Decorated Sugar Cookies are a fun and festive way to celebrate the season. Who doesn’t like getting a big colorful cookie with their own name iced across the top? Or how about a whole platter set out for a buffet? The cookies can be used as party favors or even place settings at a dinner.

There are so many different cookie cutters to choose from, its best to start with simple shapes until you become more proficient at decorating. I made a bunch of these 5″ pumpkins with this cookie cutter using a simple sugar cookie recipe and decorated with royal icing. While the whole decorating process can be time consuming, I have a few tips for making the process easier and that produce consistently good results. I thought I would pass them on to you:

Sketch out a design for your decorated cookie before baking
This saves time by showing how much icing of each color will be needed and the placement of the icing when you start decorating. To make a design, trace the cookie cutter onto paper and use colored markers to indicate where the icing will go. Try to stick to two colors (three colors max!) and keep the design simple. For each color you will need an “outline” icing for piping and a “flood” icing for filling in between the outlines. The outline icing in firm and holds it shape when piped and is great for details. The flood icing in a more liquid version of the outline icing and spreads easily creating a smooth even surface.

Roll out the dough to a precise thickness, usually 1/4″
A consistent thickness ensures even baking for all your cookies. You can use these handy rings that fit over your rolling pin or just use two slats of wood that are the correct thickness and roll dough out between them.

Chill rolled dough before cutting
Chilling the rolled dough until firm ensures the cookie cutter will make perfect cutouts with nice crisp edges.

Chill cut-out shapes
I actually freeze my cutouts before baking! The colder and firmer the cut out shapes, the better detail in your finished cookie and the cold dough really helps discourage spreading in the oven.

Before mixing royal icing make sure all utensils are grease-free
Fat and grease are the enemy of royal icing as they break down its texture. To ensure a grease-free surface, wipe down your bowl and beater with some vinegar before washing thoroughly with soap and water. You can find an easy recipe for royal icing here.

Use a squeeze bottle to decorate with flood icing
Flood icing is the thinner icing using to “flood” the main shapes on your cookie. Squeeze bottles are easier to use and fill than piping bags plus they are reusable. You can find squeeze bottles here.

Let finished decorated cookies dry, uncovered over night before packaging or stacking
Letting the cookies dry thoroughly ensures that your masterpieces will not be smeared or dented when you place them on a buffet platter or into a cute gift bag.

For lots of decorating ideas and more tips try this book:Cookie Craft by Valerie Peterson

Why not break out your rolling pin and your imagination and try some decorated sugar cookies this holiday season? Remember, you can always eat the mistakes!

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