cookie decorating party

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For as long as I can remember, I have decorated cut-out sugar cookies at Christmas time. We used to make them growing up–I remember stars, trees, bells, and candy canes.

My mom made them and we’d decorate with colored buttercream frosting we’d spread on with butter knives.

When I went to college I recreated the same thing. I wish I could find some pictures of the ones I decorated with college roommates! I do recall we rolled out the dough with a wine bottle because we had no rolling pin, ha!

After college I lived in an apartment with roommates and we decorated each year. When I moved into my first house, these friends came over to work on our cookies.  It’s tradition 🙂

I used to play bunco each month until a few years ago when we realized it wasn’t the dice game (that we hardly ever played) that we looked forward to each month–it was the company! We stopped playing bunco altogether and instead choose a fun activity each month that we otherwise might not get around to doing.

This cookie decorating party has become my designated “bunco month” the last few years and I love that the tradition carries on at my house in this way!

If you’ve ever wanted to host a cookie decorating party (for adults, kids, or both!) here are some tips for pulling it off with minimal stress:

  1. Start preparing 2 nights before. I made the cookies on Tuesday night and the icing on Wednesday night so Thursday evening I only had to lay it all out and wait for my guests. I needed enough for 10-12 people so I doubled the batch of dough as well as royal icing.
  2. Make clean up easy on yourself. I lined the whole table with a disposable table cloth and everyone got a paper plate.
  3. Have fun! some of my icing consistency was off, some of my cookies were on the crisp side, some of the sprinkles spilled…but none of us are professionals!

T get started you’ll need  a recipe for cookies that do not spread even a millimeter. This was especially important for me because I borrowed some impression cookie cutters and the imprints would disappear if the dough spread! 

I have used this recipe ( ) twice now and I really like it! Side note, do NOT try to double this at once in a stand mixer, there won’t be enough room.

Those wonky little Grinch trees are so adorable it doesn’t even matter that my cookies aren’t perfect!

I think baking the cookies is the fun part. Royal icing is a whole different story. It is a labor of love 🙂 To make it easier I usually use this Wilton Meringue Powder so that I don’t have to worry about egg whites.

Wilton’s website actually offers their royal icing recipe to use with their product but I don’t recommend it. I used probably twice the amount of water they called for.

I have found from experimenting that it’s best it to start out with 3 tablespoons of the meringue powder along with 6 tablespoons of warm water. After this is mixed together on low speed I add in 4 cups of powdered sugar. I usually add more water here if it’s crazy thick to get it to form stiff peaks.

Really just play around with water (in increments of just a few drops at a time!) to determine consistency. You want stiff peaks.  You can also add flavor–I did a little lemon juice and a little almond extract to get it to taste less like liquid sugar.

Coloring it is time consuming, which again is why I like to dedicate whole night to icing. Just crank up the Christmas music, get out some wine and take your time. I picked 6 colors. So you need to make your two batches of icing (or 1 for a smaller party), then separate it into 6 bowls. Use gel food coloring.

It should still be at stiff consistency from the mixer and you want to color each bowl and transfer the colored icing into piping bags(I don’t use tips, just cut the bags when you are ready to use) Don’t use all the icing, leave some in the bowl to turn into thin icing! Add small amounts of water slowly into each bowl until it is thinned out. If you pick up your spoon and let the icing fall back into the bowl, you want to see it all “disappear” into the rest of the icing within 10 seconds.

Here is a tip for transferring icing into piping bags–wrap the bag around a cup! Then you can spoon the icing in from a bowl using both hands.

Your outlining icing is stiff enough to stay in a piping bag and not spill out. The fill icing is thinner so I rubber-banded those. I put all completed icings in an air tight container and stored overnight at room temp. That is a huge perk to not using egg whites.

The next step is just to set everything up! I poured sprinkles into cupcake liners just so they were easier to pinch instead of having to shake and dump them onto cookies.

We really had a great time decorating and chatting. I look forward to this  night every year! We enjoyed fancy Aldi cheese (my idea of cooking), wine/beer, the Christmas Pop station and the company. 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Best of all–here is a picture of clean up:

Hope everyone is having a great Christmas season! I always make enough extra cookies to save for the boys to decorate for Santa Claus. These cookies actually keep great in an air tight container or freezer! Stay tuned for their artistic talents coming up in about a week!

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