11 Mistakes You’re Making When Decorating Christmas Cookies

Want your Christmas cookies to look (and taste) like they came straight from a bakery? Take a cue from the talented cooks in the Taste of Home Test Kitchen.

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Decorating Christmas cookies
Photo: Shutterstock

Not using the right type of cookie

Not all cookies play nicely with icing. The pro bakers in the Taste of Home Test Kitchen find that flat sugar cookies and gingerbread work best. They won’t crumble when you work with them and tend to have large, flat areas to decorate.

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Timer on kitchen worktop with cooling rack in the background
Photo: Christopher Elwell/Shutterstock

Relying on recipe times

“I never look at recipe times when I bake cookies,” says Sally McKenney, cookbook author and food blogger at Sally’s Baking Addiction. “I look at the cookies themselves. The cookies are done when the edges are set and lightly browned. Keep in mind that cookies’ centres will continue to cook for a few minutes while out of the oven cooling.”

Check out these cake baking tips we learned from our grandmas.

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Christmas cookie
Photo: everyday polkadot/Shutterstock

Not giving yourself enough time

The decorating process requires time and patience. Hilary Ramos at The Cookie Countess reminds us, “Your base icing will need anywhere from a few hours to overnight to dry enough to add details; and then time to dry again before you can stack or package.”

Looking for inspiring loaves to bake this holiday? Don’t miss our roundup of 35 easy bread recipes.

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Hands of little girl sheeting dough with rolling pin.
Photo: NATALIA61/Shutterstock

Not using rolling pin guides

For cookies that have a smooth, even thickness, Georganne Bell, the decorator behind LilaLoa, recommends using rings that slide onto the ends of a traditional wooden rolling pin to keep the dough the same thickness.

Pressed for time? This easy banana bread recipe only takes five minutes—in your microwave!

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kids hand decorating cookies with sugar.
Photo: NATALIA61/Shutterstock

Not allowing cookies to cool

Don’t rush! When you start decorating your cookies before they are completely 100 percent cool, the icing will melt. Make sure each batch is cooled before you begin to add the icing. Our Test Kitchen recommends decorating your cookies the day after you bake ’em.

Feeling nostalgic for holidays gone by? Take a look back at the ingredients grandma always used to cook with.

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Decorating traditional gingerbread cookies with royal icing for Christmas.
Photo: Arina P Habich/Shutterstock

Using royal icing that’s too thick

Royal icing that’s too thick means it won’t smooth out at all. Georganne from LilaLoa has some good advice: “Give the bowl of icing a quick stir. The surface of the icing should be uneven and you should see stir lines in the icing. Tap the bowl on the counter five times. If the surface has smoothed out, that’s your perfect consistency. If it hasn’t smoothed out, it’s too thick. Try adding a few drops of water and trying again.”

Find out how to make powdered sugar in seconds!

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Decorating gingerbread cookies with royal icing for Christmas.
Photo: Arina P Habich/Shutterstock

Using royal icing that’s too thin

On the flip side, using royal icing that’s too thin means it will flow right off the cookie! Do the same bowl tap trick from the last slide. But if it smoothed out after only two to three taps, it’s too thin. Just stir in a few tablespoons of powdered sugar.

Read the story of how one woman’s love of baking got her through the lockdown.

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Christmas cinnamon cookies icing decorating process with a pastry bag
Photo: kuvona/Shutterstock

Making small batches of icing

It’s the same amount of work—and clean up—to create one small batch or one large batch. You can quickly create a custom batch, too. Just whip up a super-sized batch of basic icing, then divide into separate bowls to create all your colours and flavours.

Take a peek at a dessert so beautiful, it’s been Pinned more than 270,000 times!

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Winter and Christmas decorated cookies - background
Photo: Pacharawan/Shutterstock

Not using enough icing

A lot of new decorators won’t use enough royal icing on their cookies. “Without an adequate amount, the royal icing can’t smooth into itself and you’ll be left with wavy, bumpy cookies,” says Georganne of LilaLoa.

Find out how long you can expect your Christmas cookies to last.

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Cute Boy And A Woman Decorating Gingerbread Cookies
Photo: NatashaPhoto/Shutterstock

Not practicing first

There’s truth to the saying “practice makes perfect!” If you’re new to decorating with royal icing, Hilary the Cookie Countess recommends that you do a practice round. “This way you’ll know if you have all the right supplies, or if you need to purchase a few more. It will also give you a chance to make changes; sometimes a cookie design seems better on paper than in reality.”

These Christmas cookie baking hacks will help you win the holiday season.

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Smiling gingerbread men nestled in holiday dish with gift-wrapped surprise.
Photo: Marie C Fields/Shutterstock

Having an intricate design

Your cookies don’t need to be complicated! There are many simple and easy ways to make beautiful cookies. In my opinion, sprinkles make everything look more dressed up.

Next, check out our best-ever Christmas cookie recipes.

Taste of Home
Originally Published on Taste of Home

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