These Elf on the Shelf Cookies Will Be the Stars of Your Cookie Tray

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We teach you how to make rosy-cheeked Elf on the Shelf cookies that will impress kids and adults alike.

Elf on the Shelf is a Christmas tradition that’s here to stay. This sweet (yet mischievous!) little helper finds his way into homes as the holiday draws near to help Santa sort out who’s naughty and nice. Pay homage to this rosy-cheeked icon with these stunning royal icing cookies that will put your decorating skills to the test. Follow along to learn how these adorable Elf on the Shelf cookies came to life.

How to Make Santa’s Elf Cookies

Refresh yourself on what Elf on the Shelf is and how it got started before you begin. We follow this sugar cookie recipe for a soft, yet solid base that will hold the royal icing nicely.

Tools You’ll Need

  • Elf cookie cutter: This 4-1/2-in. cookie cutter is the perfect size for your Elf on the Shelf cookies. You’ll have enough room to comfortably decorate without feeling crunched for space.
  • Edible food writing pen: This food writing pen will help you draw on the elf’s smile. If you like, you can use it for the eyes instead of the black sprinkles, too.
  • Disposable decorating bags: These disposable piping bags will help you with outlining the cookies and flooding them with icing. They’re especially convenient because you can just toss them when you’re done (just don’t forget to remove the coupler and tips before you do!).
  • 55-piece decorating set: This set will provide you with all of the frosting tips you need for Elf on the Shelf cookies. You’ll need round tip #2 and #5, leaf tip #67 and star tip #18.

Ingredients

For the cookies:

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1-1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2-1/2 cups self-rising flour

For the frosting:

  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water plus 2 teaspoons water
  • 4-1/2 teaspoons meringue powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Food coloring
  • Black nonpareils
  • Pink luster dust
  • 1 can chocolate frosting

Directions

Step 1: Make the cookie dough

Cream the butter and confectioners’ sugar until light and fluffy. Then, beat in the egg and vanilla. Gradually beat in the flour.

Step 2: Refrigerate the cookie dough

Once everything is combined, divide the dough in half. Wrap each half in plastic and refrigerate for 2 hours, or until firm enough to roll.

Editor’s Tip: Refrigerating the cookie dough is a step you can’t skip, so make sure you budget enough time for it. In the fridge, the dough will become more firm—which prevents the cookies from spreading too much and losing their shape while baking. Here are more tips on making the best cutout cookies.

Step 3: Roll and cut out the cookie dough

Preheat the oven to 375°F. On a floured surface, roll each portion of dough to 3/16-in. thickness. Cut with the floured elf cookie cutter, and place each cutout 2 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets.

Step 4: Bake the cutouts

Slide the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 5 to 7 minutes. Cool on the pans for 2 minutes after pulling them out of the oven, and then remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Step 5: Create and color the royal icing

In a large bowl, whisk confectioners’ sugar, water, meringue powder and water for icing. Whip the ingredients until they’re light and airy. Add water until you reach a thick consistency for piping outlines, then divide the icing into thirds. Leave one portion white, tint another portion with red food coloring (this will be for the elf’s signature garb) and tint remaining portion with your desired skin tone coloring.

Step 6: Outline and flood

Elf On The Shelf Cookies Step 6 SetTMB Studio (2)

Divide each colored icing in half. You’ll need to use two different consistencies for your royal icing—one stiffer icing for piping and one more fluid one for flooding—the pool of icing that creates a flat, smooth texture.

Place the stiff white royal icing into a piping bag fitted with a #2 round tip and pipe on the elf’s signature collar and the brim of his hat. Then fill in (or flood) the design with your reserved white icing. To get it to a flood consistency, simply add water a tablespoon at a time. Repeat this design on the remaining cookies.

Test Kitchen Tip: While outlining before you flood may seem fussy, it’s essential for a crisp design as it prevents the thinner icing from dripping out of place.

Once the white icing is completely dry, start the process again using the red royal icing to fill in the top of his hat and the lower part of his outfit by outlining and flooding the shapes.

Step 7: Fix up the face

Elf On The Shelf Cookies Step 7 SetTMB Studio (2)

Create the foundation for this magical being’s cute little face by outlining and flooding the center using the skin tone icing. While the icing is still wet, carefully place two black nonpareils to create eyes. Let the icing dry completely.

Test Kitchen Tip: If the icing dries before you add the eyes, don’t sweat it. Simply draw on eyes using an edible marker or two dabs of chocolate frosting.

If you’d like, dip a Q-tip into pink luster dust, tapping off the excess, and dab onto cookies to create the elf’s cheerful pink cheeks.

Step 8: Add a smile (and a ‘do)

Elf On The Shelf Cookies Step 8 SetTMB Studio (2)

Now it’s time for the finishing touches that will make Santa’s helper come to life. Using leaf tip #67, pipe the stiff skin tone frosting to create a set of pointed ears. Then using a small round tip, pipe the same icing to create his nose. Using an edible pen, draw on his smile.

To finish it off, place chocolate frosting into a piping bag fitted with #14 star tip and pipe along the top of the face to create his lush locks.

Editor’s Tip: Make it your own by creating different hairdos and facial expressions on each cookie.

Tips for Making Elf on the Shelf Cookies

How else can you decorate Elf on the Shelf cookies?

Besides drawing on different facial expressions and hairdos on your Elf on the Shelf cookies, you can change the color of the elf’s outfit from a jolly red to a festive green, or, take some extra time by creating stripes with both colors. If you want to go the extra mile, write each of your kids’ names on the elf’s shirt with the food writing pen. Here are some tips on how to decorate sugar cookies with royal icing as you get creative.

How should you store Elf on the Shelf cookies?

Store your decorated Elf on the Shelf cookies in an airtight container, where they should last for about 5 days at room temperature. As long as you let the icing dry completely before putting away the cookies, you can store them in layers between waxed paper. Here’s how long other kinds of cookies last—and more tips on how to store cookies to keep them fresh for longer.

Here are more Elf on the Shelf-related sweets that will help get you and the kids excited for the season—and some ideas for where to put your Elf on the Shelf in the kitchen when the time comes!

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Nicole Doster
Nicole is the Content Director of TMB's Strategy and Performance team. She oversees the brand's shopping and trend editorial teams and assists with content planning across Taste of Home, Family Handyman, Reader's Digest, The Healthy and Birds & Blooms. With over seven years of experience writing and editing in the food and home space, she enjoys sharing cooking tips, recipe picks and product recommendations that make life a little easier. When she's not hunched over her laptop, she's either practicing latte art or fixating on her latest DIY home renovation.