A Better Cookie Icing

December  9, 2013

Every week, baking expert Alice Medrich will be going rogue on Food52 -- with shortcuts, hacks, and game-changing recipes.

Today: Of course Alice decorates her holiday cookies with straight chocolate. She really does know best.

A Better Cookie Icing from Food52

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I confess that don’t like cookie icing. Even when my daughter was a toddler and later when I supervised elementary school cookie decorating for her classmates, we used melted chocolate to decorate cookies instead of icing. Real chocolate: dark, milk, or white! If you insist on colors, you can tint white chocolate with oil-based candy coloring that is meant for chocolate. But the cookies will be plenty colorful from the candies and sprinkles that are stuck onto the chocolate anyway! The beauty of using chocolate instead of icing is that the cookies always taste great, even when the kids (or grown-ups) inevitably over-decorate them.

All you need is melted chocolate (not chocolate chips because they don’t melt well), lots of colored sugars, sprinkles, silver shot, candy pearls, mini M&Ms etc., and ziplock bags (or very small disposable icing bags or paper cornets).

Have little bowls of decorations available for sprinkling over the cookies after the chocolate is piped on. Spoon melted chocolate it into the ziplock bags, zip them closed, and snip the tip to make a very small opening -- not so much that the chocolate flows out too fast. If working with little kids, you might want to use rubber bands to keep the chocolate concentrated in the corner of the bags.

If chocolate sets or gets congealed in the bags, rewarm them with a hairdryer or very carefully in a microwave on low for a few seconds at a time.  

Leave decorated cookies on a rack until the chocolate is dry and set; this takes a while, but the cookies are stackable once dry.

More: Get our go-to Holiday Cut-Out Cookie recipe.

Alice's new book Seriously Bitter Sweet is a complete revision of her IACP award-winning Bittersweet, updated for the 54%, 61%, and 72% (and beyond) bars available today. It's packed with tricks, techniques, and answers to every chocolate question, plus 150 seriously delicious recipes -- both savory and sweet.


Photos by James Ransom

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Amisha
  • Isadora
  • walkie74
  • Rachel C.
    Rachel C.
  • Alice Medrich
    Alice Medrich
My career was sparked by a single bite of a chocolate truffle, made by my Paris landlady in 1972. I returned home to open this country’s first chocolate bakery and dessert shop, Cocolat, and I am often “blamed” for introducing chocolate truffles to America. Today I am the James Beard Foundation and IACP award-winning author of ten cookbooks, teach a chocolate dessert class on, and work with some of the world’s best chocolate companies. In 2018, I won the IACP Award for Best Food-Focused Column (this one!).


Amisha December 11, 2013
I always do this and it works great, much better than icing. I put the cookies in the fridge afterwards so it solidifies and they don't get messy .
Isadora December 11, 2013
I so fondly remember your Cocolat shop and the joys of wandering in after class at Cal and getting lost in the delights you produced. I recall your Reine de Saba (?) as my favorite. That was ages ago, probably in 1970. I am so happy to have you back in my life, made possible through technology as I am now on the other side of the continent.
Alice M. December 11, 2013
Thanks Isadora. Those Cocolat days are fond memories for me as well.
walkie74 December 10, 2013
OK, I'm stumped. If not chocolate chips, what are you using? Chocolate bars? Those melty chocolate candy disk things? Help!!!
CarlaCooks December 10, 2013
I always use chocolate bars... break them up into small pieces and melt as you normally would (bain marie or microwave).
Rachel C. December 9, 2013
This sounds like a great idea! But, how would I keep the melted chocolate from flowing out too quickly?
Alice M. December 9, 2013
Moms who came over to our house to pick up their kids often sat down and started to decorate too! One year I make large cookies in the shape of paper dolls but more like shapely Barby dolls—don't judge me—and you should have seen the outfits that the kids and their moms and I made for those cookies. Wowsa!
Monica M. December 9, 2013
I am all for this!! This is a must-do. Thank you for reminding us there are alternatives to icing!
Monica M. December 6, 2014
I decorated my sugar cookies today with dark chocolate. Turned out great! I may never use royal icing again. Thank you!
Alice G. December 9, 2013
I can just picture you in a room with a bunch of 9-year-olds all decorating cookies with chocolate! I'll bet they had no idea how much better their cookies looked compared to all of the other kids out there. I'll have to do this for my cookie trays this year. Thank you so much for your wisdom, Alice!