Special equipment: assorted cookie cutters
Melt the shortening and butter together in a medium saucepan. Let cool.
Sift the flour, sugar, ginger, cinnamon, salt and clove into a large bowl. Mix the melted butter into the flour mixture with an electric mixer on medium-low until sandy. Add the corn syrup and vanilla, and mix until evenly incorporated, but still crumbly in texture. Press the dough together by hand and divide into 4 equal portions. Press into disks about 1/2-inch thick. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.
Dust the dough and a work surface with flour. Roll 1 piece of the dough out about 1/4-inch thick. Cut into desired shapes. Transfer cut-outs to 2 parchment-lined baking sheets leaving about 2-inches in between each. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes. Gather up the scraps, re-roll and cut out.
Position oven racks to the top and bottom thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Bake the gingerbread until a rich tawny brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes and then transfer to a rack to cool completely. Decorate as desired with the Royal Icing. Store at room temperature in an air-tight container for up to 5 days. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Combine the confectioners' sugar, meringue powder and 3/4 cup water in a large bowl. Mix slowly with an electric mixer on medium-low until stiff enough to form peaks. The icing should be pure white and thick, but not fluffy and bubbly. If the frosting is over beaten, it will get aerated which makes it harder to work with. If this happens, let the frosting sit to settle, and then use a rubber spatula to vigorously beat and smooth out the frosting.
Add up to 1 tablespoon food coloring and mix with a rubber spatula until the color is uniform. (Adding too much color reduces the sheen of the frosting and can break down the consistency of the frosting over a couple of days.) Store the icing, covered, with plastic wrap on the surface.
When measuring flour, we spoon it into a dry measuring cup and level off the excess. (Scooping directly from the bag compacts the flour, resulting in dry baked goods.) The dough can be wrapped and frozen for up to 1 month. Let defrost in the refrigerator.
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