We use Martha Stewart's sugar cookie recipe, and have always had luck with it!
Some of Martha's tips for baking and decorating cookies:
royal icing in a variety of colors. Use a #1 or #2 Ateco pastry tip fitted in a pastry bag. Once the cookies are baked and cooled, carefully pipe a border of royal icing. Then "flood" the outline using a thinner blend of royal icing to coat the cookies. Use a toothpick or skewer to help push icing into place. Allow the icing to dry completely, up to one day. Dragging is the process of adding a second color through flooded icing. Use a toothpick to pull the icing; pull in alternate directions for a marbleized look. Keep filled pastry bags upright in a glass lined with a damp paper towel or use squeeze bottles. To create raised designs, pipe icing on top of dried flooded areas.Pipe icing onto the cookies, and sprinkle with sanding sugar for a sparkling effect called sugaring. Tip the cookie to remove excess sugar."Keep sanding sugar (a large-grain decorating sugar) in a variety of colors on hand. Place the unbaked cookie on a sheet of parchment paper, and sprinkle the sugar on top. Tip the cookie upside down to remove excess sugar.Try coating your cookies with
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 large egg, beaten
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon almond or vanilla extract
Whisk together flour, salt and baking powder and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until lightly and fluffy. With the mixer running, add egg, milk and vanilla, mixing well until combined.
Transfer dough to a work surface. SHape into 2 disks, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes and transfer to baking sheets, leaving an inch in between. Bake until lightly golden, about 10 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool.
Whisk icing ingredients together and pour into 3 separate shallow bowls, add different colors to different bowls a drop at a time until you reach desired color.
Dip the topside of each cookie into the icing. Remove quickly and let icing drip excess in icing bowl. If necessary, rum a knife lightly thru cookie to remove excess. Pour crystal colored sugar or sprinkles on top.
You can also pour icing into a pastry bag and decorate with different patterns. Let it dry on cooling rack until frosting has hardened.