Chatelaine Kitchen

5 must-have tools for holiday cookie decorating

If you're planning to bake a few batches of cookies this weekend, make sure you have these key items on hand.
By Louisa Clements
Eggnog sugar cookies. (Photo, Roberto Caruso.) Sugar cookies, flooded with royal icing. (Photo, Roberto Caruso.)

The holidays are the busiest time of the year for baking — especially when it comes to cookies! Sugar cookies and gingerbread are two of the most well-loved and traditional varieties of holiday cookies, but these roll and cut-out cookies also require another step: decorating.

Decorating cookies is a great holiday afternoon activity, but having the right tools will make the job much easier. Here are five essential tools for holiday cookie decorating.

Tip: When it comes to decorating cookies, royal icing (a thicker, stable decorating choice) is your best bet as it gives you more control over your designs.

What you need:

1. Food colouring gels. When it comes to tinting royal icing with food colouring, food colour gels are the way to go. While food colouring is easy to find in liquid form, liquid food colouring is the least intense of all forms and the extra liquid needed to create a vibrant colour can thin out icing too much. Opt for a concentrated gel paste that comes in small jars or pots, often found in craft stores or cooking stores.

Tip: A little goes a long way with food colouring gels, so incorporate it carefully to the icing — you can always add more.


2. Piping bags. For optimal control over decorating with royal icing, use a piping bag to pipe a border around the edges of your cookie. Outlining a cookie using this method allows you to flood the inside with a thinned royal icing for bakery-worthy treats. You can find both disposable and reusable piping bags and both can be used depending on your preference.

Tip: To fill a piping bag with little to no mess, place the bag inside a tall glass then fold the ends over the rim of the glass and use a silicone spatula to spoon icing into the piping bag.


3. Piping tips and couplers. In order to pipe a border around the edges of your cookies, a piping tip and coupler are must-have tools for the job. A coupler is the two-part plastic device that lets you change piping tips without needing a new piping bag. Because you will be piping a thin line around the edges, a #1 or #2 sized piping tip is the way to go.

Tip: To keep icing from hardening, stand filled piping bags upright in a glass with the tip submerged in a very small amount of water, this will stop the icing from drying out and clogging the piping tip.

4. Squeeze bottles. Once the outlined border of your cookies has set and dried, you will need flood icing (royal icing thinned out with a touch of water) to fill in the space. The best tool for the job is a cheap squeeze bottle found at craft stores. Just squeeze the flood icing onto your cookie and it should spread evenly to the edges, filling in the piped border.


Tip: Flood icing should have a runnier consistency, add water in small amounts until the icing drips easily off a spoon.

5. Toothpicks. Toothpicks are a multi-purpose tool for decorating cookies; they can be used to incorporate small amounts of food colouring to get that perfect pastel colour or if the flood icing isn’t quite reaching the corners of your cookie use a toothpick to encourage it along.

Tip: Sometimes you’ll find that your flood icing has small air bubbles; a toothpick is the right tool for popping these bubbles for a perfect smooth finish.


Watch: How to Make Royal Icing


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