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Dazzling Decorating Tips to Spruce Up Your Christmas Cookies

Created October 28, 2019
Visions of sugar cookies dancing in your head? Bring them to life with Betty’s best Christmas cookie decorating tips and techniques.
Cookies, cookies, cookies we love them all year round, but at Christmas they’re essential to the celebration, and festive decorations make them all the merrier. From frosting tinting to piping techniques and dazzling décor options, we’ve collected all our best advice for sprucing up your Christmas cookies here, and we’ve got options for every baker. So, no matter if you’re looking for a quick fix, or you’re able to devote the whole day to decorating, we’ve got the helpful hints you need to dress up your cookies this Christmas.

Every Way to Frost Sugar Cookies: From Easy to Expert-Level Techniques

Christmas cookie decorating scene

There’s more than one way to frost a cookie, cookie! We’re here to walk you through our best techniques starting with a low-effort way to give your cookies a satiny-smooth finish and building up to the technique professional bakeries use, so no matter how much time you have—rest assured we’ve got a trick that’ll take your decorating up a notch.

How to Frost with Faux “Royal Icing”

Retro Tinsel Cookies

There’s nothing wrong with spreading Betty Crocker’s™ rich & creamy frosting onto your cookies with the back of the spoon—we’ve done it many times. But without too much more effort, you can have cookies that look like they’ve been flooded with royal icing.

How to Dip Your Sugar Cookies

To make these shiny, perfectly coated cookies all you need is a tub of Betty’s rich and creamy frosting and gel food coloring.

1.  Spoon frosting into a large microwave-safe bowl. If you want to tint, stir in a few drops at a time until blended to desired color

2.  Heat frosting in microwave uncovered for 25 to 30 seconds until warm. Rewarm as needed to keep frosting at a dippable consistency

3.  Dip top side of each cookie into glaze, letting excess drip off.

dipping sugar cookies in frosting

4.  Place cookie right side up on cooling rack placed over cookie sheet or waxed paper. Sprinkle with decorations, if desired.

5.  Let stand about 2 hours or until set.

6.  Store covered in airtight container at room temperature with waxed paper between layers.

Give this technique a try with our sparkly and shiny Retro Tinsel Christmas Tree Cookies recipe.

How to Make Piped Sugar Cookies—Without a Piping Bag!

Christmas cookie decorating scene with a homemade piping bag

No need to run to the craft store or invest in special tools, cute-as-can-be, piped sugar cookies can be yours with one ingredient and a simple pantry item. Here’s a ridiculously easy way to take your sugar cookies from drab to fab!

How to Decorate Sugar Cookies with a Homemade Piping Bag

Of course, you can add a pretty touch with sprinkles and food coloring, but if you want to keep it simple, all you really need for this method is Betty Crocker™ rich and creamy vanilla frosting and a resealable plastic bag. If you do decide to tint the frosting, blend in food coloring before adding frosting to the bag.

1.  To easily fill your large resealable plastic bag, open it up and stand it inside a pint glass. Fold the open top down and over the sides of the glass. Fill bag about half-full using a spoon or spatula. Don’t overfill the bag, as it will be more difficult to control, and frosting might come out of the top of the bag as you pipe.

2.  After filling the bag, push the frosting towards one corner and make a small cut in the corner—start small. You can always cut the opening larger, if needed.

3.  Again, push frosting towards cut corner and twist bag above frosting (no need to seal the bag) to squeeze out any air. Keep one hand above the frosting, so you’re pushing from above using steady pressure. Try piping on a piece of parchment or waxed paper to see if the hole is the right size.

4.  Once you’re satisfied with the size of the hole, twist the bag closed and position your hand above frosting, apply pressure to begin piping. Occasionally, you’ll want to pause and readjust. Continue pushing your frosting toward the corner, as needed.

Pro Tip: For beautiful cookies without much fuss, combine this piping technique with the dipping technique described above. Dipped cookies will need to set before piping, allow approximately 2 hours.

Pipe like a Professional with Royal Icing

Christmas Butter Cookie Cutouts

For the baker who’s ready for a challenge, royal icing and classic sugar cookies are a match made in heaven. Royal icing gives your sugar cookies an impressive fresh-from-the-bakery look. Decorating cookies with this type of icing is a two-step process, which involves piping and “flooding.” While a bit more effort, the cookies that result are sure to steal the spotlight at any Christmas cookie exchange.

How to Frost Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing

Our kitchen-tested Royal Icing recipe only requires a handful of ingredients but is easier to make with a hand-held electric mixer, as high speed is required to get the stiff texture needed to pipe.

1.  To pipe outlines or borders: Squeeze decorating bag firmly and steadily working counterclockwise to create an icing border. Release pressure on decorating bag to cut off flow of icing and complete border. Allow borders to set completely, 30 to 60 minutes, before filling in outlines.

Piping sugar cookies with royal icing

2.  To flood or glaze: Using squeeze bottle, fill inside with thinned icing. Use nozzle of squeeze bottle or small metal icing spatula to fill in all areas until completely covered. If decorating with sprinkles, let stand 1 to 2 minutes before adding. Let stand about 3 hours or until completely dry.

Flooding sugar cookies with royal icing

There’s more than one way to use royal icing. Sometimes the process is reversed, so cookies are dipped in the thinned consistency (the one used for flooding), left to set and then piped and decorated. Royal icing is also used to decorate gingerbread cookies, assemble gingerbread houses and decorate wedding cakes.

The Easiest Way to Dip Truffles

Not all cookies are flat, so use this hack from the Betty Crocker Test Kitchens to coat your cookie truffles and other round sweet treats with frosting.

