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Painted Sugar Cookies

December 24, 2018 by Nicole Collins

Tonight is the night!

Santa Claus is coming to town, folks! And, he's coming TONIGHT!

You guys got your cookies all ready to go for him? Or are you binge baking today? Because that's what I'm doing today!

For the first time ever, I have the day off of work on Christmas Eve. And, the first thing I did when I found out my company is actually giving us the day off today was make plans to do something full of holiday cheer!

So, I'm heading to the bestie's house for a day full of baking and boozing with her fam (they're helping me test a spiked hot chocolate recipe...aren't they sweet) before I head to the midnight candlelight service at church tonight. Though 11pm is FAR past my bedtime, it's kind of become a tradition for my friend, Alison, and I to celebrate the birth of our Lord as the clock strikes midnight at church. As tired as I am every year, I wouldn't change our tradition one little bit!

But, I'm getting ahead of myself. Because, I'm going to be elbow deep in desserts alllllllll day. I've got 3 desserts to make to spread between 2 houses tomorrow, and that's before we even start our cookie extravaganza. We've got 5 or 6 cookies on the docket so far today.

The goal is to add a least 5 lbs to Santa this year!

In case you haven't figured out your Santa cookie gameplan yet, I've got you covered! Because today, we're using store bought items to make the most gorgeous, show stopping cookies.

Today, we're making Painted Sugar Cookies!

About 2 weeks ago, I had to opportunity to take a 2 day baking class at work, and Painted Sugar Cookies were one of the recipes we learned. We also made about 20 different baked goods including pies, baguette, donuts, cookies, quick breads, and soooooooooo much more! But, the painted cookies were one of the things that really stuck out to me. The method is so easy, and I just had no idea!

In class, the sugar cookie dough was made from scratch. But, I cheated a little bit and used a store bought (Aldi brand) cookie dough mix. Those are not typically geared towards cut out cookies, but chilling the dough a little bit makes it nice and easy to roll so that we can use our cute cookie cutters!

In class, we were broken up in to teams, and I wasn't on the team that started the cookies. So, imagine my surprise when I asked the team how they made the cookie icing that we painted right on (thinking they were going to explain a royal icing process to me), and they told me it was only microwaved canned frosting! Is that incredible or what?

It's really as simple as microwaving the icing to a thin, pourable consistency and dipping our cooled cookies right in it. I used a shallow bowl so I'd have plenty of room for dipping. Actually, it was a pasta plate...wide with high sides. Then, you just have to let the icing dry completely on the cookie before you start painting.

Our paint is food coloring! I don't know why, but I was surprised by that in our class too. It's as easy as dipping a paint brush in a drop of food coloring and painting your design straight on the iced cookie. That's it!

Here are a couple of tips for success when it comes to painting the cookies:

1. Use a cheap, kid's water color paint brush. You know, the ones with the black plastic bristles. They're easy to clean and the bristles don't have any hairy fibers to stick to our icing. You can get a set at Walmart for $1. So, keep that set as your food painting set. Don't go using them for real paint jobs!

2. You can control the shade of your color with water. Mixing the food coloring with water lightens it. We're talking grabbing a drop on your brush before or after dipping the brush in the food coloring, not pouring water on your cookie. But the more drops of water you use, the lighter your color will be on the cookie. You could also dab a spot on the cookie with a paper towel, and that will lighten the color in that spot, as well.

3. You can flavor the cookie by adding a drop, and only a drop, of an extract (like vanilla, peppermint, almond, etc) to the food coloring. This is optional, but a fun way to incorporate some extra flavor. Keep in mind, extracts are very strong. So seriously...only a drop, or maybe two.

4. I forgot to buy black food coloring, so I had to use black gel coloring that I had on hand. I had to dip my brush in the gel and then dip it in water a few times before mixing it around on parchment paper. It worked, but it was not ideal. Stick with the liquid food coloring if you can help it. I'd recommend getting a pack of standard, of neon, and of black food coloring.

