10 Mistakes You’re Making When Decorating Cookies
Have more fun in the kitchen over the holidays with secrets for decorating Christmas cookies, straight from the experts.
Not using the right type of cookie
Not all cookies play nicely with icing. Our Test Kitchen finds that flat sugar cookies and gingerbread work best. They won’t crumble when you work with them and tend to have large, flat areas to decorate. Find a recipe for cutout cookies that will do the trick!
Relying on recipe times
“I never look at recipe times when I bake cookies,” says Sally McKenney, cookbook author and food blogger at Sally’s Baking Addiction. “I look at the cookies themselves. The cookies are done when the edges are set and lightly browned. Keep in mind that cookies’ centers will continue to cook for a few minutes while out of the oven cooling.”
In short, every oven is a little bit different. Make sure yours is ready for the upcoming holiday baking spree.
Not giving yourself enough time
The decorating process requires time and patience. Hilary Ramos at The Cookie Countess reminds us, “Your base icing will need anywhere from a few hours to overnight to dry enough to add details; and then time to dry again before you can stack or package.”
Not using rolling pin guides
For cookies that have a smooth, even thickness, Georganne Bell, the decorator behind LilaLoa, recommends using rings that slide onto the ends of a traditional wooden rolling pin to keep the dough the same thickness. (Here’s a set of rolling pin rings.)
Not allowing cookies to cool
Don’t rush! When you start decorating your cookies before they are completely 100% cool, the icing will melt. Make sure each batch is cooled before you begin to add the icing. Our Test Kitchen recommends decorating your cookies the day after you bake ’em.
Using royal icing that’s too thick
Royal icing that’s too thick means it won’t smooth out at all. Georganne from LilaLoa has some good advice: “Give the bowl of icing a quick stir. The surface of the icing should be uneven and you should see stir lines in the icing. Tap the bowl on the counter 5 times. If the surface has smoothed out, that’s your perfect consistency. If it hasn’t smoothed out, it’s too thick. Try adding a few drops of water and trying again.”
Using royal icing that’s too thin
On the flip side, using royal icing that’s too thin means it will flow right off the cookie! Do the same bowl tap trick from the last slide. But if it smoothed out after only 2-3 taps, it’s too thin. Just stir in a few tablespoons of powdered sugar.
Making small batches of icing
It’s the same amount of work—and clean up—to create one small batch or one large batch. You can quickly create a custom batch, too. Just whip up a super-sized batch of basic icing, then divide into separate bowls to create all your colors and flavors.
Not using enough icing
A lot of new decorators won’t use enough royal icing on their cookies. “Without an adequate amount, the royal icing can’t smooth into itself and you’ll be left with wavy, bumpy cookies,” says Georganne of LilaLoa.
Not practicing first
There’s truth to the saying “practice makes perfect!” If you’re new to decorating with royal icing, Hilary the Cookie Countess recommends that you do a practice round. “This way you’ll know if you have all the right supplies, or if you need to purchase a few more. It will also give you a chance to make changes; sometimes a cookie design seems better on paper than in reality.”
Having an intricate design
Your cookies don’t need to be complicated! There are many simple and easy ways to make beautiful cookies. In my opinion, sprinkles make everything look more dressed up. Check out these easy Christmas cookie decorating ideas, too.