Cookie Decorating Techniques


One Christmas several years ago, I decorated a small tabletop Christmas tree with cookie ornaments. Today, Rebecca Millican, pastry chef from Peter Kump’s Cooking School in New York, shares some simple techniques for decorating holiday cookies and royal icing.

Check out Best Christmas Recipes, for the best recipes of the season, from delicious appetizers to festive deserts.

Professional techniques for decorating cookies

Table of Contents

To color icing:

For dark colors such as red and black, Rebecca advises starting light and gradually working toward a deeper color. Add gel or paste food coloring to icing with a toothpick, mixing the icing completely after each addition. Add each a tipful at a time, until desired color is achieved; store icing by covering tightly with plastic wrap to discourage hardening.

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To coat a cookie with a color of royal icing, use a number 1 or 2 tip, and hold pastry bag 1/4 inch above the cookie. Spread icing by following the outline of the cookie, leaving a space along the edge for leakage, then fill in outline with icing. To fill empty spots, use a small offset spatula to guide icing into place.


This technique yields a marbled effect, achieved by adding a second color to flooded icing. To drag, apply small dots or stripes in a different color. Working quickly, use the tip of a toothpick to drag icing, alternating up and down lines. Wipe off toothpick after each pass, and let dry completely.

To create raised effects:

For a three-dimensional design, let the flooding layer dry for at least 2 hours, then apply wet icing over the top of the dried icing.


Grains of sanding sugar, which are used to add shimmer to cookies, are four to six times larger than grains of regular granulated sugar. To add sanding sugar, place the cookie on parchment paper, and (while the icing is still wet) sprinkle sugar over the top of the cookie. Invert the cookie to remove excess sugar.

To apply dragées:

Dragées are small, circular inedible silver beads that can be attached to icing by applying a small dot where you want the dragee to be. Use tweezers to apply the dragées, and allow the icing to dry.


  • Meringue powder
  • Liquid paste food coloring
  • Gel paste food coloring
  • Powdered food coloring
  • Stainless steel decorating tips: #1 and #2 writing tips
  • Disposable decorating bags
  • White sanding sugar (Also available in a coarse, crystal grain. Sanding sugar and crystal sugar can be purchased in various colors.)
  • 1/8-inch silver dragées

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