How to decorate christmas cookies

Border and Flood Icing- these will change your cookie game

Michelle Oliver , Multimedia Journalist, Live in the D , Detroit

My family is big into making Christmas cookies, but when we are decorating our cut-out cookies. I’m left a little wanting when it comes to the details. There’s only so much you can do with a butter knife and a toothpick. For help, I turned to Jen Schroeder, the Union Joints Pastry Chef. They make some beautiful Christmas Cookies at the Union General Store, and here is her advice:

1. Use two different types of icing

She makes two kinds of icing for decorating her cookies, one is thicker and is for doing the border, and the other is thinner and is called the flood (the recipe for both is below). You first want to pipe on your border and this will act as a wall. Then fill in the rest of the cookie with the flood. Use a butter knife or an offset spatula to smooth out the flood icing and cover any gaps. This will leave you with a very clean, colored with-in lines look. It also keeps your hands cleaner.

2. Piping bags are your friend

How do the pros get all that nice detail work? They use a piping bag. It’s like using a pen as opposed to a giant piece of chalk. If you don’t have a piping bag you can make one by rolling a piece of parchment paper into a cone and taping it together or make one out of a plastic bag. Start with a very small opening, you can always cut it bigger if you need a thicker line.

3. Layer the details

When you want to add details to a plain colored cookie it is best to let the first layer of icing mostly dry before adding the next layer. This prevents the colors from all bleeding together. Her trick is to border and fill all the cookies and then go back to add the decorations.

4. Apply sprinkles when the frosting is wet

Sprinkles can make any cookie look beautiful, the trick to getting them to stick though is to apply them while the frosting is still wet. Otherwise, they could fall off.

5. Simple is sometimes better

In the video, she shows how to do a plaid design on ornament cookies. It is essentially just a series of crisscrosses, which is easy to execute, but looks fantastic. Sometimes simple designs can look the most elegant.

No matter how you decorate your cookies, remember to have fun, they will all taste great in the end. If you don’t feel like making your own cut-out cookies, you can order some at the Union Joints General Store.

Union General Store Extended Holiday Hours:

Fridays and Saturdays 12-9pm

Union Joint’s Cookie Icing Recipe


Powdered sugar 8 cups

Light corn syrup ¾ cup

Vanilla extract 1tsp

Mix everything together in a mixer with a paddle until all is combined and shiny.

For the border of the cookies add more powder sugar till it’s a thicker consistency.

Marbled Royal Icing Trees:
Thin royal icing with water, a couple tablespoons at a time, until the correct glaze consistency is achieved. It should be fluid enough that it settles flat on top of the cookie after being dipped, but thick enough that it doesn’t run off of the cookie. Look for a consistency that’s slightly thinner than honey.

Place the icing in a shallow bowl and dot the top with gel food coloring. Use a toothpick to swirl. Dip the face of the cookie into the bowl, shake, and flip to completely dry.

Use piping consistency icing (similar or slightly thinner that toothpaste) to pipe the string for the lights. Add sugar pearls and paint with edible gold liquid coloring.

How to decorate christmas cookies

Glazed and Glittered:
Similar to the marbled royal icing trees, tint the glaze consistency icing one solid color. Dip the cookies and allow to completely dry (or the sugar will stick to the whole cookie).

Use piping consistency icing to pipe details on top of the dried, glazed cookies (or skip the glaze and leave them bare underneath) then dip into a shallow bowl of sanding sugar or sprinkles. Allow to dry right-side-up.

How to decorate christmas cookies

Wet-on-Wet Royal Icing:
Thin royal icing until it is flood consistency. Again, it should be fluid enough that it settles flat and smooth on top of the cookie but thick enough that you can still pipe it on without flooding everywhere. If you make drips and swirls in the icing bowl, they should hold their shape for a few seconds before they disappear flat into the remaining icing. Look for a consistency that’s similar to honey.

Fill a piping bag with the royal icing and snip the tip to create a fairly small opening. Outline the shape of the cookie then fill in the center with the flood consistency. Use a scriber needle tool or toothpick to fill in any holes before giving the cookie a shimmy to help settle and smooth out the icing.

While the base it still wet, take colored icing of the same consistency to pipe on your designs. Shake the cookie again so that the icing settles and both colors dry at the same time.

For the mitten cuff, place piping consistency icing (think toothpaste) in a piping bag, snip the tip, and pipe a zigzag motion across the bottom of the cookie.

How to decorate christmas cookies

Sugar Cookies
yields about 3 dozen cookies

3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
splash milk or cream, as needed

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

Using a stand or hand mixer, beat together the softened butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. With the mixer on low, add in the egg and vanilla bean paste. Mix until combined. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.

