A Beginner's Guide to Cookie Decorating Supplies
Recently, I've gotten a few emails from people interested in decorating cookies but weren't sure what supplies were needed to get started. I figured I'd take the time to list a few tools I think are most helpful for those wanting to give decorating cookies a try. Some of these items aren't essential for decorating cookies, but they do help make the process more efficient. Feel free to pick and chose which items you are inspired to buy first from these suggestions.
Cookie Baking Supplies
Most likely, you already have these basic kitchen supplies. I figured I would list them out anyways in case there is an item or two you might be lacking. Check out discount stores like Marshalls, Ross, or Home Goods to find these items at below-retail prices
A. Electric Mixer
An electric mixer is necessary for incorporating the ingredients for cookie dough and royal icing. A hand mixer will do the job, but a more powerful stand mixer, like a KitchenAid Artisan mixer, is a worthwhile investment.
B. Rolling Pin
Making roll-out cookies begins with a decent rolling pin. Any simple rolling pin will do. However...
C. Joseph Joseph Rolling Pin
A rolling pin with guides makes the job even easier. I love my Joseph Joseph rolling pin because the guides take the guess work out of wondering if your cookies are the correct thickness and evenly rolled out.
A hand whisk is great for incorporating meringue powder into water for royal icing.
E. Silicone Spatulas
Silicone spatulas are handy for scraping down the sides of the mixing bowl.
F. Large Flat Spatula
For transferring baked cookies from a baking sheet to a cooling rack.
G. Measuring Cups and Spoons
Sets of measuring cups and spoons are necessary to get the right ingredient portions. I own two kinds of measuring cups for both wet and dry ingredients
H. Light Colored Baking Sheets
Light colored baking sheets bake cookies evenly. Dark colored, non-stick baking sheets get too hot and can brown the bottoms of your cookies before the tops are done baking.
I. Cooling Rack
Perfect for quickly cooling freshly baked cookies.
J. Parchment Paper
Parchment paper creates a great non-stick, baking surface for cookies, which can be reused for multiple bake batches. It also makes cleanup a breeze.
Money Saving Tip!
Most of the following cookie decorating supplies can be purchased at your local craft stores like Michaels, Joann Fabrics, and Hobby Lobby. Each of these stores regularly have 40% off coupons offered through their mailing list, email distribution list, and their mobile app. I would sign up for each to take advantage of all their coupons available.
Cookie Decorating Supplies
Now on to the fun stuff! Below are the supplies needed to help you master the art of decorating with royal icing.
A Disposable Icing Bags
These disposable icing bags are made of a thick plastic, which can be rinsed out and reused.
B Icing Bag Ties
Icing bag ties help securely close the opening of the piping bags. These bag clips from Ikea are also a nice alternative.
C Tip Couplers
Piping tip couplers are needed to secure the tips at the end of the piping bag. Wilton or Ateco brands work well. I would pick up 2 packs of 4 couplers for starters.
D. Plastic Wrap
When using icing bags for decorating, I highly recommend this tidy method of loading the icing, invented and demonstrated by Karen of Karen's Cookies. Using plastic wrap inside the piping bag makes the prep work and cleanup so much easier.
While icing bags are readily available in stores, my preferred method of decorating cookies is with piping bottles I buy online. There are some complaints that the bottles are difficult to squeeze, but I feel like I have more control with them. It's just a personal preference. I say give both bottles and bags a try to see what you like better.
E. Candy Melt Squeeze Bottles
These squeeze bottles are marketed for melted chocolate candy-making, but they are wonderful for flooding cookies with royal icing. Walmart usually has these bottles in stock.
F. Squeeze Bottles with Couplers
Squeeze bottles with couplers are like the rockstars of my cookie decorating supplies. I use them to pipe outlines, lettering, and all the fine details.
Royal Icing will start to separate after a few hours in the bottles. Sugarbelle shared a great tip to easily whip them back into shape using chopsticks. I bought a 10 pack of simple, wooden chopsticks at World Market.
Cookie decorating requires having quite a few icing tips handy. For starters, I recommend getting at least four each of the #1, #1.5 (for PME), #2, and #3 sizes. It might be worth it to try some specialty tips, like the leaf, the star, and the rose tips, for fun detail work.
H. Wilton Icing Tips
The Wilton brand tips (pictured on the left) are found easily in most stores and are very affordable around $1 each. Wilton tips are great for beginners.
I. PME Icing Tips
However, I love and prefer PME brand tips (pictured on the right). They don't tarnish like the Wilton brand because they are made of stainless steel. Also, the longer length makes the piping experience better. I can't really explain why that is, but it does. The only downside is they are very expensive, around $5 a pop.
Overall, I typically use Wilton tips for flooding and reserve the PME tips for all the line and detail work. The PME #1.5 tip is my favorite size for details and the PME #1 is my favorite for lettering.
