Crash Course in Decorated Sugar Cookies


Hi everyone! This is Jennifer from Not Your Momma’s Cookie here to talk about decorated sugar cookies. Cookie decorating season always seems to be upon us whether it’s Halloween, Christmas, or Valentine’s Day. During all of those holidays, I bet you’re seeing a ton of gorgeous decorated sugar cookies online. And, you’re probably thinking, “Well, that’s nice, but I can’t do that – I don’t have time/the right equipment to do that.” Well, I’m here to tell you that, YES, you can do it! I’m going to give you an overview of the basics and the equipment needed to decorate cookies, as well as a link to some easy and beautiful tutorials for decorating. Sound good? Let’s get this party started!

The Basics

Decorated sugar cookies are just rolled and cut sugar cookies with icing applied to them in some way. That’s it. So you need…icing and cookies. Told you this was easy.

Sugar Cookies: You’ve probably made sugar cookies at one point or another. Is there anything better than cutting out a ton of fun shapes from freshly rolled dough? I don’t think so. You have a couple options here:

Homemade sugar cookie dough: you will need the ingredients to make this dough, almost always consisting of flour, sugar, eggs, butter, baking soda and/or powder, and flavorings. Here are a couple of my favorite sugar cookie dough recipes:

Cookies from a Mix: For an easier alternative, feel free to use a cookie mix. Your results won’t be the same as with a homemade batch, but for practice and for fun it can be a great option!

Pre-Made Cookies: If you’re not concerned with special shaped cookies, try using sugar cookies from your grocery’s bakery! Chances are, they will only have round shaped cookies, but this is by far the easiest option.

Icing Options: There are a ton of sugar cookie icing options and recipes out there because everyone has their favorite one. Honestly, you could drown in all of these options, so here are the ones to think about as a newbie:

Royal Icing: By far the most popular icing choice. It dries to a hard finish so cookies can be stacked. This icing requires only one weird ingredient: meringue powder. You can buy meringue powder at many craft stores, online, and I’ve even seen it at Walmart. Wilton makes one of the cheapest meringue powders out there, so it is good for beginners.

Glaze Icing: A less popular choice because detail work can be difficult. No meringue powder required!

Pre-Made Icing: I only include this as a last resort because it can be difficult to replicate the sugar cookie designs seen around the web with this kind of icing. But, if you’re only looking to decorate on a very basic level or just decorating with kiddos, this could be an option for you.

Basic Equipment

You will need to invest in a couple different pieces to decorate sugar cookies, but not as many as you think!

Pastry bags: I prefer disposable ones because they are clear and you can see the icing level/color in them. Even though they are disposable, I still wash and reuse them to save money! A pack of 24 will set you back a couple dollars.

Tips: Icing tips are super important – they determine the size and the shape of the icing flowing onto the cookie. Wilton tips will only cost you about a $1 each. To start, you should get a couple #2 tips, as you will probably use this tip the most often. You can grow your collection as you go!

Couplers: Couplers are the little plastic things that hold your icing tip firmly in place. I buy them for .69 cents from Karen’s Cookies. You can also find them at Walmart and craft stores such as Michael’s. You should have several to start!

Icing Colors: Cookie decorators will tell you that AmeriColor food coloring is best…and they’re right! But, I started with Wilton colors and still use some of them. They will probably cost you about $1 each for a regular size container, but buying the sets can be cheaper. AmeriColor will be closer to $1.50 to $2 for a small bottle. Keep in mind that these colors will last a long time!

Cookie Cutters: I bet you already have some of these! Price varies greatly, but you can get basic shapes for super cheap. Don’t worry about getting the most expensive ones – I have plastic ones that have held up great!

Rolling pin: If you don’t have one already, you will need one of these too! You can get one for $10-$15.

There are a lot of “nice to have” items when it comes to cookie decorating as well (sprinkles, luster dust, disco dust, etc.), but this is really all that you need to get started!

Icing Consistency

The basic icing consistencies are outline and flood.

Outline: This is stiff icing used to outline shapes. This is usually the consistency of icing right after it is mixed.

Flood: This is a runny icing used to fill in shapes. You achieve this icing by taking stiff, newly made icing and adding small amounts of water to it until it is runny. Only add a little at a time!

Tutorials: Here are some tutorials to help you out!

Decorating Sugar Cookies

This is the scary part, huh? I’m breaking down the steps for you, but remember…they’re just cookies! Have fun with it.

1. Decide what cookie you would like to make (I’ve linked a couple of easy, fun cookies below)! Make sure you have the right cutter, colors, etc.

2. Make your sugar cookie dough. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface. Cut out cookies with cookie cutters. Transfer cookies to a baking sheet. Bake according to your recipe’s instructions. Let cookies cool completely before decorating.

3. Make your icing. You can use a hand mixer instead of a stand mixer if needed. Divide icing into bowls. Color with paste food coloring. For flood icing, put some of the colored icing into another bowl and add small amounts of water until runny.

4. Assemble your pastry bags (Here is a great picture tutorial). You will need a pastry bag for each color and each consistency!

5. Decorate! Let icing dry before handling.

Easy and Beautiful Cookies Beginners Can Make!

Now that you know the basics, here are some cookie tutorials with great instructions that even a newbie can make!

Happy Decorating!


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    1. lyndsay

      great post! i remember when i first made a royal icing sugar cookie, i did some deep googling to figure out what the “outline” and “flooding” was all about… this has all the info right here and with some great links! fun! makes me want to try making cookies again… ^__^

    2. Pingback: Tutorial: FATHER’S DAY NECKTIE COOKIES | Best Friends For Frosting


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