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A Cookie-Decorating Party

Supertalented sugar artist Margaret Braun shares secrets to organizing a fun kids’ cookie-decorating party. Her most important tip? Planning ahead.

  • Cookies must be cooled completely before they can be decorated. Braun bakes at least one batch of cookies the night before.

  • For younger children, she goes one step further, covering cookies like gingerbread girls in white royal icing to create blank surfaces ready to decorate—like pages in a coloring book.

  • The day of the party, Braun prepares the party work area by covering a table and dusting the surface with cornstarch.

  • She sets out a variety of tools and decorations for each guest: cookie cutters, dragées (balls of sugar coated in shiny silver), colored fondant (“like Play-Doh,” Braun says), pastry bags and tips, food coloring and royal icing.

  • Once the party starts, prepare for chaos at first, then, says Braun, “the kids focus right in.”

  • For guests who prefer not to eat their creations immediately, reserve a batch of cookies for eating—serve with delicious hot chocolate and whipped cream or caramel-swirled vanilla milk.

Cookie Baking Tips

  • Use cold unsalted butter. Room-temperature butter becomes greasy when whipped, making greasy cookies.

  • Cut the dough in half or in quarters before wrapping and chilling it. Small amounts of dough are easier to roll out.

  • Don’t arrange cookies of different sizes on the same baking sheet. It takes less time to bake smaller cookies than it does to bake larger ones.

  • Press the cutting edge of cookie cutters into a small mound of flour if the cutters are sticking to the dough.

  • Refrigerate or slightly freeze cookies prior to baking. They will hold their shape better during cooking.

  • Let baking sheets cool before reusing them. Clean and regrease them if needed.

Fantastic Rolled Cookie Recipes

Decorating Essentials

  • White fondant Roll out the fondant on a work surface that’s lightly dusted with cornstarch, then cut out fun shapes.

  • Colored fondant For a solid hue, thoroughly knead food coloring into white fondant. To make swirls, knead in the color gradually until you get the look you like.

  • Food coloring Liquid colors from the supermarket work well; pastes or gels provide deeper, richer tones.

  • Royal icing This versatile icing turns hard when it’s dry. Use it to “glue” or pipe designs; thin it with water to paint. To cover or “flood” the surface of a cookie as Margaret Braun does for the gingerbread girls, use the icing at piping consistency to create a “dam” around the edges of the cookie. Use thinned icing to fill the area within.

  • Dragées These metallic-colored balls come in various sizes. Affix them to cookies with royal icing.

  • Gingerbread Decorate the baked cookies once they have cooled completely.

  • Candy Candy pearls and red hots make terrific eyes for gingerbread people and reindeer.

  • Utensils Use a fork to make fur for reindeer.

The decorations here are available at baking-supply shops such as New York Cake & Baking Supplies; 212-675-2253 or nycake.com.

“Pairings”

Though cookies and milk are a classic combination that’s hard to beat, these warming drinks are delicious alternatives.

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