Homemade Valentine’s Day cookies are the best way to show your love this season. Give someone special a sweet delicious treat! Have fun by customizing these heart-shaped cookies with royal icing colors and adding personalized messages.
With love in the air this February, you can make these decorated shortbread cookies for friends, family, and those extra special loved ones in your life. This Valentine cookie recipe is also great for kids that want to share with their classmates and buddies.
Ready to give it a try? Let’s get your stand mixer fired up, rolling pin handy, and some piping bags ready to go for a little Valentine’s Day fun!
When making rolled cookies, you’re looking for a dough that can be easily rolled and then hold its shape after baking. Ever since I started making my shortbread cookies, I use a similar base for cookie cutter shapes because the recipe yields a sturdy treat that can be stored for a long time.
The size of the cookies can vary from tiny hearts to bigger sizes over 4-inches. For this recipe, I used a 3-inch heart-shaped cookie cutter and that produced about 12 cookies. With the scrapes, I like to roll and make smaller shapes for variety otherwise those pieces just go to waste.
The great thing about this Valentine cookies recipe is the type of flour you choose can be flexible. I use Gluten-Free flour for a tasty result, otherwise, all-purpose flour works well.
Border and flood icing technique
There are many different techniques and recipes for decorating sugar cookies. I used the “border and flood” technique with royal icing made with meringue powder. This method uses a thicker icing to create a border design and allows it to dry slightly. Next, you flood the inside of the border with a thinner icing to completely cover the cookie.
Border icing tips
The icing should have the thickness of creamy peanut butter when you pipe it, but easy enough to push through your piping bag. You want the icing to hold in place and not run off the cookie. I always add some icing to my piping bag, write a few letters and see if it will hold its shape or design. If it doesn’t, add more powdered sugar!
Flood icing tips
The flood icing should be a little looser, creating a smooth ribbon when you lift it in the bowl with a spoon, similar to Elmer’s glue. That way it will be easy to spread. I noticed that the less water you add, the quicker the flood icing will dry.
It takes about 6 hours plus for this icing to dry, longer if the icing is thick. It may take a few tries, but just continue to check the texture, adding more powder sugar to thicken, and a little bit of water to loosen the icing.
For coloring the icing on the Valentine cookies, I recommend Wilton Gel Icing Colors. You only need a very small amount of gel color to achieve the colors you want and the icing does not get diluted. I use a toothpick to transfer a small amount of gel color to the icing, then mix with a spoon while adjusting the intensity and hue of the colors as needed.
The royal icing recipe makes about 1 3/4 cups, just enough for about 7 colors at 1/4 cup (2 ounces each) split up for border and flood icing for 12 cookies. It may be easier to make a few colors or make two separate batches or royal icing base if making several different colors.
From here you can wrap them up in clear bags and give them as delicious cookie presents, or make conversation heart cookies with a message. You can use border icing or edible markers to write your special notes on each cookie. Make sure the surface is completely dry before packaging or writing on the cookies.
More cookie recipes
Let the cookie dough chill
It’s important to rest and chill the cookie dough in between mixing and rolling. This allows the proteins in the dough to relax and not be tough when you roll out the cookies. The chilling allows the butter to solidify slightly, so it’s easier to cut and transfer to the baking sheet. You want your cookies to be tender yet durable for decorating.
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- 14 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 cups gluten-free flour
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, add butter and sugar. Mix on low speed to combine. Increase to medium speed and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add vanilla. Mix on medium speed until combined for 15 seconds.
- Add flour to the bowl and mix on low speed to combine. Increase speed to medium and mix until the dough begins to clump together and cling to the paddle, about 10 seconds.
- Transfer dough to a flat surface and use hands to bring the dough together.
- Place dough on a large piece of plastic wrap. Press into a ½-inch thick rectangle. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Remove dough and allow to soften slightly at room temperature.
- Place dough on a piece of parchment paper and lightly dust the surface with flour. Place another piece of parchment paper on top and roll out to ¼-inch thickness.
- Use a 3-inch heart shaped cookie cutter to cut out 12 cookies. Transfer cookies 1-inch apart on a parchment paper lined sheet pan. Chill cookies for 15 minutes if the dough has come to room temperature before baking.
- Adjust the oven rack to the center position. Preheat to 350°F (177ºC).
- Bake cookies until lightly golden-brown on the edges, about 13 to 15 minutes. Times will vary depending on the size of the cookie.
- Completely cool cookies on a sheet tray for 5 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack before icing.
- Add powdered sugar, meringue powder, and 9 tablespoons warm water about 100-110°F (38-43°C) to a large mixing bowl.
- If using a stand mixer beat on low speed for 7 to 10 minutes until a thick glue-like consistency is reached. If using a hand-held mixer beat on high speed for 10 to 12 minutes.
- If needed, add and mix an additional ½ teaspoon of warm water at a time until desired consistency is reached.
- For border-icing, the consistency should be similar to peanut butter but pipeable. If you drizzle a little from your spoon, the ribbon should hold for a few second before melting back into the icing.
- Evenly separate into cups for each color you want to use. Use a small amount of gel food coloring to color each icing.
- Transfer a portion of the border-icing to a pastry bag, saving the rest to make flood-icing. This will help keep the border and flood-icing color consistent.
- For flood-icing, the consistency should be similar to glue and not fall off the cookie when piped. When drizzled from a spoon the icing should sink immediately back into the icing. Make the flood-icing by adding ¼ teaspoon of warm water to the border icing, whisking and adding more water as needed until flood consistency is reached.
- Add the flood-icing to a pastry bag. You should have more flood-icing compared to border-icing made.
- Pipe a heart-shaped border around the cookies with border-icing leaving about a ⅛-inch edge.
- Allow border-icing to dry slightly to the touch. If you draw the borders on all your cookies before moving onto flooding, the first cookies will be dry enough to start flooding once you finish drawing the borders.
- Fill in the interior of the cookie with flood-icing, filling the interior of the cookie and pushing the icing into the corners and against edges. If needed use a small offset spatula to spread the icing.
- Allow the cookies to dry. Leave the cookies undisturbed for at least 6 to 8 hours to fully dry. Depending on the thickness of your icing and the layers on the cookie, it may take longer.
- When the cookies are dry, the surface of the cookies will be completely smooth, dry, and resistant to nicks or smudges.
- Use red border icing or edible writing pens to write messages on the dried cookies if desired.
- The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.
- All-purpose flour can be substituted for gluten-free flour (2 cups/ 284 g/ 10 ounces).
- Depending on the size of the cookie cutter the recipe yields 8-10 (3.5-inch cookies) or 12 (3-inch cookies).
- Bob's Red Mill 1:1 Gluten-Free Baking flour is recommended for this recipe.
- Excess cookie dough trimmings can be pressed together and rerolled once for additional cookies.
- Undecorated cookies can be stored up to 2 weeks in an airtight container before decorating.
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