As kids, my brother and I knew the holidays had truly arrived when our mom broke out the sanding sugars. A coating of these crunchy, brightly colored sugars made even her simplest sugar cookies take on a sparkly magic. Even now, I can't resist taking one of these from the cookie platter. Add some sparkle! Pick up a jar of sanding sugar for your holiday cookies.Sanding sugars are really nothing more than course-grain sugar tinted with coloring. You can even make your own if you're feeling industrious! Their multifaceted surfaces catch the light and make baked goods glitter — not only cookies, but frosted cupcakes, layer cakes, muffins, and scones.
Sanding sugar needs something to stick to (rather like making glitter pictures with glue in grade school!). Decorate cookies, cupcakes, and cakes with icing or frosting first, and then sprinkle with sanding sugar. To add sparkle to muffins and scones, sprinkle the sanding sugar over the tops just before baking. The sugar will stick to the dough, but won't melt during baking, so the baked goods emerge warm and sparkling.
The range of available colors is much greater these days than my mother's basic set of green and red! You can pick up sanding sugars in almost every color of the rainbow at Williams Sonoma and King Arthur Flour.