Cookie Decorating Tips from the Pros


To make professional-looking decorated sugar cookies all you need is the right ingredients, the right tools, and the right techniques. Of course, a bit of practice and finesse never hurt anyone, either. The best part of decorating cookies? The results will be delicious no matter how they look. Keep these pro tips in mind the next time you're whipping up customized cookies for an event or holiday party.

Cool cookies completely

"Make sure your icing and cookies are room temperature when you decorate," says Adrienne Hand, a Cookies By Design store manager in Plano, Texas. Why wait? Warm cookies and icing do not mix well--unless you like that "drippy" look. If your cookies aren't completely cooled when you start decorating, the icing will melt once it hits the warm cookie. Of course your icing shouldn't be refrigerated before it's applied to your cookies or it will be hard to use.

Plan ahead

The professionals have access to all the pastry bags, tips, and special utensils they need to create their edible masterpieces on hand before they begin their work. "Have a variety of decorating tips to achieve the desired design," Hand says. Make sure you have as many small mixing bowls and pastry bags as you will have colors and consistencies as well as several tips of assorted sizes. You may also want to draw your cookie design beforehand, or even sketch the design onto a cookie with a light-colored food marker.

Use a tall glass or mug to fill your piping bags

You can get your icing into your piping bags easily by using a tall glass or mug. Place your piping bag into the glass with the tip of the bag pointing up so icing won't leak out. Fold the edges of the bag over the rim of the glass and spoon the icing into the bag.

Close the back of the piping bag

Use a small alligator clip, twist tie, or rubber band to close the back of the icing bag. It won't necessarily help you decorate, but at least the icing won't spurt backwards and onto your apron when you squeeze the bag.


Get a feel for your icing and your design before you start applying icing to your cookies. "We use laminated sheets to practice our designs," Hand says. "The icing wipes away clean and easy." Then move onto any broken, misshapen, or otherwise unfortunate cookie disasters so you can make mistakes.

Start with border icing

You should have two consistencies of icing to create the smooth bottom layer on the cookie's surface with the outline icing being slightly thicker. Trace the outline of your design at the edge of the cookie using a #1 or #2 tip, applying constant pressure to create a smooth line. Avoid stops and starts as much as possible and do not touch the tip to the cookie. This border will act as a barrier to hold in the thinner flood icing.

Brace yourself

Shaky? Rest your arm on the edge of your work surface while piping to steady yourself.

Let the outline dry

"Make sure your outline has time to dry before filling in," Hand says. This will ensure the border is intact and will hold the thinner icing used for the rest of the base. If you're working on several cookies simultaneously, the cookies you first did the outlines on should be dry by the time you finish outlining the others.

Use a thinner icing for flooding

You want your flood icing to be thin enough to pour off a spoon. Mix in tiny amounts of water until it is the right consistency.

Cover any bare spots

Use a toothpick to pop any air bubbles and to carefully guide the icing to the edges of your cookies design to fill in the outline completely. Then shake your cookie gently to help settle any bumps.

Let the glaze dry

"Make sure the icing is dry before decorating on top," Hand says. Before moving onto additional layers of icing, wait at least 3 hours or let your cookies sit overnight. The exception: decorating with sprinkles, colored sugar, or edible glitter, which need to be added within two minutes of icing, while it's still wet and sticky.

Let the cookies dry

The icing should be allowed to dry for at least 24 hours before you wrap them up for transport. When your decorated cookies don't have enough time to set, they are prone to nicks and smudges. And don't worry about their freshness: the icing acts as a sealant, so they won't go stale.

Don't take decorating cookies too seriously

Have fun! ;-)

In a hurry? Cookies By Design has beautifully decorated cookies and other fun treats for every occasion available for same-day delivery!