DIY Tips and Tricks

If you like what you see here and want to make some cookies yourself there are many great resources available to you.  I am a completely self-taught cookier, and learned everything I know about cookies from the Internet.

My favorite cookie resources are The Sweet Adventures of Sugar Belle, Lila Loa, Sweetopia and Karen’s Cookies.  My first introduction to decorated cookies came from Annie’s Eats.  She has a great tutorial for beginners.  I have since learned some tricks to make my decorating a little faster and less frustrating, but the tutorial from Annie is a great place to start.

Learn from my mistakes

When I first started out, I tried to bake cookies, mix up icing, and decorate all in the same day.  Now I know better.   It’s best if you can do all the prep work of baking the cookies and mixing icing the first day, then decorate the following day(s). The primary reason for this is that it kind of saves your sanity, particularly when there are a lot of icing colors to mix.  But it also allows your icing to sit overnight and develop to a nice rich color (this is particularly true for red).

When I began cookieing I only had one #2 icing tip, so each time I wanted to change colors I had to stop what I was doing, close up the first icing color, wash the tip, and prepare the next icing bag. It took FOREVER.  If you invest in the right (and right amount) of supplies, you can save a little time.  I almost always buy my basic supplies at Michael’s with a coupon.  If you subscribe to their emails, they will occasionally send out a 20% off everything coupon.  At a minimum I suggest:

  • (4) #2 tips
  • (1 or more) #1 tips
  • (4) 4 oz. icing bottles
  • (4) couplers
  • A small box of disposable icing bags
  • A box of toothpicks
  • Meringue powder (you can find this at Michael’s and Hobby Lobby with the cookie and cake decorating supplies.  It’s also sold online and at Williams Sonoma).
  • Gel food coloring in the colors you need.  I prefer the Americolor gels to the Wilton ones simply because their squeeze bottles are a little less messy than Wilton’s screw top bottles.
  • Cookie cutters!  This set would be great for starting out – you can do so much with a square!

If you want to get a little more advanced and fancy, I also recommend these 1.5 PME tips (great for writing and details) and these Americolor edible markers.

Cookie and Icing Recipes

I still want to explore a few more recipes, but have been quite happy with the following recipes.  For recipes that call for vanilla, and in my royal icing, I use Nielsen-Massey vanilla bourbon extract.  It’s a little pricier than your standard vanilla, but it makes a big difference in flavor, especially with the icing.

  • Sugar cookies from Sweetopia – these cookies taste great, but are slightly more difficult to work with than other recipes. It’s really important to chill the dough as indicated in the recipe, or you will end up with a cookie that spreads quite a bit. If you’re intimidated by rollouts, I suggest checking out SugarBelle’s sugar cookie recipe for dough that is a bit easier to work with.  They taste good, but are just a little less buttery than the ones from Sweetopia.
  • Amazing chocolate rollouts from LilaLoa – these are so good that I just like to eat them plain.  The dough is super easy to work with and bakes up beautifully without spreading.  I recommend subscribing to LilaLoa’s blog – she’s a great cookie decorator and she has a wacky sense of humor.
  • Lemony rollouts from SugarBelle – this dough is lovely to work with and has a light lemon flavor and nice light texture.  I omit the poppy seeds.
  • Royal icing from Antonia – I use this recipe almost as written, but add a teaspoon of vanilla (or flavored emulsion) to make it taste even better.  I think Wilton’s meringue powder works just fine for royal icing, but some cookiers prefer the CK or Williams Sonoma brand. My satisfaction with Wilton may be in part due to the fact that I can use a 40% off coupon for it at Michaels. I’m a sucker for a discount.

Tutorials

Here are links to a few of the online tutorials that have been the most helpful to me in my cookie journey.

  • General tutorial: this is the Annie’s Eats tutorial that I used to make my first ever set of cookies.   I actually diverge quite a lot from this method now, but this is a good, comprehensive beginners tutorial.
  • For mixing icing colors: this tutorial from Sweet SugarBelle has saved me lots of time and frustration – it’s so simple, but I would have never thought of it on my own.  The gist is that you can mix up icing colors in a 2 cup glass measuring cup for easy pouring and cleanup.
  • For filling icing bags: Karen’s amazing plastic wrap tip.  It took me a bit to master this without flinging icing all over the kitchen, but it’s such a great way to easily get icing into the bag and it also allows for super easy cleanup, and the ability to reuse a disposable bag.  So, basically this video will save you time, money and frustration.  It’s like the triple crown winner of cookie decorating.
  • And here is SugarBelle’s tutorial on outlining and flooding with royal icing.  I use toothpicks to spread the icing to the edges, but this is pretty much exactly what I do for my royal icing cookies.
  • Marbling: For an easy yet impressive look, try marbling.  Sweetopia explains it in her How to Marble Royal Icing tutorial. Marbling can be used in many designs from flowers to fire to spiderwebs.

Karen’s Cookies has a bunch of informative videos, and Sweet Sugarbelle , Sweetopia and LilaLoa also have some great tutorials, so be sure to check them out.

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