Snowman Sugar Cookies

snowman sugar cookies on a red plate

Today is kind of a big deal. It’s day 1 in 2017’s Sally’s Cookie Palooza. If you’re new around my blog this year, my annual cookie palooza hits right after Thanksgiving. It’s a huge cookie fiesta as we countdown until Christmas. 10 new cookie recipes in a row, unapologetically full of all the butter, sugar, sprinkles, and chocolate you could imagine.

And this is year 5. 5 years of cookie paloozas. Can you believe it? So let’s do things real big. Dust off those cookie cutters and get your mixers revved up!

decorated snowman and snowflake sugar cookies

We’re kicking off the 5th annual cookie palooza with DECORATED SUGAR COOKIES!

Start with my sugar cookie recipe and cut into holiday shapes. Any shape or size holiday cookie will do– I chose snowmen and snowflakes. But mostly snowmen because they’re so darn cute! Since the cookie shape is completely up to you, I really want you to focus on working with royal icing. I know decorating cookies with royal icing can be intimidating, but here’s what I’ve learned: set your expectations appropriately. Don’t expect to create a fancy intricate design if this is your first time. Start small and go from there. A lot of the decorated sugar cookies I create are extremely simple.

But again, you have to start somewhere. You CAN do this. Watch me make the cookies, shape the cookies, and decorate them:

Sugar Cookie Steps

  1. make cookie dough
  2. divide in two pieces
  3. roll out cookie dough
  4. chill rolled out cookie dough
  5. cut into shapes
  6. bake & cool
  7. decorate

Whenever I decorate sugar cookies, I always begin with a quality homemade sugar cookie recipe. A recipe that I can always depend on, so all I have to “worry” about is decorating. My go-to sugar cookie recipe produces soft sugar cookies with slightly crisp edges. It starts with butter and sugar creamed together. Add 1 egg and vanilla (sometimes almond extract, yum!), then flour + baking powder + salt. That’s it. Only 7 basic ingredients.

decorated snowman sugar cookies

My Sugar Cookie Trick

Notice in the video that I roll out the dough BEFORE chilling it in the refrigerator? That’s my trick! Why? The dough is so much easier to roll out before it’s chilled. But why are we chilling it? So the cookies keep their shape when baked. Wait, why divide in 2? Because it’s difficult to roll out a huge mass of dough. Dividing into smaller sections makes rolling out more manageable.

Roll out the doughs until to about 1/4 inch thickness. I like to do this directly on a silicone baking mat. Why? Because you have to chill the rolled out dough in the fridge. And you can’t really pick up a mass of dough you rolled out on the counter, right? Nor can you cut into shapes when the dough is this warm. So roll out on a nonstick surface that you can literally pick up, put on a baking sheet, and place in the fridge. So… make dough, divide in 2, roll out, chill. Got it?

rolled out sugar cookie dough with snowman cookie cutter

After the dough is chilled (you’ll have two of these rolled out doughs ↑↑), cut into shapes.

Then bake them.

snowman and snowflake sugar cookies on a baking sheet

Let’s Talk Royal Icing

Now let’s make royal icing. There are many ways to prepare royal icing and my favorite method is with meringue powder. Meringue powder takes the place of raw egg whites, which is found in traditional royal icing recipes. Both create a very sturdy and stable icing that hardens quickly on top of cookies. It’s awesome. Meringue powder eliminates the need for raw fresh eggs, but still provides the EXACT same consistency. You can find meringue powder in some baking aisles, most craft stores with a baking section, and online. I just buy it on Amazon in the 8 ounce container. Super inexpensive and it lasts me awhile.

