Orange Zest and Cardamom Sugar Cookies

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December is really my favorite time of the year! I love the holiday season, the cold and crisp air, beautiful lights everywhere, holiday cheer all around, there is generally a beautiful vibe in the atmosphere that is so cheerful! 


December also marks the beginning of cookie season! Every year I love to bake different kinds of cookies. Baking makes me so happy and in my zone. It takes me to a zen place. I love putting on some good holiday music, get my apron on, and bake away on weeknights and weekends. 

orange zest and cardamom sugar cookies


The first cookie that I wanted to showcase this season is my Orange Zest and Cardamom Sugar Cookies. They are really very simple to put together, you can simply keep them as Sugar Cookies, use cut outs to make them fun, OR you can beautify them by using royal icing and some creativity! 

orange zest and cardamom sugar cookies

The ingredients of the cookie are really very basic:

  • All purpose flour
  • Unsalted butter at room temperature
  • Granulated Sugar
  • Baking powder
  • Salt (always salt to balance out the sweetness)
  • Freshly ground cardamom, again always freshly ground for the best aromas!
  • Orange zest
  • Good vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
  • One egg


I LOVE the combination of Orange and Cardamom. One of the first jams I developed for Jam Lab, was an Orange and Cardamom Marmalade. It was truly wonderful, and really popular when I was selling my jams on Etsy. I used it to make a babka with a pistachio praline paste that is so good! I need to remake the recipe to ensure that the measurements are correct! 

orange zest and cardamom sugar cookies


The cookie is really made by mixing the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients. Then wrapping in a plastic wrap and put it in the fridge to firm up slightly. Roll out the cookie dough, cut out shapes, put it in the fridge to firm up slightly so that they do not spread much in the oven, and then bake off in the oven until golden brown in color.



Next is the FUN part – ROYAL ICING! I used to be so intimidated by ALL Those beautiful cookies that I would see on the internet! I would think – how are people SO creative to be able to make such wonderful designs on the cookies? IS IT THAT HARD? So a few years ago, I decided to dive in and give Royal icing a try. 

orange zest and cardamom sugar cookies

Royal Icing has 3 ingredients:

  • Confectioner’s sugar
  • Meringue powder (easily available at Amazon)
  • Warm water

orange zest and cardamom sugar cookies

Wilton has a really good recipe for royal icing that I roughly followed and I have adapted it in my recipe here. I found the water to be slightly less in their recipe, so I have adapted it to add more water in the recipe here. Main thing is to watch out for the consistency of the royal icing. The best part is, that the icing consistency can be fixed by adding more water if stiff, or adding more confectioner’s sugar if too runny and simply mixing it with a rubber spatula. 

orange zest and cardamom sugar cookies


I use the piping bags, bag ties as linked here for the royal icing. Royal icing requires the piping bags to be flexible. Wilton piping bags are a bit stiff, so they do not exactly work with royal icing.

My recipe has instructions on how to put the royal icing into the piping bag efficiently, and to use a bench scraper to scrape all the icing to the bottom of the piping bag.

orange zest and cardamom sugar cookies

You want the flooding of the cookie to be of medium consistency, and to make the 3D designs on top of the cookie, the icing needs to be stiffer. So separate out the icings into separate bowls, making sure that each bowl

has its own mini rubber spatula and then add the colors to each bowl and mix thoroughly. 

orange zest and cardamom sugar cookies

Gauge the thickness and consistency of each of the colors, and add water or sugar depending upon how stiff/loose the icing is. If the 3D design icing is a bit loose, the icing will spread on your cookie and the 3D design will be lost. Gauging the consistency of the icing comes with practice.


My suggestion is to keep a simple design as your first practice cookie, keep it to 2-3 colors and practice. Once you get the hang of it, you can move onto more complicated designs.


I use Americolor gel colors for adding color to my royal icing. I also used ChefMaster edible pens for the slightly intricate designs on the cookies. I bought the americolor gel colors from . They have a 15$ off on their website for orders over 99$, so you can get a discount on these colors for a 50 pack. Again you can start off with their 12 color basic set first, and as you use it more, you can upgrade at a later point.

orange zest and cardamom sugar cookies

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As you get more practice, you will realize how fun royal icing cookies are, and how fun it is to pipe different designs. I love the Rifle Paper Co designs, and have used it often to make cakes.


I used it here to pipe the designs on the cookies. And then make a wreath shaped design with the cookies, giving it an illusion effect of a wallpaper of elegant cookies. 

orange zest and cardamom sugar cookies


The best part about royal icing cookies is that they last for a long time, about 3 weeks, in an airtight container and they transport well too. You want to wrap them individually in plastic or parchment paper, and then put it in tins, if you want to ship them across the country. They make for excellent gifts for any holiday party. You can see the love and attention put into each cookie and they will surely be appreciated!


orange zest and cardamom sugar cookies

Hope this blog post helps with royal icing, and removes your fear of royal icing. I hope that I can do a tutorial or a video one day showing how to make the royal icing and pipe it on cookies. Now that would be fun! 🙂


Hope you all have a lovely time baking with your families, and enjoying the holiday cheer all around.





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