30 Christmas Cookie Decorating Ideas to Try This Year

Looking to make some spirits bright this holiday season? These Christmas cookie decorating ideas are sure to cheer up any treat tray—or jolly ol' elf who comes to visit.

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Stamped Designs

Your rubber stamps aren’t just for crafting—they’re perfect for Christmas cookie decorating! After flooding your cutout cookie with a flat layer of white icing, use food coloring and a (clean!) stamp to create a stunning design.

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Swirled Frosting

Planning on piping decorations on your cutout cookies? This is one of those Christmas cookie decorating ideas you’ll wish you had thought of sooner. Before filling your piping bag, brush a bit of gel food coloring inside the bag. When the bag is filled with frosting, you’ll get a wonderful swirled effect with minimal effort.

Just remember to use two colors that blend well together. White frosting will go with any color you decide to swirl. You could also try a pale color paired with a darker dye. Stay away from clashing colors that will muddy as you work (red and green, for example, aren’t a good mix).

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Drizzled Decor

One of the easiest Christmas cookie decorating ideas doesn’t involve fancy piping skills or special tools. Instead, drizzle melted chocolate or icing over the top of any cookie you bake. This technique works for so many types of cookies ranging from these easy mint thins to caramel biscotti and benne seed wafers.

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New Twists on Old Cookie Cutters

Our favorite Christmas cookie decorating ideas come from using tools we already have in a new way. These Santa cookies are made with a simple star cookie cutter but look so cute when decorated with royal icing.

Use this same technique for cookies like these gingerbread men-turned-reindeer or diamonds-turned-elves.

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2D Gingerbread Houses

Gingerbread houses are an iconic part of the holiday season, but we don’t always have the time, space or desire to make a whole cookie structure. Instead, make miniature houses with a tasty gingerbread cookie recipe. Use a house-shaped cookie cutter and pipe on doors, windows and trims with royal icing. Add candy and sprinkles or opt for basic white icing for an elegant finish.

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Taste Of Home's Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies Recipe; Dessert
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Dress Up an Old Favorite

Is it even Christmas without peanut butter blossom cookies? While these sweets are delicious as-is, you can take them up a few notches on the merry meter by decorating the chocolate kiss on top.

After the cookies and chocolates are completely cool, use a piping bag with a star tip to pipe on green icing. Then sprinkle with a few nonpareils for that decorated look.

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Embossed Rolling Pin Designs

Don’t want to fuss with frosting but still want your cookies to boast an impressive design? That’s where an embossed rolling pin comes in! Roll this tool over your favorite cutout cookie dough and then use cookie cutters to cut out seasonal shapes. Our Test Kitchen recommends using an embossed rolling pin with recipes like this one for Dutch speculaas cookies.

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Stamped Cookies

Press stamps into butter cookies to create a personalized Christmas treat. You can let these stamped designs stand on their own or add sprinkles or icing. These cookies make great place cards or edible gift tags.

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Colored Coconut

An easy way to dress up slice-and-bake-style cookies is by rolling the edges in coconut. But not just any coconut—holiday-colored coconut!

To get the right color, toss shredded coconut with food coloring. Add as much color as you need to get the right shade. It’s what takes these coconut Christmas cookies over the top.

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Stacked Cutouts

Want to add some height to your cookie display? Stack cutout cookies to create edible Christmas trees. Add a generous dollop of frosting between layers of graduated circles.

These cookies have an Oreo-like appeal when it comes time to eat. You can pull the layers apart and enjoy one by one.

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Decorated Spritz

When it comes to Christmas cookie decorating ideas, sugar cookies and gingerbread come to mind first. But don’t put away your decorating gear quite yet! Spritz cookies are also a great canvas for decorating. Sprinkles or colored sugar are the easiest option, or go fancier with designs made from buttercream or royal icing.

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Coarse Sugar

Want your cookie tray to look like it’s been touched with a hint of frost? All you have to do is sprinkle a bit of coarse sugar or sanding sugar over your bakes. These types of sugar really glisten in the light to make your cookies (like these snow angel cookies) look festive.

If you’re making unfrosted cookies like shortbread or drop cookies, sprinkle the sugar on before baking. If you’re icing the cookies, bake them, then decorate, and then shake the sugar on while the icing is still wet.

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Shortbread Cutouts
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Use a Paintbrush

Break out the art supplies! After covering simple shortbread in a solid glaze, use a fresh paintbrush (one that’s never been used for any other crafts) to brush edible paint over the top. You don’t need to be a master artist. A few strokes or splatters make for an elegant effect.

Look for food paint in the baking aisle of your local craft store.

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Tone on Tone Decorating

Want to add a little bit of sparkle or depth to your cookies? Use the same color for sprinkles, sugar, and frosting. This tone-on-tone Christmas cookie decorating idea adds texture and sparkle without being too gaudy. Try it with these festive Christmas light cookies.

