If you’re looking for a festive baking project or a fun activity for Christmas Day, these cookies are very simple to make but they look beautiful and since they’re decorated with creamy buttercream, they taste incredible, too!
Start by baking your cookies and making some buttercream. I’ll talk about my recipe and alternatives that will and won’t work, at the end of this tutorial.
Let’s begin with a glitzy Christmas tree cookie. Use a piping bag with a small round tip and squeeze the buttercream out of the bag, pulling the bag very slowly towards you. You’ll get the straightest lines if you hold the tip of the piping bag a little above the cookie.
When you get to the edge of the cookie, hold the bag still for a moment to give the buttercream a chance to curve around and the push your hand very slowly backwards in the opposite direction, piping a line immediately beside the previous line so you don’t see any of the cookie between the lines.
Continue zig zagging up the cake and if your hands are shaky like mine, it might help to hold your piping wrist with your other hand, to steady it. If your zig zags are starting to lean to one side instead of going straight across the cookie you can pipe a half line to build up the side that’s lower and if the line breaks anywhere, just continue where you left off. By the time the whole tree is covered in lines and the decorations we’ll add next, you won’t notice any tiny imperfections.
As soon as you finish piping, while the buttercream is still sticky, add some sprinkles! A lot of sprinkle mixes come with gold stars which are perfect for the top, and any round sprinkles will look like baubles or ornaments. You can use my code BRITISHGIRL15 to get 15% off these sprinkles and anything else from Fancy Sprinkles!
Now use some chocolate buttercream or tint your buttercream with brown colouring and use a round tip to pipe the trunk of the tree with zig zags too. I’m using a slightly bigger round tip but you can use the same tip as you used for the green part of the tree.
If you don’t have a small round piping tip you can put your buttercream in a ziplock bag and cut off a small piece from one corner and squeeze the buttercream through that. I piped the tree on the left with a ziplock bag and I really like the texture!
For a poinsettia cookie you’ll need a leaf tip (this is a #352 by Wilton) and a cookie in the shape of a star, a flower, or even a round cookie. Hold the tip so the two jaws are on top of each other and the buttercream comes out the sides of the tip.
Squeeze the buttercream out and hold your wrist still for a moment to pipe the wide base of the leaf and then pull the bag sideways, release your pressure on the bag and swipe the bag away to make the point of the petal.
Pipe the petals over each point of the star. Don’t worry about the middle of the cookie because we’re going to cover that up next. Pipe a second layer of petals, piping each petal between two of the previous petals so they fill in the gaps between the points of the star.
You can add a few more petals in the middle if you like, and then press a sprinkle into the middle or a few small sprinkles.
It’s not Christmas without a gingerbread man but this one is chocolatey! Put some chocolate buttercream in a piping bag with a small round tip and start by piping the outline of your gingerbread man, not going quite up to the edge of the cookie.
Then fill in the space inside the outline, so the whole cookie is covered with buttercream. The piping can be messy – we’re going to smooth it in the next step. What’s important is that the outline is neat because that will make the edges of the gingerbread man smooth.
Use an offset spatula or palette knife or even a normal knife to smooth the buttercream, scraping all around the cookie from the outside towards the middle so you don’t mess up the outline. You might find this easier if you dip your spatula or knife in hot water first, then dry it and smooth the buttercream.
Switch to some plain white buttercream also in a bag with a small round tip to pipe the details: a smiley face, some wiggles around the bases of the arms and legs, and three little buttons, which you can press coloured sprinkles onto if you like.
Pay attention to how high up the eyes and smile are because if they’re too high or too low your gingerbread man will look a bit like an alien!
A stacked Christmas tree cookie is another use for star cookie cutters! You’ll need different sizes for this so a nesting set is ideal because the stars will be different sizes but the same shape. We’ll start with the largest cookie.
Use an open star tip like this #32 tip to pipe rosettes of green buttercream all over the star. For each rosette, apply pressure to the piping bag to squeeze it out and then as you lift the piping bag up, release your pressure to make a neat peak on the rosette.
Starting with the points of the star so that the rosettes are lined up neatly on those parts, which will be exposed after stacking the cookies.
Work your way inwards towards the middle of the cookie, which won’t be visible at the end so it’s fine if the rosettes aren’t as tidy.
Place the next biggest star on top, angling it so that the points are sticking out between the points of the star below it. Pipe all over this one too, starting from the outside and working your way inwards.
Continue with the rest of your stars, getting smaller and smaller as you work your way upwards and piping the same rosettes onto each star until you’ve built a little Christmas tree!
You can add sprinkles if you want to decorate it but I think it looks beautiful just like this!
I used sugar cookies for all of these cookies but you can use anything that holds its when you bake it, like gingerbread.
If you want to use chocolate chip cookies or other cookies that expand when they bake so they won’t work with cookie cutters, you can pipe these decorations on top of those even though the cookie isn’t the same shape as the decoration. If you want to decorate cookies but don’t want to bake them, you can buy cookies and pipe the decorations on top of those!
For the buttercream, I recommend using my 4 Minute Buttercream, which is made with powdered sugar or icing sugar and butter, because it sets after an hour or two at room temperature so although it doesn’t get as hard as royal icing, it won’t get damaged when you lift a cookie up. It’s also deliciously creamy and has a lovely texture to eat with cookies.