Handpainted Christmas Cookies


Last Saturday, with a daunting to-do list, I dropped everything for an invitation to paint Christmas cookies. Continuing a tradition started by her mother, my friend and lawyer, Jane Marsh, has spent every Christmas season meticulously painting cookies fashioned from antique cookie cutters. Her preference is to transform the scraps between the cut outs into fantastical masterpieces. I, the novice, spent an hour and a half painting a woman decked in vaguely Victorian finery. Over the years, Jane has perfected the consistency of royal icing and amassed a collection of cookie cutters, gel food coloring and teeny paint brushes for her annual rite. 170 sugar cookies are baked and iced; then friends and family drop by to decorate. Finally, the cookies are gathered into baskets and ready to be gifted. Here is the recipe for icing and some tips.

Royal Icing:

4 egg whites

1 bag confectioner’s sugar

a few drops of lemon extract (or colorless flavor of your choice)



Froth egg whites and mix in confectioners sugar until the icing is somewhat thick. The consistency is correct when it flows off the whisk, but isn’t too runny. Make your favorite sugar cookies, but don’t roll them too thin. A sturdy cookie works best. Cut Cookies into desired shapes and use the in between sections to make up designs. Dunk the top of the cookie into the icing and scrape off excess with a knife or spreader. Let icing dry. Find food coloring in gel form at party or baking shops and use very fine paint brushes. Dab the food color on a plate and add a bit of water to reach the desired watercolor-like consistency.