Now when it comes to icings, I am all about the buttercream (check out my blog for my Swiss Meringue Buttercream Recipe). While buttercream is great in a sandwich cookie or as a dip for sugar cookies, it is not optimal for decorating as it remains soft and will squish and smudge. For detailed decorating you need to use royal icing. Royal icing is a simple mixture of egg whites, icing sugar and flavour that is easy to pipe with and dries hard so your cookies can be moved, stacked and stored without the risk of smearing.
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Unfortunately, many of the recipes out there can be quite bland and decorating them with royal-icing just adds sweetness not flavour. After many attempts, I finally landed on the recipe below for Vanilla Sugar Cookies from Williams-Sonoma. The addition of vanilla bean makes them exceptionally tasty.