Decorated Pumpkin Cookies
The best way to get in the mood for baking season is by decorating sugar cookies! This year I pulled out my pumpkin cookie cutter to create these fall-inspired sugar cookies. The royal icing sets up perfectly, which makes decorating easy. I love making these for Halloween (be sure to try my witch hat cookies next).
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- Festive and fun! These pumpkin-shaped cookies are easy to decorate and perfect for beginners.
- Showcase your creativity. Add your own unique twist on every cookie. Feel free to make jack-o-lanterns or add sprinkles instead!
- No chilling the dough. Just roll, cut and bake!
- Reliable recipe. I’ve used this same cut-out sugar cookie recipe since 2013. The cookies have a soft, yet sturdy texture, with firm edges that barely spread in the oven. I use this recipe for my shamrock cookies and snowflake cookies too. It’s the best!
- Butter: Use unsalted butter that is at room temperature. Every brand of butter has a different amount of salt so it’s best to add the salt separately.
- Confectioners’ sugar: Also known as powdered sugar, this is used to make the cookies sweet and soft. It’s also the base for the icing.
- Meringue powder: To help stabilize the icing, use meringue powder. You can find it at your local baking store or online.
- Food dye: Gel food coloring is best for icing because it’s more concentrated. Liquid dye can be used, but if it thins out the icing you may have to add more confectioners’ sugar.
Add pumpkin pie spice. For a touch of fall flavor, whisk in 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice with the flour mixture.
Make jack-o-lanterns. Use black food gel to dye some of the icing. Trace out triangles for the eyes and nose, and a mouth!
Use sprinkles. Don’t feel like icing the cookies? Add some orange sugar sprinkles before baking for an easy decoration.
Try different shapes! Use witch hat or ghost cookie cutters for more fun Halloween cookies!
How to Make Decorated Pumpkin Cookies
- Whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
- Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla, then mix until combined.
- Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Mix just until combined.
- Roll dough on a floured surface. Use a pumpkin cookie cutter to cut the dough into shapes. ake cookies at 350 F for 8 to 10 minutes. Cool completely.
- Make the icing. Whip meringue powder and water until foamy.
- Add confectioners’ sugar and vanilla, then mix until stiff peaks form. Set aside 1/4 cup icing for green dye. Dye the remaining icing orange.
- Outline the cookies with orange icing, then fill. Dry completely.
- Use green icing to fill the stems and add vines. Dry completely before serving.
Use room temperature ingredients. The butter should be soft, but not greasy when gently touched. If it’s too warm, the cookies will spread.
Roll the cookie dough to the same thickness every time. I aim for 1/4-inch thick before cutting. You want the cookies the same thickness and size so they bake at the same rate.
Get the right icing consistency. For flooding the cookies with orange icing, it should to be a little thinner. For details, like the vines, the icing should be a little thicker. Adjust the consistency by adding water or confectioners’ sugar respectively.
Let the icing dry completely before storing the cookies. Depending on the thickness of the icing, this can take anywhere from a few hours to overnight.
Make Ahead and Storage Tips
Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week. Place parchment paper or wax paper between layers to keep cookies intact.
Freeze baked cookies (with or without icing) for up to 3 months. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in an airtight container. When ready to eat, defrost in the refrigerator before bringing to room temperature.
Make ahead the dough and store in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours. Alternatively, store in the freezer for up to 3 months. Defrost in the refrigerator before bringing to room temperature and rolling out the dough. Royal icing may be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week. Place plastic wrap directly on top to keep the icing from crusting.
The dough was too warm, which can happen if you’re baking in a warm or humid climate. Another culprit could be that the baking sheet was hot from a previous batch.
It’s either too liquid-y or the climate is too humid. Keep in mind it does take 6 to 12 hours for the icing to fully set.
Did you enjoy this recipe? Try these treats next!
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Get the Recipe: Decorated Pumpkin Cookies
Cut Out Sugar Cookies
- 2 ½ cups (312 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting work surface
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, optional
- 1 cup (226 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 ½ cup (180 g) confectioners’ sugar
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 Tablespoons meringue powder
- 5-6 Tablespoons warm water
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 ⅔ cups (320 g) confectioners' sugar, sifted
- Orange food gel
- Green food gel
- Preheat oven to 400° F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
- In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and pumpkin pie spice (if using). Set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine softened butter and confectioners’ sugar using a hand mixer.¹ Beat until light and fluffy, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla, and beat until thoroughly incorporated, about 30 seconds. Scrape down sides as necessary.
- With mixer on low, slowly add flour mixture to the bowl. The dough is ready when most of it sticks to the paddle. When touched, it has a little give, but does not stick to fingers. If it's too sticky, add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.
- Flour the work surface and roll dough to about 1/4-inch thick, using flour for dusting as necessary. Use a pumpkin-shaped cookie cutter to cut cookies and place on prepared baking sheet. Gather scraps and re-roll dough when necessary. If baking in a warmer climate, chill cookies for 20 minutes before baking.
- Bake for 7 to 8 minutes, rotating halfway through. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Prepare icing.
- Place the meringue powder and 5 tablespoons water in a large mixing bowl, and whip with the whisk attachment until foamy, about 3 minutes.
- Add the vanilla and confectioners' sugar, then whip on medium speed until thick, about 3 minutes. The royal icing should hold a medium soft peak. If necessary, thin with additional water, a few drops at a time, to get the desired consistency.
- Transfer ¼ cup of icing to bowl. Add green food gel and stir. Transfer to an icing bag with a small round tip (I used Wilton #2).
- To the bowl of remaining icing, add orange food gel and stir. Transfer to an icing bag fitted with a small round tip.
- Outline the cooled pumpkin cookies with the orange icing first and add two lines to divide the pumpkin into thirds (this will mark the curves of the pumpkin). Let is dry completely. Fill with icing. Let it dry completely. This can take several hours.
- Use the green icing to fill in the stem and add vines if desired. Dry completely.