This royal icing is just 3 ingredients: confectioners’ sugar, meringue powder, and water. The trickiest part is landing on the perfect consistency. Sometimes I need more water, sometimes I need less water. But the wonderful thing is that you can manipulate the icing to get the proper consistency by adding more water or more confectioners’ sugar. It’s awesome.

royal icing in mixing bowl

You can also make an easy glaze icing that I paired with my Christmas sugar cookies. This icing doesn’t set/dry as quickly as royal icing and it’s not as easy to decorate with. That being said, sometimes it’s just the more convenient option! So give it a try if you prefer. (It will dry in about 24 hours, where the royal icing recipe below dries in about 1-2 hours.)

gel food coloring bottles, piping tips, and decorated snowman sugar cookies

Let’s Decorate Snowman Cookies

Like I mentioned above, I’m not a super fancy cookie decorator. Whenever I decorate sugar cookies, I grab a couple basic piping tips: a thin Wilton #1 tip and a wider Wilton #4 tip or Wilton #5 tip. I use the wider tip for big designs, outlining, and flooding. The white snowman’s body and red scarf are done with this wider tip, as well as the snowflakes. I use the thinner tip for smaller detail like the snowman hat, eyes, buttons, and nose.

For coloring the icing, I strongly recommend gel colors. I prefer Americolor’s color kit. I’ve had this for a year and haven’t even made a dent in most colors. It’s a GREAT set to have in your kitchen!

decorated snowflake sugar cookies

Snowman Cookie Decorating Tips

  • Start small– don’t attempt super intricate designs if you’re a beginner.
  • Take your time. Don’t expect to rush through it!
  • There will be some uglies. There are always some uglies. 🙁
  • Have fun. Invite friends or family over, grab your kids, whatever. Make an afternoon or evening of it.
  • Don’t stress! It’s just a cookie!

decorated snowman sugar cookies

Have fun decorating; I can’t wait to see your cookie creations!

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snowman sugar cookies on a red plate

Snowman Sugar Cookies

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 2 hours
  • Cook Time: 12 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 hours
  • Yield: 24 (4-inch) cookies
  • Category: Cookies
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American


Christmas sugar cookies are so much fun to decorate! Here’s how to make adorable snowman sugar cookies for your holiday cookie trays.


  • 2 and 1/4 cups (280g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (1 and 1/2 sticks; 180g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • optional: 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon almond extract (yields an outstanding flavor!)

Royal Icing

  • 4 cups (480gconfectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 3 Tablespoonmeringue powder
  • 910 Tablespoons room temperature water
  • black, orange, and red food coloring (I love this food coloring kit)


  1. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on high speed until completely smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg, vanilla, and almond extract (if using) and beat on high speed until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl and beat again as needed to combine.
  3. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix on low until combined. If the dough seems too soft, you can add 1 Tablespoon more flour until it is a better consistency for rolling.
  4. Divide the dough into 2 equal parts. Roll each portion out onto a piece of parchment paper or a lightly floured silicone baking mat (I prefer the nonstick silicone mat) to about 1/4-inch thickness. The rolled-out dough can be any shape, as long as it is evenly 1/4-inch thick.
  5. Stack the pieces, with parchment paper between the two, onto a baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 1-2 hours and up to 2 days. If chilling for more than a couple hours, cover the top dough piece with a single piece of parchment paper.
  6. Once chilled, preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Remove one of the dough pieces from the refrigerator and using a snowman cookie cutter, cut into shapes. Re-roll the remaining dough and continue cutting until all is used. Repeat with 2nd dough piece.
  7. Arrange cookies on baking sheets 3 inches apart. Bake for 11-12 minutes, until lightly browned around the edges. Make sure you rotate the baking sheet halfway through bake time. Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before decorating. I like to decorate cookies directly on baking sheets so I can stick the entire baking sheet in the refrigerator to help set the icing. So place the cooled cookies back on baking sheets.
  8. Make the icing: Watch the video of the icing above so you get an idea of what the final consistency should be. In a large bowl using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat all of the icing ingredients together on high speed for 1.5 – 2 minutes. When lifting the whisk up off the icing, the icing should drizzle down and smooth out within 5-10 seconds. If it’s too thick, add a little more water. (On particularly dry days, I use up to 12-14 Tablespoons water total.) If it’s too thin, add a little more sifted confectioners’ sugar.
  9. You’ll need 3 small bowls: one for red icing, one for black icing, and one for orange icing. Spoon 1/4 cup of icing into each bowl. The rest of the icing will remain white. Stir red food coloring into 1 bowl until you reach your desired shade. Stir black food coloring into another bowl until you reach your desired shade. (I find that black always dries darker so stop adding coloring when you reach a dark gray.) Finally, stir orange food coloring into the last bowl until you reach your desired shade. Spoon icings into piping bags.
  10. Decorate: You can watch the video of me decorating the cookies in the beginning of this blog post. Using round icing tip #5 or round icing tip #4, outline and flood the snowmen with white. (Leave room for the black hat!) Allow to set. I put the baking sheet in the refrigerator to speed it up. Using this same piping tip, pipe the scarf with red icing on top of the white icing. Using round icing tip #1, pipe the hat, eyes, and buttons with black icing. Using this same piping tip, pipe the nose with orange icing. Icing will completely set in about 2 hours at room temperature.
  11. Enjoy cookies right away or wait until the icing sets to serve them. Once the icing has set, these cookies are great for gifting or for sending. Plain or decorated cookies stay soft for about 5 days when covered tightly at room temperature. For longer storage, cover and refrigerate for up to 10 days.


