A Beginner's Cookie Decorating Tool Kit

What to buy when you are just starting out -- must have cookie decorating tools and supplies for a beginner!


A Basic Cookie Decorator's Tool Kit


Cookie decorating is SO. MUCH. FUN!!!! And there are so many fun tools and cutters and supplies! It's very tempting to BUY ALL THE THINGS!!! But what do you really need to get started? I've got the top nine things every cookie decorator should own. (I kind of wish it was ten...because that's a satisfying number...but really I could only think of nine things that you HAVE to have.)




Rolling pin for sugar cookie decorating

1. Rolling Pin


A good rolling pin is an absolute MUST for making decorated cookies. But what makes it the RIGHT rolling pin for you may be different than for someone else. If you are still looking for your new favorite rolling pin, check out THIS POST for all the right questions to ask yourself. Not interested in the details? The Joseph-Joseph is the #1 most recommended rolling pin for making decorated cookies. If you already have a rolling pin, make sure that you are using guide rings or guide sticks to get an even thickness for all your cookie dough. (Learn more about making and baking the perfect sugar cookie here.)



Baking sheets for sugar cookie decorating

2. Baking Sheets


I'm going to be honest with you here. You are NEVER going to have enough of these. Even if your children don't steal them for Legos... (WHAT? People have children that don't steal baking sheets for their Legos? How is that even possible?!) ...even if they don't... you are still going to want a whole giant stack of baking sheets. You will use them for baking (obviously). You might leave your cookies on them to decorate and then stack them up tall in the world's most never wracking Jenga game to make space on the dining room table for dinner. You'll store some of your decorating supplies on them. And you might also occasionally want to bake ACTUAL dinner with them sometimes too. THESE are my favorite sheet pans.  I buy the 18" X 13" baking sheets, but definitely MEASURE your oven before you purchase any large baking sheets!

3. Parchment Paper


With all those shiny new baking sheets you're picking up, go ahead and grab some parchment paper. You guys... I avoided buying parchment paper foreeeeeeever. I was all, "It's no big deal. I'll just spray my baking sheet." Guys. That is NOT the same thing at all. Do you WANT your cookies to keep their shape? Buy parchment paper. Do you WANT to roll out your dough without using a ridiculous amount of flour that will ultimately make the cookies tough and tasteless? Buy parchment paper. Are you considering making royal icing transfers? Buy parchment paper. And just make it easy on yourself and buy the Precut Parchment Paper. My only parchment paper regret was not buying it sooner.

Basic cookie cutters

4. Cookie Cutters 


There are SOOOOO many fun cookie cutters to buy!!!! But the sheer number of options can be absolutely overwhelming when you are just starting out. I'm going to let you in on a little secret -- you don't *actually* have to buy ALL THE CUTTERS. **gasp** I know. I'll give you a minute to sort that one out. In fact, I personally recommend that you only purchase a handful of cutters to begin with. After a few weeks or months of decorating, you will have a MUCH better idea what style of cutters you actually love and want to use. The following cutters will get you through pretty much any occasion until you get your...umm...Cookie Legs. (Arms? Should we go with ARMS on this one? Cookies Arms?)

Circles: You'll inexplicably use these for everything. Be prepared and grab a set of 2-sided graduated circle cutters

Heart: Round, Tall, or Wide..it's up to you...but you're gonna want one of these.

Star: I prefer a SET, but you can also get them by their ONESIE too.

Flower: Grab a single flower cutter...ideally one that has leaves on the edges and you can make ANY flower you want with that cutter.

3 Plaque Cutters: Grab a big one, a roundish-squarish one and a long skinny one. You can make anything on these shapes. My favorites are THIS ONE, THIS ONE, and THIS ONE.

A Handful of Halloween cutters: Halloween is a fun cookie decorating holiday. And many of the Halloween shapes can be used for other holidays or occasion too! You can buy cutters separately or try THIS SET or THIS SET.