To color and prepare royal icing, I like to use cheap measuring cups and tiny rubber spatulas for mixing.
J. Plastic Measuring Cups with Spouts
After seeing Sugarbelle's video on how to fill icing bottles, I've stocked up on a number of measuring cups. These measuring cups have a plastic built-in spout to make pouring easy. You can find these cups at the dollar store. My cup collection is ever-growing, but I would recommend getting at least 5 cups to start.
K. Small Rubber Spatulas
I love these tiny rubber spatulas for mixing up food coloring in icing. They are practically a steal, too! You can find these in a two pack at Walmart for only $1.97. I would stock up on a few packs.
L. Spray Bottle
Having a spray bottle is essential to achieving the correct royal icing consistency. After THE One Tough Cookie shared this genius tip to the world, the spray bottle has become a staple in most cookiers' arsenals. It's a great tool for controlling how much water is added for thinning royal icing consistency.
M. Food Coloring Gels
Good quality food coloring is important for achieving bold, deep colors. I mainly use the Americolor brand, but Wilton and Chefmaster brands are great, as well. For starters, I recommend getting this Americolor Student 12 pack, which has most of the colors you would need. I also recommend getting the larger 4.5oz bottles of Bright White, Super Red, and Super Black because I found I use those colors more often.
Americolor has a huge selection of colors to choose from, and growing your own color collection is addicting. Oh, Ivory and Copper are also nice colors to have on hand for skin tone.
Toothpicks are great for popping air bubbles in royal icing, adding tiny amounts of food coloring, and guiding icing into tight corners of your design. There are a few toothpick alternatives that I love to use because of their longer lengths, such as:
O. Boo Boo Stick
The pointed end acts like a toothpick, while the flat end works great for scraping off mistakes. Boo boo sticks can be found online at Karen's Cookies.
P. Needle Tool
Usually found in the clay sculpting section of craft stores, this needle tool works great for cookies as well.
This scribe tool is nice to have for etching a design into the surface of a cookie.
R. Betty Crocker 101 Cookie Cutter Collection
This Betty Crocker cookie cutter set is the perfect starter set. It has all the basic geometric shapes in various sizes, all the major holidays, popular animals, letters, numbers, and more. I found this set at Walgreens for $10, and it is usually in stock around Christmas time.
Alternatively, if you can't find the Betty Crocker set, this Wilton 101 cookie cutter set would work out wonderfully, as well. The shapes in both collections are very similar and cover mostly the same themes.
S. Double-Sided Square and Circle Cutters
You can never have too many square or circle cutters, and I love the scalloped edge option on these cutters. I recommend these cutters because I use them so often.
I've seen different versions of these square and circle sets at World Market and Walmart. So be on the look out for them.
Food markers are a cookier's best friend. You can draw directly on a cookie to make guide marks for piping icing. Or, you can use markers to add finishing details like eyes and mouths.
T. Americolor Gourmet Writers
Americolor Gourmet Writers were the first set of markers I owned. They are easy to find in craft stores, however they are my least favorite. The brush pen tips are great for making guide marks but too wide for adding fine details to a finished cookie.
FooDoodlers are pretty fantastic markers for cookies. They have a pointed, stiff pen tip for drawing small details and they are really affordable.
V Rainbow Dust Food Pen
Rainbow Dust Food Pens are the ulimate food marker out there and my all time favorite to use. They are double sided, one end with a wide brush tip and the other a super fine pointed tip. The fine tip is wonderful for adding very tiny details on your finished cookies. The only downside to these is the price. Currently, they are only available online and ships from the UK. I think getting at least the black pen is worth the high shipping cost.
Optional Equipment Supplies
If you caught the decorating bug and feel like custom cookies might be a more frequent hobby (or possible new career), then I highly recommend investing in the following gadgets. They really help make the life of a cookie decorator so much easier.
A. Oscillating Heated Fan
This tip I learned from Jill FCS has changed my world! A countertop space heater, like this one from Target, really helps with the decorating process. Just place a tray of wet cookies in front of the fan on low heat for a few minutes. It will speed up the dry time, prevent caters from forming, and leave the icing with a smooth and shiny surface.
An alternative to the heated fan, is a food dehydrator. LilaLoa has the skinny on how to use a food dehydrator for the same purpose. A dehydrator is more costly than the fan option, but chances are you can find one in great shape at a garage sale.
B. Bag Heat Sealer
A heat sealer is a great way to keep your cookies fresh and presentable. Every cookie I hand out to people is individually wrapped in a clear cellophane bag. I use this sealer with cellophane bags I purchase from Paper Mart.
C. Kopykake Projector
A Kopykake projector is THE ultimate cookie decorating tool. It may be a bulky piece of equipment to store around the house, but it is so very helpful. I could not do fancy lettering or detailed character cookies without this projector to aid me.
The 300XK model is around $180. Look for it on sale or eligible to use with coupons at Jerry's Artarama or on Amazon.