Double Chocolate Nutella Cookie Truffles

This clever dipping hack will coat your cookies completely while also leaving you and your kitchen neat and tidy.

How to Dip Cookie Truffles

With your cookie truffles, chocolate truffles or cake balls, plus frosting, at the ready, you’ll need two plastic forks to pull this off.

1.  Remove two middle tines of two plastic forks.

Cookie truffles ready to be coated in chocolate frosting

2.  Roll cookies—shown are our Double Chocolate Nutella Cookie Truffles—in the chocolate with forks, lift up and let excess chocolate drip off.

plastic forks with middle tines removed are perfect for rolling truffles in chocolate coating

3.  Place cookies on waxed paper to set the chocolate.

after coating truffles, place on parchment and allow coating to set

Tinting Frosting: Creating a Christmas Color Palate

red and green tinted frosting with frosting spatulas

How to Make Christmas-Colored Frosting

All you need to pull off this Christmas color palate is a tub of Betty Crocker™ rich & creamy vanilla frosting and Betty Crocker™ red or green gel food coloring.

  • How to Make Green Frosting: ¼ teaspoon of green gel will get you a light, pastel green. Bump it up to ½ teaspoon to increase the tint. Use 2 tablespoons for a true winter green.
  • How to Make Red Frosting: ¼ teaspoon of red gel will get you pretty, pink-ish red. ½ teaspoon will be even more vibrant. Take it 2 tablespoons and you’ve got yourself Betty red!

Pro Tip: Mini metal spatulas, like those shown above, make it easy to spread frosting. We particularly like the offset ones. If you want more control over your frosting, we recommend picking up one of these inexpensive tools at your local kitchen supply store.

Preparing Your Piping Bag

Piping bag, bowl of frosting and piped star cookies

Tips for Filling a Piping Bag

  • Small decorating bags with a small round writing tip will work best for decorating sugar cookies.
  • For easy filling, fit your tip into the decorating bag and stand up inside a pint glass.
  • Fold the sides of the bag down over the top of the glass and fill about half full. You’ll have more control, if you don’t overfill.
  • Twist the top of the bag to close. Hold your hand above the frosting and apply pressure to begin piping.
  • Get the feel for it by experimenting on a piece of parchment or waxed paper.

Finishing Touches: Sprinkles & Beyond

Ever wonder what the difference is between all the different types of decorations crowding the baking aisle? Let’s explore the colorful world of sprinkles, sugars, candies and more!

Decorations 101: Sprinkles, Glitter, Sugars & Candy

Wondering what’s what? Here’s your cookie decorating vocab!

Christmas sprinkles

  • Colored Sugar, show in red and green above, adds shimmer and extra sweetness to cookies. We love sprinkling it on the surface of a cookie before baking.
  • Sugar pearls are an aptly named type of decoration. These luminous white spheres add a subtle but sophisticated look to whatever cookie they grace. We think they show up best when sprinkled on top of a frosted cookie.
  • Cinnamon candies are an old-school classic that we absolutely love on Christmas cookies and not just because of their festive color. These candies have a spicy, warm flavor that tastes great with gingerbread! Press them into dough before baking, or “glue” them on with a little frosting.
  • Edible glitter, shown in silver above, is a type of colored sugar made with larger sugar crystals. The dramatic effect of edible glitter is ready-made for the holidays! It shows up especially well as a border for shortbread or other refrigerator cookie—just roll your log of cookie dough in it before slicing.
  • Sprinkles this catch-all term that can be used to refer to a wide variety of styles—from the snowflake-shaped cuties you find around the holidays to the confetti-style red and green quins pictured above.

Decorations 201: Even More Bright & Sparkling Ideas

We’re not out of decorating ideas yet. Keep reading for ways jimmies, nonpareils and more can add razzle dazzle to your cookie tray!

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  1. Coarse sparkling sugar adds crunch, sparkle and color to your cookies. Sprinkle some on before baking our Cranberry-Chocolate Chunk Cookies for a dazzling finishing touch!
  2. Rock candy is made of large sugar crystals and comes in an array of eye-catching colors. Sprinkle on top of your cookies in place of sprinkles. You’ll find it’s easy for little fingers to grasp these candies.
  3. Cinnamon candies add a sweet and spicy kick to your cookies. A sprinkle of these crushed candies really makes our Easy Cinnamon Stars stand out!
  4. Nonpareils are a fun way to add a little color to your cookies! Red, green and white nonpareils make our Lindt™ Truffle Peanut Butter Cookie Cups extra festive.
  5. Colored sugar adds shimmer, texture and a subtle pop of color. An easy way to use these sparkling crystals is by rolling your cooking dough balls in the color of your choice until fully coated. Give it a try with our Christmas Snickerdoodles recipe.
  6. M&M’s™ are an easy way to add color, crunch and more chocolate to your cookies. We mixed them in our Chocolate-Peanut-Butter-Oat Christmas Cookies for a kid-friendly treat!
  7. Shaped sprinkles are fun, crunchy and easy for little bakers to handle! They’re the perfect way to decorate our sweet and tender Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies—just remember to add after baking, so they don’t melt.
  8. Edible glitter adds eye-catching sparkle and a little goes a long way. Make your Easy Almond Crescents pop by adding a light dusting after baking.
  9. Jimmies add a burst of brightness no one can resist whether sprinkled on top of frosting or mixed into cookie dough—give this a try with our easy Kitchen-Sink Christmas Cookies.

Now that you know how to make your cookies sparkle, what will you do? We’d love to see your cookies—show them to us on Instagram! And if you don’t have anything to decorate yet, check out Betty’s best Christmas cookie recipes. Happy baking!


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