If you’ve ever looked at cookies on places like Pinterest or Instagram, cookie decorating may seem rather daunting. But it’s much easier than it looks, and it’s a lot of fun. So whether you want to take up a cookie decorating as a hobby or start a business of your own, this cookie decorating for beginners guide will help you get there.
What to Use to Decorate Cookies?
When learning how to decorate cookies, you’ll find that you really don’t need a whole heap of tools or accessories. However, it is always best to ensure that the items you do need are in excellent working order. So, let’s take a closer look at what you need for cookie decorating.
What Tools Do You Need?
Before getting started, you’ll need to gather a few tools. In addition to having a fantastic cookie recipe and a tasty one for icing, you’ll need:
- Custom cookie cutters – if you don’t have cookie cutters, cookie stencils or silicone molds work well too.
- Rolling pins
- Piping bags – 16-inch is usually best, but if you’re starting out, sandwich bags work well too.
- Food coloring – gel food coloring is best as it offers more vibrancy and won’t affect the consistency of your icing.
- A toothpick
What Cookies are Used for Cookie Decorating?
The first thing you need for cookie decorating is the cookies, of course! Unfortunately, while several exciting recipes are floating around out there, not all are suitable for cookie decorating. Typically, you’ll want a cookie that has a smooth, flat surface to hold the icing.
Additionally, find a cookie recipe that holds its shape; there is nothing worse than spending hours cutting out cookies to ice in the form of Christmas trees, only to have them look like obscure blobs when you take them out of the oven.
As a result, looking for a cut-out cookie or cookies for decorating recipes is handy. Alternatively, a great sugar cookie recipe will do the trick, as these are most commonly used for cookie decorating. However, if you battle to find a recipe for sugar cookies, we have one below, along with the steps to bake cookies:
- 2 and 1/4 cups (281g) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup (1.5 sticks or 170g) unsalted butter brought to room temperature
- 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
- 1 large egg (room temperature)
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- Royal icing (for decorating)
- Food coloring (for coloring royal icing)
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.
- Then, in a large bowl, using a hand mixer (or stand mixer), cream the butter and sugar on high speed until the batter is smooth and creamy. Next, add the vanilla and egg and beat for a further minute on high-speed.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet ones and mix at a low speed until all combined.
- Divide the dough into two equal batches and roll each part out on parchment paper until they sit at a quarter-inch thick.
- Stack these dough sheets (and the parchment paper_ on a baking sheet and refrigerate for 2 hours (you can keep the dough in the fridge for a max of two days).
- After chilling the dough, preheat the oven to 350°F or 177°C. Then, line two baking trays with parchment paper. Remove one dough sheet from the fridge and use cookie cutters to make cutout cookies. Complete this for both sheets of dough.
- Bake the cookies for 11-12 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned.
- Remove from the oven and allow the cookies to cool for a few minutes before transferring them to a wire cooling rack. Once they are completely cool to the touch, you can start decorating them.
How to Decorate Cookies with Royal Icing?
Royal icing is the frosting with a slight liquid consistency, ideal for cookie decorating. But, it sets and hardens at room temperature after two hours. So, don’t make up your icing until you’re ready to decorate. If you don’t have a royal icing recipe, you can find one below:
- 4 cups (480g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- 3 tablespoons meringue powder
- 9–10 tablespoons room temperature water
- gel food coloring
- Place the confectioners’ sugar, meringue powder, and water into a large bowl. Then, beat the ingredients together on high speed using a hand mixer (or stand mixer) for two minutes. When you lift the beating sticks, the icing should drizzle into the bowl and smooth out after five to ten seconds.
- If you want to color your icing, separate it into bowls and add a drop of gel food coloring to each using a toothpick.
Once your icing is ready and colored to your liking, place each batch of icing into its own piping bag. You can then begin piping the icing onto your cookies by squeezing gently to push the icing out of the piping bag and nozzle onto the cookie. When creating your cookie designs, we suggest you wait for each color to set a little (placing the cookies in the fridge will set the icing faster) before moving on to the next color to prevent them from mixing.
How Do You Decorate Sugar Cookies Like a Pro?
When decorating sugar cookies, you’ll find a few ways to make your cookie decorating look expertly done. One of the most common ways to do this is by creating an outline around the cookie using thicker icing. Then, fill in the inside using royal icing with a slightly more fluid consistency. By doing this, you create a boundary so that the more runny icing doesn’t overflow down the sides of the sugar cookies.
But by using more runny icing to fill in the shapes, you end up with a smoother, more professional look. Should you end up with any bubbles in your filled-in areas, use a toothpick to remove them. You can also use a Christmas cookie decorating kit to include cute little frosted forms or a glittery finish.
How to Decorate Cut-Out Cookies?
There are several ways that you can go about cut-out cookie decorating. In addition to using royal icing, there are several other options:
- Using Buttercream – you can whip up a batch of buttercream icing that you can apply to the cookies using a piping bag (if you want a more 3D-looking icing form), a spatula, or a knife. Since this icing remains moist, dusting with sprinkles, edible glitter, or cinnamon is easy.
- Cookie Stencils – Some cake decorating manufacturers produce cookie stencils that you place over the baked cookie. You can then use edible glitter, cocoa powder, or cinnamon to sprinkle over the stencil. Removing the stencil when you’re done will leave you with a cookie with a sweet pattern or image on it.
- Using Other Decorative Elements – Another way to decorate cookies is by dusting them with shimmer sugar, dipping cookies iced with buttercream into sugar crystals for a frosty look, or decorating the top of the cookie with candy, sprinkles, or melted chocolate.
Cookie decorating can be fun and easy, provided you have all the necessary tools. While you may need a few test runs to check the consistency of the icing and practice using the piping bags, you will soon get the hang of it and create marvelous decorated cookies in no time.