For the sugar cookies:
In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until well-combined and smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, vanilla and almond extract, if using, and beat until combined. On low speed, slowly add in the flour, baking powder and salt, and beat until incorporated.
Divide the dough into 2 equal portions. Place one dough portion between 2 sheets of parchment and roll out to 1/4-inch thick. Repeat with the remaining portion of dough. Place the 2 sheets of dough on a baking sheet and chill for at least 1 hour or up to 1 day.
While the dough chills, preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Remove the dough from the fridge and cut into shapes with a cookie cutter, re-rolling any scraps and cutting more shapes. Transfer the shapes to the prepared baking sheets. If the dough is too warm, freeze for 15 minutes or until firm.
Bake for 10 minutes, or until the cookies are set and begin to brown. Let the cookies cool for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Baked sugar cookies can be frozen in an airtight container for up to one month before icing.
For the border icing:
In a small bowl, add the powdered sugar, pure vanilla extract and water or milk and whisk to combine. Add the food coloring, if using, a few drops at a time, until colored to your liking. The mixture should be very thick but still pourable. Add more powdered sugar as needed.
Transfer the border icing to a squeeze bottle using a funnel. You can also scoop into a pastry bag fitted with a small plain tip. Before icing any cookies, practice on a piece of parchment paper to get the feel of the icing.
Holding the bottle or bag tip directly over one cookie, begin tracing an outline of the cookie, squeezing gently and using both hands, if needed, to maintain consistent pressure. Allow the icing to dry slightly before continuing with the flood icing.
For the flood icing:
In a small bowl, add the powdered sugar, pure vanilla extract and water or milk and whisk to combine. Add the food coloring, if using, a few drops at a time, until colored to your liking. The mixture should still be pretty thick, but will drizzle more freely than the border icing. If needed, add additional water or milk to loosen until the consistency is pourable. Pour the flood icing into a squeeze bottle or into a pastry bag fitted with a small plain tip.
Prepare as many batches and colors of flood icing as you need to decorate your cookies.
Begin filling the interior of the border drawn on each cookie with the flood icing, being careful not to add too much that it overflows the border icing. Use either the nose of the bottle or a small toothpick to push the icing evenly over the cookie and up against the corners.
Place the iced cookie on a cooling rack to dry for 24 hours. The cookies are dry when the surface is completely smooth, dry and resists smudging when touched. Store the finished cookies between sheets of parchment paper in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 10 days.
This content was originally published here.