Christmas cutters: There's no getting around these. If you make decorated cookies at all -- you're going to have to make some Christmas cookies at some point. Usually in the December area of time...but I mean... I don't know...maybe you do things differently where you live. Choose a fun set like THIS ONE or THIS ONE or just buy a handful of Christmas cutters that you love!


IN GENERAL: Cutters that have a lot of details are going to be harder to decorate. Cutters that have tiny pieces that hang off  (like a skinny tail or long legs of a camel) will be hard to cut with and you'll have a hard time not burning those edges. Shallow, plastic cutters with an imprinting edge are often TOO shallow for cutting cookies. And the imprint won't help if you plan to decorate the cookie with icing. Look for cutters that are more simple and rounded with tall, sharp cutting edges.

And if there is just something in you that wants to spend the night looking at cookie cutters while watching movies on the couch -- I get you. You're in good company here. Check out THIS LIST of online vendors to get you started.


Meringue powder and ingredients for royal icing for decorated cookies

5. Meringue Powder (Or Egg White Powder)


Royal icing, by definition, is made of egg whites and sugar. For food safety and convenience, most decorators choose to make their icing with the dehydrated egg whites instead of fresh egg whites. You can choose to use pure powdered egg whites or meringue powder. Meringue powder CONTAINS dehydrated egg whites and a few extra ingredients like -- flavors, sugar, cream of tartar...and others.

They are BOTH good options. Powdered egg whites can be difficult to find in person. The best places to look for them are in the health food section (or in health food stores) or in a long term food storage shop. You can also grab some online HERE or HERE. Meringue powder is much more widely available. You can find it in the cake decorating aisle of any craft store and even in the baking aisle of some grocery stores. Because different brands include different ingredients in their meringue powders -- each brand will make a slightly different royal icing than another brand. Here are some popular brands to get you started:


If you choose to use egg white powder - use this recipe for ROYAL ICING WITH POWDERED EGG WHITES.

If you choose to use meringue powder - use this recipe for ROYAL ICING WITH MERINGUE POWDER. 



Royal icing


6. Some kind of mixer


And to go along with that meringue powder....you really are going to need some kind of electric mixer. You can absolutely mix cookie dough by hand. But when it comes to royal icing, you're going to need A LOT more mixing power than your two arms can handle.

A small, electric hand mixer is completely adequate. If you don't have a stand mixer, I definitely recommend trying out this whole "cookie decorating thing" with a small hand mixer for a little while before you decide to spring for larger appliances.

But when you're ready -- GET A STAND MIXER. Trust me. You won't regret it. Neither will your arms. A smaller mixer like the 5 quart Artisan is big enough to make double batches of most cookie dough recipes. My personal favorite is the 6 quart Professional Series mixer. That one is big enough to make a triple batch of dough.... or even a quadruple batch...as long as you're cool with the possibility of bits of dough flying out and landing on the ceiling. I mean...hypothetically.



Food coloring and colored royal icing for making decorated sugar cookies


7. Food Color 


Food coloring is NOT all the same. The food coloring that is typically sold in grocery stores is LIQUID food coloring. It's uh... well...it's liquid. It's not ideal for coloring royal icing because it's not very saturated and the you'll have to use so much of it that it will dramatically change the consistency of your icing.

When you buy food coloring, you want to look for the words "GEL" or "PASTE" on the label. Those words mean that it's super concentrated. You can color your icing without using an entire bottle...and you won't end up with a soupy mess. Food color paste generally comes in a little pot and you need to scoop it out with a toothpick or knife. The food color gels come in squeeze bottles for a much cleaner coloring experience. They are definitely my favorites. CHEFMASTER and AMERICOLOR both have good starter kits. I highly recommend experimenting with colors...but if that's not your style, you can grab some COLOR CHART CARDS for easy mixing formulas.

