Make Halloween cookies using my rich and flavorful chocolate sugar cookies as the starting point. Once your cookies have cooled, have fun decorating them for Halloween using royal icing or an easy glaze icing. Feel free to leave the icing white or tint it festive colors. This post shows many different ways to decorate the cookies based on skill level, so this is definitely something beginners can accomplish too!
Decorated Halloween Cookies
Today’s post brings a few published recipes together to show you fun ways for decorating Halloween-themed cookie cutter sugar cookies. The recipe below is my chocolate sugar cookies, which has its own page if you ever want to read more about them. You can, of course, use my plain sugar cookies instead or your own recipe for sugar cookies with these fun decorating ideas! I love these chocolate sugar cookies because they’re flavorful and if you don’t accidentally over-bake them, they’ll remind you of brownies.
Carefully follow the order of steps in the printable recipe below. The dough is sticky and you can use cocoa powder when rolling/handling the dough. (I use it instead of flour for shaped chocolate cookies!) To prevent the cookies from over-spreading, the cookie dough must chill in the refrigerator. Roll out the dough right after you prepare it, and then chill the rolled-out dough. (Because at this point the dough is way too soft to cut into shapes.) Don’t chill the cookie dough and then try to roll it out because it will be too cold and impossible to roll. I divide the dough in half before rolling it out because smaller sections of dough are simply more manageable.
- Another trick! Roll out the cookie dough directly on a silicone baking mat or parchment paper so you can easily transfer it to the refrigerator. If you don’t have enough room for two baking sheets in your refrigerator, stack the pieces of rolled out dough on top of each other.
Some quick pictures of the process:
Choose Royal Icing or Easy Glaze Icing
The pictures in this post show chocolate Halloween cookies decorated with 2 icing options. Let me explain both options and then you can choose which you’d like to use. And, of course, you don’t have to use either if you have another sugar cookie icing you love more!
- Royal Icing: I have a separate post for royal icing where you can find many FAQs, make-ahead instructions, and a video tutorial. It’s simply too much to include here and I don’t want to leave anything out, so hop over to that printable recipe to learn how to make it. Meringue powder is an essential ingredient. Royal icing dries quickly and because it’s so sturdy, you can pipe sharp detail. This is ideal for intermediate or advanced cookie decorators.
- Easy Glaze Icing: I have a separate post for easy glaze icing. I LOVE this icing because you don’t need meringue powder or a mixer. It’s like a very thick glaze. This icing takes awhile to dry, about 24 hours, and you can’t pipe detail very well (like a Jack-O-Lantern face). But if you’re a beginner and want simple decoration, this is your recipe!!
The picture at the top of this post shows the cookies decorated with royal icing. Here is that photo again, as well as a photo of Halloween cookies decorated with the easy glaze icing:
Royal Icing Decorating Video
This following video shows me decorating each Halloween cookie with royal icing. You can use the easy glaze icing for these same looks with the exception of the Jack-O-Lantern’s face. (Almost impossible to pipe layers & sharp detail with that glaze icing.)
Decorating Tools For Halloween Cookies
No matter which icing you choose, here are some helpful decorating tools you need. I am not associated with any of these brands– I personally use and love all these items!
- Rolling Pin. If you have difficulty evenly rolling out dough, try this adjustable rolling pin instead– it’s incredibly handy!
- Parchment Paper or Silicone Baking Mats: You need either for rolling, chilling, and baking the cookie dough.
- Halloween Cookie Cutters: If you don’t have any Halloween cookie cutters and want to order some online, I used the small shapes from this Halloween cookie cutter set. The mini ghosts you see in the royal icing photo are actually upside-down mini tulips! Here is the set it came from.
- Piping Tips: I use Wilton piping tip #4 for outlining and flooding the cookies with icing. This is a wonderful basic piping tip to have in your collection. (Wilton piping tip #5 works for this too, but it’s a little larger.) For piping royal icing in fine detail, such as the Jack-O-Lantern’s face and leaves, I use a thinner round tip Wilton piping tip #2.
- Gel Food Coloring: Tinting the icing different colors is completely optional. No matter which icing you use– royal icing or the easy glaze icing– if you want to tint it different colors, use gel food coloring because liquid food coloring will alter the consistency. I used the Orange, Super Black, and Mint Green on the cookies in these photos.
