I began my journey with becoming a cookier a little over a year ago. Making cookies was always something I did for the holidays, but it was never something I even thought about as a year-round adventure. Until, one day while looking up “#thankyougifts” on Instagram, I came across the rabbit whole that is the decorated sugar cookie. I wasn’t really prepared for what I had stumbled across. The intricate designs and beautiful artwork that could convey everything from teachers, dads and grads to amazing collabs. For hours I scrolled through the endless magic of the sugar cookie. “I have to do this!” I thought to myself. I began researching recipes and watching “how-to” videos and researching tagged products on cookier’s pages. I combed the internet for insight and instruction. I took a few classes, watched 100’s of videos and baked and whipped up icing till I felt comfortable trying to actually make something for someone.
As the year has progressed, I have continued to learn and grow in ways I never thought possible. Not just as a cookier, but as a person and a friend. I have met so many amazing people on this journey! In fact, if it wasn’t for the cookie community, I would still have NO IDEA what I am doing. It is because of their care and support for others and wanting others to succeed that I have become comfortable decorating cookies.
As I look back to when I first started (which seems a lifetime ago, since, well let’s face it 2020 is a blur), I remember the countless hours I would spend researching what tools were essential, what did I really need and what was just a luxury. I saw so many people with these things called Pico Projectors and dehydrators and scribes! My head was in a swirl of confusion as to what I needed and how much to spend on all of these crazy things everyone seemed to have. I felt like I could never be good enough to make cookies if I couldn’t have the right equipment.
One thing I have learned since then is, the equipment is awesome, but it truly is the love and effort you put into something that directs the outcome. You don’t need all of the fancy stuff to make a cookie that shows love and affection and celebrates the people around you.
Another thing: you will perceive your abilities in a negative light as you watch the amazing posts of your friends or get orders of great detail. Please remember, again, that its not about your perceived ability as much as it is the love you are giving to others through your work – AND – your ability is always better than you think! Remember that these cookies represent the sweet moments, memories and love that people feel for one another – that makes each cookie amazingly special.
Ok…so with that said, I cannot neglect that yes, supplies and tools do make a huge difference. I have noticed my ability to make something more clean, intricate and artistic has increased with the ability to purchase certain things. Now this all took time to accumulate and there are still many things that would be amazing to have that I will continue to work towards, but I have definitely discovered what is more essential over what is luxury.
Now, I didn’t just want to give you my word on these things, so I reached out to my cookier community and I asked them as well what they found essential in order to begin the cookie adventure. I have compiled a list and will link a few of the items to amazon or other sites that I have found to be amazing resources. (FYI: these resources are my own opinion and not endorsed or paid for in any way – just great people with great product).
Piping bags: There are so many different kinds out there – and many people have varying opinions on these for what they prefer. But there is a bit of consensus to a few:
-Cheaper version would be the Master brand you can find on Amazon here. These are cheap, easy to use, and convenient. They aren’t too thick so make nice line. Downfall is they are very thin so you cant fill too much or push too hard or they will break.
-Pro versions: These are the thicker, can be used to the limit without breaking, can be used to freeze icing in, and can take tips for florals. Cookiers like: Borderlands, Sinful Cutters, and Grunderfully. There are more than this, but these are the ones that were mentioned by and far as ones that people often go back to time and time again.
Spatulas: Ok this seems like a no brainer, but spatulas are a must have – and a lot of them. You need them for all of your icing mixing so make sure that you get plenty of the small ones. I just get mine on Amazon, but I know that there are a lot of cookie supply companies that carry some great ones as well. Wherever you get them…get a lot. They need to be sturdy and made of silicone.
Scribes: Yes…scribes are essential.
Pro versions: Ok we all love to have fun personality filled tools and this isn’t any different with our scribes. I love fun scribes. My favorite ones have come from Happy Sweets and Treats – not only are they adorable, affordable, and unique, but the needle part of the scribe is thicker and moves the icing around easier. I actually like to have different scribes with different size needles for different purposes. If I am doing a more detailed flood that needs me to pull the icing into small spaces, a thinner needle is perfect. Whereas if I am flooding a big area or using a thicker consistency icing, then I will want a thicker needle. You can really find cute scribes from many of the places you buy your tools: Borderlands, Periwinkles, Emmas Sweets, The Cookie Countess, etc. I just happen to really love mine from Happy Sweets and Periwinkles (Lily Scribes).
Cookie Cutters: Ok, this goes without saying
Cheaper: Amazon once again has many you can choose from. Many of these that are cheaper and metal are from Anne Clark and work really well. Be careful with these those because they will bend and they will rust if left wet after washing. But if you take care of them, then these are a great way to get started and a great option for those cookie shapes you wont use all that often.
