Tutorial: The Basics of Decorated Sugar Cookies!

30 11 2009

These cookies are usually impressive when I bring them to a party. Sure, it’s time consuming, but all in all, very easy and cheap to do yourself!

Your cookies might not come out as perfect as you would like the first time, but give it 3-4 times, and you will see your skills improve and your creative juices start flowing with new cookie ideas. (Just in time for the holidays!)

Supplies you need to decorate:

  • Wilton icing tip(s) 2 and/or 3 Ultimately, it depends on how small or detailed the cookie shape is. Tip 2 is smaller, but tip 3 doesn’t show shaky hands as easily. So either of these two work.
  • CouplersThese are great to use, because let’s say you are doing tiny details, as well as  broad outlining with white icing, you can easily change out tips when you use these, rather than having to make a whole new bag of icing.
  • Decorating Bags- Pick your poison, basically. If you are feeling green, feel free to buy a couple of reusable bags. Royal icing is VERY easy to clean, since there is no grease in the icing, so this is a good option. There are also disposable plastic or parchment triangles to use as well. I use plastic disposables, because I can deal with many colors at a time without worrying about running out of reusables.
  • Squeeze Bottles– These bottles just make working with flood icing a lot easier, in my opinion.
  • Toothpicks – These will quickly become your cookie decorating miracles, and you will see why in this post.

First, of course, you roll and cut your sugar cookies. This is my favorite recipe.

Rolled Sugar Cookies
Source: Cookie Craft


  • 3 cups AP flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. almond extract
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest


  1. Whisk the flour and salt together in a bowl.
  2. Using a mixer, cream butter and sugar together for about 2 minutes, until it is light and fluffy. Add the egg and extract/zest and mix until blended.
  3. Gradually add the flour/salt mixture to the wet mixture until the two are thoroughly combined.
  4. Divide the dough into 2-3 portions and form them into a disk shape. Then, wrap each portion in wax paper and chill in the fridge for a couple of hours.
  5. Once chilled, roll dough out into desired shapes and place on a Silpat or parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 12-16 minutes, until cookies start to turn golden along the edges.
  6. Cool cookies on a cooling rack.

Then, whip up some royal icing (This is the recipe I use, and I sub 2 tsp. of almond extract for 2 tsp. of the water called for in the recipe.). Really mix it well until it gets fluffy and stops looking shiny. It takes a while, especially with a hand mixer (I’ve been there…), so if you are using a hand mixer, be prepared to mix for a good 10 minutes.

Of course, color your icing the colors you want. Flood icing is simply royal icing with a little bit more water added until it’s fairly liquidy. The best way to find out if your icing is the right consistency is to mix it well and let it drip from a spatula or whisk, into the bowl. If the icing holds its shape in the liquid for about 5 seconds, it’s good to go! Then, just pour it into your squeeze bottles.

Now that all of your icings are prepared, fill your icing bag about a quarter of the way full. This allows you to maintain good control of your icing, and overfilled bags can really be strenuous on your hands to squeeze. Depending on the complexity of the cookie, choose tip 2 or 3. Tip 2 is good for more detailed cookies, but I used tip 3 for the below cookie since the shape is fairly simple.

Then, pipe your outlines. If you happen to mess up, use a toothpick to guide the icing to the right spot. Make sure there are no gaps in your icing, because if you leave gaps, flood icing will spill right out of your cookie.

After all of your cookies are outlined, start squeezing your flood icing in.

After you squeeze a fair amount in, use a toothpick to spread icing into the corners of the cookies.

Now, your cookies should look something like this. If you have detailing to add, like I did, allow the flood icing to set for a couple of hours so that it just doesn’t sink into the flood icing.

I can’t stress this enough: Allow your cookies to dry for 24 hours. I tried 12 hours once, but one good squish crunched the flood icing in, revealing some flood icing that was still very wet underneath.

I hope this helps those of you who were curious about royal icing decorating. It’s not that bad at all, and the results are really awesome!




4 responses

1 12 2009

Good tips! My sugar cookies never come out looking that cute.

16 12 2009
Sandra AKA bbscabral

They look yummy! I’m about to make them right now! Thanks Amy!

31 12 2009
Christmas Sugar Cookies « Skinny Food By Amy

[…] If you’re curious about the recipes and techniques that I use to make these happen, check out my tutorial here. […]

5 03 2010
Cookie Cutters Aren’t Everything.. « Skinny Food By Amy

[…] In case you are wondering how to decorate cookies and what recipes I use, click here. […]

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