Snacks & Treats

Painted Sugar Cookies

Dec 17, 2014

Decorating sugar cookies is one of the most traditional holiday pastimes, especially when you have kids to occupy over school holidays. But setting out bags of frosting, candies and sprinkles can get messy, and kids wind up sticky and full of more sweets than the cookies have on top of them.

A bowl of frosting and a knife—or even a piping bag—can also be frustrating for kids to control, and it’s not as much fun when they struggle to spread and squeeze. Paintbrushes, however, give kids complete control, and this egg-yolk based edible paint bakes up glossy and smooth, not sticky. It’s flavourless, enhancing cookies without added sugar. And it’s inexpensive; a single egg yolk transforms into two or three colours with a few drops of food colouring.

Start with a plain sugar cookie dough—the paint won’t show as well on dark gingerbread—and paint the unbaked cookies right on the sheet so they won’t get messed up as you transfer them. Pick up some inexpensive paintbrushes at the dollar store rather than use brushes that have been previously used in paint.

This dough/paint combo would also make unique and tasty gift tags: Cut out letters to decorate, then attach to a parcel with ribbon or string. If you’re making edible cookie ornaments to hang (bonus: the icing and candies won’t fall off), cut out a hole in the unbaked dough with the end of a straw to loop it through.


  • ¾ cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. salt


  • egg yolks
  • food colouring

To make the cookies, beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl for 2–3 minutes, until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla.

Add the flour, baking powder and salt and stir or beat on low speed until the dough comes together. Let the dough rest—or shape it into a disc, wrap and chill it for up to three days—while you preheat the oven to 350˚F.

To make the paint, divide the yolks between small ramekins or dishes—you’ll need about half a yolk per colour—and add a few drops of food colouring to get the shade you want.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out ¼-inch thick and cut into whatever shapes you like. Place on a parchment-lined sheet and paint the unbaked cookies before sliding them into the oven.

Bake for 12–15 minutes, or until pale golden. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Article Author Julie Van Rosendaal
Julie Van Rosendaal

Read more from Julie here.

Julie Van Rosendaal is the author of six best-selling cookbooks (with a seventh due out this fall), the food editor of Parents Canada magazine and the food and nutrition columnist on the Calgary Eyeopener on CBC Radio One. She is a recipe developer, TV personality, food stylist and writes about food for local, national and international publications. She is perhaps best known as the voice behind her popular food blog, Dinner with Julie, where she documents real life at home in Calgary with her husband and nine-year-old son. Connect on twitter @dinnerwithjulie.


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