t over bake your cookies. Err of the side of underbaking your cookies and remember that the cookies continue to bake for a few minutes once they’re out of the oven.
  • Don’t leave your icing uncovered for long periods of time or it will crust! Either use immediately or cover with plastic wrap.

Making These Marbled Sugar Cookies in Advance and Storage Tips

You can store frosted cookies in an airtight container for up to 2 days at room temperature or for up to a 5 days in the fridge.

If you want to stack the cookies on top of one another, I recommend adding a layer of parchment paper between them.

This cookie dough can also be frozen for up to 1 month if wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and stored in an airtight container. I like to move the cookie dough to the fridge the night before I plan to roll it out and bake the cookies.

Baked, unfrosted cookies can also be frozen! These cookies last for up to a month if frozen in an airtight container. I recommend waiting to frost them until they’ve thawed to room temperature.

Move them to the fridge the day before you plan to eat them, then let them sit out at room temperature for a few hours before frosting them.

Let Me Know What You Think!

If you try this recipe for marbled sugar cookies, I’d love to hear what think of it!

Please leave a rating and let me know your thoughts by sharing a comment.

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Yield: 40

Marbled Sugar Cookies

image of marbled sugar cookies made with royal icing

These marbled sugar cookies are incredibly soft and chewy and are topped with the most beautiful marbled icing.

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 11 minutes
Additional Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 1 minute

Ingredients

Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (170 grams) - 1 1/2 sticks
  • 1/2 cup full fat cream cheese, room temperature (113 grams) - 4 oz.
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (300 grams)
  • 1 large egg, room temperature (56 grams)
  • 2 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract (6 grams)
  • 1 tsp almond extract (3 grams)
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (390 grams)
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch (8 grams)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder (2 grams)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (3 grams)

Marbled Royal Icing (adapted from Wilton)

  • 4 cups powdered sugar (500 grams)
  • 1/4 cup meringue powder (36 grams)
  • 1/3 cup water, room temp (80 grams)
  • 2 tsp. vanilla or almond extract (8 grams)
  • additional water to bring to flooding consistency (I used 4 Tbsp but this can vary!)

Additional Supplies

Instructions

Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies

    1. Mix together 3/4 cup butter and 1/2 cup cream cheese at a medium speed with a whisk attachment or hand mixer until smooth.
    2. Next, mix in 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar at a medium-high speed for a couple minutes, until the mixture becomes lighter in color.
    3. Add in 1 egg, 2 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract and 1 tsp almond extract. Mix on a low speed until incorporated.
    4. In a separate bowl, sift together 3 cups flour, 1 Tbsp cornstarch, 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt.
    5. Gradually mix the flour mixture into the butter mixture on a low speed, until it is JUST incorporated. I like to do this in a couple additions and scrape the sides of the bowl between additions.
    6. At this point the dough will still be pretty sticky. Divide the dough in half and wrap each piece of dough in a piece of plastic wrap.
    7. Chill in the fridge for about 2 hours or the freezer for 30 minutes.
    8. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F at this point in the process about 30 minutes before you plan to roll out the dough.
    9. Generously dust the surface you plan to roll the cookies out on with additional flour.
    10. Take one ball of dough out of the fridge or freezer, leaving the other to continue to chill.
    11. Sprinkle some more flour on top of your dough ball and on your rolling pin. Roll the chilled dough to be 1/3 inch thick and cut out your shapes with a flour dusted cookie cutter.
    12. Use a kitchen brush to gently brush off any excess flour and place onto a parchment lined baking sheet or silicone mat.
    13. Chill the cut out cookies one more time in the fridge for 15 minutes or the freezer for 10 minutes to help them keep their shape better.
    14. Bake for 9-11 minutes on the top wrack of your oven (time varies based on the size and shape of the cookies). Keep a close eye on these and be sure to pull them out before the edges start to brown.
    15. Let the baked cookies cool on the pan for about 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.
    16. While the first batch bakes and cools, knead together the cookie dough scraps, and rewrap them in plastic wrap. Pop them back in the fridge to chill.
    17. Pull out your 2nd chilled ball of dough, and repeat steps 9-15. Then repeat with the chilled dough scraps.

