Before you begin, you’ll want to take stock of the tools you have on hand. Making and decorating cookies involves a few supplies that not everyone keeps on hand, so you may need to shop online, or take a trip to Michael’s or another arts and crafts store.
Cookie Cutters: Pumpkin, Ghost, Skull
- I suggest buying these in-store. They are a $1.00 to $1.50 a piece usually.
Icing bottles or piping bags
- I’m partial to reusable products so I go for these icing bottles; I also find them less messy and easier to use than bags. Plus, they come with a small round metal tip which is a great all-purpose one for basic cookie decorating.
- For thicker royal icing though, like on the Mummy Heads, I used a reusable silicone piping bag with a small coupler and a small petal tip (equivalent to either a Wilton #102 or #103).
- If you don’t want to buy many supplies for this, you can also use Ziploc bags as well, and just cut the tip off of one corner
- As I said above, you’ll need a petal piping tip for the mummies. I suggest buying a Wilton or Nordicware decorating kit, so you have a few options on hand for future projects.
- If you are using the disposable piping bags or a Ziploc bag, you can use it without a tip, but it will come out differently.
- These are used to spread out the royal icing and get air bubbles out
- I bought this awesome three pack. They were affordable and had the scraper on the other end, which come in handy for mistakes and behind the eyes on the Mummy Heads.
Stand or Hand Mixer
I use this simple recipe from the ever-wonderful Alton Brown, but I do change a few things.
- I add some flavor to the dough – a splash of both almond and vanilla extract.
- I also add just under ¼ cup more sugar.
Cutting the Cookies:
I suggest making the dough the night before to save time the day of decorating.Once your dough has chilled for at least 2 hours, take out the first half and roll it out to your desired thickness with your rolling pin. I definitely suggest ¼ inch or slightly more. I didn’t get 3 dozen like the recipe says though; I got just shy of two dozen plus a small bit of extra dough on the side, you know, for testing purposes *wink wink*.
I have a stone counter top and have rolled directly on there before but prefer parchment paper. I find the dough sticks less to it. Cold firm dough is key for easy transfer from counter/paper to baking sheet. So, if it starts to stick to the rolling surface, pop it back in the fridge and grab the other half of dough to work with in the meantime. I sprinkle a bit of powdered sugar on the paper before I start and the rolling pin throughout the rolling and cutting process to reduce the risk of it sticking as well.
Baking the Cookies:
Decorating takes time – specially to dry properly. You don’t want your cookies to dry out in the process, so you want to under-bake them to ensure maximum deliciousness.
Baking times will vary so you’ll have to watch them as they are in the oven. I baked mine for 10 minutes and rotated halfway through. Try to take them out before the edges start turning brown, for presentation purposes and to ensure they don’t over-bake.
Let them cool as instructed in the recipe.
Mixing the Royal Icing:
I use Wilton’s Meringue Powder for my royal icings. The consistency comes out right every time and a little goes a long way, so you’ll never worry about running out for future projects.
I work with two icing thicknesses for this project. The Mummy Heads need a thick royal icing so that you can overlay the white stripes without them blending together and a thinner icing to create a nice smooth finish on the ghosts and pumpkins which I also use on the eyes for both the ghosts and mummies.
I have never made the full recipe on the back of the Meringue powder, and I still always end up with extra. For this project I made a 2/3 batch and still had some leftovers.
First, I mix the meringue powder with the water and powdered sugar as directed. I find it turns into a lump really quick, so I add water a bit more water to smooth it out, this is a good time to add some extracts if you like, I chose simple vanilla. Don’t add too much water at a time though, maybe a tablespoon at most. Once it is at a mixable texture (this is not your final thickness so don’t overdo it with the water), mix for about 5 to 7 minutes on medium-low speed. I added a bit more water to smooth it out a bit until it seemed like a workable thickness, that held its peaks, and would hold the stripes well over each other. This is all guesswork on my part, and the amount of water may vary based on location/climate. I then used a spatula to scoop some of the thicker icing into my silicone piping bag with the petal tip and set aside for later. The amount will depend on how many mummies you have compared to ghosts and pumpkins, but it’s better to overestimate than under. Then with the remaining amount slowly add in water testing its thickness as you go. It should be about 12 second icing. This means if you run a knife through it, it will take about 12 seconds for the line to fade back into the icing. If you’re not sure you can always spread some out on a cookie or another surface and see how it smooths out and decide from there.
Once I obtained the right consistency, I divided it up into small bowls to mix with my desired colors and then transferred to the icing bottles. If I have extra, I just put a damp towel over the bowl, so it doesn’t crust over while I decorate. I leave it out like that just in case I run out.
Colors I chose:
- White (no food coloring necessary)
- Thicker white for the mummies (no food coloring necessary)
Cookies have cooled, and the icing is mixed. It is time!
I clear off my dining room table and cover it with a Splat Mat or two. It gives me a large working surface and allows for plenty of space when you have multiple people decorating together.
For the Ghosts:
I outline the whole cookie and then fill with the desired color. I try to keep away from the very edge of the cookie just in case it bleeds over. I then take the cookie pick and swirl the icing around until its nice and smooth and air bubble free. I set it aside to dry a bit before adding the eyes. The drying time will vary based on climate. You can move on to the other cookie designs while these are drying.
For the eyes I add the white circles and the black/gray pupils right on top, no drying time between.
For the Pumpkins:
I first fill the middle section of the pumpkin like an oval and set it aside to dry. Once the middle is dry enough the icing won’t seep together, add the two side sections and the stem. This creates a seamless outline free look that still has some dimension which I really like.
For the Mummies:
These may seem like more work, but I think they are the easiest and they come out pretty epic.
First, I take some of the black/gray icing and spread a super thin layer on the cookie with the flat end of the cookie pick. You can either do just the eye part like a mask or the whole face of the cookie – whichever you like more. I did it both ways just to see how the black looked peeking out in places around the cookie under the white wrappings. Right after that layer was down, I added the eyes, just like with the ghosts but I added some iris color for an extra pop.
Lastly, I took the thicker white icing and started randomly adding stripes (or wrappings) all across the cookies until I got the desired look and fill. I wasn’t too picky with it because I figure no two mummies are wrapped the same anyway.
I would let the cookies dry over night before stacking them or putting them in containers. Once they are fully dry you can stick a few in some of the Bumkins Snack Bags for a treat to go!
For those who have never made their own icing or decorated cookies before, it can be a lot, and the first go around can be stressful. Especially if you decide to do this with kiddos, let the creativity flow and don't worry about perfection!
If they don’t come out like you want, at least you can eat the evidence and try again.