Shortbread Stars with Royal Icing

  • recipe photo
  • I love the buttery, flaky texture of shortbread, and this chocolate version does not disappoint. Children will have fun creating designs on the cookies by dragging a toothpick through red and white royal icing.

With two colors of royal icing, these chocolate shortbread cookies are a beautiful alternative to classic Christmas sugar cookies. For a more sophisticated cookie for adults, skip the royal icing and enjoy the balance of sea salt and chocolate.

Ingredients - Cookies

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. sea salt (optional)


  • Combine the butter and powdered sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium high speed until light in texture, about 2 minutes. Add the vanilla extract and cocoa and mix until combined, about 1 minute, scraping down the sides if necessary. Add the flour and sea salt (if using) and mix on low speed until thoroughly incorporated, about 2-3 minutes. The dough should be uniform in color.

  • Divide the dough into two equal parts. Roll to form two balls, then flatten each ball into a 1-inch-thick disk. Wrap each disk in a piece of parchment paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Remove one disk of dough from the refrigerator. Unwrap the dough and place another piece of parchment paper atop the disk. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough between the two pieces of parchment to a thickness of 1/4 inch. Remove the top layer of parchment and cut as many cookies as you can, using a 3-inch star cookie cutter (or other desired shape). Gather dough scraps and re-roll. If the dough gets too warm and begins to stick, place it back in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. Repeat with the other disk of dough.

  • Place the cookies 1 inch apart on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake for 12-14 minutes. Slide the parchment paper (with the cookies on it) onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before frosting.

Ingredients - Royal Icing

  • 2 egg whites (pasteurized eggs are preferred since the whites will not be cooked)*
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 3 1/2 to 4 cups sifted powdered sugar
  • Optional: red food coloring

* If you are concerned about using raw egg whites to make the frosting, the lemon juice and egg whites can be heated to 160 degrees and then cooled before using.


  • Combine the lemon juice and egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on medium-high speed until fluffy. Add 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar and mix until well incorporated and free of lumps. For a thicker icing, add the additional 1/2 cup of powdered sugar.

  • Divide the icing into two bowls and stir in a few drops of food coloring into one bowl, adding enough to create a vibrant red color. Ice the cookies as desired, using a toothpick or blunt knife to create different patterns on the cookies. Allow the icing to set completely before serving.

  • The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week, or they can be frozen for 2 weeks.

Note: This makes a very large batch of icing, so you can decorate other cookies with it as well; cut it in half if you are only making the shortbread cookies.

Makes 2 dozen 3-inch star cookies