Easy Ideas for Decorating Christmas Cookies

My mother has been called the Walter White of Christmas cookies.  She’s been known to bake them 3-figure numbers without breaking a sweat, and some of her creations have been declared utterly (and legally) addictive.  The decadence goes international with Norwegian Kringla, German-influenced Peparkakor and Leibkuchen, and Scottish shortbread.  But it’s the traditional, down-home, cut-out sugar cookie that no one can get enough of.  I am merely her protege, her Jesse Pinkman, who uses her recipes and is constantly trying to perfect the techniques and skill of a true pro.  I wish I had the time to hand paint (yes, really) the royal-iced treats with holly berries and sprigs like she does, but with three kids we end up using the store-bought icing and decorator tips (if we feel like it).  Often we simply squirt from the tube and get some pretty neat results of our own.  The techniques are simple, accessible and don’t take practice or expense to attain.  Give these ideas a go as you finish up the decorating for your holiday dessert table.


Embrace the Mistake.  I accidentally dripped some red frosting on a gingerbread cookie and when I wiped it away, I found the “stain” to leave an interesting, textured effect.  Simply dab a small amount of frosting on your finger and wipe it across the cookie in the place you desire.  


“Smudge” technique to give a “flushed cheek” effect and simulate the texture of woolen mittens and socks.


Use the same smudge technique to deck your gingerbread people, Santas, and snowmen in elfish attire.


Think outside the tree.  Flip Der Tannenbaume on their stars and make into reindeer faces.  I use tiny green non pareils for the eyes, red hots for the Rudolph noses, and either mini candy cane decor or mini trees for the antlers.  “Glue” in place with dabs of frosting.  Also, those mini trees make great “boughs” on a Christmas tree cookie.

I went a little overboard with the reindeer on the left; he looks like he’s getting a perm.  Less is definitely more.  Note the “smudge” technique for the reindeer “cheeks.”


More examples of mini trees as reindeer antlers. I included the moose cookie because they are so darn cute!


The “Jackson Pollock”.  I don’t make very nice lines of frosting, straight or curved.  The trails are a mess and big blobs alternate with thin drippity-drips.  So I began using a “splatter” technique that gives a textured, asymmetrical effect and rations our favorite cookie frosting when the grocery store runs out.  It’s a win-win…easy and makes for attractive, professional-looking treats.


Texturize your cookie wreaths to look like the real thing and add green sugar for sparkle. On the rare occasion I can outline a cookie, I like to add pizazz with star sprinkles.


Formal attire only.  Those mini candy canes and trees really come in handy!  Use to make “bow ties” for your gingerbread men, or bows for your “Clarices” to distinguish them from your “Rudolphs”.

Red hots are perfect for the knots on your bows.


Go for broke.  Those cookies are darn fragile.  And it’s an art to cut those cookies just right…too thin and they burn (throwaways!) and too thick and those trees and snowmen bloat up like balloons in the Macy’s parade.  Use those unidentifiable blobs and a bit of humor.  I wish I had a picture to share of the cookies we christened with “Merry X-Mess!” in frosting and went crazy with the sprinkles.  They were colorful and whimsical.  

And finally,

Go 3-D.  No glasses required.  Go outside the gingerbread house and build the furniture that would go inside.  My design-minded son make the “couch” (a broken snowflake cookie) and “ottoman” in the picture below.  Next year, I think a cookie scene with a gingerbread family is going to be our project.  


There was a gingerbread man made to sit on the couch but he “bit it.” Or rather, was bitten…


Wishing you and yours the sweetest Christmas ever!


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