Pro versions: Ok – I could write a million pages on this. I LOVE COOKIE CUTTERS and many cookiers will tell you that cutters become a quick addiction. Cutter companies are so talented, they are so amazing, and make such great personality filled cutters. I even did a blog post on KaleidaCuts awhile back about the beauty that is the cutter hahaha. You will get so inspired by these companies and the designs that they come up with that you will have to eventually bar yourself from buying anymore! I went from nothing to bins full in this past year and I just want more haha. Fave cutter shops are: Periwinkles, SweetLeigh Printed, Sweet4U Cutters, The Cookiery, KaleidaCuts, Bobbis Cutters, SheyB Designs, The Sweet Design Shoppe, Crumbs Cutters, JHCookie Co, and Sweet Sugar Belle. There are a million more (these are just the ones that were named over and over again), and I encourage you go always support your small cookie supplier! These shops are all individually owned and operated and run with love and compassion. Their cutters are 3D printed and have thick edges that cut wonderfully, wont bend, wont rust, can be thrown around, used over and over without warping (just don’t melt them), and are easy on the hands with using them with colder dough.
Rolling Pin: another DUH moment but …
Cheaper: Target or Amazon basic rolling pin will work.
Pro Versions: BY and FAR the choice for a rolling pin is a Joseph and Joseph rolling pin with guides. Some cookiers would call this essential in and of itself as it truly is imperative for an even bake to have the ability to roll out your cookies evenly. Some cookiers like the guide sizes that the Jospeh and Joseph comes with, some prefer the .8mm guide that you can purchase separately. There are other products out there you can use for an even roll out – such as the rolling pans that have guides on the side of the pan to keep the dough the same thickness (or like the Dough EZ mat). Research and find what you’re comfortable with.
Turntable: Really? Yes…why? Because it makes detailing a cookie a whole lot easier.
Cheaper: Again Amazon is king…cookie turntables plain and simple.
Pro Versions: Consensus on this one is in abundance the cute turntables from The Sweetest Tiers and their glittery turn tables! Another great place that has a great turntable and silicone pad combo from Designer Cookies.
Heat Sealer: So important for freshness and hygiene!
I don’t really have a cheaper or pro version on this. Pretty much people pick up one on Amazon either with or without the cutter. Here is the one I have.
Bags: most cookiers individually package their cookies for boxing and freshness.
Cheaper: Amazon is our go to here for cheaper bags. Most cheaper bags will be thin and flimsy but will work well for floral work since your florals may poke through heftier bags. I make sure to keep a few types of all kinds of bags and sizes.
Pro Versions: We love our bags that are a little thicker (over atleast 1.2 mil, but preferably 1.5). The thicker the bag, the less air gets in, the fresher the cookie stays for a longer period of time. You can get bags from anywhere really, even Amazon, but people like BRP Box Shop, Periwinkles, The Cookie Countess, Borderlands, etc etc all have great bags. Find what you like and stick with it.
Colorants: Ok…yeah I know…obvious again
Cheaper: Wilton gels and food coloring
Pro Version: Americolor or Chefmaster liquidgels as well as powdered colorants (either Roxy and Rich or the Sugar Art carries these – I prefer Roxy and Rich. You will need A LOT if you plan on doing a lot of cookies. It takes quite a bit of color to make deep colors if that is the look you are going for. One thing to keep in mind is that the powdered colorants take less product but will slightly change the consistency of your icing (tends to make it a bit stretchier and not as puffy the more powder you use, this might be because it uses water as an activator and you may need to add quite a bit to get the color you want and then that may require an addition of powdered sugar. The more you add water and then add sugar the more you’re going to change your consistency of your icing because you are changing the amount of meringue powder per ounce of icing -some people like this and others do not, again you have to find your preference).
Meringue Powder: I call this essential if you’re making traditional royal icing. The amount you use of it will be up to your specific recipe.
Cheaper: Wilton Meringue Powder
Pro Versions: Crazy enough there are many different brands out there of meringue powder, including some great ones from specialty cookie and cake supply shop. From my results the main one used was Genie’s Dream (I use this as well and get mine in bulk from The Cookie Countess). But make sure you play around with different kinds. Many shops will sell meringue powder in a few ounce pack and that allows you to play with your icing and see if you like the consistency, taste, amount of air bubbles, hardness, and look of your icing.
Paint Brushes: Why? I am not painting….well you will …trust me.
Cheaper: cheap paint brush sets on Amazon like this one will get you started. But honestly, if you are going to try painting on a cookie (which you will do even if you’re not Picasso. Just the simple acting of wanting to add a little dimension or do a logo or label will require paint brushes) then you’re going to want to invest in some good brushes.
Pro Versions: You will want to invest in some small fine tip detailing paints brushes (here is a set on Amazon), as well as a nice kit that will last through using continually without shedding. Borderlands has a great set and so does Periwinkles and Designer Cookies.
Cookie Sheets: There is no doubt that good aluminum cookie sheets and covers are imperative. Nordic Ware is by and far the sheet of choice. Find them on Amazon here.
Oopsy Sticks/Stencil Buddy: These are awesome and so needed. You will make mistakes, and these come in so handy. I like to have a bunch of sizes for these for different oops moments as well as using them for stenciling. You can find the oopsy sticks here and the stencil buddy here.
Edible Markers: Imperative for logos and drawing/writing on cookies.
