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a plate of colorful painted Christmas cookies

a plate of
colorful painted
Christmas cookies

Painted Christmas Cookies

A Fun Christmas Activity For Family

This is a fun Christmas activity for the entire family. My three daughters remember with great fondness the times we spent together in the kitchen during Christmastime making cookies. Their favorite were these painted cookies, choosing and creating their own designs. Who knows? This may become an annual Christmas gathering for you and your children! This is a simple, effective way to decorate colorful Christmas cookies so that not only do they look great, but there’s no frosting to melt away if you ship them to someone.

 All Photos by Judy Schweitzer, unless otherwise noted.

Assemble paints and cut out cookies

Assemble paints and cut out cookies

Assemble Needed Items For Painting

Any good butter, sugar or cream cheese cookie recipe will work for Painted Christmas Cookies, as long as it’s a cutout cookie dough. This recipe using cream cheese is one I most frequently use for this purpose because they are yummy enough not to need frosting. You may think the total time on this recipe is lengthy, but remember the dough has to chill for 1 and 1/2 hours, before rolling out. That gives you time to assemble your brushes, bowls, colors and kids.

Rich Rolled Out Cookie Dough
The Best For Painted Cookies


The key here is to make a luscious butter, sour cream or sugar cookie dough that is good enough to enjoy on its own, without any frosting. If you don’t want to make cookie dough, use the ready-made kind, but you will need to roll it out. Before you bake the cookies, make the decision whether you want to paint them BEFORE or AFTER baking because there are TWO different methods you can use.

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 and 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon Almond Extract (optional)
  • 3 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder


Bake Time:  8 to 10 minutes

Prep Time: 10 minutes plus 1 and 1/2 hours chill time

Total Time: Two hours

Serves: Approximately 7 dozen cookies, depending on size of cookie cutters

  1. In large bowl, beat butter and cream cheese until well combined.
  2. Add sugar and beat until fluffy.
  3. Add egg, vanilla and almond extract; beat well.
  4. In a small bowl combine flour and baking powder.
  5. Add dry ingredients to cream cheese mixture; beat until well mixed.
  6. Divide dough in half and wrap each portion and refrigerate about 1 and 1/2 hours.
  7. Dough should be easy to handle after this time.
  8. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  9. Roll out dough, half at a time, 1/8-inch thick on lightly floured surface.
  10. Cut out with Christmas cookie cutters. If you are using the BEFORE baking painting method, this is the time to paint. Encourage your children to be creative and to paint their own designs on the cookies.
  11. Place 2-inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet.
  12. Bake 8 to 10 minutes until edges are slightly brown.
  13. Don’t over-bake as cookies should be light enough that the colors will show.
    NOTE:  If you use the AFTER baking painting method, remove cookies to wire rack and cool thoroughly before painting.
Rich rolled out cookie dough

Rich rolled out
cookie dough

You WILL Need Cookie Cutters

Cookie cutters are necessary for rolled out cookie dough. Besides, all these different shapes and colors make the plate so festive for the holiday. Let your imagination run wild and make them as colorful and decorative as possible when you are painting them. Encourage your family, especially the kids, to be creative and use their imagination.

WILTON Grippy Cookie Cutter Set Of 6 – Christmas

Painting the cookies

Painting the cookies


Don’t Use Old Brushes

Humbrol AG4150 Evoco Paint Brushes Sizes 0,2,4,6

Use Only New Clean Brushes

Purchase new clean artists brushes that have never been used for anything else. It’s a good idea when finished, to put these away in your pantry to be used only on cookies. Do not use brushes that have been used with regular oil paints because this could be toxic, no matter how well they’ve been cleaned. Purchase the best quality brushes you can afford, since you don’t want bristles left on your cookies. When you have finished painting your cookies, be sure to thoroughly wash the brushes and store them with a tag that says “For Food Only.” That way you can be certain they will not accidentally be used for regular paints.

How To Make Colors For BEFORE Baking Method

Buy assorted colors of food coloring in liquid or gel form. Use a very small bowl for each color you plan to make. Break an egg, separate the yolk from the white and place the yolk in one of the small bowls. Continue this until you have an egg yolk for each color in its own bowl. To each egg yolk in their separate bowls, add  and stir in 1/4 teaspoon of evaporated (not condensed) milk, and a few drops of food coloring, until you reach the desired shade of red, green, blue, and yellow. If you are making purple, mix a few drops of red and a few drops of blue in another small bowl until the desired shade of purple is reached. If you are making orange, mix a few drops of red and yellow in another small bowl until the desired shade of orange is reached. Later, make yourself an egg white omelet from the egg whites left over, to celebrate. Since you’ve been so good, you can eat more cookies.

AmeriColor Soft Gel Paste Food Color, Junior Kit-8 assorted colors,0.75 oz bottles

Let the Kids Participate

It’s not the latest toy or gadget the children remember in the coming years, it’s the family fun and activities shared that they remember about the holidays. Once the cookies are cut out, let the children begin painting them with the egg colors. Encourage them to be creative with their designs and they will thoroughly enjoy this ritual. You will too when you see how happy they are.


The author painting Christmas Cookies

The author painting Christmas Cookies


How to Make Colors For The AFTER Baking Method

Be sure to allow time for the cookies to bake and cool thoroughly before beginning this method. For each color you will need separate small bowls. You will NOT use eggs for this method, but 1 Tablespoon of light Karo syrup and a few drops of color in each bowl until you reach the desired shade. Allow the kids to begin painting the cookies, and since there are no raw eggs in this recipe, they are fine to eat as soon as they dry. Cookies painted with this method are brighter in color than the ones painted before baking.

It’s Fun to Make Christmas Cookies As A Group! 

Does your family or friends make Christmas cookies? Why not think about making this recipe for Painted Christmas Cookies this year and donate them to nursing homes, or hospitals, or anywhere there are people who are alone or lonely at Christmas. You’ll be as warm inside as that toasty kitchen you left, when you give these cookies away.

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays!