10 Cookie Decorating Tips
At The Sweetest Booth, we’re passionate about the presentation and decoration of cookies. That’s why we're sharing 10 of our most helpful decorating tips! Whatever your skill level in decorating or who is helping you, these tips make the process fun, enjoyable, and easy to clean up. But the most important thing? Think outside of the box and remember that you’re helping your cookie tell a better story.
Cool Your Cookies
If you plan to decorate cookies with icing, you’re going to need to let them rest and come to room temperature. This resting time ensures the frosting doesn’t melt on contact with a hot cookie.
Now that your cookies have cooled, you get to the fun part of adding your creative touch.
PatienceThis step is often easier said than done. It also isn't a step; it's more of a mindset to have before starting. Decorating cookies simply takes time, no matter if it’s for fun with kids or for a sophisticated holiday party. The first step, get your mise en place (MEEZ ahn plahs). Refer to our Easy Three Ingredient Cookie blog to find out what this fancy French phrase means.
If using royal icing, mix colors as needed to avoid drying out and ruining the consistency. Royal icing also needs time to set once piped on the cookie. When you use multiple colors of icing, give each section of color time to dry. Otherwise, the colors can bleed together. The same principle applies when piping sections with the same color for a textured effect like in the pumpkin.
Cleaning up can also test patience. Icing and sprinkles tend to go EVERYWHERE when working with little ones. Dishes are inevitable. But practicing mise en place limits big messes, plus cleaning in between setting colors can also help reduce clean up.
It Starts with a Quality Cookie Cutter
Quality doesn't always mean expensive or old! You may be thinking of grandma's metal cookie cutters and how they don't make them like that anymore. Well, you're not wrong; most metal cookie cutters tend to rust and bend over time. Modern cookie cutters can also warp and rust.
At The Sweetest Booth, we prefer a sturdy plastic cookie cutter. Most are dishwasher safe on the top rack, and they do not rust or bend!
The next thing to look at when purchasing a cookie cutter is how deep it is. If the cookie is too thin when baked, it will lose its shape, so your fall pumpkin becomes a blobby cloud.
ConsistencyThere are a lot of different ways to make royal icing. The main two main ingredients are confectioners' sugar and a liquid. The liquid can be water and meringue powered, pasteurized egg whites, corn syrup, or even lemon juice. Flavors like almond and food coloring can also be added to royal icing.
No matter what recipe you use, the trickiest part is landing the perfect consistency. Too thin, and the icing will run down the edges of your cookies. Too thick, and it may not pipe, or the icing will be clumpy when dry.
The good news, it is easy to manipulate royal icing by adding more liquid or more sugar. You're looking for a honey-like consistency.
Make More Icing Than You Think You'll Need
When making multiple icing colors, always make more than you think you'll use. Here's why: color matching! Imagine you've just run out of icing, you're looking at a half-decorated cookie, and you've got 12 more to go. Mixing up the same color as the original is nearly impossible! The second batch of icing can end up being a shade or two darker or lighter.
It’s always best to have more than you need. If you’re worried about waste, you can save your icing in an airtight container either in the refrigerator (egg whites) or at room temp (no egg whites) for a few days. Simply adjust the icing with more liquid if it has dried out.
Food Coloring Matters
You may have a color in mind for your icing, but food coloring can be tricky to use. The icing is at its lightest when it is freshly mixed. As time passes and the icing starts to dry, the color will deepen. Take into consideration how deep you want your final color to be. Less is always more when it comes to adding food coloring.
We recommend using gel food coloring. The color is highly pigmented and produces a more consistent, brighter color.
Piping BagsThe odds of you having a piping bag stored away in your kitchen arsenal is probably slim. That is a-okay. You can easily craft a makeshift piping bag from two commonly found kitchen items!
If origami is your thing and you have a roll of parchment paper on hand, you can use this YouTube video as a guide.
If folding just doesn’t fit your style, opt for a plastic zip-top bag. Your makeshift plastic piping bag is only as good as its seams. In our tests, we've found a name-brand bag holds up under pressure better than off-brand. No one wants to deal with an icing blowout mid-decorating. Save yourself the time of cleaning up a mess and go for the sturdier bag.
Never Underestimate the Power of a ToothpickThe simple toothpick may be the most under-valued kitchen tool. A toothpick works to test the doneness of our baked goods, hold together tender pieces of bacon as they crisp around a tenderloin, clean hard-to-reach spots on appliances, poke holes in just about anything, serving utensils for a charcuterie tray, and many others.
We always keep toothpicks on hand during the decorating process for two reasons. A toothpick's pointed end makes a precise swirling tool. Drag the tip of the toothpick through two colors of wet icing, and you can instantly create a fun swirled or spiked pattern. A second reason is their diminutive size. Toothpicks are great for cleaning up small mistakes. If your icing begins to run over the edge, a toothpick can guide the icing back into place. If a sprinkle decides to go rogue, remove it with a toothpick and smooth out the icing.
Be CreativePinterest isn't the only place to get inspiration for your cookie designs. Take inspiration from mother nature, a book or magazine you read, or a recent place you've visited. Snap a picture on your phone and save it from your next cookie endeavor. Eventually, you'll have too many ideas and not enough cookies!
Tracing Isn't Cheating
Ever wonder how some folks get intricate designs on a cookie or cake? Some very skilled decorators can say they free-handed it without any help at all. However, most will say they traced it from a projector or with a template.
Remember the tracing boards as a kid? You could put a design on one side, and it would reflect on the drawing surface? They make them for phones and tablets now. This one on Amazon is affordable and can hold a phone or tablet.
Remember, decorating cookies is a fun way to express your creative side. There is no right and wrong, so get organized and start decorating! If you make a mistake, snag your handy toothpick, or embrace it and create something new. No matter how they look, they'll be tasty!
As always, we’d love to see how your baking adventure turns out! Tag us on social media using @thesweetestbooth!