Iced sugar cookies are fun way to fill your Easter basket and celebrate the holiday. Sugar cookies are versatile because you can cut your dough into any shape you want. Bunnies, eggs, and flowers are some of our favorites for Easter cookies, but feel free to get creative.
Classic Easter Sugar Cookie
To make the cookies themselves, we like this roll out sugar cookie recipe from King Arthur Flour - their recipes are extremely well tested and reliable.
Once you’ve baked and cooled your cookies, you get to the fun part - decorating them. Royal icing is the traditional way to decorate sugar cookies because it is dries very hard, is easy to color, and can be thinned out to pipe intricate designs. This is our go-to royal icing recipe for cookies, gingerbread houses, and delicate cake decorations.
Royal Icing Recipe
- 3 oz pasteurized egg whites (about 6 tablespoons, or whites from three large eggs). If you don’t want to eat raw eggs, substitute ¼ cup meringue powder mixed with with ½ cup water).
- ¼ tsp cream of tartar
- 1 lb (4 cups) powdered sugar
- Food coloring (as needed)
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until the mixture looks foamy.
Gradually add the powdered sugar ½ cup at a time - let the sugar incorporate completely into the mixture before adding any more. Beat the icing until it forms stiff peaks.
Decorating With Royal Icing
To decorate, you’ll need several plastic piping bags (these are our favorites), a coupler for each bag, and a set of piping tips. We like the star and leaf tips for decorations, the number two tip for outlining areas you wish to flood (i.e., fill with thinner icing to create an even coat), and the number three tip for flooding.
Once you’ve made your icing, you’ll need a game plan for how to use it. You’ll need to know how many colors you want to make, and what consistency of icing you need for your design.
There are three consistencies of royal icing:
- Decorating: this is the thickest consistency. You can pipe it through a star tip or other decorative tip and it will hold its shape. The recipe above should give you this consistency of icing, but if you need to make your icing thicker, add a little powdered sugar until it reaches your desired consistency.
- Outlining icing: this is slightly thinner than decorating icing - it easily flows through a small tip (like the number two), but is stiff enough to hold its shape and not drip off the side of the cookie. To thin out your icing to reach this consistency, gradually add water a tablespoon at a time with a spatula.
- Flooding icing: this is slightly thinner than decorating icing - it flows more easily than outlining icing, and has the consistency of maple syrup (a little runnier than honey). As described above, you can reach this consistency by adding water a tablespoon at a time, stirring it in with a spatula.
Figure out how many colors you want to use for your decorations and if you need different consistencies with the same color. Will you be outlining and flooding the cookie with the same color? Then you’ll need that color in outline consistency AND flooding consistency.
Once you know what you need, divide the icing into the appropriate number of bowls. Color with food coloring and thicken and/or thin as desired.
Tips for using royal icing:
- Royal icing dries out very quickly, making it hard to work with. The best way to keep icing from drying out is to transfer it immediately into piping bags after it’s colored. Make sure to twist the ends of the piping bag securely closed.
- If you’re storing the icing in bowls for more than a few minutes, make sure to cover those bowls with a damp cloth.
- Cover the tips of the piping bag with a damp cloth when you’re not using that color, to keep it from drying out - little bits of dry icing can clog your piping tip, which will make piping miserable.
- If your icing stops flowing correctly, you probably need to clean those bits of icing out of your piping tip. Take the tip off and clean it out with hot water before proceeding. A toothpick or small brush (usually included in a set of piping tips) will help you clean it out.
- Always test your icing on a piece of parchment paper or other flat surface before working on the cookie. That way you can test out your consistency and practice your design.
- If you start piping and find that the icing isn’t the right consistency, resist the temptation to struggle through. Instead, take the tip off the coupler, dump the icing into a bowl, and fix it. Powering through with the wrong consistency icing will probably result in a burst piping bag and/or tears.
How to Decorate Easter Egg Sugar Cookies
Decorating Easter egg shaped cookies with royal icing is a great project for beginners. You can pipe a background layer of white icing onto the cookies, and then use different colors of icing to pipe patterns of dots and stripes. To make a classic cookie with Easter egg stripes you’ll need:
- 12 egg-shaped sugar cookies
- 1 piping bag of white royal icing, outline consistency, fitted with the number 2 tip
- 1 piping bag of white royal icing, flooding consistency, fitted with the number 3 tip
- 2 piping bags of royal icing in colors of your choosing, outline consistency (you can do more colors if you desire), fitted with the number 1 tip
To ice cookies:
- Carefully outline the cookie with the white outline icing
- Pipe the white flooding icing into the center of the cookie and fill in the outline. Be careful and go slowly, letting the icing gradually spread out - if you use too much your flooding icing will spill over the edge of the cookie.
- Pop any air bubbles in the icing with a toothpick. Tap the cookie gently to smooth out any bumps.
- Repeat process with remaining cookies.
- Let dry for a few hours until set.
- Once the white background icing is dry, you can decorate the cookies with stripes and dots of the colored icings. Some patterns we like are:
- Alternating rows of different colors
- Alternating rows of stripes and dots
- Criss cross patterns of different colors.
- Pipe some cookies with horizontal stripes, and others with vertical stripes
Royal Icing Piping Tips
As we mentioned above, piping is a skill and something that becomes easier with practice. Here are our tips to make piping easier for beginners:
- To pipe, grasp the bag between your pointer finger and thumb, at the place where it’s twisted closed. Apply gentle pressure with your hand to squeeze icing out of the bag.
- Don’t overfill your piping bags - only fill them until they’re ⅔ full. We’ve had icing burst out of the back of the bag before and it’s a big mess! You also have more control over a partially filled piping bag.
- When you’re piping decorations, remember to keep steady pressure on the bag to keep your lines even. You can practice on a piece of parchment paper or a plate.
- Let the icing fall from the bag. A lot of beginners think that piping is like writing with a pen and want to keep the piping tip very close to the surface of the cookie. Instead, keep the piping tip above the cookie and let the icing fall into place.
- Use toothpicks to clean up any mistakes (like broken lines).
- Don’t get discouraged if your cookies don’t look perfect the first time - the more you pipe, the more you learn, and the better your cookies will look.
With practice and patience, anyone can make a beautifully iced sugar cookie. We hope you find these tips and recipes helpful as you decorate Easter cookies for your family.
And if you don’t feel like making cookies for Easter, you can order desserts online through our shop! Our mail order cookies make a beautiful addition to any Easter basket, and our range of flavors means there’s a great cookie for everyone. We also have mail order pies. Happy baking!
About the author, Jenna Huntsberger
Originally from Eugene, Oregon, Jenna moved to DC in 2005 to work in nonprofit communications. After deciding her real passion was pastry, she founded Whisked! in 2011, selling baked goods at a local farmer's market. Today, Whisked! cookies and pies are carried in more than 100 retail locations, and have been featured in publications like the Washington Post, Washington City Paper, and NPR.