A Guide to Throwing a Cookie Decorating Party

Thursday, December 12, 2013

As December becomes the month of solid back-to-back holiday parties, I often struggle to find my place amidst a sea of excellent party hosts. I’m not the fanciest, I don’t have the biggest apartment, and I definitely don’t cook meals for large crowds. So what’s an aspiring holiday party host to do?

One available niche I’ve snagged for myself is “Christmas cookie baker,” which makes for a great holiday party that’s both easy and memorable. With some simple preparations, you can host a holiday cookie-decorating party that all your friends will be looking forward to.          

1.  Make cookies

Bake both sugar cookies and gingerbread cookies for some variety before guests arrive. You can go as simple or as complex as you’d like. On the simple end, you can always buy premixed dough, slice into circles and bake as is, to give your guests a simple decorating challenge, or buy a cheap set of cookie cutouts to take it one step further.

Make a maximum of seven cookies per expected guest. For 10 expected guests, that makes for 70 cookies, which should be covered by one batch each of sugar and gingerbread cookies.

2.  Icing and Sprinkles

I always make my own cookie dough from scratch à la Joy of Cooking and then use store-bought icing; I find this gives me a nice combination of super sweet icing with not-too-sweet cookies, but it’s up to you!

To decorate cookies, I buy three tubs of commercial icing, and split them into small cups with food coloring (red, yellow, orange, green, blue, purple,and white). Create makeshift pastry bags out of Ziploc bags by cutting a tiny hole in the corner of a bag. This works very well for small detail work.

I encourage my guests to bring their own sprinkles or special decorations. I now have a solid stash of sprinkles from past guests that we can all use next time around.

3.  Play space

I set up work areas on my coffee table and in the kitchen, because my apartment is on the small side. This has worked well for a group of about 10. Guests can use plastic knives to spread icing onto cookies on paper plates. 

4.  Drinks

For beverages, I encourage my guests to bring an ingredient for their favorite holiday beverage, such as wine, eggnog base, rum or whiskey. I add spices and add-ons to make mulled wine (cinnamon, nutmeg, orange zest, etc.).  

5.  Music

Music is easy to plan with options like iTunes radio and Pandora, which have great Christmas music stations.

6.  Decorations

Don’t forget to throw up a couple of strings of Christmas lights. Now, you’re ready to host an awesomely Christmas-themed party!