With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour mixture in two additions. Mix the dough until combined. If the dough appears dry, add a splash of milk or cream (no more than a tablespoon) and mix until the dough begins to ball together.

Stop the mix and divide the dough in half. Form the dough into disks and wrap well is plastic. Refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours or overnight.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375°F and remove one disk of dough from the refrigerator. Allow the dough to come to room temperature (about 10 minutes) before rolling. Line two baking sheets with parchment and set aside.

Loosen the plastic around the dough and begin to roll it out (within the plastic) to get things started. Lightly dust your work surface with flour, unwrap the dough completely, and roll out until 1/4-inch thick. Cut out cookies and move them to the lined baking sheets.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or just until the cookies start to brown around the edges. Place the baking sheet on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes, then remove the cookies. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Royal Icing
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons meringue powder
6 tablespoons water, plus more to thin
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
½ teaspoon vanilla extract or lemon juice (optional)

Place the confectioners’ sugar and meringue powder in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Gently stir to combine. Add the water and mix on medium-low until combined. Turn the mixer up to medium-high and continue to mix until stiff peaks form, 7 to 10 minutes.

Add the corn syrup and vanilla or lemon (if using) and mix to combine. If the icing is still rather thick and clumps together, add more water (a teaspoon or two at a time), until the icing holds stiff peaks. Use immediately or cover by pressing a piece of plastic wrap directly to the surface of the icing.

How to decorate christmas cookies

You don’t need to be a pro (or spend 10 hours decorating!) to make super impressive Christmas cookies this holiday! Use these 5 EASY Christmas Tree Cookie Decorating Ideas to create perfect decorated sugar cookies! No finicky royal icing required!

How to decorate christmas cookies

5 Christmas Tree Cookie Decorating Ideas That Are Actually Easy

When you google “Christmas tree cookie decorating ideas”, most of the results are intricate, elaborately decorated sugar cookies using royal icing. While those are beautiful, I personally don’t have the time or desire to spend 2 days decorating Christmas cookies that my 2-year-old cousin will take two bites of before running into the next room. But I still want them to be cute! Because let’s be honest, I’m too Type-A to not show up with cute cookies.

So in this post, I’m showing you 5 ways to decorate Christmas cookies that are easy AND cute!

Psst! For help achieving the perfect green frosting color, check out How To Make Dark Green Icing (5 Shades!).

How to decorate christmas cookies

Cut Out Sugar Cookie Recipe

While you can certainly use any of these decorating ideas with premade dough & canned frosting, if you’re going to the work of decorating, let’s make the cookies actually taste good! Pair my thick cut out sugar cookie recipe with any of the frostings below for bakery-level taste, texture, and appearance! My Christmas Cookie Frosting is my favorite in terms of taste but you can’t go wrong with any of the recipes linked below.

Decorating Idea 1: Star Tip

This is one of my favorite go-to Christmas tree cookie decorating ideas! It’s easy, foolproof, and creates a beautifully textured cookie.

How to decorate christmas cookies

Tools: Tipless Piping Bag or traditional piping bag with a Wilton #22 Star Tip
Frosting Recipe: Buttercream Christmas Cookie Frosting

  1. Starting at the edge of your cookie, gently touch down the tip of your metal star tip to your cookie (creating a border first will create a well-defined edge).
  2. While applying light pressure to the bag, gently squeeze and lift.
  3. Repeat until the surface of the cookie is filled with frosting. If you see any gaps, simply fill them in.

Decorating Ideas: Top with white nonpareil sprinkles, red pearl sprinkles, or white sanding sugar to give it a winter, snow look!

Decorating Idea 2: Layered Lines

This is a fun technique for creating a realistic tree texture. Flock the trees with white sanding sugar for an added touch! I love using a variety of green frosting colors, which you can find formulas for in my Christmas Cookie Frosting guide!

How to decorate christmas cookies

Tools: Tipless Piping Bag or traditional piping bag with a Wilton Round #5 tip
Frosting Recipe: Buttercream Christmas Cookie Frosting

  1. Starting at the bottom, vertically pipe 1/3 of the way up the cookie. Add your next layer by overlapping the previous layer.
  2. Tip: When piping frosting, you never want to drag the tip along the cookie. Rather, “touch down” once at the beginning and at any sharp corners, then drag the frosting above the cookie.

Decorating Idea 3: Horizontal Lines

Using simple back and forth lines are another one of my favorite Christmas tree sugar cookie decorating techniques! It’s quick to do and creates a clean, bakery-level cookie! Top with pearl sprinkles and a star to finish it off.

How to decorate christmas cookies

Tools needed:

Tools: Tipless Piping Bag or traditional piping bag with coupler & Wilton Round #5

  1. Pipe an outline around the cookie to create your border; this will help you achieve smoother edges and a more refined cookie.
  2. Next, “zig zag” back and forth horizontally across the cookie to fill it in.

