Gingerbread has been a standard treat for centuries. Europeans began baking cakes and cookies flavored with ginger and spices in the fifteenth century, and their descendants brought the tradition to the U.S. Gingerbread cookies are especially widespread during the Christmas season, and decorating them is a enjoyable tradition.
Outlining is the simplest way to decorate your gingerbread cookies. Use royal icing, either white or tinted, and a round decorating tip. The size of your tip determines the thickness of the lines. You can also make dots for eyes or buttons on gingerbread people or create lines of dots to fill in a dress or shirt. Pipe zig-zag lines across tree-shaped cookies to create a branch effect. Make a series of X-shaped lines across any shape to add an interesting design.
A star decorating tip adds more dimension to your cookie decorations than basic outlining. Cover one area of your cookie with star shapes to create a skirt or shirt design on a gingerbread girl or boy. Put one star at the top of a gingerbread tree. Fill in an entire cookie using star shapes, alternating icing colors to define areas. For example, decorate a gingerbread boy with pink or flesh-colored icing to create a face and hands, pale blue to make a shirt, and brown for the pants. Fill in tree-shaped cookies with green icing stars, then add a gold or white star at the top.
Decorating with candies adds visual interest as well as extra flavor to your gingerbread cookies. Use chocolate-covered raisins for eyes on gingerbread people and complete the faces with short pieces of red licorice whips for smiling mouths. Cover the skirt area of a gingerbread girl with royal icing and add gummy candies shaped like cherries, raspberries or strawberries. Pipe white icing stars on the top of the dress. Make a striped shirt on a gingerbread boy by piping lines of white royal icing over the entire area, then adding miniature jelly beans on alternate lines. Use small round cinnamon candies as tree decorations.
Colored sugar is an easy way add sparkle to your gingerbread cookies. Sprinkle it on unbaked cookies, covering the entire cookie or just one area. Use several colors of sugar on one cookie. For example, sprinkle red sugar on the shirt or blouse area of gingerbread people and green sugar on the skirt or pants area. After baking, add icing accents. For example, pipe a white or gold star on top of a green sugar-covered tree cookie, or outline the sugary clothing on gingerbread people.
Margaret Morris has a Bachelor of Arts in English with a concentration in creative writing from the University of Pittsburgh. She also holds a celebrant certificate from the Celebrant Foundation and Institute. Morris writes for various websites and private clients.