Marbled Royal Icing

  1. While the cookies cool, make the royal icing.
  2. Whisk together 4 cups of powdered sugar and 1/4 cup meringue powder in the large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer.
  3. Add in 1/3 cup water and 2 tsp vanilla extract. Mix on a medium speed until stiff peaks form (takes about 5 minutes).
  4. Next, add in water 1 Tbsp at a time until flooding consistency is reached. I used about 4 Tbsp of water, but it can vary batch to batch.
  5. To test the consistency, use the Figure 8 test! Lift up your spoon or spatula, and create a figure 8 with the runoff frosting. If the figure 8 disappears in exactly 8 seconds, the icing is ready to use as a cookie glaze. If it melts away faster, thicken by adding a spoonful of powdered sugar. Or if it takes longer than 8 seconds to disappear, thin by adding a few drops of cream.
  6. Repeat this test, making adjustments as you go, until the frosting passes the figure 8 test.
  7. To prevent crusting, place saran wrap directly on top of the royal icing. If you leave the frosting exposed to air for too long, it will crust and form a chunky top layer! Be sure keep frosting covered until right before you plan to use it.
  8. Once you're ready to decorate the cooled cookies, color 1/2 cup of the royal icing a color of your choice with gel food coloring and place into a small piping bag.
  9. Color another 1/2 of frosting a complimentary color and place in a separate piping bag.
  10. Cut the tips of both piping bags to create a small opening (1/4 of an inch).
  11. Drizzle both frosting colors over the uncolored icing. Use a toothpick to drag lines through the colors to create a swirled pattern. This pattern will create that beautiful marbled royal icing sugar cookies.
  12. Then dunk cookies in to the glaze, one at a time. Be sure to cover the entire surface of the cookie and let any excess run off before flipping the cookie over to dry.
  13. After each dunk, drizzle and swirl a bit more of the colored icing to ensure every cookie is nice and colorful.
  14. Allow the cookies to dry for an hour, or until they are firm to the touch.

Notes

Yield

This recipe can be used to make about 40 3-inch circular cookies. The yield and bake time will vary based on the size and shape of cookie cutter you use.

This recipe can be halved or doubled to make more or less cookies.

Making These Marbled Sugar Cookies in Advance and Storage Tips

You can store frosted cookies in an airtight container for up to 2 days at room temperature or for up to a 5 days in the fridge.

If you want to stack the cookies on top of one another, I recommend adding a layer of parchment paper between them.

This cookie dough can also be frozen for up to 1 month if wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and stored in an airtight container. I like to move the cookie dough to the fridge the night before I plan to roll it out and bake the cookies.

Baked, unfrosted cookies can also be frozen! These cookies last for up to a month if frozen in an airtight container. I recommend waiting to frost them until they’ve thawed to room temperature.

Move them to the fridge the day before you plan to eat them, then let them sit out at room temperature for a few hours before frosting them.

Tips for Making the Best Marbled Sugar Cookies:

  • Liberally flour your counter before you roll out your cookie dough and move it around while you roll and cut your cookies.
  • Also flour your cookie cutters before each cut! It helps the dough easily pop out of the cutter and helps the cookies keep their shape.
  • Really cream together the butter, cream cheese and granulated sugar in the first step of this recipe. It helps incorporate air into the dough which makes fluffy and soft cookies.
  • Don’t overwork your cookie dough! It can over-work the gluten and result in tough and dense cookies
  • Roll your cookie dough out to a consistent thickness of 1/3 inch. If some are thicker or thinner than others, they may over or under bake in the oven.
  • Chill your cookie dough. It helps prevent your cookies from spreading while they bake.
  • Don’t over bake your cookies. Err of the side of underbaking your cookies and remember that the cookies continue to bake for a few minutes once they’re out of the oven.
  • Don't leave your icing uncovered for long periods of time or it will crust! Either use immediately or cover with plastic wrap.

Nutrition Information

Yield

40

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 132Total Fat 5gSaturated Fat 3gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 2gCholesterol 17mgSodium 47mgCarbohydrates 21gFiber 0gSugar 14gProtein 1g

Cha McDaniel

Friday 22nd of January 2021

I thought I got a royal icing recipe from you for marbled cookies that did not use meringue powder, but used cream cheese to stabilize it. I can’t find it now - can you post it? Thanks!!

Danielle

Tuesday 22nd of December 2020

Same!!!!

Callie

Tuesday 22nd of December 2020

Hi Chelsey! You used to link a maple sugar cookie and royal icing recipe for these cookies. I was obsessed but always came to your website to get to the recipe. I’m having a hard time finding it. Are you still able to share it? Thank you!

Nic

Sunday 13th of December 2020

I attempted to make the Royal icing and it did not harden on the cookie entirely. Is it supposed to? I was expecting it to. Thanks! Delicious either way!

Emily

Wednesday 9th of December 2020

I made these today to try a different way of using royal icing! I haven’t succeeded much with royal icing till I saw your tips! The icing came out great!!!!

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