Decorating Idea 4: Dip in Glaze

Glazing sugar cookies is an easy trick for decorating cookies quickly! With a thinner consistency than traditional royal icing, this water & sugar glaze allows for a smooth & shiny finish (that hardens!). You may never want to use that tubed Wilton cookie icing ever again!

How to decorate christmas cookies

Tools: Shallow bowl or dish (with a bottom wide enough to fit a cookie)

Icing Recipe: Quick Icing Glaze

  1. Dip the top of the cookie into the glaze, ensuring the surface is covered.
  2. Before flipping it over, gently shake the cookie to remove the excess icing.
  3. Flip over and allow to dry on parchment paper or cooling rack.

Tip: If you wish to add more detail or color to your cookie, you can use any leftover glaze and thicken it with powdered sugar until it becomes a more pipeable consistency. I love adding a simple white drizzle to create a garland and then add ornament sprinkles.

Decorating Idea 5: Dip in Sanding Sugar

This is the EASIEST decorating method of them all! Simply spread buttercream frosting on your favorite cookie, then dip the top in white sanding sugar to create sparkle & shine. Use white frosting & white sanding sugar to create a winter wonderland white christmas tree!

How to decorate christmas cookies

Tools: White Sanding Sugar + Wide-bottomed bowl
Frosting Recipe: Christmas Cookie Frosting

  1. Pipe or spread frosting on sugar cookie.
  2. Immediately dip the top in sanding sugar, gently moving it around so all corners are covered.

Other decorating ideas: This technique works great for snowflakes, snowmen, mittens, and Christmas cookie ornaments!

How to decorate christmas cookies

PSST! Don’t want to decorate your cookies at all? Dye your dough green and make Easy Christmas Tree Cookies – a fun (and less messy) Christmas baking activity for kids!

For more sugar cookie recipes & ideas, check out my Cut Out Sugar Cookie 101 library!

It’s been years since I made Spritz Cookies, but after watching a Wilton Method®: Christmas Spritz Cookie video on, I was inspired to give them another try and spent an afternoon baking a big batch then found some creative ways to decorate spritz Christmas cookies
for our Christmas eve party.

How to decorate christmas cookies

I don’t have great memories of making spritz cookies. The one an only time I had tried to make them I used an old fashioned cookie press and spent more time fighting with the tool than making cookies. I was so annoyed that it took me almost 40 years to try them again.

How to decorate christmas cookies

I might never have made them a second time if Wilton hadn’t sent me one of their Cookie Pro Ultra II cookie presses to try. I have to say, I was totally impressed.Cookie presses have come a long way since I was young. You make the dough, fill the cookie press, and add the decorative plate depending on which cookie shape you want to make. In concept it’s the same as the press I used years ago, but in practice, it’s completely different, and extraordinarily better in my opinion.

How to decorate christmas cookies

You simply set the press, plate side down, on an aluminum baking sheet, press the lever once, lift up, and you have pretty little cookies ready to pop in the oven. There’s no guessing how long to press, there’s no scraping the dough off the bottom of the press, their’s no hand cramps after making a tray of cookies. I was totally impressed.

Wilton’s video tutorial is really helpful for anyone who’s not made spritz cookies before. Emily Tatak does a great job showing every detail of the process. I have to admit that for someone with a lot of baking experience, the beginning of the video where she talks about ingredients and how to make the cookie dough was a little slow, but for a beginner, it’s jam packed full of good information.

Once Emily got to showing us how to use the cookie press, I started to really pay attention. I learned the importance of using an aluminum pan, not a non-stick pan, and how to use the cookie press properly.

How to decorate christmas cookies

Once I mastered the technique of using the press, which took me mere minutes, I baked about 8 dozen cookies, then had fun decorating them.

I started with the basic techniques shown on the video. Emily shows how to color the basic dough and how to decorate the cookies using Candy Melts and sprinkles.

How to decorate christmas cookies

I chose to keep my cookies the natural color and used colored Candy Melts and sprinkles to decorate some Spritz Christmas Trees. It’s a simple technique, yet it does make the cookie look quite nice.

How to decorate christmas cookies

I also looked around the Wilton website and found a technique for making spritz sandwich cookies which are sprayed with Silver and Gold Color Mist. I thought they were so pretty and had to try this technique too.

How to decorate christmas cookies

I set my cookies on some parchment paper in a cardboard box, then sprayed them with the color mist. This kept the spray from going all over my kitchen counter. I highly recommend this trick.

How to decorate christmas cookies

I filled my cookies with Biscoff Speculoos Spread. It was so hard for me not to eat all of these cookies. It is now my favorite way to eat Biscoff spread.

