Number 4: Tools of the Trade
If you take a look at my little infographic I tried to include some bare bones decorating supplies. I should add that some VERY important extra tools are: aluminum baking sheets and a good quality rolling pin. These are two crucial pieces to the cookie puzzle! For obvious reasons a good rolling pin will work wonders and aluminum baking sheets provide a more even bake and help you from getting brown-bottomed cookies.
At this point you already know how to get those perfect cookies and the perfect royal icing. Check and check! If you so choose you would then colour the icing (gel colours work best, you can find them online and in specialty shops) and get the right consistency for your project.
If you are using piping tips (which are very helpful and help you pipe different shapes, different thicknesses, etc) then cut the tip off the piping bag (not too big so the tip doesn’t fall through) and place the piping tip IN the bag before icing.
If you are using a coupler (plastic nozzle looking thingy) the coupler goes in first and you can change out tips more easily that way because they screw onto the OUTSIDE of the bag. Scoop the icing into your piping bags and then tie them with elastics so the icing doesn’t explode out the top of the bag.
Personally I LOVE tipless piping bags that I get from ebay. They are inexpensive and easier to use but shipping can take a very long time and sometimes the orders get lost so it’s best to have options! In a pinch a ziploc bag works great — just snip the tip off!
Once you’ve iced your cookies you can add sprinkles, sanding sugar, dragees, nonpareils and other fun items! Doing this while the icing is wet will help them stick. It’s a great way to get pretty cookies without worrying about piping complicated shapes. I use the scribe tool to help me move around the icing and pop air bubbles in the icing (although tapping the cookies a few times will help with that, too, and you could totally just use a toothpick instead!) Be creative with the tools you have! Sanding sugar can add sparkle to dresses, a cute fondant accessory can make the world of difference. Everything is possible when it comes to cookies!
Otherwise let the icing dry for a minimum of 4-6 hours before adding anything on top of the icing. This is when you can pipe extra details on top, secure fondant add-ons or paint on cookies like with the lustre dust in the photo that is a beautiful silver colour. To use it you just add a few drops of alcohol or extract to 1/2 teaspoon or so of powder et voila! Beautiful paint in every colour of the rainbow! You can also do this with food colouring and alcohol to make a paint for cookies.
I use tweezers to secure little details or to pick and place dragees onto a cookie when they need to be precise. These specialty tweezers I purchased at a cake decorating shop.
Number 5: Technique & Fancy Extras!
Technique is a matter of practice. Practicing how to pipe with different types of icing consistencies will take time. Practice piping numbers and shapes as well as lines and circles onto extra bits of parchment paper (then once it dries you can peel it off and eat it ;))
Often times, the pros will use a projector machine called a Kopykake to project images onto cookies to aid with complicated characters — but you can also print out a photo and cut out a stencil for yourself to use with edible markers (kopykakes are SO expensive. I’m still saving pennies for one)!
Want to achieve beautiful swirls and patterns that lay flush with each other? You can use the wet-on-wet technique of swirling icing colours together while wet to achieve a pattern OR you can paint the design on. Just make sure you know which style you want before hand because you cannot move the icing around once it’s dry!
The wet on wet technique helps you achieve swirls of colours together, tie-dye patterns, and more! While wet, drop different colours onto your plain ‘flooded’ cookie and swirl together. Use a scribe tool or a tooth pick and just play around. Get a feel for how to achieve different styles. Or just google it 😉
The fancy extras are seriously ENDLESS. You can buy dozens of piping tips, create elaborate icing flowers to add onto cookies, buy an airbrush machine and stencils for a stream-lined look, buy hundreds of cookie cutters and fondant molds, etc.
There are plenty of resources online that sell supplies for decorating cookies. Find out what the MINIMUM amount of tools you is before you start buying all these specialty products. Piping bags, tips, some gel colours and simple cookie cutters won’t run you much and you can achieve beautiful results with that and a couple of toothpicks!
Number 6: Large batches & Storage Tips!
If you’re looking to bake loads of cookies then my advice is to either freeze the dough or freeze the cookies un-decorated! This can be done up to a month in advance with great results. This will allow you to take out small amounts to be decorated at a time.
Store decorated cookies AFTER they have sat out to dry for at least 4-6 hours or overnight. No, nothing will happen to the cookies, they will still taste great. If you’re worried I would cover them gently — but they will need a long time to dry before you package them.
I store mine in cellophane bags and tie them with ribbons or seal them with custom stickers. They are best within 2 weeks but realistically, can be eaten up until 4 weeks. This makes these cookies a great gift!
Number 7: Don’t Stress and Have Fun!
Cookie recipe? Got it. Royal Icing? Scooped into piping bags to the perfect consistency. All your sprinkles and sugars and other tools and fun toppings are ready to go. Remember to ALWAYS have fun — PLAN out your cookies so you are doing the proper steps at the correct times (this is SO important) and make sure you have everything HANDY! Royal icing sets pretty quickly — even though it takes a while to COMPLETELY dry. So make sure you don’t have to go running around for sprinkles at the last minute.
You’re going to make mistakes. Cookies will fall. Fingerprints will happen. Lines may not be perfect. Perfection isn’t what baking is all about — sure it may play a role but it isn’t the sole motivator. Keeping that in mind always make a few extra cookies, JUST in case. Worst case scenario? You have some ‘rejects’ to munch on after a grueling decorating session 😉
My first cookies were frankly pretty ugly. But to be honest I don’t remember thinking they were THAT bad at the time. We all have to start somewhere!
Have you ever made sugar cookies??? Any questions you have that I didn’t answer?! Please let me know and happy baking! XO
After finishing graduate school I stumbled upon my addiction and have been feeding it ever since! Baking, creating and, of course, sharing with anyone who will listen. Youth Worker for a non-profit by day, accidental small business owner and food blogger by night at Feeding My Addiciton.