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.
- There is NO substitute for actually DOING – no two bakers/decorators have the same equipment, environment and actual technique, and it’s the combination of these factors that determine success. And there’s really only one way to find out 😉
- 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. want you to lean on yourself as time goes on.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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 large batches of dough). 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.
- Silicone 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:
You can also pick up the sprinkle spatula set from our shop:
- 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. Don’t forget to check out our Sweet Deals page for coupons!
- 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). Please also check out our scribe selection in the SHOP.
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.