Cream together sugar and butter (or butter and shortening combination) until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well between each addition. Add vanilla and almond extract and continue to beat. Add baking powder, salt and flour and mix until dough comes together. (Note: I generally refrigerate this type of dough before I roll out, but with this recipe I roll out the dough immediately.) Roll out onto a floured surface. Cut into shapes with cookie cutters. Cookies should be at least ¼ inch thick. (I find that a cookie cutter is usually about ¼ inch deep so I use that as a guide.) Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes, depending on how thick the cookie is. Do not brown the cookie. They may be a bit blonde on the bottom, but the top should be white. Let cookies cool completely before icing.
For the Royal Icing:
In a standing mixer bowl, combine powdered sugar with meringue powder. Add almond or vanilla extract and water. Beat until thick. Icing should be the consistency of school glue. If using food coloring, separate icing into separate bowls and mix desired food coloring in each bowl. (Note: Royal icing will quickly crust over if left uncovered. If that happens, stir until softened and keep covered when not using.) To pipe the icing, use a squeeze bottle with a fine tip, a piping bag with the tip snipped or #2 or #3 piping tip. Pip a border around the edges of the cookie and then “flood” or fill the cookie inside the border. Let icing harden slightly before additional decorating. To make heart shapes with icing, Pipe dots near the edge of the cookie. Drag a toothpick through the dots to create a heart shaped border. Let iced cookies dry overnight. Store in an airtight container. Cookies can be frozen.