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Stained Glass Designs

To give any cutout cookie a stained glass effect, cut out a small niche in each cookie with a smaller cutter. Then, when the bake time is just about up, sprinkle crushed hard candies into the cavity. Two minutes in the oven is all it takes for the candies to melt into a colorful candy windowpane. You can use this technique with cutout cookie recipes of all kinds.

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Simple Shapes

Who says you need dozens of fancy cookie cutters to make creative cookies? Instead of going all out with shapes, use a basic round or square cutter. Once baked, let your imagination run free and use frosting to create all kinds of creative designs. That’s what our Test Kitchen did with this classic holiday sugar cookie recipe.

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Swirled Royal Icing

This wet-on-wet royal icing decoration is a simple way to wow your guests. Apply a base layer of white royal icing. While the icing is still wet, add a few drops of colored icing, then swirl with a toothpick.

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Crushed Candies

Instead of sprinkles, crush up your favorite candies and use them as Christmas cookie decorations. We love crushed candy canes on top of these peppermint meltaways.

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Edible Markers

Skip piping and use markers instead. First, coat the cookies with an even layer of royal icing, and let it dry. Then sketch a holiday scene with edible ink markers. You can try any design you like, but we love the look of these gingerbread postcard scenes.

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Tree Meringues

Meringue cookies are an essential part of any cookie plate. Instead of opting for simple swirls or stars, use a fluted piping tip and pipe towering swirls to make a Christmas tree. Add a few sprinkles to imitate ornaments and dust with confectioners’ sugar for a snowy look.

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Delicate Icing

Not every cookie needs to be filled edge to edge with frosting. Instead, use a small round decorating tip to draw a few details onto your favorite cutout cookies. Try it with these vegan gingerbread cookies.

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Go Bold with Color

We’ve all been there: We want to make a vibrant red frosting or batter only to find that the results come out pink. This baking season, invest in potent gel food coloring to make your reds red and your greens green.

These powerful food dyes will give your bakes—everything from these cherry pinwheels to peppermint stick cookies—just the right holiday hue.

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Sugar and Stencils

Pick up a few holiday stencils next time you’re at the craft store. Lay the stencils on top of baked cutout cookies and then dust with confectioners’ sugar. It takes just seconds to complete a detailed design.

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Super Detailed Designs

Can’t get enough of royal icing and piping bags? Then you want some next-level Christmas cookie decorating ideas. These ugly sweater cookies are a great way to show off your technique. We also suggest trying our shortbread cutouts (we went with a llama design!) and penguin cutouts.

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Use Spice to Decorate

Want to give your friends a preview of what’s inside their next bite? Sprinkle a bit of the flavors found inside your cookies over the top of the cookies. That’s what our Test Kitchen did with these nutmeg sugar cookies.

You can do the same with cocoa powder, cinnamon sugar or even pumpkin pie spice.

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3D Cutouts

Making a gingerbread house or just want to add dimension to your spread of treats? Try taking your cookies from flat to fully formed. These 3D Christmas tree cookies are made by slotting together several tree-shaped cutouts after baking. A bit of frosting helps these sweets stand up straight and gives them a snowy look.

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This quick Christmas cookie decorating idea adds a flash of flavor. Melt chocolate chips or candy melts or prepare confectioners’ sugar glaze and stir in 1 teaspoon water until smooth. Dip cookies halfway into the glaze, allowing the excess to drip off.

For a special effect, coat with chopped nuts, sprinkles or crushed candies (our Test Kitchen used candy canes and dark chocolate to make these minty hot chocolate cookies). When you’re done decorating, put the cookies on waxed paper on a wire rack and let dry completely.

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Gingerbread Every Which Way

Yes, the classic gingerbread man is very cute with his frosting smile and candy buttons, but you can go in so many different directions when it comes to Christmas cookie decorating ideas.

Some of our favorite gingerbread decorations include a cuddly teddy bear, penguin and even a (not too scary) yeti cookie.

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Sculpt Cookies

This recipe for roly-poly Santa cookies is a great base for creative baking. It can be easily shaped and molded into all kinds of seasonal figures. Start with simple snowmen and then move your way up to these more complicated Santa Claus figures.

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Marshmallow Fondant

Traditional fondant creates a stunning finish, but it can be fussy to make. Luckily, our Test Kitchen has developed an easy fondant recipe that relies on marshmallows, shortening and confectioner’s sugar. The best part? It tastes amazing!

Roll out homemade fondant thinly, cut it into shapes, and layer it over any cookie.

Lisa Kaminski
Lisa is a former Taste of Home editor and passionate baker. During her tenure, she poured her love of all things sweet (and sometimes savory) into Bakeable, Taste of Home's baking club. Lisa also dedicated her career here to finding and testing the best ingredients, kitchen gear and home products for our Test Kitchen-Preferred program. At home, you'll find her working on embroidery and other crafts.