Red, White & Blue Cookies with Royal Icing

The muscles in my left shoulder are killing me right now.


I know what you’re thinking. Oh, she must work out SO hard, for a deep muscle ache like that. She must hit the gym each and every day for a sweet pain like that. Well, I’m flattered, but the more likely scenario stems from two repetitive actions:


1. Pipetting


2. Icing cookies.


Totally hard-x-core, am I right? But honestly, the truth is that I spend all day in the lab holding my left hand above various tubes, wells, and beakers, steadily pipetting miniscule amounts of various biomedical whatevers.

Second reason: Cookies. Royal icing is a pain in my royal ass. But it does look beautiful, no? It involves whipping up some powdered sugar, meringue powder, and water, until a glossy thick icing is formed. Then, you pipet the thick icing around the outside and flood the inside with watered-down thinned icing.

Trying to keep my hand steady while I trace the outline of cookies with a small piped tip takes serious concentration. And muscle strength. In my left arm. Which I exercised, tonight, for like at least an hour. I’m telling you — royal icing. Royal pain.


This lopsidedness was called out recently when I was, of all places, at the climbing gym. (SEE I’m not a complete baking-bio-antisocialite… I CLIMB TOO). My gorgeous, well-toned, tanned, friendly, athletic (etc) climbing instructor was demonstrating a training maneuver involving a one-handed pull-up. When I tried, I could mostly pull myself up with my left arm, but not with my right. “Hannah,” this instructor said, thrilling me with his sexy outdoorsman climber voice, “Why are you stronger with your left arm?”


I told him it was from pipetting nuclear extracts from immunoprecipitation in the lab all day.


Don’t TELL me I don’t have any game.

Cutout Sugar Cookies


3 cups flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract


Combine dry ingredients in medium bowl. Cream sugar and butter together until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs and vanilla until combined. Add in dry ingredients and mix on low speed until just combined.

Split dough into 2 disks, cover in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. After chilling, roll out dough to about 1/4-inch thickness. Cut out desired shapes and set on cookie sheet. Refrigerate on cookie sheet for 15 minutes.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-14 minutes, or until edges are slightly golden.


Royal Icing

6 cups powdered sugar

3 tbsp meringue powder

6 tbsp water


Combine ingredients in a stand mixer. Mix on low speed for 7-10 minutes, or until a matte sheen appears. Transfer icing into a tupperware container and cover while not in use.


For outlining, use the icing right out of the mixer. If it’s too thick to pipe with a small tip, add water 1/4 tsp at a time until the right consistency is achieved. After outlining, let icing dry for 10 minutes. Add water 1/4 tsp at a time to thin icing until a spoonful of icing drizzled on top disappears quickly into the rest of the icing. Fill in the cookies, using a toothpick to spread icing to edges.

Let set for at least 30 minutes and store in the refrigerator.





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