How to Make the Cutest Holiday Decorated Cookies

How to Make the Cutest Holiday Decorated Cookies

Are you a beginner at cookie decorating and want the best recipes and tips to start? Are you a pro and are looking for a few new cut-out cookie recipes to try? You're in the right place! 

I've been making and decorating cut-out Christmas cookies for 20+ years now and have a few (ok, like 100, tips and recipes to share with you.)

Buckle in, babies. I'm going to hit you with a lot of cookie decorating info!

How to Make the Cutest Holiday Decorated Cookies

My first and most important tip: Cookies are not meant to be perfect; they're meant to be EATEN. 

Do not, I repeat, do NOT stress about what you as the baker might view as imperfections. Here's the reaction every recipient of your cookies will have, "Oh! These are the CUTEST cookies!" I promise. This is my guarantee. 

Do not be intimidated by cookies you see that are made by people (and I love them and they're dear friends) who make cookies for a living, decorate 100s of cookies a week, and might achieve their results with the help of a projector. 

Ok? Ok. Now let's have some cookie decorating fun! 

Recipes and Tips for Christmas Cookie Decorating

You're going to need a great cut-out cookie recipe. 

Here are a few that are perfect for Christmas:

For decorating, you'll want a foolproof royal icing recipe.

Here's my Royal Icing recipe. Be sure to read through all of the tips included in this post. It's a loooooong one, but I took royal icing questions from blog readers and answered them all in the post. 

The basic process is to outline the cookies using piping consistency icing. This is the thick icing that is straight off of the beater. It keeps its shape and won't budge once dry. I typically outline cookies using a #2 tip. If you're a beginner or decorating with kids, you might start with a #3 tip. 

how to outline: decorating cookies with royal icing

Remember, practice piping on a plate or cookie sheet before going to the cookie. This will give you a feel for piping and get rid of any shakiness you might start with. If you make a mistake piping, just scrape it off and try again! No one will know! 

To hold a piping bag, you'll want to hold it above the cookie at a slight angle. Use one hand to guide the bag and the other, positioned at the top of the icing bag to squeeze. To "close" an outline, stop squeezing and bring the icing tip to the cookie. 

Here's a post I wrote for The Pioneer Woman about how to fill a piping bag

I like to stand to decorate cookies. I place the cookies on a cookie sheet. Put the cookie sheet on a small step stool on my kitchen table so I'm not bending over and straining my back. (Thank you to my husband for this genius tip!) Some people prefer sitting to decorate. Do what feels most natural to you. 

how to flood cookies: decorated cookies with royal icing

Once your cookies are outlined, you'll thin the same icing with water to make fill or flood icing. To thin, gently stir water into your icing a bit at a time until it is the consistency of glue or thick syrup. A ribbon of icing dropped back into the bowl should disappear in a count of "one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two" (or three). 

If your icing is thinner than this, stir in some sifted powdered sugar. Do not, under any circumstances use icing that is too thin. It'll look beautiful wet, but the next day, the icing will be sticky and damp and will NEVER dry. You might even cry. Trust me on this. 

Once the cookies are outlined and filled, they'll need to dry uncovered for 6-8 hours or overnight. 

how to decorate christmas cookies

Tools for decorating cookies.

You could spend a pretty penny on cookie decorating supplies. Here are the basics you'll want:
  • disposable icing bags: I like these rather than "tipless" bags, which are thinner and more likely to burst, especially for newbie decorators. Do not under any circumstances (unless it's midnight and your cookies are be delivered at 8am) use ziptop bags. Don't do it. I'll be watching. (That sounds creepy.)
  • couplers and tips: use these to control the size of your piping for outlining and detail work. To start, I recommend #1, 1.5, 2, and 3. These are all "plain tips." If you're following a specific tutorial, look for what is used. This PME brand tip is my absolute favorite. 
elf of the shelf cookies: how to decorate christmas cookies

  • gel paste food coloring: these are much easier to find these days. I used to drive an hour to the cake decorating store in town back in the day. I recommend Americolor or Chefmaster brand. Find them both on Amazon or in your favorite bakery supply store.
  • squeeze bottles: you'll use these to flood your cookies with thinned icing. So much easier than using piping bags. These are easy to pick up at craft stores or online. I love the Sweet Sugarbelle line with their removable tips. And, no, you cannot reuse hair color bottles...that's a serious question I've gotten in the past.
  • food coloring pens: just the ticket for easy decorating and for adding details onto dried icing. 
  • toothpicks: you'll use these to guide icing to edges and pop large air bubbles.
  • oscillating fan: this isn't a must, but helpful if you have one. Royal icing looks so shiny when wet, and it's a little disappointing when it dries matte. That's how royal icing works, but using a fan during the first part of the drying process helps it keep a little shine. 

how to make the christmas cookies like a pro

Game plan for decorating cookies.

Time wise? Well, that depends on how many colors you're mixing and how detailed your design is. Plan for several hours. Not just a couple, SEVERAL. You might have some inactive time in your decorating as well when you have to wait for one section to dry before continuing on. 

My preferred way is to bake my cookies the day before I want to decorate. That way, on decorating day, I start with a fresh mind and a clean kitchen! 

If you're making a lot, say for gifts for neighbors and friends, you can freeze the cookies at any step along the way. (OK, don't freeze them when the icing is wet.) I share allllll of the details on freezing cookies here

Decorated Christmas cookie ideas for beginners.

Just starting out? Yay! You're going to have so much fun! Here are a few ideas to start (click the links to go to the tutorials):
marbled christmas ornament cookies

Marbled Christmas Ornament about a big bang for your buck! These are easy peasy and oh-so-glamorous! 

tips for christmas cookie decorating

Christmas Tree Cookie Pops...anything on a stick gets extra "cute points," am I right? 

"painted" christmas tree cookies

Painted Christmas Tree Cookies...Oh! I love these! You'll only use white icing and then "paint" on the branches. 

How to decorate Christmas cookies with kids. 

No, it doesn't necessarily involve wine (for you).

tips for decorating cookies with kids

1. You'll want to prep EVERYTHING ahead of time.
2. Sprinkles, sprinkles, sprinkles. Anything covered in sprinkles is cute! 
3. Try to let go of your inner control freak. (This is a toughie for me.)

simple cookie decorating with kids

5. Go super simple and use food coloring pens - details here

How to decorate gingerbread cookies.

the best way to decorate gingerbread cookies

I have strong feelings about gingerbread cookies. The icing shouldn't take away from that ginger taste or gingerbread texture! Therefore, I decorate almost ALL of my gingerbread cookies using only outlines in white icing. 

how to decorate gingerbread cookies

I'll occasionally add a pop of red or a brush of gold luster dust, but usually any pop of color comes from sprinkles, sanding sugar, or add-ons. It's the way to go! 

Find all of my Christmas decorated cookies by clicking to "Christmas cookies" from the navigation bar up top, or just click here. You'll find tutorials like these...

how to decorate christmas cookies

If you make cookies with the help of this post, using these recipes or ideas, please post and tag me on Instagram. I WANT TO SEE!!! Instagram: @bridget350

How to Make the Cutest Holiday Decorated Cookies

Let's see those Christmas cookies!!!

*portions of the post appeared here.

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