Cheaper: Wilton edible markers.
Stencil Holder: You will definitely need this to help hold your stencil tight and even over your cookie while airbrushing or brushing on icing.
Cheaper: Amazon stencil holder as seen here.
Pro Versions: The most sought after is the Sweetest Tiers stencil holder and subsequent cookie screen and extension. I don’t have any of these yet (on my wish list), but I know from other cookiers that they are well worth the money. You can find them on the Sweetest Tiers website here.
Stencils: Ok you knew this was coming. Stencils are a great way to easily add great dimension, wording, themes, and fun to your cookies. You can find so many amazing stencils from small business cookie shops and that’s where I would really put your energies into shopping. They are truly amazingly gifted people who have great designs and will also make you any fun designs you need. A pro tip would be as you get more along in your cookieing would be to buy yourself a Cricut machine in which you can then make your own stencils as you need (I have yet to do this for myself). Some great stencils shops that were mentioned were KaleidaCuts, Can Keep, Killer Zebras, CX Stencils, and the Cookie Countess.
Good Mixing Bowl: and make sure you get lids! You will mix a lot of icing and icing colors. I am not great when it comes to “less mess” and mixing everything in one bowl..I like to have a bunch of bowls and mix all of my colors in different bowls. I don’t recommend this by any means, but its what I do. The bowls I like the best are varying is sizes and have nice airtight lids so you don’t dry out your icing. I use these found on Amazon.
Packaging: This is a fun aspect as you get to find your own unique way of packaging your cookies to give to your customers. This can include different types of boxes for different size orders, filler such as shred or tissue, bags, and labels. There are boxes on Amazon as well as fun types of ribbon, shred, tissue and thank you stickers. As well as, sticker shops that will make custom labels, business cards, and stamps. BRP Box Shop is a favorite among cookiers to pick up fun and sturdy boxes, but this would be more of an expensive version (but the sizes and thickness are worth it!) – they also provide the ability to purchase for $12, 5 samples for you to try out! So worth it!
I am sure I forgot some things…so fellow cookiers feel free to comment and add anything that I left out (this is all derived from my Instagram survey). But this basically shows the essentials that go into just getting started with making sugar cookies part of your world.
Now let’s get to the fun cookie wishlist – these are things that cookiers find are definitely must haves but can be gained through time.
Cookie Wish list-
Cheaper: Makeup airbrush from Amazon (needle should be .3-.5 for variant uses). I used this one from Amazon for a long time and was happy with it.
A Good Mixer: This is a must have if you’re going to pump out a good deal of cookies at one time. You will kill your hand and arm with a hand mixer, so you really need a stand mixer. People are torn between their Pro Kitchen Aids and the Bosch Universal mixer. I have to say that I have both. I use my Bosch for multiple batches at a time and it’s a powerhouse. I use my Kitchen Aid for all of my icing and smaller batches of dough. You will want a large capacity bowl and a hardy paddle!
Photo Backdrops: You will want to showcase your fabulous creations!!
Cheaper: Scrapbook paper that can easily be purchase at Amazon or any craft store.
Pro Versions: Vinyl back drops like from Ink and Elm ($$) and Replica Surfaces ($$$$). These are washable and durable.
Pico Projector: a cookier’s dirty little secret- we love our projectors – you will also need a stand or holder to go along with this to hold your projector over your work area.
Cheaper: I use just a jive projector from Amazon like this one.
Pro Version: the Pico Projector most cookiers use found here.
Dehydrator: This is something to really make the priority for yourself. I used table fan before I could afford a dehydrator, but since the switch it has literally changed the way I do cookies. It helps to dry the icing faster so you can move on to details quicker, as well as, it makes a nice shine on your cookies. You will want to look for a dehydrator that can be set to 95 degrees – usually that’s the lowest setting one will go, but this is where you will want to use it at. I like to put silicone mats down on the racks so that the dehydrator driest the icing but not the cookie. I just use ones from Amazon and cut them to size.
Other things to look into is: storage, baking racks, cookie tray separators, silkscreen or silkscreen stencils, silicone mats vs. parchment paper, food scale, Everclear, sparkle dusts and metallic paint, airbrush colors, cookie bridge, airbrush booth, cellulose cloths, spray bottle (for water-to adjust icing consistency), icing bag tape sealer, and the ever desired 3D printer to print your own cutters (but then you wouldn’t have the fun of buying all the awesome ones from other cutter shops haha), oh and don’t forget lots of fun playlists and podcasts to listen to while you decorate!!!
Ok I know I have given you a lot of information and honestly this is just brushing the surface of what is entailed into cookie decorating. It takes resources, time, and a lot of patience and heart to be a full time cookier. But the wonderful thing is the smile and joy you bring the lives of your customers. The idea that each order, each cookie, represents a special moment in someone’s life and you get to be a small part of that will keep you wanting to be better and do better.
There are so many amazing cookiers out there ready and willing to support and help. Grab yourself a great support group, a swap group, and some cookier sisters to guide you and you will be well on your way to making sweet memories that will last a lifetime.