Piping bags and icing for making decorated sugar cookies

8. Piping Bags 


Unless you're planning to finger paint your decorated cookies...no judgement here... you're going to need something to put your icing in. Allow me to recommend -- PIPING BAGS. Piping bags can be made out of plastic, vinyl, canvas, or even parchment. Some of them are designed to be used over and over again, and some are disposable.

The traditional piping bag is cut at one end and a COUPLER is inserted that allows you to change the piping tip whenever you feel like it. (I'm a BIG FAN of this whole - changing things whenever you feel like it. Because I am not a good planner. Or any kind of planner really.)

The newest piping bag on the market is a type of disposable piping bag that is referred to as "TIPLESS PIPING BAGS". They are called "tipless" because you can cut the end of each bag to the opening size you want and pipe straight from the piping bag without using a coupler and tip.

If you are just starting out, I recommend that you get yourself a pack of TIPLESS PIPING BAGS, a few COUPLERS, and some piping tips. Then experiment with and without tips and see what you like best. Grab 2 or 3 of the #1.5 TIPS and 2-3 of the #3 TIPS and you'll be set.

A word about PME tips: They ARE more expensive. And I am not one of those people that buys "only the best". So trust me when I say - if you are going to buy a piping tip - it is worth spending a few more dollars for the PME tips. They are a solid piece of metal with no seam to make your icing curl and get wonky. The last thing you need when starting a new craft...is faulty tools.


Scribe tools for cookie decorating

8. Toothpicks or Scribe Tool


It doesn't have to be fancy. You just need something to move the icing about and force it to do your bidding. Toothpicks work. SCRIBE TOOLS are fun. And fancy. And sometimes you just need a little fancy in your life. Especially at 3am when you haven't seen another living soul for hours and you're in your jams for the second day in a row. If that fancy scribe tool makes you feel all right... I'm just saying...maybe you should go for it.


Offset spatula and palette of colored royal icing for decorated sugar cookies

9. Offset Spatula


Poor little OFFSET SPATULA. It is not a glamorous tool. But it will work really hard for you. You can use it to lift your cut-outs from where you rolled them out to the baking sheet so they don't get all wonky in the transfer. You can use it to stir your icing. You can use it to spread your flood icing all the way to the edges...you know...in case you missed a spot. You can also use it to settle your flood icing. This is my favorite use. After you have outlined and flooded your cookie, slide the spatula underneath the iced cookie. Gently tap the spatula/cookie onto the counter or table a few times. The tapping motion will help the icing settle out and become smooth.


HONORABLE MENTIONS:


Fan 


If you place a moving air source (like a FAN, SPACE HEATER, or DEHYDRATOR) onto the surface of the icing just after you've decorated a cookie, the fan will help set the icing faster and make it SHINY. It reduces cratering or denting in your icing and can help you avoid butter bleed or blotching as well. It does NOT need to be big and fancy. Use what you have or get a tiny desk fan like THIS ONE. It's not a "must-have." It's a "nice-to-have."


Blogs and YouTube


There's no point trying to go this alone. Soooo many people have already tried and messed up all the things so you don't have to! Watching and reading a bunch of tutorials will have you feeling like an expert in no time! Check out some of my favorites below:

BLOGS:


*** LILALOA (That's me!) Check out my RECIPESTUTORIALS or start with my COOKIE DECORATING BASICS.

*** SWEET SUGARBELLE - Spend an entire month reading her blog...or head straight to her RECIPES, TUTORIALS or DECORATING BASICS.

*** FLOUR BOX BAKERY -- Part shop, part school...Flour Box Bakery has you covered! Check out Anne's BLOG or peruse her TUTORIALS.

*** SWEET AMBS - Amber always has some incredible projects going on if you want to sit down and read or you can search her TUTORIALS if you're looking for something specific.


YOUTUBE:


LILALOA

SWEET SUGARBELLE

FLOUR BOX BAKERY

HANIELA'S

SWEET AMBS

MONTREAL CONFECTIONS


SEMI SWEET


Brightly colored decorated birthday sugar cookies

LilaLoa
LilaLoa

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