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Crash Course in Decorated Sugar Cookies

Looking for tips and tricks on how to decorate cookies? This crash course on decorating sugar cookies has you covered!

PIN Crash Course in Decorated Sugar Cookies for later! 


How to Decorate Sugar Cookies

Calling all sugar cookie lovers! Are you ready to learn how to decorate sugar cookies like a pro? We have a crash course for you!

Jennifer from Not Your Momma’s Cookie is here to talk all 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 few links to some easy and beautiful tutorials for decorating. Sound good? Let’s get this party started!

Cookie Decorating 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 to make a stunning set of sugar cookies. Told you this was easy!

Making Sugar Cookies for Decorating

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.

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 for Decorating Sugar Cookies

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 if you’re new to decorating:

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.

Royal Icing Recipes:

Antonia’s Royal Icing Recipe

Royal Icing

Royal Icing 101

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

Glaze Icing

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 for Cookie Decorating

You will need to invest in a couple of 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 few dollars.

Tips: Icing tips are super important – they determine the size and the shape of the icing flowing onto the cookie. To start, you should get a couple of #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. You can 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. Find the food coloring that’s best for you.

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!

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 for Decorated Sugar Cookies 

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!

Icing Consistency

Outlining and Filling Cookies with Royal Icing

Decorating Sugar Cookies

This is the scary part, right? 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. 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 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 Beginner Sugar Cookie Decorating

Now that you know the basics, here are some cookie tutorials with great instructions to try!

Double-Decker Valentine’s Cookies

Stacked Snowman Cookies

Citrus Cookies

Beautiful Marbled Ornament Cookies

Winter Hats and Mittens Cookies

Sugar Cookie Dough Recipe



  • 1 ½ cup butter softened
  • 1 ½ cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 4 ½ cup flour


  • Add the salt, baking powder, and flour to a medium-sized bowl and whisk together; set aside.
  • In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on a high speed until fluffy and light in color.
  • Add the eggs and vanilla to the mixer, only mixing until combined.
  • Add in the dry ingredients in two parts; adding half of the mixture at a time.
  • Wrap dough in two packs using plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour or overnight.
  • When the dough is ready to be rolled out, pull one sugar pack at a time from the fridge and sprinkle the flour on your workbench as needed while rolling to help with the stickiness. Roll the dough to ¼ inch think and use any cookie cutters you’d like!
  • Once cookies are cut into the shapes, let them chill in the fridge again for at least 1 hour (I freeze mine overnight).
  • Bake the cookies at 325 degrees for 12-17 minutes, depending on the size of your cookies; you’ll want them slightly golden brown around the edges.

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  1. 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. You’re so interesting! I don’t suppose I’ve read a single thing like that before.

    So nice to find another person with original thoughts
    on this subject. Really.. thanks for starting this up.
    This site is something that is required on the web,
    someone with some originality!

  3. The question I have is that decorating the sugar cookies how do I prevent the cookies do not became too soft not crunch like it supposed to be

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