Everything You Need to Decorate Sugar Cookies

This was my third year making and decorating sugar cookies and I think I finally have a handle on it! I didn’t feel like I was missing any tools, I had great recipes to work with, and my designs came out SOOO cute (even with only a few cookie shapes).

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Making and decorating sugar cookies seems like a big project but, with the right tools, you’ll be on your way to making Pinterest-perfect decorated sugar cookies!

The Recipes You Need to Make Sugar Cookies

First things first, we need to make sure that our designs have a great surface to lay on and that we have the right royal icing! Let’s talk about recipes.

Sugar Cookie Recipe

The recipe that I use to make my sugar cookies is from The Barefoot Baker. I really enjoy the taste and texture of her cookie, and the surface of the cookies always come out great!

P.S. Keep reading for more tips & tricks to make sure your cookie surface is as smooth as possible!

I highly recommend reading her blog post that accompanies the sugar cookie recipe at least once because she provides some amazing tips, like:

  • why you should use unsalted butter, instead of salted butter
  • why weighing your flour, instead of measuring, will create a more consistent experience
  • how to use cutting mats to chill your cookies efficiently

While I understand that people are in a hurry when making cookies, I definitely believe that incorporating a little bit of time for chilling your cookies is the best way to get beautiful cookies with crisp edges.

Royal Icing Recipe

Surprise, surprise. My royal icing recipe also comes from The Barefoot Baker! Her recipe uses egg whites, so this recipe requires some cream of tartar to stabilize the eggs. If you prefer to use meringue powder, here’s a lemon royal icing recipe from Tara Teaspoon that was absolutely delicious!

Test your royal icing for a consistency that feels most natural to work with for you. For me, that’s somewhere around 7 seconds but maybe you prefer to have two different consistencies for outlining and flooding. To find your cookie consistency, “cut” your icing with a spatula or knife and count how many seconds it takes for your icing to fill in the “cut”.

Tips & Tricks for Sugar Cookies

These are my personal tips & tricks regarding the recipes after making these cookies for three years (as of 2020).

  1. As you will read in The Barefoot Baker’s blog post, weighing your ingredients really helps keep things consistent across all your cookies, which is why you’ll see a scale in the Kitchen Tools section.
  2. Do NOT mindlessly knead your dough! Maybe it’s just me, but there is something so calming about kneading out the dough…but do not get sucked into that calmness! It is deceitful! Okay, so I’m kinda joking but you definitely want to knead just enough to combine your ingredients and NO MORE. Why? There are a couple of reasons, mostly having to do with temperature and gluten. Read this blog post to learn more about what to do and what not to do.

The Kitchen Tools Needed to Make Sugar Cookies

Decorating Sugar Cookies | Decorating Sugar Cookies for Beginners| Tips & Tricks for Decorating Sugar Cookies | Sincerely Yasmin

Alright, now that we’ve gotten the recipes out of the way, let’s discuss the kitchen tools that are super helpful for sugar cookies!

Cookie Cutters for Sugar Cookies

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I think cookie cutters are important in the sense that you should have a collection of basic shapes before you get into niche or seasonal shapes. I also like to get the sets of the basic shapes, like getting the nesting circles or squares so that you have size options when it comes to your design and cookies!

I’m not super particular about the type of cookie cutter (plastic vs metal) but, if you do decide to go the metal route, make sure you get a sturdy cutter and store it in a location where it’s not competing for space. You don’t want to bend the design! I personally have a few cutters made of both materials.

Rolling Pin & Rubber Rings / Rubber Bands

This is definitely where the majority of your focus should go! Once I started using the rubber rings that go around the rolling pin, I COULD NOT go back.

The difference in cookie surfaces was just AMAZING?!? Because the rings provide a consistent rolling thickness, your cookies will have fewer dents and slopes. These dents and slopes aren’t always noticeable at first, but will become more noticeable after baking, and could affect your icing (depending on the design).

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Rubber Rings for Rolling Pin

These are absolutely necessary to keep your cookies nice and smooth! Keeping a smooth surface will later help when adding icing and other designs!

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Here’s the hard thing about these rubber rings: they’re usually made for the narrower/thinner wooden rolling pins. I was so upset that I couldn’t use them with my extra long KitchenAid rolling metal. While it’s not a deal breaker, just keep this in mind when shopping for the rings, especially if you’re ordering online. Check what the rolling pin width is for the rubber rings.

Sugar Cookies - Tools to Decorate Sugar Cookies - How to Decorate Sugar Cookies - Sugar Cookie Recipe | Sincerely Yasmin

Food Coloring

Okay, so I still use “regular” food coloring for my icing, and the cookies come out fine. However! Gel food coloring is definitely the super product to use with royal icing, especially if you’re trying to get those deep, intense colors.

Did you know Wilton has gel food coloring on their website?! I did not but they do, and their color selection is too good!

The reason that my stockings ended up pink and not red was because the regular food coloring was not getting intense enough after ten or so drops, and I just gave up and used a pink color.

Though food coloring has not affected my icing in this way, I have read that using regular food coloring (which is water-based) could affect the flooding level of your icing because it introduces additional water, unlike gel food coloring which does not introduce more water.

Decorating Tips for Sugar Cookies

Here’s the fun part; the part where I spend my money unnecessarily just to test out the cool designs. Yay!

I have a couple of basic tips and a couple of fun tips. I would say that the #2 and #3 tips are necessary for those thin-line designs you see on Pinterest. They also make the best outline tips (and if you’re a one-tip decorating type of person, then they work well enough to flood). If you like having different tips for flooding, then definitely pick up a bigger tip to make flooding easier.

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If you plan on using many different colors at the same time, then having multiples of one tip size will be very handy. I have two each of #2 and #3 tips so that way I can do two colors at once and not worry about having enough tips.

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Okay, wow! That was a lot of information and I hope it was helpful! This is my third year making sugar cookies for the holidays and the process is always fun for me! Making sugar cookies combines some of my favorite things: detailed measurements with decorating creativity!

Grab some wireless headphones, pick your favorite playlist, and have fun making and decorating amazing sugar cookies! If you have any questions about additional tools or other processes about making sugar cookies, then let me know in the comments!

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