  1. Freezing Instructions: Plain or decorated sugar cookies freeze well up to 3 months. Wait for the icing to set completely before layering between sheets of parchment paper in a freezer-friendly container. To thaw, thaw in the refrigerator or at room temperature. You can also freeze the cookie dough for up to 3 months before rolling it out. Prepare the dough through step 3, divide in half, flatten both halves into a disk as we do with pie crust, wrap each in plastic wrap, then freeze. To thaw, thaw the disks in the refrigerator, then bring to room temperature for about 1 hour. Roll out the dough as directed in step 4, then chill as directed in step 5– no need to chill for 1-2 hours, 45 minutes should be plenty.
  2. Almond Extract: I love flavoring this cookie dough with 1/2 teaspoon almond extract as listed in the ingredients above. For lighter flavor, use 1/4 teaspoon.
  3. Special Tools: KitchenAid Stand Mixer | Rolling Pin | Snowman Cookie Cutter | Silpat Baking Mat | Cookie Sheet | Cooling Rack | Americolor Food Coloring Kit | Piping Bags | Wilton #1 Frosting Tip | Wilton #4 Frosting Tip
  4. Snowflake Sugar Cookies: I used this snowflake cookie cutter, the round icing tip #4, an edible blue “mermaid bead” in the center, and sprinkled white sparkling sugar on top.
  5. Be sure to check out my top 5 cookie baking tips AND these are my 10 must-have cookie baking tools.

See all cookie palooza recipes.


  1. This will be such a fun challenge to attempt!

    1. Absolutely. Have fun baking and decorating!

  2. I will make tomorrow. I just take out my butter. Thank you Sally for sharing again. I’m so excited too this December challenge. 

    1. Let me know how they turn out!

  3. I have such trouble getting my colors EXACTLY the way I want! Any tips to get a true Santa’s red that wont come out pink or a real evergreen color?

    1. Try the Americolor gel colors. Very vibrant colors, especially the red. I love them. For green, I find I need to add quite a lot to get a nice deep green. Sometimes I add a drop of brown food coloring as well to help achieve an evergreen shade.

  4. I am game to try this…first timer, me! And uglies may happen,,,,but, they will taste good anyhow:) We will still eat them up! Thanks for the challenge!

    1. That’s the attitude! Embrace the uglies!

  5. I’ve always been intimidated by royal icing. I’m so glad I ran into your cookie challenge! I just went to Amazon to order my food coloring kit and meringue powder; I’m so excited! Thanks!

    1. You’ll be perfectly prepared. Honestly, this is the best tasting and best textured royal icing I’ve made! I love using meringue powder in my cookie icings.

  6. Patricia @Sweet and Strong says:

    I have always wanted to decorate snowflake cookies like that!  Maybe this will finally be the year that I try it 🙂

    1. you can do it!

