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Decorating Christmas Cookies: How to Use Royal Icing to Make Beautifully Decorated Cookies

Published by Tandy Hershberg

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Start with a perfectly flat cookie. Prepare your cookie recipe dough. Chill the dough, and roll it out directly onto parchment paper or a silicone mat. Use roller rings or perfection strips, if you have them, to make sure your cookie dough is even. Your cookie decorations will look better and be easier to execute if your cookies are flat and even.

Cut the cookies out, leaving them 1/2 inch apart. Remove the extra dough, leaving the shaped cookies undisturbed on the parchment paper or silicone matt.

Transfer the parchment or silicone matt to the cookie sheet and bake the cookies according to the cookie recipe directions. Your Christmas cookies will be perfectly shaped and will not be distorted by moving them to the baking sheet. Cool your cookies completely before decorating.

Make Royal Icing

Make a recipe of royal icing by mixing:

  • 4 tablespoons of meringue powder
  • 2/3 cup of water
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar
  1. Beat the mixture with a hand mixer until stiff peaks form.
  2. In another bowl, mix 8 cups of confectioners sugar and 1 tablespoon gum arabic. Mix thoroughly, then add the sugar to the egg mixture.
  3. Beat on low until the sugar is mixed in, then increase the speed to medium until stiff peaks form again

Decorate the Christmas Cookies


  • Divide the royal icing into separate bowls for each desired color. Cover with a damp paper towel when not working with the icing. Add paste food colors to get the desired color, then add a small amount of water to the bowl and mix in. You want the icing to just barely flow but not be runny. Make all the colors that you will need for your design and keep them covered until ready to use.
  • Place the royal icing into a pastry bag with a small round tip. Draw a thin line around the border of one color and fill in the border with icing. The icing should flow together to fill the area. If the icing does not flow, add a tiny bit more water. If it runs off the cookie, the icing is too thin.
  • Wait a few minutes for the icing to crust before adding the next color. It works well to fill in all of one color on all cookies before moving to the next color. Pipe each color in this way, outlining the color right up next to the first and filling it in. Allow the icing to dry. It should take only a few minutes for the icing to crust.

Add a Third Dimension with Another Layer of Royal Icing

Pipe another layer of icing details onto the dried icing for a three dimensional cookie and a more detailed look. Try stacking decorated stars, with the largest on bottom and getting progressively smaller to form a tree. Combine sleigh and reindeer and attached them with licorice strings. Build a gingerbread nativity scene with all the cookie characters.

Design Your Own Christmas Cookies and Cookie Decorations

With practice, you will be able to make professional quality cookies in a large variety of designs. Start with the designs in your cookie cutter shapes, then branch out to designing your own cookies. For inspiration try simple coloring book or stain glass patterns. The possibilities are endless with a little imagination.

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