Throw a Low Fuss Sugar Cookie Decorating Party

I like to bake. I really LOVE to decorate baked goods. This past Christmas season, I desperately wanted to decorate sugar cookies, but I didn't want all those cookies to remain in my house (because I will eat them... ALL).

I also wanted to create an opportunity for my kids to get together with our neighborhood friends.

On the flip side, I did NOT want to spend HOURS baking cookies and mixing frosting. I didn't want to wash a crap ton of dishes and bottles after all was said and done. Many times in my life, I am convicted of my contribution to the plastic waste problem in our world, but to be honest, this was not one of those times for me.

Here is what I did to create a fun, low fuss (notice not necessarily low mess, because kids + frosting = automatic mess) cookie decorating party.

1. Make and bake cookies the day before. I kept it to one batch. There would be 8 kids total and each kid got to decorate 4 cookies. They could have done more, but a main reason for this was for ME to get my decorating fix so, I did the rest ; ) PLUS... everyone and their mother is baking Christmas treats so, do they really need another dozen cookies to bring home? No.

I used this recipe which creates delicious, soft cookies that keep a wonderful shape and don't require any chilling! For even LESS FUSS... go ahead and buy some pre-made cookie dough!

Cream 1 cup granulated sugar and 1 cup butter together until smooth and fluffy
Add in 1 egg and 1-2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, almond extract, or a combo of both
Add 2 teaspoons of baking powder
Slowly add 3 cups of all purpose flour and mix until dough consistency
Turn dough out onto counter and knead for about 30 seconds
(I didn't find any need for dusting the work surface with anything)
Roll out to a thickness of about 1/4 inch and cut out shapes
Bake on parchment lined cookie sheet in a preheated 350 degree F oven for 6-8 minutes.
Let cool for a few minutes on the cookie sheet before putting them on a cooling rack

2. Prep frosting/piping bags. I know that royal icing is the norm for sugar cookie decorating. It creates perfect designs and hardens so that those designs don't get ruined, but truth be told, I really don't like the way royal icing tastes! I hate the hardened texture. Store bought cake frosting is perfect piping consistency and tastes delicious. I actually bought way too much. I could have gotten away with half the amount for sure, but here is what I did:

I opened two containers of white vanilla frosting and emptied 1/3 of a container at a time into a bowl, added desired food coloring and mixed well. I Put the colored frosting into a piping bag, washed the container and spoon and repeated the process until I had six piping bags of color. Before decorating, cut a tiny hole at the end of each piping bag. Next time, I will just use one container of frosting and color 1/6 of it at a time. I had SO much left over. It could have covered probably three parties.

* Kids will need instruction on how to dip cookies and how to use a piping bag. Teach them to twist the top of the bag and hold the twist with one hand then, squeeze with the other hand. What would be ideal is to use a clip to keep the frosting from going out the top of the bag!
Here are some ideas for clipping off bags.

The other container of frosting I divided among three containers with flat bottoms big enough to dip the cookies into. I left one white, colored one green and the other red. These were the base colors. RIGHT BEFORE you are ready to decorate, warm these containers of frosting in the microwave 15 seconds at a time until they are a nice runny consistency.

Base color applied. I even piped the outline of the sweater and then "flooded" it by adding spoonfuls of the runny base color.

3. Decorate! Dip a cookie face down into one of the runny bases. Lift it and let it drip excess for a few seconds. Carefully flip it onto the table and add piping, sprinkles etc. Have fun! I gave each kid a paper plate to put finished cookies on and covered them with plastic wrap for transport.

After just a few minutes the frosting stiffens up. It never hardens completely, like royal icing, but I was able to stack the cookies for storage without the designs being ruined.

4. Send kids home and decorate your own cookies ; ) Got my decorating fix in a peaceful atmosphere.

5. Clean up. Like I mentioned above, it's still messy. But, after you throw out the piping bags and wash the three base color frosting containers, all that's left is to wipe down the table!

6. Eat cookies! Grab a cup of coffee, tea, or milk and enjoy a cookie (or three) by the tree.

I never did any Christmas baking before, because we have so many loving people in our life that share theirs with us! But, the kids and I enjoyed this experience so much that we plan to make it an annual tradition.

Do you bake and decorate treats every Christmas season? What is your favorite thing to make?

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