  7. Natasha @ The Cake Merchant says:

    I have always been too intimidated to try royal icing cookies, but I really want to tackle it this year. Thanks for the tutorial!

    1. Natasha, I just added a video to this post for how I decorate them. It will help you when you go to make your own!

  8. This statement hit my funny bone “I made a very fancy video with my iPhone to show you”. Thankful for your humor and advice! Love your cookies! Thanks for your advice to not set your expectations too high – I know that’s something I have trouble with! Happy holidays!

    1. Haha! And happy holidays to you too!!

  9. Woohoo loving this challenge! This will be my third year doing decorated sugar cookies so I’m feeling extra inspired now:) I am trying an alternative brand to Wilton for the first time as I really despise the taste of the royal icing with the Wilton meringue powder. Maybe I’m just not a huge fan of meringue though. What are your thoughts on the taste?

    1. I personally love it! It’s sweet, for sure. Try adding a splash of almond or vanilla extract. That might help mask the meringue taste you don’t like. Or maybe try another brand?

  10. I worked with royal icing for the first time earlier this year. While it is a bit of a hassle, the results are awesome. One question – I added some raspberry extract to the icing to enhance the flavor. Have you ever done this and what extracts have you tried? There are so many options in the baking aisle at Michael’s.

    1. I have! But not with anything fancy– just a splash of vanilla and almond extracts. Raspberry would be so good! Or even a lemon extract.

  11. Sally- do you do the snowman outline first and let that dry, and then fill in, or is it all one step. Is the “flood” icing thinner than the outline icing? I’ve made shapes, dippedin a light glaze, then in colored sugar, but have never tried more in-depth decorations.

    1. Hi Barb! I just added a video to this blog post for how I decorated the snowmen. Yep, I outline them first then flood. I use the same #5 tip for both outlining and flooding. I think you can do the snowmen! It’s a very simple design. Even I could do it and I’m not that great at decorating. Takes practice!

  12. So excited for this  Challenge , it favorite holiday and season 

  13. Patricia Pines says:

    What a great post! I love all your tips and tricks! Can’t wait to make these this weekend!

  14. Should the icing just flow onto the cookie or will you sometimes have to use a toothpick or popsicle stick to spread. I find that when I flood the cookie to get smooth finish, I am using more icing then if i use a little less and then use popsicle stick to smooth. Do you have a video showing how to do this?

    1. Hi Kathy! I just added a video to this blog post for how I decorated the snowmen. Sometimes I use a toothpick to spread around the frosting, but I just used the piping tip itself here. And that’s what I *typically* do anyway… probably using extra icing that way, but oh well! I suggest doing whichever method you are most comfortable with.

  15. Desiree Sweeney says:

    Hi Sally! Happy Holidays. I hope you enjoyed Thanksgiving with your family! I am super excited about cookie palooza.

    I’ve already baked and frozen my sugar cookies (vanilla and chocolate – from SCA) and they are delish! I am waiting for my nieces to come over and decorate. Do you think the easy glaze or the royal icing will be easier for the kids (3,6 and 9)? I have the ingredients to make either and was planning to use small squeeze bottles. Thanks!!

    1. Hi Desiree! If you already have the squeeze bottles, I would use the easy icing recipe. Littles enjoy decorating with them and they’re easier to use than piping bag/tip. Keep in mind that the easy icing takes longer to “set” 🙂

  16. Tori// says:

    Sally, omg you’re killing me with the cuteness of these! So festive and fun! Thanks and Happy Holidays!

  17. Maria Gustavsdotter says:

    I will try theese. I usually make Swedish gingerbread but will make theese instead.

  18. Never decorated sugar cookies before but always wanted to try them. So not only I am excepting this December challenge, I already ordered the things I will need on Amazon. Will post pics when done.

    1. CANNOT WAIT to see how they turn out. Have fun and remember… don’t stress! 

  19. I always have a problem “scaling back” to my skill zone! I always want to do the intricate snow globes and am more on the plain ornament level!

