Recipes | Cookies, Brownies & Bars

Decorated Sugar Cookies – Low FODMAP & Gluten Free

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How to Make Gorgeous Decorated Sugar Cookies

The gorgeous decorated sugar cookies seen in these pictures were made by my daughter, Ravenna. She has a wholesale bakery in Williamsburg, NY and prepares foods for high-end caterers all over the tri-State area, but what always impresses me are the off-beat jobs she gets.

decorated sugar cookies in a white Christmas theme in a snow bank of sugar

Martha’s Calling

Martha Stewart will call and order petit fours for a live party event. A cosmetic company in need of a particular color macaron for a lipstick ad will order a few dozen. Couture designers order sweets to use during Fashion Week. Cookies are ordered for skyboxes at stadiums and for the U.S. Open Tennis Championship. The Federal Reserve orders product that has to be walked over to their offices, since no vehicles are allowed near the building for security reasons. The U.S. Postal Service had her replicate a design from newly released stamps in cookie form. The list goes on and on. One fashion world luminary asked her to build a life-size gingerbread house that visitors could walk through to enter the showroom during the holidays. That one never came to fruition, but man did we have fun strategizing the logistics!

closeup of decorated sugar cookies in a white Christmas theme in a snow bank of sugar

You Can Do This Too!

The point is, she is good at what she does. Very. Not all of our cookies will look as pristine as those shown here, but we are providing you with detailed instruction so that you can get the best possible results, even on your first try.

snowflake decorated sugar cookies on a green glass plate

One of my best selling books is A Baker’s Field Guide to Christmas Cookies and there were decorated sugar cookies in that book too, so I have a bit of experience teaching others how to have success! Read this recipe through for the decorating instructions before beginning so that you can assemble what you need.

Bake & Cool First – Then Decorate!

You do need to start with baked and cooled Rolled Sugar Cookies so refer to that recipe first.

This recipe below is for the Royal Icing, which you can color easily. Note that I recommend gel or paste colors. They come in many more color choices and the quality of the resulting color is truer. Also, liquid food colors that you can find in the supermarket can sometimes have to be added in such a large amount to create the depth of color that you want that they can throw off the viscosity of the icing.

white icing decorated sugar cookies on a red background

Thick & Thin(ner)

Royal Icing is essentially a mixture of confectioners’ sugar, egg white and water. The thickness of the mixture – its fluidity – depends on the ratio of confectioners’ sugar and water. The more confectioners’ sugar, the thicker it is; the more water the thinner it is.

The thick version is used for making dramatic 3-D decorations – like hair on gingerbread people, for instance. It should be thick enough to hold distinct shapes.

The medium texture is used to make a retaining wall for when you want to completely ice the cookie, as seen in our images and for embellishments on already dry icing (this is the texture you see in our images that is creating lines and sometimes embellished with coarse sugar).

The thin version is used to flood and cover cookies completely.

closeup overhead of decorated sugar cookies with edible pen details
Edible Pens

The images immediately above and below show our iced decorated sugar cookies further embellished with edible pens. These are easy to find in craft stores and online and kids love being able to draw on the cookies with felt-tipped pens.

overhead of decorated sugar cookies with edible pen details

Looking for other holiday-worthy cookies? Check out our Mocha Peppermint Chocolate Chip Cookies and our Double Chocolate Chip Peppermint Cookies.

And while you are at it, how about some low FODMAP Hot Chocolate or Hot Cocoa.


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decorated sugar cookies in a white Christmas theme in a snow bank of sugar
4.34 from 3 votes

Royal Icing for Decorating Sugar Cookies

Royal Icing is used to create these elegant, decorated sugar cookies.


Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Author: Dédé Wilson

Ingredients:

Thick Royal Icing:

Medium Royal Icing:

Thin Royal Icing:

Preparation:

  1. Have cookies baked and cooled as directed in Basic recipe for classic Rolled Sugar Cookies.
  2. For any Royal Icing: Place confectioners’ sugar and egg whites (or substitute), and water, if using, in a clean and grease-free bowl. Whip on high speed with electric mixer until thick and creamy, about 6 minutes. (If using a stand mixer, use the balloon whip attachment). Tint, if desired, with food coloring. Use a toothpick to pick up small amounts of color; you can always add more.
  3. Thicker icing is used for bold 3-D type effects like hair anything that you need to stand out in clear relief and detail. A dab of thick icing will be stiff enough to hold a peak. If piped through a star tip it will cleanly hold its shape.
  4. Medium icing can be used to pipe a complete border around the cookies’ edges (to form a retaining wall, which will then be filled with Thin textured icing). Medium icing can also is used to create some details to already dry icing (such as adding eyes to an already iced and dry cookie). A dab of medium textured icing will hold its shape when piped.
  5. Thinner icing is used to cover cookies completely, or to cover partial sections that have been outlined with a thick textured border. Two colors (or more) of thin icing can be swirled together to create a marbled effect. It will have the texture of thick cream.
  6. To Ice Cookies: If you want to completely cover the cookies, Make both Medium and Thin textured icing in the same color. Scrape the Medium into a pastry bag fitted with coupler and a very small round tip (such as Ateco #2) and pipe an outline, either all around the edge of the cookie, or to define a section you want to cover with icing. Make sure to create a solid line all the way around. Allow to dry, then fill the outlined section with the same color Thin icing. Allow the icing to flow into the area within the outlined area.
  7. If you want to add sparkle, you can sprinkle on coarse sugar to the wet icing.
  8. After this thin icing dries, you can embellish with thicker textured icings. We used a Medium texture for the lines on our snowflakes, scarves and buttons on our snowmen and tree decorations. See photographs for ideas.
  9. Cookies may be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 1 month; these are best stored in single layers separated by waxed or parchment paper.

Tips

  • I like to use plastic disposable decorating bags because they are new and pristine. We use royal icing for its hardening qualities, which would be compromised if it came to contact with any fat. Used pastry bags can be hard to get squeaky clean.
  • You can further embellish iced cookies by sprinkling sugar and colored sugars on still wet icing, or embedding gold and silver dragees (a small silver/gold ball for decorating cookies or a cake) or red-hot candies in wet icing.
  • Royal Icing is made with raw egg whites. If you prefer, you can use powdered egg whites, which are available in any well-stocked supermarket in the bakery supplies aisle. Reconstitute according to manufacturer’s instructions. You can also occasionally find containers of pasteurized egg whites in the refrigerated dairy aisle of the supermarket.
Course: Basic, Dessert
Cuisine: American