Want to know what you need to get started baking and decorating sugar cookies? You’ve come to the right place. I am posting links to help you find these items easier, but I am not guaranteeing by any means that the link is the cheapest or best bargain. Shop around, especially if you intend to start baking on a larger scale.
Also, this is not a complete list of things you need to bake sugar cookies, but rather the items I cannot live without. First up is my Kitchenaid stand mixer. I don’t really think it would be practical to make these with a hand mixer, especially the royal icing. For rolling out cookies to an uniform thickness, you need a rolling pin with rings on it like this one. I found mine at Walmart for much cheaper than most.
I roll out my cookies on parchment paper. It can get expensive, so I bought mine in bulk online here. I also find an offset spatula to be very handy in lifting cut out cookies off the parchment paper. I bake my cookies on silicone mats on quality baking sheets. This results in even softer cookies, less spreading, and less wasted parchment paper. The other thing you’ll want to have for baking is cooling racks. I have a small kitchen anyway, but losing my entire counter space for days at a time was just too much. I am so much happier now that I have these racks. And they’re collapsable, so they store easily.
And now a word about cookie cutters. Only you will be able to know what you are interested in when it comes to specific shapes. But I would recommend a few basics that you will use all the time. Plaque cookie cutters are extremely popular and versatile. They’re also rather expensive. I found this set early on and have been very happy with them. They weren’t terribly expensive, but they look just as nice as the expensive sets. This set of double sided cutters is another set you will get much use out of. I also recommend a double sided circle set, hearts, and other basic shapes.
Next for some icing essentials. If you need recipes, please see my recipe page. When you are mixing your icing, there are a few items you will need. This is where I cannot live without my Kitchenaid stand mixer. I have a set of rubber spatulas that I use for icing and nothing else. My reason for this is that oil is the biggest enemy of royal icing. By having a set of spatulas dedicated to icing, I don’t have to worry about oils left on the rubber. You will want a glass or pyrex measuring cup. I also use glass or pyrex bowls to mix my icing colors because of the oil issues. You’ll use a sifter again on the icing, and one of these little strainers. A few tiny lumps will ruin an entire batch of icing. I know- I’ve thrown a few out in my time. That little strainer is extremely important to keep the icing perfectly smooth so it doesn’t clog your tips. A little wire whisk also comes in handy. These are all the tools you need just to make the royal icing.
Here are my preferred decorating tools. Instead of icing bags, I exclusively use icing bottles. This is only a matter of personal preference for me. I just couldn’t get the hang of icing bags and quickly tired of icing squirting out the back end of them unexpectedly. If they work for you, great. Find what works for you and stick with it. These are the bottles I use. They have a coupler on the top so you can use them with any decorating tip. I would promptly throw away the plastic tips that come with them and buy some quality tips. I love this set because it comes with lids. Those come in very handy. I have about a dozen 8 oz bottles and four 2 oz bottles. There is no magic number. You’ll figure out how many you need as you go. As far as tips go, I have about six #2 tips for outlining cookies, six #1.5 tips for piping fine details, and a couple #3 and #4’s for flooding. I also use some decorative tips for flowers and leaves, but don’t have that great of a collection of them yet. To get started, those are really all you need.
My best tip for using icing bottles is the way I fill them. You would not believe the ridiculous ways I tried to spoon thick icing into little bottles, losing at least half of it in the process. To fill them easily, take a ziplock sandwich bag, set it down in a short drinking glass, wrapping the edge up and over the edges of the glass so it’s held open and supported by the glass. Then pour your icing in the bag, seal it, cut a corner off, and squeeze it into your icing bottle. Like magic!
A few other small items you will need are toothpicks or this scribe tool to get icing into small spaces, pop any air bubbles, and unclog icing bottles that might clog up. I set my icing bottles upside down in a drinking glass with a damp paper towel at the bottom when I’m working to keep the tips from crusting over. You will also want a damp paper towel on hand at all times to clean off icing tips as you are working.
Finally, you will need icing colors. I find that most cookie decorators who work with royal icing use Americolor gels religiously. I love them. I would recommend getting large amounts of a few specific colors that you will use frequently and in large quantities. For the rest, get a few basic colors in the regular size bottles and then buy more as needed. These are the colors I buy in large quantities: super black, white, and tulip red. A few notes about tulip red- I would buy it over super red because it is Americolor’s no taste red. Certain colors are notorious for having a bitter taste because of the amount of coloring you have to use to get a true color and red is the worst. You will not have that problem with tulip red. My only frustration is that when you first mix it up, it always has an orange tint to it. However, if you let it sit overnight, it will be a nice true red in the morning. You’ll want to mix up any dark color in advance like this as the color deepens over time, but I am still surprised by tulip red every time.
if you’ve ever worked with royal icing, you know how fast it dries out if not stored properly. I used to store it in the pyrex bowls I use for mixing, but that became a huge hassle. Now I keep a large quantity of ziplock sandwich and pint size bags on hand. Not only does mixing your colors the night before help you to get a truer color, it will help any air bubbles to settle as the icing sits.
I use a variety of other decorating items like luster dust, disco dust, petal dust, and sanding sugar. For a beginner decorator, I wouldn’t recommend going crazy and buying all of that. Buy it as you need it for projects. You’ll waste a lot less money that way.