5. The icing holds up EXTREMELY well while we paint on it. But, if you're attacking one spot with a really wet brush and going over and over and over it, the icing is eventually going to get a little tacky. Just give it a few mins to dry, and come back to it.

6. I'm no artist, but this is pretty similar to water color painting when it comes to blending and mixing colors. So, don't be afraid to test out color combos by using your basic art knowledge to figure out how to make the color you want.

These cookies are such a fun project, just in general. It's a little bit of art therapy for the grown ups. It's creative time for the kiddos. And, this isn't just a Christmas project. You can paint WHATEVER you want on these cookies, which makes them a top choice for any party you could throw!

Alright guys! I know Santa is going to be super impressed with your cookie painting skills, so I hope you find everything you've dreamed of under the tree tomorrow morning.

And, if boozy hot chocolate recipe testing goes well today, plan on seeing that recipe REALLY soon!

Merry Christmas! Have a fantastic holiday with your loved ones. And, let's eat!


Painted Sugar Cookies

Serves: 2-3 dozen cookies Print


  • 1 pack sugar cookie mix (I used Aldi brand), or your favorite sugar cookie recipe

  • 1 can (16 oz) white frosting (I used Pillsbury)

  • flour, for dusting

  • food coloring (not gel food coloring)

  • vanilla, peppermint, almond, or any other flavored extracts (optional)


  1. Prepare cookie mix according to package directions. Form dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate 30 mins- 1 hour. After the dough has chilled, lightly dust your work surface and your rolling pin with flour. Roll cookie dough to ¼ inch thickness. Use cookie cutters to cut out preferred shapes. Place cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet, and bake according to package directions. Place baked cookies on a cooling rack to cool completely.

  2. Once the cookies have cooled, prepare the icing. Transfer icing to a microwave safe bowl. Microwave in 20-30 second intervals, stirring between each interval, until the frosting is thin and a pourable consistency, about 1 min 15 sec. Dip cooled cookies in melted frosting, tapping off any excess frosting, and place back on the cookie rack to dry. If frosting starts to tighten, place back in the microwave for 20 secs and stir to loosen it back up. Allow frosting to dry on the cookies for at least 2 hours.

  3. Paint the cookies: Squeeze a drop of food coloring in a ramekin, plate, or parchment paper. Using a paint brush with plastic bristles, dip the paint brush in food coloring, and paint desired designs on the cookies. Paint a streak on parchment paper first to test your coloring. To lighten the color of the food coloring, mix it with water. The more water you use, the lighter the color will be on the cookie. You can also dab a paper towel on a freshly painted spot on the cookie to lighten the spot by soaking up a little color. Mix colors to achieve your desired colors. To add flavor to the cookies, add one drop of flavored extract to the food coloring, and paint as desired. Allow cookies to dry for at least an hour after painting. You'll know it's dry when it no longer glistens. Or you can gently touch the cookie to see if it's dry. Store in an airtight container.

Recipe notes:

*A cheapo plastic kid's watercolor paint brush is best for this project.

*Keep a water dish near you for rinsing your brush and scooping up water to lighten up your colors.

*A little extract goes a LONG way. 1 drop is really all you need if you want to add some extra flavor to the cookies.

*I forgot to buy black food coloring, but I had black gel coloring. To use gel food coloring, take a glob of gel, and mix it with water to loosen it up. Overall, I don't recommend using gel coloring. The liquid coloring is so much easier to use.

*I recommend getting a pack of standard food coloring, neon food coloring, and black food coloring. You can make brown by pretty much mixing all of the colors together.

*Prepackaged sugar cookie mix doesn't call for chilling or rolling out the dough. But, chilling it first helps it to roll much easier.

*If you're getting really nutty with your painting and using a lot of water and brushing the same spot over and over to the point the icing starts to feel tacky, leave it alone; and come back to it after the icing has a chance to dry again.

*Painted cookies aren't just for Christmas. These can be painted with any colors, designs, or pictures for ANY occasion!

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