    1. Practice practice! Though I don’t think I could ever do those intricate snow globe designs. My hands are too shaky! I love how they look though. Ornaments sound so cute!

  20. Can’t wait to try my hand at these!  Have always wanted to do decorated cookies but not sure about my patience level!  
    What is the shelf life for a container of meringue powder?

    1. Hey Janice! It lasts awhile. Up to 2 years in a dry space (like the cupboards). Don’t expose to too much moisture… no dipping wet spoons into it or anything!

  21. These cookies look amazing! I have always been been intimated by making sugar cookies with these intricate designs 🙂 I am going to give these a shot though. They are so cute and festive! Love it! And thanks for the video! That helps a lot!

    1. You’re welcome! You can do this, just take your time with it!

  22. Great recipe! Thanks for the tips and video! It was super helpful. I can’t wait to try it!


  23. Hi there, thank you for this tutorial!

    I recently did your other Christmas Cookies where you do a powdered sugar, corn syrup and water royal icing. Is there a reason you skip the corn syrup here? Also is it possible to use the bottles you mentioned in your other tutorial instead of a piping bag for this icing?

    1. Hi Angela! Great questions. My easy icing is more of a glaze icing– it’s not particularly a royal icing. So the two are very different and that’s why the ingredients are different. No need for corn syrup here as the icing dries stiff and glossy as is. You can use the squeeze bottles with this royal icing for sure! For more detailed work, I recommend the piping tips/bags.

  24. Those are so cute! Can’t wait to try them! One question, how do you get pure red and black? No matter how hard I try, I always end up with gray and pink. Thanks!

    1. It’s tricky. Are you using these Americolor gel colors? I find liquid food coloring never gets me those true red and blacks. Also, I find black dries much darker. So I always stop when I reach a super dark gray.

      1. Thanks! I’ll try that!

  25. So cute Sally!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  26. No are these sugar cookies those big pillowy soft ones or are these the more crispy ones? I always see the pillowy soft ones and I’m trying to find the old fashioned crispy ones.

    1. Crisp edges and soft centers, as long as they aren’t overbaked 🙂 They aren’t too puffy.

  27. This cookies are so beautiful! I will be honest I am not much of a baker, but watching the video of you putting these cookies together makes me believe I can do this! Can´t wait to see what cookie recipes you you will show us next in your cookie palooza!!!!

    1. You absolutely CAN do this! 

  28. Sally, have you ever used a cookie press??  My grandmother gave me her old one (so vintage!) and I am excited to try it out, but I haven’t found any recipes that I trust as much as yours!  Any suggestions?

    1. I sure have! I love my cookie press and it’s so special that you have one from your grandmother.
      I like to use it for spritz cookies. Do you have a copy of my cookbook? My recipe for them is in Sally’s Cookie Addiction.

      1. As soon as I hit send on that comment, I thought to myself “I bet there’s a recipe in her new book”! It’s on my Christmas list but I guess I’ll just have to get my hands on it early! Love all your recipes- I already have a double batch of your sugar cookie dough, gingerbread cookie dough and peppermint mocha cookie dough in my freezer ready for the holidays!

  29. Kathleen Armstrong says:

    I noticed on Amazon that there is a bright white food coloring sold separately in a larger bottle. Did you use that or just rely on the white produced when making the royal icing? I can’t wait make these for my young grandson who loves Frosty the Snowman. He’ll love these.

    1. Hey Kathleen! I’ve never used bright white food coloring before. This white is the color of the royal icing itself 🙂

  30. Love these cookies! I’m going to try Royal Icing this year thanks to the step by step instructions. Can you also tell us where you got that red plate in the first photo? Love the color and texture of it! Thanks Sally!

    1. It’s by Pioneer Woman! I got it at Walmart.

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I’m Sally, a cookbook author, photographer, and blogger. My goal is to give you the confidence and knowledge to cook and bake from scratch while providing quality recipes and plenty of pictures. Grab a cookie, take a seat, and have fun exploring! more about Sally