- Disposable Piping Bags or Reusable Piping Bags
- Couplers: Couplers are needed if you’re switching around your piping tips and icing colors. For example, if you’re flooding a bat cookie with black icing, but then you need a smaller tip for black icing detail on a Jack-O-Lantern cookie. Or if you only have one piping tip #4 but want to use this tip for multiple colors of icing. A coupler makes it easy to switch tips between bags of icing.
- Toothpick or Needle Scriber Tool: A toothpick or needle scriber is helpful if you need to spread/move/smooth icing. You can see me using a toothpick to create neater icing edges in the video above.
- Eyeball Candies & Sprinkles: I used orange and green nonpareils on the royal icing witch hats and chocolate sprinkles on the royal icing bats. The ghosts decorated with easy glaze icing had the black balls from this Halloween sprinkle mix as eyeballs. (That sprinkle mix also has eyeballs!) On the cookies pictured below, I used these these sprinkles and these sprinkles.
Coloring Success Tip: As Icing Sits & Dries, It Darkens
As icing sits in a piping bag before using AND as it dries on a cookie, its color darkens. This is the case with most colors, particularly red and black. When I make black icing, it’s usually blue-ish gray in the bowl and piping bag and then as it dries, it darkens into a black shade. Don’t go overboard on food coloring because the color will deepen as the icing dries.
Can I Use Natural Food Coloring For Cookie Icing?
Yes, absolutely! I am not affiliated with this brand, but I’ve used the brand Supernatural and they have a line of natural powdered food coloring that’s available in a few colors. You need to dissolve the coloring in a little water before using, so make sure that you very slightly reduce the amount of water needed in either icing recipe. (Note: If you ever need to thicken the icing back up after adding the coloring, you can whisk/beat in a little more confectioners’ sugar.)
Wilton piping tip #4 is my go-to for outlining and flooding:
Can Beginners Make These Halloween Cookies?
Yes. You do not need to be an advanced cookie decorator to get started. (Experts had to start somewhere, right?!) Your Halloween cookies do not have to look exactly like these pictures– the decorated cookies can be as ornate or simple as you wish. Here are some tips if you’re a beginner.
- Skip The Tips & Use Buttercream: You can skip the piping tips, bags, and icings and decorate these cookies with vanilla buttercream (feel free to tint it) or chocolate buttercream using a knife. Top with festive sprinkles if desired.
- Use Easy Glaze Icing and Squeeze Bottle: If you choose the easy glaze icing, you do not have to use piping bags/tips– I often use squeeze bottles when decorating with that icing. (Note: I did use piping tips in today’s pictured cookies.)
- Decorate with Sprinkles: Pipe either icing on the cooled cookies and top with Halloween sprinkles as pictured below. (I used easy glaze icing on the pictured cookies below, but this look also works with royal icing.) Feel free to tint the icing your desired color or leave white. This look is what I usually do when I’m decorating cookies with children. It’s easy, fun, manageable, includes sprinkles, and perfect for beginners:
This is a recipe for chocolate sugar cookies shaped and decorated for Halloween. You can use either icing recipe linked below or your favorite sugar cookie icing instead.
- 1 and 1/2 cups (188g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
- 3/4 cup (62g) unsweetened natural cocoa powder (or dutch process), plus more as needed for rolling and work surface
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup (1.5 sticks or 172g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Royal Icing or Easy Glaze Icing
- optional: gel food coloring for tinting icings
- Make the cookie dough: Whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- In a large bowl using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on high speed until completely smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and beat on high speed until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl and beat again as needed to combine.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix on low until combined. Dough will be soft. If the dough seems too soft and sticky for rolling, add 1 more Tablespoon of flour.
- Roll the dough: Divide the dough into 2 equal parts. Dust 2 large pieces of parchment paper or 2 silicone baking mats with cocoa powder (or flour). Place a dough half on each. With a rolling pin lightly dusted with cocoa powder (or flour), roll the dough out to about 1/4-inch thickness. Use more cocoa powder/flour if the dough seems too sticky. The rolled-out dough can be any shape, as long as it is evenly 1/4-inch thick.
- Chill the dough: Lightly dust one of the rolled-out doughs with cocoa powder or flour. Place a piece of parchment on top. (This prevents sticking.) Place the 2nd rolled-out dough on top. Cover with plastic wrap or aluminum foil, then refrigerate for at least 1-2 hours and up to 2 days.
