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How to Decorate Gingerbread Cookies

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Every other week, Anna Hezel talks about the innovations, decorations, and other quiet touches that make a party memorable.

Today: A few tips for show-stopping gingerbread cookies.

I know that Christmas isn’t supposed to be a competition, but it can’t hurt to have the prettiest gingerbread at the party, right?

Decorating gingerbread is one of my favorite holiday tasks because you can just hunker down with a few episodes of Breaking Bad and a tray of cookies, and before long, you have a stack of lovely edible gifts. It’s far more relaxing than gift-shopping, picking out a tree, or, heaven help me, hanging garlands.

Here are some tricks that will work for any size or shape of snowflake cookie cutters. Mix and match these for a whole batch of unique snowflakes. If you want to hang these on your tree as decorations, you can use a plastic straw to punch a hole in the cookie before baking it, and afterwards string some ribbon through it.

More: Get Gena Hamshaw's recipe for Vegan Gingerbread Cookies.

1. Get your frosting right: The ideal frosting for icing cookies will have the texture of melted chocolate at room temperature. I like to cream together 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter with about a cup of powdered sugar, and then add one or two tablespoons of milk, until the texture is right. You can also take a tip from Alice Medrich and skip the frosting altogether.

Scoop about 1/4 cup of the frosting into a small ziplock bag. Squeeze out any air bubbles and seal the bag. Cut a tiny hole in one corner (about 1 millimeter wide).

2. Creating a template: Make a small dot of frosting in the very center of the cookie. Draw steady, straight lines connecting each of the six (or twelve, if you like) most prominent points of the cookie to this center dot. This will give you a helpful starting template for your snowflake design.

3. When in doubt, start with Vs: To get started, draw sets of 3 or four stacked V's at the snowflake's points, with the angular end pointing towards the center of cookie. You can be a little creative here and make your Vs frilly or curly, but it looks best if they are all more or less uniform.

4. Diamonds, dots, and teardrops: Once you're done with the basic lines of the snowflake, try filling in the empty spaces with little diamonds, dots, and teardrops to make the design look more detailed. Diamonds look great at the very tips of the stars' points, and dots and teardrops are helpful for filling in oddly-shaped spaces.

5: The sixpoint star: The middle of the cookie can get a little messy with all of those lines meeting in one place, so I like to cover it up with a little 6 point star. I just make a big dot of frosting in the middle, and then taper it outward into 6 points.

Tags: cookies, baking, holiday, gingerbread, cookie week

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Comments (10)


over 1 year ago Sugartoast

Will this frosting harden as it dries out? Looking for something that is similar to Royal Icing but without egg since my child is allergic to eggs. Beautiful cookies!


over 1 year ago Anna Hezel

Yes, the frosting does harden, so I think it's a fine alternative to royal icing!


over 1 year ago Grace

Does anyone know if this frosting would ship well? I'm inclined to think that once dry, the decorations would chip off if mailed. This would be so much easier than a royal icing, but I'm mailing cookies this year and need a durable decoration! Any thoughts?


over 1 year ago Anna Hezel

Hi Grace, the icing gets quite hard when dry, and I've had success packing boxes and zip-lock bags of the cookies for transportation.


over 1 year ago amymm

The MOST beautiful cookies EVER. Please come decorate my tree.


over 1 year ago Kels Murdoch

Food52, You complete me. I have a batch of gingerbread snowflakes, waiting to be frosted, then realized I have no meringue powder for royal icing. Run to Food52, and what do I find? This glorious post. Thank you!


over 1 year ago rizzle

Also, for my imprecise fingers, this might be as stressful as...well, garland-hanging.


over 1 year ago rizzle

They are almost too beautiful to eat.


over 1 year ago Kenzi Wilbur

Kenzi is the Managing Editor of Food52.

I agree! So gorgeous.


over 1 year ago Anna Hezel

Thanks guys!