How to decorate christmas cookies

To make my silver and gold spritz cookie stars look even more sparkly, I piped a dab of Biscoff spread in the center of each cookie and sprinkled on some shimmering decorating sugar.

How to decorate christmas cookies

After I decorated my pretty metallic sandwich cookies, I thought I’d have some fun and make some whimsical Christmas trees. I had a Wilton Gingerbread Decorating Kit on hand which had candy eyes, mustaches, and hearts so I used them to make some silly Spritz Cookie Christmas Tree Pops.

How to decorate christmas cookies

I dipped lollipop sticks in Green Candy Melts, attached them to the back of each of my Christmas tree cookies, then let that harden, then dipped them in the Green Candy Melts, added two candy eyes, either a mustache or heart shaped lips, and a star on top, then sprinkled on colored non-pareils or some shimmering decorating sugar.I found the Gingerbread Decorating Kit at Walmart this holiday season. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find the kits on-line. Sorry about that. I thought they’d be easy to find and didn’t check before I made these pops. If you can’t find the kits, you could always make little mustaches using chocolate and use any heart shaped sprinkles.

How to decorate christmas cookies

They truly are the silliest things I’ve make this Christmas.

If you’d like to recipe for these spritz cookies, or would like to learn how to make them by watching an easy to follow step-by-step video tutorial, you can sign up for a FREE 14 day trial at

As part of Wilton’s Sweet Treat Brand Ambassador Team, I was given free merchandise in order to create these cookies for this post. I am excited about making spritz cookies again, now that I’ve successfully made these for Christmas.

Be sure to check out all my fun Christmas Recipes!

Turn everyday household objects into clever cookie-decorating tools.

Many of us will be making a lot of cookies this time of year, whether it’s a fun project to keep kids busy, a care package to send to family and friends near and far, or because we need some carb-loading and sugar-comas to deal with the celebrations (or lack thereof). Since we’re making cookies en masse, we might need to up our decorating game, creativity, and efficiency. Here are seven easy ideas to make common kitchen tools and ingredients do the decorating for you, turning the same old cookies into works of Christmas art.

1. Slow Cooker Helper

If you’re planning on dipping a lot of cookies in chocolate, let your slow cooker help you out. Add your chocolate pieces to glass canning jars, then place the jars in your pot. Add enough hot water to come halfway up the sides and turn the heat to high. Wait about 30 minutes, give the chocolate a good stir, then reduce the heat to low. Your chocolate will be kept warm and ready for dipping or drizzling.

Tip: Make sure you don’t get any water in your jars – that will cause your chocolate to seize and get lumpy.

2. Homemade Snowflakes

Have the kids help you cut out paper snowflakes, or grab a paper doily. Place on top of your baked and cooled cookies. Put some confectioners’ sugar in a small sieve or fine strainer and sprinkle away. Carefully remove the paper, and you’ll have a beautiful snowflake print left behind.

Tip: Don’t have confectioner’s sugar on hand? Make your own by pulsing granulated sugar in your food processor or blender until fine and fluffy.

How to decorate christmas cookies

Some people couldn’t care less what their Christmas cookies look like. They just do it for fun, to be festive. Others take the baking project very seriously and meticulously decorate each cookie to look perfect.

We believe there’s a happy medium. It’s possible to enjoy decorating holiday cookies AND make them look amazing. You just need to know how to do it right.

How to decorate christmas cookies


This is the easiest way to decorate sugar cookies.. When you use a pastry bag (plus a tip) with a thick frosting, you have way more control and you don’t need to be as precise. In fact, super simple patterns like polka dots can look really cool when piped with a tip. Getting the right consistency for a buttercream is much more forgivable. You’ll want one that’s easy to squeeze through a piping tip, but can still hold it’s shape. Add a tablespoon of heavy cream at a time until it’s a consistency you’re comfortable with.

  1. Make a simple buttercream, then dye it any color you wish.
  2. Use a medium-sized round tip to create simple zig-zags for a super easy design.
  3. A star tip is perfect for piping dots on cookies and creates a beautiful texture.
  4. Always use sprinkles! Sprinkles make any sugar cookie look extra festive.

How to decorate christmas cookies


This is the more traditional way to decorate. And while it’s not quite as easy, it’s v satisfying when you know how to do it. The secret, as you might already know, is having icing with two different consistencies. One should be slightly thicker so it can outline your cookie shape or design. The other should be a bit looser to “flood” the cookies.

  1. Make royal icing. (Our basic recipe uses corn syrup instead of egg whites.)
  2. Use a very small round tip for outlining and flooding for more control.
  3. Use a toothpick to help push any flooding icing to the edges for a smooth texture.
  4. Give your cookies some time to dry before transferring them so your design stays extra clean!