- Preheat oven & shape cookies: Once chilled, preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Line 2-3 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Carefully remove the top dough piece from the refrigerator. Using cookie cutters (I love the small shapes from this Halloween set), cut the dough into shapes. Re-roll the remaining dough, using more cocoa powder or flour to lightly dust your work surface and rolling pin, and continue cutting the dough until all is used. Work quickly so the dough doesn’t become too warm or soft. If it does, stop what you’re doing and place any unused dough back in the refrigerator for 10 minutes to stiffen up again. Repeat cutting into shapes with 2nd half of dough. (Note: It doesn’t seem like a lot of dough, but you get a lot of cookies from the dough scraps you re-roll.)
- Bake & cool: Arrange shaped cookies on baking sheets 3 inches apart. Bake for 11-12 minutes or until edges are set. If your oven has hot spots, rotate the baking sheet halfway through bake time. Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before decorating.
- Make either icing: Prepare the royal icing or easy glaze icing. Divide the icing into separate bowls if you wish to tint it different colors using gel food coloring. I divided the icing into 4 equal portions, left 1 portion white, and tinted the other portions of icing orange, black, and green. When tinting icing, only use 1-2 drops at first, stir it in, then add more as needed to reach your desired color. I usually need quite a few drops to make black icing. (Remember, color darkens as icing dries.)
- Decorate the cookies: Read this step completely before starting and see recipe notes for recommended decorating tools. Spoon icing into piping bags fitted with Wilton Piping Tip #4. If you kept the icing white or are only using 1 color of icing, you just need 1 piping bag. Slowly pipe icing border around the cookies, and then fill the center with more icing. Keep the icing a thin layer so it dries faster. You can also decorate the cookies how I do in the video tutorial, including sprinkle stripes on the witch hats and sprinkle body on the bat. (These looks work with royal icing or the easy glaze icing.) No need to let the sprinkle stripes/sprinkle body dry before piping icing on the other parts of the cookie. You also do not have to wait for the orange icing to dry before piping the green stem on the pumpkin. If piping green leaves and a face on the pumpkin to make a Jack-O-Lantern, use royal icing and make sure the orange icing sets before adding these additional layers. (Royal icing is best for fine detail/layers.) I did quite a few royal icing Jack-O-Lantern looks in the picture above and the easiest is slanted semi-circles for eyes, triangle nose, and a curved zig-zag smile. If you ever need to thicken royal icing because it has thinned out while you’re decorating or you want thicker icing for piping fine detail, you can beat 2-3 extra Tablespoons of confectioners’ sugar into it to help it thicken up. If adding eyeballs to the cookies, pipe a tiny dot of icing on the back of the eyeball before gently pressing onto the iced cookie. As always, take your time icing the cookies and know that each and every one won’t be perfect.
- Let icing dry/set: Royal icing dries in about 2 hours and easy glaze icing dries in 24 hours. No need to cover the decorated cookies as you wait for the icing to set. If it’s helpful, transfer cookies to a baking sheet and place them in the refrigerator to help slightly speed up the icing setting.
- Enjoy cookies right away or wait until the icing sets to serve them. Once the icing has set, these cookies are great for gifting or for sending. Plain or decorated cookies stay soft for about 5 days when covered tightly at room temperature. For longer storage, cover and refrigerate for up to 10 days.
- Freezing Instructions: Plain or decorated sugar cookies freeze well up to 3 months. Wait for the icing to set completely before layering between sheets of parchment paper in a freezer-friendly container. To thaw, thaw in the refrigerator or at room temperature. You can also freeze the cookie dough for up to 3 months before rolling it out. Prepare the dough through step 3, divide in half, flatten both halves into a disk as we do with pie crust, wrap each in plastic wrap, and then freeze. To thaw, thaw the disks in the refrigerator and then bring to room temperature for about 1 hour. Roll out the dough as directed in step 4 and then chill rolled out dough in the refrigerator for 45 minutes – 1 hour before cutting into shapes and baking.
- Icing: Use royal icing or my easy glaze icing. See post above to read about the differences.
- Special Tools for Cookies & Decorating: Rolling Pin, Parchment Paper or Silicone Baking Mats, Cookie Cutters, Wilton Piping Tip #4 for outlining and flooding icing, Wilton Piping Tip #2 for fine detail if using royal icing, Disposable Piping Bags or Reusable Piping Bags, Couplers if you’re switching around your piping tips and icing colors, Toothpick or Needle Scriber for icing detail, Eyeball Candies, Sprinkles such as orange & green nonpareils, chocolate sprinkles, and/or this Halloween Sprinkle Mix, & Orange, Super Black, and Mint Green Gel Food Coloring
Keywords: Halloween cookies
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