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Wild Animal Sugar Cookies

Yellowstone animal sugar cookies, lightly sweet and soft, bedecked with icing and decorettes.

The Sauce: Royal Icing – These wild animals are tamed with royal icing, a dessert sauce. Made with sugar and egg whites, the consistency can be varied for piping, filling and details. It dries with a glossy sheen to preserve the design.


Mammoth Hot Springs

Four bears poked out of their camouflaged habitats plus a liberal measure of other wild animals on our trek through Yellowstone, this summer. Karen, Jane and I drove from Jackson Hole, Wyoming all the way north to Mammoth Hot Springs near the Montana border. A quaint little outpost among gurgling hot springs and evolving rock formations, we hiked on wood plank ramps and stairs spanning the springs. A guide explained how two tons of calcium carbonate flow into the springs every day. As the hot water cools, the deposits gradually build the unique landscape. The resulting travertine has wavy striations and uneven concentric circles. The colors range from subtle grays and beiges to vibrant coral reef and persimmon oranges.
We stopped at a gift shop to browse and found this collection of Yellowstone animal cookie cutters. Thanks Jane! Back at the ranch, Washington, DC, I made some cookie reminiscences of my trip. The sauce in this confection is the royal icing. It colors well and dries with a semi-gloss sheen. See the Notes section below for tips on decorating and have some fun with your kids or grandkids.

2011 AniversaRecipe – Bacon and Egg Spinach Salad

Recipe: Wild Animal Sugar Cookies

Prep Time: 20 Minutes, plus decorating | Inactive Time: 2 Hours | Cook Time: 8-10 Minutes per Batch | Yield: 2 Dozen | Level: Moderate

Wild-Animal-Sugar-CookiesSugar Cookies

  • 3 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • powdered sugar for rolling

Royal Icing

  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • food coloring
  • decorettes

Sugar Cookies
1 Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2 Sift together the flour, salt, baking soda and set aside.

Cutting-Out-Sugar-Cookies3 With a hand or stand mixer, combine the butter, sugar, egg and vanilla. Beat for 3 minutes until creamy, fluffy and light in color. Add sour cream and mix until blended.

4 Gradually add flour mixture beating until combined.

5 Shape into 2 disks and wrap tightly in plastic. Chill for 2 hours.

6 Sprinkle work surface and rolling pin with powdered sugar. Take one disk from the fridge at a time and roll out to 1/4-inch. Cut into wild animal shapes and place on baking sheet lined with parchment. Place in the fridge for 15-20 minutes to chill. This keeps the cookies from spreading during baking which preserves the integrity of the delicate shapes.
7 Bake at 375 degrees for 7-10 minutes until firm but without color. Let rest for 1-2 minutes then remove to a cooling rack and cool completely.

Royal Icing
8 Meanwhile, with a hand or stand mixer, beat the egg whites and lemon juice until frothy, about 30 seconds. Add the powdered sugar and beat until smooth.

9 Divide into small bowls and color as desired. Pipe or spread on the cooled cookies. Apply decorettes. See Notes section for decorating suggestions.
Bring the butter to room temperature by setting it on the counter. At the same time,
place the egg and sour cream on the counter as well, if desired.

Placing-cookies-on-baking-sheet-before-releasing-the-cookieTo prevent breaking delicate cookie shapes, place the cookie cutter on the baking sheet then release the cookie.

For easy rolling of cookie dough, place the chilled disk between two large sheets of plastic wrap. Roll out the dough. Place the rolled dough on a baking sheet and chill for 15-20 minutes. Then pull off the plastic, cut the cookies and bake as directed.

Decorettes – Purchase some decorettes with color families of brown, green, blue and
yellow. Use whatever is available at the store, a local specialty shop or on the internet.
Mixing Colors – The icing colors were made with a 4 food coloring pack (red, blue,
yellow and green) squeeze bottles purchased at a supermarket, no special colors
needed. Here are some color mixing tips from my oil painting experience. To arrive at
brown one of these three color formulas, equal parts of red and green; 2 parts blue, 1
part red and 1 part yellow; or 2 parts yellow, 1 part red and 1 part blue. The shade of
brown depends on which color formula you mix. The depth of color depends how
much color you use. Try a couple to create more than one tone of brown. Experiment!
Design – On a paper, trace the outside of the cookie cutter. Find animal images on a google search (ex. bear sugar cookies) to suggest ideas for icing details. Keep it simple or more complex as desired. This gives you a template design to use while decorating.









Icing Technique – Use a #3 round tip to pipe the outline. Disposable piping bags make clean up easy. Thin the icing slightly to use for filler. Use a toothpick to smooth the filling to the outline and fill evenly. A spray bottle works great to add more water to the icing in very small amounts to avoid over thinning the icing.

No Decorating Tools? – Without decorating tips and bags, ice the cookies using a knife and add the decorettes to create fur and animal hair or scales and eyes.

Applications – Divide the dough in half and roll each piece into a 2-inch log. Chill for 2 hours. Slice cookies and bake as directed above. Decorate as desired with icing and decorettes.

Dish Designer

  • Cut the cookies with any shape of cookie cutter.
  • Exchange egg whites for 2 teaspoons of meringue powder.
  • Use other food colors for icing and decorating.

Inspiration – Cara Rigby, Jane James, Karen Merrell
Cook with Sauces
Written by Helen Horton
Photographs by Helen Horton
Updated: September 5, 2012

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One Response to Wild Animal Sugar Cookies

  1. Audrey September 7, 2012 at 3:37 pm #

    These were really fun to eat. And I love the pictures. Very creative.

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