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New Cookie Decorators – Start Here

Nov 5, 2019 | Cookie Decorating Resources, Recipes, Small Business | 2 comments

You’ve seen all the beautiful cookies on Pinterest and Instagram, and now you’re ready to take on the challenge for yourself, but don’t know where to start. This post contains some information that might be helpful for you.

Pink Summer Flamingo and Pineapple Cookies

Cute Gnome Spinkled Sugar Cookies.

Keep in mind — all this information is readily available on the internet if you take the time to look around. Yes, you have to put in the work, and I want to very clear that I’m not creating anything new here. The only thing “new” is my perspective and the way I choose to present the information.
Related: check out our courses! Perfect doe visual learners: https://borderlandsbakery.com/classes-events/
 
Laying down some expectations for you — make sure you TRULY understand this!
  • There is NO substitute for actually DOING.
  • Be patient. No one got good at anything overnight.
  • Learn to think logically. If you have a questions (what will happen if I use less flour?), instead of asking someone or thinking of what “might” happen, just do it, see the results for yourself. AND learn to be resourceful– use google to input the same questions you’d message someone with, chances are, it’s been discussed many times over already. Take these two things combined and you should eventually develop the ability to troubleshoot on your own. I want you to lean on yourself as time goes on. 
Decorating cookies for hobby and not worrying too much about how “perfect” they look is not hard– I highly recommend buying some cookie kits from your local craft or grocery store and start playing around; there is no substitute for hands-on experience with cookie decorating!
 
But if you’re interested in improving your skills, here’s what I recommend: Disclaimer: Some links are affiliate links, which means that I earn a tiny kickback if you decide to make a purchase via my link– this is a great way to support me at no cost to you!
 
  1. Find a base cookie recipe you like.

    The ideal cookie holds its shape well, bakes consistently with your technique and equipment/environment, and most importantly, tastes delicious (texture and flavor) to YOU. Learn to measure by weight to ensure consistency (more on that
    HERE, this is SUPER important). I offer my original recipes for sale in my shop, but also link to free recipes in my blog post HERE. Please read that blog post first for a recipe comparison!
  2. Find an icing recipe you like.

    Royal Icing, by the traditional definition, is a hard-crack icing that fully dries when kept uncovered at room temperature in about 8-16 hours, depending on the humidity in your environment. Royal Icing was originally used on the outside of cake to preserve it. In modern times, many people prefer an icing with a softer bite– so it’s not a hard crack when you bite into it. This is commonly achieved by adding some corn syrup or vegetable glycerin to your icing. I use a hybrid glaze/icing recipe that I shared in my SHOP — but also list free icing recipe links in my blog post HERE.
  3. Learn all about icing consistencies Icing consistency is absolutely key when it comes to making beautiful icing cookies. Some of my favorite videos on this are here (note recipes and techniques vary, experiment to see what works for you). 
    • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_eGFTz-Hs6s
    • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GO0_aNbL6Do&t=377s
    • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OE1O_7fCcCw
  4. Get the basic equipment. It doesn’t have to be complicated or super fancy, but here are a few pieces of basic equipment that really changed my life:
    • Rolling Pin: Today, I keep a few types on hand. I use this one from Amazon and find that the weight and handles really help with easily rolling out dough, especially if you are working with a big piece of dough.  If you want to buy a rolling pin with guides to help with making perfectly uniform cookies, I recommend the Joseph Joseph rolling pin from amazon OR you can purchase a stainless steel version from my SHOP
    • Stand Mixer: I am partial to KitchenAids and Brevilles. If you can afford it, stand mixers are great for baked goods, but are also amazing for making meatballs/meatloaf, shredding cooked chicken, mixing no-bake treats, etc. A more economical stand mixer option is THIS ONE, which seems to have great reviews!

