Ten of our all-time favorite holiday cookie recipes, plus tips for a festive cookie-decorating party.

Food & Wine
October 16, 2012

In this Article

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

    Chocolate Shortbread Reindeer Holiday Cookie Chocolate Shortbread Reindeer Christmas Sugar Cookies Christmas Sugar Cookies Gingerbread Girls Gingerbread Girls

    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.