I've discovered the key to pretty frosting is a piping bag. I don't spread anything on with a knife! I try to stick to about four colors to keep clean-up easier, and it keeps the whole process a little simpler.
My Favorite Sugar Cookies
2 C. sugar
1 T. vanilla
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
5 C. flour
Beat sugar and butter; add eggs and vanilla. Once incorporated and smooth, add dry ingredients, and just mix enough to bring it all together.
Split dough in two; refrigerate in waxed paper at least an hour.
When ready to roll out, roll on a floured surface about 0.5" thick. At this point, I like to freeze my cutouts. They can stay in the freezer to be pulled out later, or it just sets the shape nicely. I freeze them about an hour before baking. To freeze, line on a baking sheet with waxed paper between layers of shapes.
To bake, line a sheet with parchment paper. Allow shapes to sit out of freezer about 10 minutes. Bake 8-10 minutes at 350, or until golden brown. Cool before frosting.
1/2 C. butter, softened
2 tsp. almond extract
4 1/2 C. powdered sugar
2 T. milk
1 T. corn syrup (up to 2 T. to thin)
Beat butter in a mixer until it's a whipped consistency. Add remaining ingredients. Use corn syrup to thin, if needed, instead of milk. Tint to desired color; fill piping bags to frost.