      • Hand Mixer (more affordable option): If a stand mixer is not an option at all, a hand mixer might work (but is way more challenging to use for dough, it’s just not big or strong enough for standard batches of dough, but good if you maybe half recipes). This would also work find for icing. I have used and like the KitchenAid one, but the Hamilton Beach is something I used in college and would recommend for those on a tight budget.
    • Baking Pans: I love aluminum baking sheets from Nordic Ware— they are durable, helps distribute heat more evenly than other pans I’ve used. I have tried other brands of aluminum baking sheets and keep coming back to these. A baking sheet does make a difference in baking– each one conducts heat differently, so if you are getting a weird bake, take thing into consideration in your troubleshooting. Of course, how heat flows around your oven also plays a huge part in evenly baked product. 
    • Silicon Mats vs. Parchment: I personally prefer silicon mats. They are easy to clean, totally non-stick, and I find that I prefer the aesthetics of items baked on silicon rather than parchment. Goods dry out a TAD faster on parchment (makes sense right? Thinner = conducts heat faster so you’ll need to adjust). It doesn’t matter to me which you use as long as you like it and know how to adjust for it. 
    • Oven Thermometer: A must have in my opinion. Most oven are off by 25-50 degrees F and this has huge implications on your bakes. Get a cheapo but effective one HERE. This is exactly what I use.
    • Spatulas: 100% rubber is the way to go– nothing to take apart and clean, easier on your hands than wooden handles. Get a few sizes for dough & small bowls of icing. You can now also buy multiple sizes from Michaels! For ease, you can use Amazon to get 2 sizes in one pack:

      OR I also sell these adorable pink minis (great for icing) in my shop.

      Buy our mini spatulas HERE.

    • Piping Bags: I am ALL about tipless piping bags where possible. I have a whole post dedicated to this so I’ll send you THERE.

    • Food Coloring: Gel or powder is my go-to these days. I think the Cookie Countess has an AMAZING assortment of HIGHLY saturated colors for an AMAZING cost!! So please check them out. You can also check out other popular brands like ChefMaster or Americolor.  I also absolutely LOVE The Sugar Art for certain applications. 
    • Plastic Wrap: This is considered a must have in my book. I roll my dough out inbetween sheets of plastic wrap. I never have any stickiness, or have to use extra flour due to my recipe. Less mess and easy clean up. Plastic wrap grips better to my counters than parchment. 
    • Cookie Cutters: Guys. This is endless. But to start, here’s what I recommend:
      • WHAT A DEAL. You’ll find uses for this as you’re starting out for sure!

        Everyone needs a basic set of plaques. I highly recommend this:

        As a more high quality alternative to the plaque set, I’m very partial to this ann clark set (which I own):
        Want more cookie cutters? You have literally endless options on the internet and my Resources contain my most commonly shopped suppliers!

    • Cookie Scribe Tool: Helps smooth your icing but you can use a toothpick or kebab stick, turkey lacer, etc.– however, I have noticed that stainless steel seems to work a little better than wood (smoother, icing doesn’t hang on as tight to the porous surface). You can also search my Resources for a list of suppliers for this (as with all other items on this list).

Most importantly… Practice, practice, practice. Try to slow down and enjoy the process of learning and improving. You will only get better with patience, time, and practice. And most importantly, you will only know what works for you if you are hands on and constantly trying new things! Good luck, and always prioritize HAVING FUN.

To see my personal full resource list of cookie tools, etc, click HERE. I keep that blog post updated! The cookie decorating scene has exploded so much over the last few years that there are literally an endless supply of tools, decorations, etc. that you can buy. It’s hard to list them all, and overwhelming to see a giant list. 
 
Visit my Amazon Shop to look at some of the other things I buy there!
Have any questions? Did I miss any MUST HAVES? Please drop me a comment and I’ll try to cover it as applicable! Thank you for reading 🙂

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2 Comments

  1. Ashley

    Hello so at the moment I’m wanting to purchase the dehydrator that you have in one of your list on amazon. But I wanted to ask… how long di you leave the cookie in there? Or it’s just depends on the icing?

    Reply

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