Yes, I know that awards shows are silly, but I don’t care. I have always loved movies, even going so far as to go to film school. My life and career ended up going in a totally different direction, but my love of cinema has remained. I’ve seen the major nominees, I have my opinions and my books of statistics,* and come Sunday night, I’ll be parked in front of the TV, happy as a clam.
*Yes, I have homemade books of Oscar statistics. Don’t you?!
Now, I have a lot of Oscar Sunday traditions. For one, I don’t watch them with anyone. I get pretty riled up, so I feel like it’s best that I watch alone. The only person with whom I really interact is my best friend, Tad. We met at a failed screening of Shrek 2 twelve years ago, realized that we were the only two people on our college campus who took the Oscars seriously, and have been talking about them ever since. He lives in San Francisco, so we can’t watch together, but we text back and forth all night.
My other big tradition? Red Velvet Cake. I posted my recipe (and my best-ever Cream Cheese Frosting) on here last Oscar weekend. I just love the chocolate-vanilla flavor of Red Velvet Cake, and it’s perfect for Oscar night because it’s red like the red carpet! It’s a little silly for me to make a whole layer cake for a night I am planning to spend by myself, so I’m changing it up this year and celebrating with these Red Velvet Cut-Out Cookies!
These cookies are a twist on my favorite Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies. They’re souped up with cocoa powder in place of some of the flour, a touch of vinegar, and an extra egg yolk to keep them just a little bit soft. As far as the color goes, I reach for gel food coloring. I do not recommend using liquid red food coloring in this recipe as it will change the chemical makeup of the cookies, making them spread or become cakey, or both. Yuck. Red gel food coloring can be found at Target, craft stores, and your local kitchen supply.
The cookie dough is easy to roll and cut, and the cookies won’t spread as they bake. That’s right–once your cookies are cut into cute shapes and placed in the oven, you won’t have to worry about them warping. It’s the dream. I love that my little Oscars (made with a mummy cutter and some strips of dough) actually look like their namesake statuettes!
I decorate my Red Velvet Cut-Out Cookies with Quick-Dry Royal Icing. I wrote a mini-tutorial about it during the holidays. I know royal icing can be intimidating, but trust me when I say that if I can use it, anyone can. Just draw the outlines and fill them in. It’s really fun to see these cookies come to life!
Red Velvet Cut-Out Cookies
makes 3-4 dozen medium cookies
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
4 oz (1/2 brick) full-fat brick-style cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons white vinegar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon red gel food coloring
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In a separate large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Cream in granulated sugar, followed by the egg, egg yolk, vinegar, vanilla extract, and gel food coloring. Add dry ingredients in 3 installments, combining completely after each. Divide dough into quarters and wrap each in plastic wrap. Chill for at least 3 hours, or up to 3 days.
Preheat oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Set aside.
Lightly flour a surface and a rolling pin. Take one quarter of chilled dough at a time, roll it to 1/4-inch thickness, and cut with cookie cutters. Place cut cookies at least 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake cookies 6-7 minutes, until no longer raw-looking. Let cookies cool on the pans for five minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely. Repeat rolling, cutting, and baking with any remaining dough.
Cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.
Quick-Dry Royal Icing
recipe barely adapted from SugarDeaux
3 tablespoons meringue powder
5 ounces warm water
3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure almond or lemon extract
2 pounds confectioner’s sugar, divided
1 tablespoon corn syrup
gel food coloring
piping bags (or plastic sandwich bags)
small round piping tips and couplers
clear imitation vanilla or vodka
In a large mixing bowl, combine meringue powder and warm water. Beat with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until doubled in size, about 1 minute. Mix in cream of tartar, vanilla, and almond extract. With the mixer running on low, add 1 pound of confectioner’s sugar. Mix in corn syrup. Add the remaining pound of confectioner’s sugar. Scrape down the bowl before beating on medium-low for an additional 30 seconds.
Divide icing among small bowls. Press plastic wrap to the surface of all exposed icing.
Make outline icing. Working with one bowl of icing at a time, add water 1/2 teaspoon at a time until icing dribbled into the bowl forms a ribbon that fades within a few seconds. Stir in gel food coloring until the desired color is reached. Place 1/4 cup of icing into a piping bag with a tip. Alternatively, load icing into a plastic sandwich bag and snip a very tiny corner. Outline all cookies. Set aside to dry while you prepare fill icing.
Add water by the 1/2 teaspoon until the ribbon of icing fades into the bowls within 2 seconds. Load icing into squeeze bottles. Working with one cookie at a time, fill icing into outlined sections. Use toothpicks to coax fill icing evenly to the outlines.
Decorate with more icing or sprinkles, as desired (see post above). Let cookies dry uncovered at room temperature for 4-6 hours.
To get sheen (as seen on the Oscars and gold stars), mix 1/4 teaspoon luster dust and 1 tablespoon clear imitation vanilla or vodka in a small bowl. Use a clean small paint brush to paint a thin layer over the tops of the dried cookies. Allow to dry 1 hour.
Iced cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for several days.