Decorating Cookies

I am thinking of making iced christmas cookies. The magazines say to start by piping an edge of thicker icing and filling in with thinner and then piping on more thin icing in contrasting colors for decoration. What kind of supplies are best? Where do you get them? Has anyone had any sucess or lack there of with icing cookies?

Maybe you should try Karma Sutra Cookies (NSFW).

Hi** lee**! When I am icing cookies, I use the same equipment that I have used for icing cakes (a piping bag with tips), and I have been able to find those things at pretty much any craft store that includes a wedding section, cooking specialty stores, and even the dreaded Wal-Mart. I usually like to have a much stiffer icing for cookies, so it won’t droop or slide right off the cookie. Store-bought icing in the tub container is right out.

My only lack of success with icing cookies has been storage and serving space. Traditionally, IMO, cookies get served stacked up on a plate (think the giant plate of chocolate chip cookies), but when I ice them up fancy, I can’t really stack them. Serving then takes up a lot of space unless you just put out a few at a time, and they have to be stored in a single layer or they get kinda cruddy looking after a couple of days. I am hoping others will contribute to this thread, and maybe someone will have ideas on how to overcome this. I tried layering them with waxed paper for storage, but then the icing doesn’t stick, it just smashes. The only solution I have found to my problems is to force feed everyone the cookies, so no storage is necessary!

I use a #3 or #4 tip (that’s a tip with a smallish medium round hole) for the outlining, and then a paintbrush (an eye shadow brush works great) for the fill. I’ve seen articles that say use a #2 (smaller size) and that would be good for really, really detailed work but depending on the amount of cookies you’re aiming for, it might be too detailed. I would use a #2 if I was making ONE cookie that Martha Stewart was going to evaluate. :wink:

You definitely want to have one bag and tip per color. If you have the reusable kind of bags, it’s a hassle to stop and clean them between colors. I use disposable bags, with tips (some brands of disposables say you don’t need a tip, which is garbage). These should be found easily at any housewares store, or you can buy online from a company like Wilton. I, personally, would not recommend buying an entire kit with a million tips – I think it’s better to buy each thing you need individually. Say, five tips of the same size and a pack of at least five disposable bags. You want the kind of bag that doesn’t require a coupler (almost all disposables can be used without a coupler, but it wouldn’t hurt to make sure it says that on the package).

I do an assembly line with the cookies. At the risk of boring you, here is my basic order of operations:

  1. The cookies: rocking horse, teddy bear, Christmas tree
  2. Do outlines of base colors: white rocking horse, blue teddy bear, green tree
  3. Do fill of base colors
  4. Do outlines of all red details: red saddle for horse, red bow tie for bear, red garlands for trees
  5. Do fill of red details: saddles and bow ties. The garland is just an outline, it doesn’t get any fill.
  6. Do outlines of yellow: yellow mane and tail for horses, yellow ears and paws for bears, yellow star for trees.
  7. Do fill of yellow details.
  8. Repeat with other colors as necessary.

It’s not as picturesque as doing one single cookie from start to finish (as they always seem to do on the Food Network) but it manages your time better.

Oh, if you are using any other decorating items, like nonpareils, you want to stick them on right after doing the fill, before it sets. I didn’t figure this out the first year I made these.

One good tip I read somewhere was to soak a paper towel in water and shove it at the bottom of a drinking glass. Then, when you are not using an icing bag, put it tip-down in the glass, resting on the wet paper towel. This prevents the icing in the tip from drying up while you are using another color.

It’s not a difficult project, but it’s fairly time consuming. There’s nothing worse than having a holiday party in a few hours and trying to race to get these done. I bake the cookies one day, and decorate the second day. It also helps to have a lot of counter space because you don’t want to stack the cookies until the icing has set. I set up my ironing board in the kitchen to give me more space to work. I find the kitchen table is too low – it’s hard on my back to stand over it for too long.

So, is mailing iced cookies right out?

Have you tried freezing them? Seems like they’d freeze and thaw as easily as bread or cake. And once they’re frozen you could store them more tightly without the frosting smearing around.

As for serving, how about going vertical with a 3-Tier serving tray?

We always used to decorate PILES of cookies. My mom inherited a truck load of cookie cutters from grandmothers all the way back to the Pleistocene, and she continued to collect them all her life. We’d have billions of different gingerbread cookie shapes, then we’d put newspaper over the WHOLE table. My mom would mix up “paint”–powdered sugar, water, and food coloring–and using cheap plastic paintbrushes–the kind the come with kids’ little watercolor tins–we’d paint the cookies. Big family event, plus I got to show off my painting skills. The icing hardens to a thin semigloss, and the cookies are delicious. Plus fun for the whole fambly. Oh, she’d add a little cocoa for brown.

Every reply has been great, but delphica’s mentioning how organization is the key was special.

lissener, I wish I could attend a cookie decorating with your family, I’d love to see that huge collection of cookie cutters!

If you want to stack cookies somewhat, there are other icing option. “Paint” them thinly with a glazing icing, and before it dries sprinkle with decors of various types, in Christmas colors. You can use dragees(the little gold or silver balls) for eyes, buttons, and so on. For exact placement of dragees, a pair of tweezers is helpful

Heh, did you mean “special” in an obsessive-compulsive sort of way? :smiley: I crank up the Christmas music and get my operation in place – it’s a little scary in a Robert-Duvall-in-Apocalypse-Now sort of way. I LOVE THE SMELL OF MERINGUE IN THE MORNING.

On the stacking issue, I use royal icing and once it is dry, the cookies stack with no problem. I still handle them a little more carefully that say, chocolate chip cookies. Everybody has to stay right side up. I don’t think I would try mailing them.

Royal icing is what my sister and I will be using both to decorate our Christmans gingerbread church, and to hold it together. Thinned down it’s painted on(like your cookies) for decorating, medium thickness it’s piped on for border work around door, windows and corners, and heavy(just barely soft enough to pipe through a tip) it’s the cement that holds walls together and keeps the roof on.

We’re doing it to put on display in the library cafe where I work. There used to be an annual contest down at the performing arts center, but it’s no longer being held. This church will be my third, but the first I’ve modeled on an actual building. It’s a replica of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church here in town. Very distinctive in style, with two tall, square towers that each have a clock on them, for a total of eight clocks! All you have to do is say “the church with the clocks” and everyone knows which one you mean.