Lately, a cool new trend is emerging from the dessert-world: hand-painted baked goods. Questions like “how do I paint cookies?” are inquired about on almost every baking forum.
Many bakers have mastered piping intricate royal icing designs, but painting detailed, delicate scenes onto an edible canvas is the newest form of culinary artistry.
While this method may seem intimidating, I’ll show you today how simple painting cookies truly is! The easy decorating process can be scaled down to enjoy with even the youngest of bakers – as long as they can hold a paintbrush! (And, since the “paint” is just icing, you don’t have to worry if your littles try to take a taste – you might be tempted, too!)
So gather the materials and ingredients listed below, and meet me back here to paint your cookies!
(Feel free to Pin the image above so you can find this tutorial later on!)
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Materials You Will Need To Paint Cookies:
- Food-safe paint brushes. Buy a set like this one, with a variety of brush sizes and tip shapes.
- Americolor food-coloring gels. The color saturation of this brand makes it a favorite among bakers; not to mention, the gel consistency will not break down frostings, icings, or melting-wafers as some water-based food colorings will.
- Silicone piping bags (you can use disposable, but why not help the environment, and save some money in the long run, too?!) and coupler, which come together in this pack from Amazon.
- Decorating tips (sizes #3 and #8), which can be found in this starter pack.
- Cling wrap/film
- Edible glitter spray, which can be found here. I used silver for a wintery design in this tutorial, but feel free to choose whatever color you prefer!
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 1/2 cup pasteurized liquid egg whites
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- No-spread cut-out cookie recipe ingredients (see below for recommended recipes)
Prepare Your Cookies and Icing:
Just as a painter needs a prepared work surface, we need to create our canvas – the cookies!
If you have a favorite cut-out cookie recipe, go ahead and use it. You may choose any shape, but I’ve found that cookies with a larger surface area, like circles, squares, or hearts, create a nice canvas for painting. However, feel free to alter your chosen recipe to create whatever shape you choose, keeping in mind that smaller cookies will bake faster.
These chai-spiced shortbreads and chewy chocolate cookies are a few of my favorites for delicious, no-spread shapes. Follow your chosen recipe through to the cooling process, making sure the cookies are not at all warm before continuing.
Now comes the time where you may divert from the original recipe. Prepare your royal icing by beating the egg whites on high until they are stiff and foamy. Then, with the mixer on low, add in the powdered sugar, cup by cup, until fully combined.
Finally, stream in the vanilla extract, and turn the mixer to high; continue to beat the icing together for about five minutes. The ultimate consistency should resemble honey. Run a spoon, backward, through the icing; if it takes a few moments for the icing to “fill” itself back in, you’re good to go. If the icing immediately floods back into the “well” behind the spoon, keep mixing.
I’m using a white background as the “canvas” for my cookies; if you are too, skip to the next paragraph. If you’d like to begin with a colored background (I’d recommend a very light or pastel color), pour some of your white icing into a separate bowl. Add a small drop of food coloring gel and mix until combined. Adjust the color as needed.
Next, prepare your piping bag, according to the diagram below (courtesy of the Kootek Amazon listing) and fill it with your chosen color (or white) “background” icing.
Use the #3 tip to draw a border around all of your cookies, and then switch to the #8 tip to quickly fill-in (or “flood”, as it’s often called) the outline. You can use a toothpick to smooth over any “holes” that didn’t fill themselves in.
The icing needs to dry fully before you can begin the process to paint cookies; let them sit at room temperature, uncovered, for at least 6-8 hours, though some bakers even recommend drying overnight.
During this time, you can keep the remainder of your royal icing stored in the refrigerator. Lay a damp paper towel directly on the surface of the icing, and then wrap the bowl tightly with cling wrap.
How To Paint Cookies
Once your base layer of royal icing is dried, you can begin to paint!
Decide how many colors you will use in your design; for my winter-themed snowmen, I used blue (snowy background), silver (snowflakes), black (eyes and mouth), and orange (carrot-nose). If you aren’t following any specific pattern, or just want to let the kids paint cookies to their heart’s desire, try using ROYGBIV colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet).
For each color in your design, pour out a few tablespoons of white icing onto a plate or into individual, small bowls.
Then, use your food-coloring gels to turn the white icing pools into the colors of your choice! With small amounts of icing, I recommend dipping the tip of a toothpick into the gel color and swirling that into the white icing until you achieve your intended results. You can always darken the icing, but it’s much more difficult to lighten it.
To create a glittery paint like silver or gold, spray your edible glitter into a small amount of icing. Don’t mix it together too much in order to avoid dulling the shine and making the color seem “muddy”.
Finally, use your food-safe paint brushes to decorate the cookies! Feel free to get creative with the process, and, most importantly, have fun! You can try different brushing techniques, layering different colors, and even adding a spray of glitter to give the piece a shiny, finishing touch.
Check out my video here for the snowman and snowflake tutorial:
Let your cookies dry again, uncovered, if you wish to stack and gift them (but you can eat them right away!)
These cookies will keep at room temperature for a few days – that is if you can resist eating them all in one sitting!
Now You’re A Cookie-Painting Professional!
Thanks for checking out my post! I absolutely love the look of painted cookies, especially since the method is so surprisingly simple!
I paired a few of these painted snowmen with iced snowflake-shaped cookies, and gave them to a friend for a cute, winter treat! Click here to check out that tutorial now!
Let me know if you have ever painted on food before; I’d love to hear your experience and see your edible artwork!
And, don’t forget to find me on Instagram so we can keep in touch – be sure to tag me in your painted-cookies photos.
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Thanks again for checking out my site! Have a happy winter, my friends!