Decorating Christmas cookies is a favorite pastime that conjures up memories of sprinkles, a variety of colored frostings, and some lopsided snowman and stars. And while those fun blobby men are great for when you are decorating your Christmas cookies by yourself or with your kiddos, if you're making them for a cookie swap, you might be motivated to refine your technique.
So what happens if you want to enhance your Christmas cookie decorating abilities, but aren't sure where to start? Well, we've got you covered! Below, we've broken down our top five favorite ways to decorate Christmas cookies. With methods ranging from just spreading your icing on, to flooding your cookies and topping them with dragées, we suggest giving one, or all, a shot this year!
Watch Now: How to Decorate Cookies with Royal Icing
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Gather Your Tools and Ingredients
First, gather your ingredients to decorate your Christmas cookies.
You will need:
- Plain cookies to decorate*
- Prepared royal icing (divided and dyed different colors, if you like)
- Small knife, spoon and/or spatula
For more elaborate cookies:
- Piping tips and pastry bags for icing (or make your own pastry bag with a plastic bag)
- A toothpick, chopstick or clean (never used) paintbrush, for spreading the icing
- Colored sugar, sprinkles, gel icing, and food coloring
* Seasonal favorites include sugar cookies and gingerbread cookies, but these cardamom cookies or these anise cinnamon sugar cookies are fun twists. In short, any cookie that is rolled out and cut is open to being decorated.
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Spread on Icing
The easiest way to ice cookies is to simply spread the icing on with a small spatula or knife. The back of a small spoon works, too, as does a chopstick. Always scoop a blob of icing onto the center of the widest part of the cookie and spread the icing outwards, stopping just before hitting the edges. It's not fancy, but it gets the job done!
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If you plan to pipe the icing to make more elaborate or delicate patterns, fill a pastry bag—fitted with a narrow tip—with the icing. Don't overfill it. In fact, we suggest to fill it about one-quarter of the way, as pastry bags are easiest to control when they're only about one-quarter full. Otherwise, you have to be concerned with icing coming out of the top of the bag.
No pastry bag? No problem! simply scoop some icing into a sealable plastic bag, twist the bag to force the icing towards one bottom corner of the bag, and use scissors to snip a very small hole in the corner through which you can then pipe the icing.
Pipe icing onto the cookies by squeezing the bag with one hand and guiding the tip with the other. Keep the tip hovering just over the cookie—don't touch the tip to the cookie, that will break the flow of icing.
Decorate from the inside out to minimize smearing your efforts.
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Piped and Filled Cookies
For more professional-looking, fully iced cookies, use the pipe-and-flood method. Pipe a border of sugar cookie icing around the edges of the sugar cookies. Let them sit a few minutes so the icing sets.
Now pipe more icing onto the center of the cookies, and use a toothpick, clean (NEVER USED) paintbrush, chopstick or small spatula to spread the icing all over the cookie.
Professional bakers call this technique "flooding the cookies." They happen to use an icing with a slightly thicker consistency for the border, then a thinner icing for the middle of the cookie, and they use professional pastry bags with different tips for the border and center of the cookie.
For a super-smooth final surface, thin the icing with a bit of water or milk so it flows and fills in the piped-outlined area.Continue to 5 of 6 below.
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Decorate With Sugar, Sprinkles or Dragées
Add colored sugar or sprinkles to the cookies while the icing is still wet.
If you want to make a pattern with another color of icing, wait an hour for the first layer of icing to dry completely. You can also use gel icing to add more decoration to the cookies. Gel icing comes in lots of different colors and textures (there's even sparkly gel icing), and it's already in ready-to-use tubes.
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This herd of reindeer is an example of the fun you can have decorating cookies. Simple squares can be turned into gifts with a coat of white icing and piped-on colored "ribbons." Gingerbread people can be put in all manner of clothes with imaginative piping.