Now that we’ve started hosting Christmas at our house at least some years I wanted to continue some of our family traditions and also create some new ones. This year we decided to do a Christmas day cookie decorating contest. The rules were pretty simple. 1. All the cookies had to be decorated on Christmas Day (no fair doing them another day. 2. The cookie and everything on it had to be completely edible. 3. No pre-decorated wafer papers. and 4. Any supplies you brought (sprinkles, colors, etc.) had to be shared.
I collected ideas for weeks and even had Jonathan scouring the Prague Christmas markets for a castle or a Czech village cookie cutter set to no avail. He didn’t find any and my nephew Lee beat me anyway with this simple but beautiful snow globe cookie (below right). I should have known I was in for it going up against a talented artist! My red mitten (below left) did get second on round two. yeah!
We used this sugar cookie recipe from The Kitchn and they turned out just right. For the icing we used the recipe from the back of the Wilton merigue powder box -just meringue powder, confectioners sugar and water. The Kitchn has a good tutorial on working with royal icing. Pioneer woman and Green Figs and Ham have great cookie decorating tips also.
I had big ideas and ordered this set of Matryoshka cookie cutters but unfortunately I think mine look a bit more like deformed snow men (below right). Definitely going to master this by next year! My mother was all about the colored sprinkles and I think they look out great on her candy cane (below left).
We really loved doing this and I think it was my favorite part of the day. It was our first year and we learned some lessons for next year.
1. We had the cookie dough ready but we should have baked the cookies a day or two earlier. Christmas is busy and it would have given us more time before we had to cook dinner.
2. Simple is good. Despite having never actually decorated cookies before I was surprised that mine weren’t turning out like the ones I saw in the bakery. When you’re not very experienced the simpler ones usually come out better.
3. The pastry bags worked a lot better for us than the squirt bottles. You have a lot more control and they’re easier to fill. The disposable bags are great and they’ll be less clean up.
4. You’ll need more icing than you think you will. Everyone wants different colors and their own bags, etc. If you run out of confectioners sugar on Christmas day the grocery stores are closed and you can’t buy more. Unfortunately putting regular sugar in the food processor, as we tried to do, doesn’t really work.
5. Have real prizes they don’t have to be big but they have to be something people might want. It makes it more competitive and more fun.
6. Try rolling out the dough between a sheet of wax paper and a sheet of parchment. The wax paper comes up easier and you can leave the cut cookies on the bottom parchment paper to be baked.
7. Have a bunch of toothpicks on hand, they would have come in handy for mixing and applying tiny bits of icing.
8. Get your supplies early. Michael’s is a scary place 3 days before Christmas. The shelves are almost empty and you won’t be able to find what you need.
We can’t wait to do this again next year. In the meantime, watch out family I’ll be plotting and planning all year!