Decorated cookies and holidays go hand-in-hand for many families. They are also great for birthdays and other celebrations throughout the year. If you’d like to get started with cookie decorating, there are a few tools you’ll want to pick up before you begin.
If you bake frequently, you may already have some of the items on this list, but if you don’t have much cookie decorating experience, you’ll probably find that there are a few things you’ll need to purchase. Here is my list of some must-have tools and equipment to get you started.
1. Cookie cutters
Whether you’d like cookies shaped like letters, numbers, animals, or shamrocks, there’s an easy way to do it. Cookie cutters come in a vast assortment of shapes and are simple to use—just roll out your dough and press in the cutters.
2. Piping tips
Also known as pastry tips, these are essential when using icing to decorate cookies. These tips allow you to control how much icing comes out at a time and are used for writing or drawing little designs such as flowers or borders.
You’ll probably want to get a set of different sizes so that you can make both finer and thicker lines to suit different designs.
3. Piping bags
Also called pastry or icing bags, these go hand-in-hand with the piping tips discussed above. The piping tip goes through a corner of the piping bag, then you fill the bag with your icing and press the icing through the tip as you draw on your cookies.
4. Piping tip couplers
These fit into your piping bags and allow you to easily switch piping tips while using the same color of icing. Whereas these are less important with icing things like cupcakes where you usually will be sticking to one size tip, with cookie decorating, you’ll often find yourself wanting thicker and thinner lines while designing with the same color icing.
A coupler allows you to change your tip and keep going without having to fill a separate icing bag.
5. Cooling rack
Once your cookies are done in the oven, in order to avoid overcooking and potentially burning, you’ll want to remove them from the hot cookie sheets as soon as possible.
Cooling racks are perfect because they are slightly raised and allow air to circulate around all of the cookies making the cooling process quicker.
6. Cookie scoops
When you are decorating a batch of cookies, you’ll likely want them to all be the same size. Cookie scoops are for circular cookies and often come in sets of three different sizes.
You just press the dough into the scoop and push the handle to release it onto your cookie sheet.
7. Rolling pin
When making cookies in different shapes using cookie cutters, you’ll need to first roll your dough flat. A rolling pin makes this process simple.
If having cookies with perfectly uniform thickness is important to you, consider purchasing a rolling pin with removeable rings which allow you to adjust the thickness level and then roll your dough so that it has a consistent thickness throughout.
8. Mini silicone spatulas
These are great for mixing food colorings and applying icing to cookies. The edge of the spatula also works well for gently moving icing to correct the inevitable small errors made while decorating.
I would highly recommend buying a set of these in order to avoid having to stop and wash your spatula each time you switch colors.
9. Stand mixer
A stand mixer can make mixing your dough for most types of cookies quicker and easier, but a mixer is truly a must-have when making icing to decorate the tops. A stand mixer is also essential for whipping egg whites for meringue cookies and macarons and can be very affordable.
In a pinch, you can try using a hand mixer, but it is much more difficult to get the perfect consistency, particularly when making icing.
10. Cookie sheets
This is a basic one, but definitely a must-have. Cookie sheets are specifically designed to make the cookie-baking process easier.
They are generally lighter in color than regular baking pans, which helps cookies to brown evenly, and they have flat edges which makes it easy to slide the cookies off once they are done.
11. Decorating brush set
These are simply paintbrushes for painting on cookies and cakes. They are very inexpensive, and I would recommend getting a small set with different sizes.
Bigger brushes are easier for painting larger areas, but you’ll need some tiny ones for painting fine lines and details. Use these to paint with petal and luster dusts.
12. Food coloring markers
These look like regular markers but contain food-grade edible ink. The best marker sets are double-sided, with a fine tip on one side of the pen and a thicker tip on the other. You can use them just as you would a regular pen to draw designs or write on the icing.
After baking your cookies, apply the icing, then wait until it is set. Once the icing feels dry and hard to the touch, you can use markers to write and draw directly on the icing.
13. Scriber needle
This has multiple functions when cookie decorating. You can use the scriber to correct small imperfections in your design, pop air bubbles, etch designs into your cookies, manipulate royal icing into intricate designs, and smooth icing so that it is perfectly level. For designs requiring fine details, this inexpensive tool is indispensable.
So, there you have it. These are my must-haves for cookie decorating. There are many more tools on the market, and you may want to experiment with some of them as you get more experienced and start creating various designs.
With these tools you’ll be well on your way though, and you’ll be ready to create a wide variety of designs and decorations on your cookies. You’ll find that many of these tools are also useful for cupcake and cake decorating, so they are good to have on hand if you decide to venture into those realms as well.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.