Cookie Decorating

Cookie decorating can be intimidating, especially around the holidays. Here at The Kitchen, we have some easy tips for making gingerbread house-style cookies without stress. We've teamed up with actress Angela Kinsey and baker Josh Snyder to bring you 3 easy decorating tips!

Royal Icing

It all starts with Royal Icing. Royal Icing is a stiff, white icing that is often used to decorate cookies. You can either make it or buy it already mixed.

Josh's Royal Icing Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds powdered sugar
  • 5 tablespoons meringue powder
  • 2 teaspoons clear vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup room temperature water
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup, for gloss (optional)

Royal Icing Instructions:

  1. Add the powdered sugar and meringue powder to a mixer bowl and mix for 30 seconds using the paddle attachment. (It's not necessary to sift the sugar beforehand.)
  2. Add the vanilla to the water and stir.
  3. With the mixer on its lowest setting, slowly add the water/vanilla mixture to the dry ingredients. As the water is added, the icing will become thick and lumpy.
  4. Continue to add the remaining water until the mixture reaches a honey-like consistency. At this point, turn the mixer to medium speed and mix for 1 minute.
  5. After the first minute, turn the mixer to high speed and mix an additional 2 minutes. Use a spray bottle to get extra powdered sugar off the edges of the mixing bowl. Mix in the corn syrup if desired.
  6. Immediately remove the icing and place in an airtight container.

Two Types of Icing:

For basic cookie decorating, you'll need 2 consistencies of royal icing--1) border or outline icing and 2) flood icing.

The border icing is the standard recipe above--loosened just a bit to help it move around the cookie. Just use a spray bottle to gently mist a small amount of water into it. It should be the consistency of toothpaste and take about 10 to 15 seconds to come back together when you run a spoon through it.

The flood icing is just thinned out with a bit more water and should be the consistency of shampoo or honey. It will take just a few seconds to come back together when you run a spoon through it.

Equipment and Cookies:

You'll want a stand mixer to make royal icing, a spray bottle of water, some squeeze bottles (available online or at craft or restaurant supply stores), some pastry tips of various sizes (we like to use a number 1 or 2 tip for border icing and a number 4 tip for flood icing) and a couple of cake testers or skewers for spreading the icing.

Josh demonstrated his designs on a rectangular cookie (tall building), but we also like to use simple houses without chimneys, houses with chimneys and A-frame houses (tree cookie cutters with the trunk part cut off). We like a mixture of large and small cookies, but use whatever you have on hand.

Outline Technique:

One easy way to decorate house cookies is to use an outline technique. Pipe a simple outline of the most basic elements of a house--door, door knob and windows--with border icing. We like to add a thin layer of snow to the roof of the house to give it some extra wintery vibes.

Candy Technique:

Adding simple store-bought candies can be a great way to embellish house cookies. Josh used green holly leaves (available at craft and baking stores) and bright red dragees as holly berries to form a wreath. Just use a little border icing to glue them down onto the cookie. Be creative and use a combo of candies to make various holiday decor on your houses--Christmas lights, wreaths, roof shingles, candy canes, poinsettias--whatever you can imagine!

Flooding Technique:

Flooding is the best way to fill a cookie with color. First, outline the area of the cookie that you wish to flood with border icing. Let it dry slightly. Then use your flood icing to fill the interior of the outlined area. You can use a cake tester tip to help move the icing around. It should smoothly coat the cookie and run just to the edge of the border before stopping. Josh likes to add polka dots with border icing to the flooded area when it is still wet--they will sink in creating a smooth design when dry.

Happy decorating!

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