How to Decorate Sugar Cookies

Master the art of the sugar cookie, step by step. Learn how to create 6 festive designs from Food Network Magazine. 
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Photo By: Andrew Purcell

Photo By: Andrew Purcell

Photo By: Andrew Purcell

Photo By: Andrew Purcell

Photo By: Andrew Purcell

Photo By: Andrew Purcell

Photo By: Andrew Purcell

Photo By: Andrew Purcell

Photo By: Andrew Purcell

Photo By: Andrew Purcell

Photo By: Andrew Purcell

Photo By: Andrew Purcell

Photo By: Andrew Purcell

Photo By: Andrew Purcell

Photo By: Andrew Purcell

Photo By: Andrew Purcell

Photo By: Andrew Purcell

Photo By: Andrew Purcell

Photo By: Andrew Purcell

Photo By: Andrew Purcell

Photo By: Andrew Purcell

Photo By: Andrew Purcell

Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing

Start with Food Network Magazine's basic sugar cookies and basic royal icing. Wait until the cookies have cooled completely before decorating, and cover the icing with a damp paper towel and plastic wrap until ready to use, to prevent the icing from drying out. 

 

Photographs by Andrew Purcell

Get the Recipe: Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing

How to Ice Sugar Cookies: Step 1

"Flooding" is a technique used to cover a cookie completely with royal icing. Here's how to do it:

Transfer about 1/2 cup of the royal icing to a resealable plastic bag and snip a small corner. Use this icing to pipe a thin border around the edge of each cookie. Let set for a few minutes. Thin the remaining icing with a few drops of water until it's the consistency of syrup.

How to Ice Sugar Cookies: Step 2

Place half of the thinned icing in a resealable plastic bag and tint the rest with red and/or green gel food coloring. Transfer the colored icing to bags. Snip a corner of the white icing bag and pipe a generous amount inside the border of each cookie.

How to Ice Sugar Cookies: Step 3

Using a small offset spatula or the back of a spoon, spread the icing to cover the cookie. Decorate with the colored icing while the white icing is still wet (click through gallery). Let the cookies set at room temperature, at least 1 hour.

Christmas Star

This cookie is pretty enough to sit atop the Christmas tree, but good luck resisting the temptation to eat it. 

Christmas Star: Step 1

Flood star cookies with white icing. While the icing is still wet, pipe concentric stars of red and green icing on each cookie, with a circle in the center.

Christmas Star: Step 2

Drag a toothpick from the center out to each point (wipe the toothpick after each drag).

Candy Stripes

These red and white cookies are just as festive as candy canes and are perfect for those who don't like the taste of peppermint. 

Candy Stripes: Step 1

Flood circle cookies with white icing. While the icing is still wet, pipe lines of red icing across each cookie.

Candy Stripes: Step 2

Drag a toothpick vertically through the stripes, alternating directions (wipe the toothpick after each drag).

Holiday Garland

You could stop at Step 1 with the polka dots and these cookies would still be cute enough to gift. But the dainty garland design is worth the extra step. 

Holiday Garland: Step 1

Flood circle cookies with white icing. While the icing is still wet, pipe large dots of red and green icing on each cookie in alternating rows.

Holiday Garland: Step 2

Drag a toothpick across the dots, alternating directions (wipe the toothpick after each drag).

Holly Leaves

Your friends and family will be blown away by the intricate detail of the holly leaves — but they don't have to know how simple it is to do. 

Holly Leaves: Step 1

Flood circle cookies with white icing. While the icing is still wet, pipe short lines of green icing on each cookie.

Holly Leaves: Step 2

Use a toothpick to drag the side of each line out a few times to form pointy leaves (wipe the toothpick after each drag). Pipe red dots at the ends of the leaves.

Ribbon Candy

It's hard not to stare and get lost in the wavy pattern of the ribbon candy design. These cookies are sure to catch just about everyone's eyes at your holiday soiree. 

Ribbon Candy: Step 1

Flood circle cookies with white icing. While the icing is still wet, pipe stripes of red and green icing.

Ribbon Candy: Step 2

Drag a toothpick up from the bottom of each set of colored stripes a few times to make curved lines (wipe the toothpick after each drag).

Twinkling Star

The twinkling design may seem simple at first glance, but with a closer look you can see the tiny heartlike shapes that form around each edge of the star. 

Twinkling Star: Step 1

Flood star cookies with white icing. While the icing is still wet, pipe alternating dots of red and green icing around the border.

Twinkling Star: Step 2

Drag a toothpick around the border through the dots (wipe the toothpick at each corner).