The first post of a blog seems like a pretty big deal, and I couldn’t think of a better first post for my blog than my Decorated Christmas Cookies. This is a recipe that I make every year to give out as presents to friends and family. They make the perfect gift because they are homemade, can be customized for the recipient, keep for a long time, and because… who doesn’t like cookies?! I initially planned on just giving them out as a present the first year that I made them, but after that first year, my friends and family started requesting them, and now it has turned into a tradition.
This year I decided to make Santas, Rudolphs, snowflakes, presents, and Christmas trees. Other cute options are to make stockings (maybe even decorated with the names of the people you’re giving them to), snowmen, and little hollys.
For some, making decorated sugar cookies seems like a daunting task, and it can be if you try to do it all in one day. That’s why I usually take 3-4 days to make these. This is the schedule I typically follow:
- Day 1: Make the dough
- Day 2: Bake the cookies
- Day 3: Do the base layer of icing
- Day 4: Add icing details and finishing touches
The cookie dough recipe I use is from here. I love it for these cookies because it uses brown sugar which I feel gives the cookies a wonderful flavor over other dough recipes that just use white sugar. For the royal icing, I typically use almond flavoring, but feel free to use any other flavors that you love such as vanilla (although you may want to buy clear vanilla so that it doesn’t color your icing), peppermint, or lemon.
OK, let’s get started shall we?! First things first. Gather all of your cookie dough ingredients.
Place the softened butter, brown sugar, and white sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer.
Then, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. This usually takes me about 5 minutes.
Next, dump in all of the dry ingredients and mix to combine. The dough will be pretty stiff.
Split the dough in half, and mold each half into discs with your hands. Wrap the discs up in plastic wrap and throw them in the fridge! This is where I stop on the first day 🙂 You could also go straight into baking the cookies if you’re not lazy like me.
The next day, take the dough discs out of the fridge. If you have enough time, let them sit out at room temperature for an hour or so to soften, it makes rolling the dough out less of a work out. Roll one disc out to about 1/4 of an inch thick. Then, take your favorite Christmas cookie cutter shapes, cut out your cookies and let the baking begin!
Bake your cookies at 350 degrees for about 9 minutes. I like to take them out just before the edges start to brown.
At this point I usually put all the baked cookies in an airtight container and call it quits until the next day. But! If you want to forge on, go for it. Get your gel food colors, piping bags, and sprinkles ready to go.
Then, make the royal icing base. Combine the meringue powder and water in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Then add the powdered sugar and flavor extract. Add more water as needed to get a consistency that will hold up when piped.
Split the base up into as many bowls as colors you’ll need (don’t forget to count white as a color if you need it – I’ve almost done that several times!)
Add your gels colors and mix until uniform. Add more water as needed if you think the icing is getting too thick to pipe. At this point, put 1/3 to 1/2 of each color in a piping bag and set aside. Then, add enough water to the remaining icing of each color to achieve a runny consistency. This will be your “flood” icing. The general idea is to use the stiffer icing in the piping bags to pipe borders and details, and to use the flood icing to fill inside borders to get a nice smooth iced surface.
Once you have your icing all ready to go, set up a work surface to do your decorating. You’ll need your cookies, icing, toothpicks, and all the sprinkles.If you’re like me, you might also need a mimosa…
Now, it’s time to decorate your heart out! I included a picture below of the border/flooding process on one of the reindeer I made. I usually need to use a toothpick to spread around the flood icing to the edges of the border.
I typically take one day to do the base layer of frosting. Then I’ll come back the next day and do the more detailed work. The picture below is about half way through the first day of icing.
And here is what they look like after putting on the finishing touches!
I hope you enjoyed this post!
Decorated Christmas Cookies
Sugar Cookie Ingredients
- 1 cup slightly softened butter
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
- 2 extra large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 4 cups flour
Royal Icing Ingredients
- 8 cups powdered sugar (one 2-lb bag)
- 2/3 cup water, plus more as needed
- 6 Tablespoons meringue powder
- 1.5 Tablespoons almond extract
- Wilton’s gel food coloring in desired colors
Sugar Cookie Directions
- Cream together the butter and both sugars until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla. Mix thoroughly.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the salt, baking powder and flour. Add this mixture to the egg/butter mixture and mix to combine.
- Split dough in half and pat into two discs using your hands. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 2 hours or overnight.
- Preheat over to 350 F. Roll out the dough, cut into desired shapes and place on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. If you rolled the dough to 3/16″ thick, bake for about 7 minutes. If you rolled the dough to 1/4″ thick, bake for about 10 minutes.
Royal Icing Directions
- In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment (or in a large bowl with a hand mixer) mix together the water and meringue power until combined.
- Add the powdered sugar and almond extract and mix for several minutes until smooth.
- Add more water as needed for an icing that will hold its shape when piped.
- Divide icing among as many bowls as colors you plan on using. Add gel food coloring and mix until desired coloring is achieved.
- Place half of each icing color into individual piping bags.
- To the remaining icing, add more water to achieve a slightly runny consistency.
- To decorate each cookie, use the icing in the piping bag to pipe a border on the cookie. Use the thinner icing to fill in the border. Use the icing in the piping bags for detailing after the first layer of icing has dried.