How To Frost Cookies Like A Pastry Chef

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Pastry chef’s stump me.

I mean how do they get those swirly designs so perfect and their cookies so delicious at the same time?

I wanted to know.

So, like any nosey cookie maker would do…

…I investigated.  

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And this is what I found…

Pastry chef’s flood their cookies.

It’s true.

1. Royal Icing — It’s the professional’s choice and can be thickened with sugar for Border Icing — frosting that seems to stand-up — or thinned with milk or water for Flood Icing — a more fluid icing to fill-in the body of the cookie. Royal Icing gives a glossy, smooth finish, too.

2. Application Tools — Border and Flood Icing can be applied with a simple wooden toothpick.  To apply Border Icing dab small globs on to the cookie’s edge then shape into a line or border with the pick. Another fun way to decorate cookies is to fill a small squeeze bottle with icing. Use the tip as your guide for border lines or to fill the cookie’s surface. You can find great plastic bottles on Amazon at this link: Small Squeeze Bottles.


The Kitchn

3. Wow ’em with color — Separate small amounts of frosting into tiny bowls or squeeze bottles and mix drops of food coloring gel to make your own hue. Color combinations are usually printed on the back of the gel’s box. Gel coloring is so much easier than the watery version I used to buy.

Did you know red drops mixed with blue drops and a drop of green makes black?

That might not be on the box so that’s why I’m telling you. 🙂

The Kitchn

The Kitchn

4. Keep it simple — Use water or milk to thin icing or add additional powdered sugar to thicken it. Sugar, egg whites, or milk is all you need to make great tasting, easy-to-work with icing. Recipes below.

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5. Dress cookies in layers — If the cookie surface is still visible after the base coat, apply a second layer of icing. This may happen with white or lighter colored icing.

6. Keep it covered — Protect icing from drying out with plastic wrap. If the skim surface of the icing gets slightly crunchy, add a little milk or water and remix.

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7. Go fancy —  While the frosting is wet, shake on sparkly glitter or add silver confetti bulbs. The photos below show how to swirl icing with the tip of a toothpick after the base coat has dried. Use a baking sheet lined with parchment paper for easy clean-up.


Midwest Living

Midwest Living

Midwest Living


Midwest Living

Sugar cookies, and even gingerbread cookies, are easy to frost and so fun to make, especially for the holidays. And don’t forget Thanksgiving, Valentines, Easter and Mother’s Day, too. They make great gifts!

Picture 1Royal Icing 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 egg white or 1 to 2 Tbsp milk, 1 tsp of water or milk for thinning, or add more sugar for thicker icing

Optional Recipes

For Border icing: 1 cup powdered sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla or other flavoring extract, 2 to 2 1/2 tablespoons milk or water

For Flood icing: 1 cup powdered sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla or other flavoring extract, 2 1/2 – 3 tablespoons milk or water

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Click here for more tips on how to ice cookies.

Click here for my Simply The Best Sugar Cookies recipe, too.




  1. Pingback: Simply The Best Sugar Cookies | Modern Hen home

  2. Pingback: 10 Best Tips for Baking Cookie Cutouts | Modern Hen home

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