How to Make a Christmas Cookie Tree
A 3D Christmas cookie tree makes a fantastic centrepiece for your table during the holidays. It's something that you can get the kids to help with, so it makes a great project for those days leading up to Christmas when you want to keep them busy.
You can use any flavour of cookie you like, and you can decorate the cookies using all sorts of different coloured fondants and edible embellishments.
Here I've used a cinnamon flavoured cookie, which is a great flavour for the holidays. I've decorated with green rolled fondant (also known as sugarpaste) and dusted with icing sugar to give the 'tree' a wintry feel. I've cheated slightly by buying a good quality shop-bought fondant in a suitable shade of green, but you can choose to make your own—there's a recipe below
This is a project that you can really go to town with, so don't hold back on decorating your Christmas cookie tree.
What Else Will You Need?
You'll want some edible embellishments to decorate the cookies. You can choose anything you like—edible piping gel, edible pearls, fondant shapes, etc.
You also need 10 cookie cutters in a star shape. The largest should be 9 inches in diameter, and each of the others should be smaller—8 inch, 7 inch, 6 inch, 5 inch, 4 inch, 3 inch, 2 inch, 1 1/2 inches, 1 inch (approximately). Other sizes of cutter are okay, but the size of the finished cookie tree will be different.
Tip: If you can't get cookie cutters of the right size, then make a template for each size of cookie using baking parchment. Place the template on the rolled out dough and use a sharp knife to cut around the shape.
Cinnamon Cookie Recipe
- 20 oz plain flour, sifted
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 200g caster (superfine) sugar
- 150 g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- 2 small eggs
- 2 tbsp golden syrup (light corn syrup)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 4 tsp ground cinnamon
- zest of 1 orange
- 2 tbsp orange juice, freshly squeezed
- 750 g green ready to roll fondant (sugarpaste)
Instructions for Making the Cookies
- Place the flour, baking powder, sugar and cinnamon into a large bowl.
- Using clean hands, rub the butter into the dry ingredients until you have a fine breadcrumb consistency. Make a small well in the centre of the dry ingredients.
- In a measuring jug, lightly beat the eggs and add the syrup, orange juice and orange zest.
- Pour the egg mixture into the well you made in the middle of the dry ingredients. Using clean hands—or a wooden spoon if you prefer—start to mix all the ingredients together until a dough forms.
- Once you have formed a dough from the ingredients, tip out of the bowl and knead for 2-3 minutes. The dough should be smooth and reasonably pliable. Cover the dough plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer. I like to give it an hour.
- When the dough has chilled for a minimum of 30 minutes, you can pre-heat the oven to 170 C (325 F). Line 2-3 baking sheets with baking parchment.
- Roll the dough out to a thickness of approximately 1/4 inch. Cut out 2 of each size of the star-shaped cookies and place on the baking sheet.
- Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes until golden brown and cooked through. Remove from the oven and leave on the baking tray for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
Decorating the Star Cookies
The simplest way to decorate the cookies is to use a ready-to-roll fondant (sugarpaste).
- Using a little powdered sugar on the surface and rolling pin to prevent sticking, roll out the fondant thinly.
- Use the same cookie cutters or template as you used for cutting out the cookies and cut out two fondant stars in each size. Once you have cut out some of the stars, you will probably have to bring scraps of fondant together and form them into a ball to roll out again.
- Using a little decorative piping gel as an adhesive, stick star-shaped pieces of green rolled fondant onto the cookies—make sure to use the same size cookie and fondant piece.
- Smooth out the fondant—a small rolling pin is good for this, or alternatively, a plastic spatula. Take care, if using a spatula, not to tear the fondant. You could also use your finger, but again, take care to smooth the fondant and not tear it.
- Reserve one of the smallest cookies for the top of the tree. When all of the cookies (except the one in reserve) are covered in fondant, stack them so that they take on the shape of a Christmas tree. Each cookie should be placed at a different angle to the one below it to give the effect of branches. Once they are all stacked, use red decorative piping gel at the tips of the stars to give a colour accent.
- Now, take the final star and decorate in a contrasting colour of fondant. This one will be the star on the top of the tree. I have chosen to do mine in white and spray with a little edible silver to give it a shimmer effect. At the tip of each point of the star, I have placed an edible pearl.
You, or your kids, can choose to decorate the cookies in any colour and add different embellishments. Once the tree is assembled, sprinkle with a light dusting of powdered sugar to give the effect of snow. You can use it immediately, or leave it overnight so the sugarpaste sets up properly.
The cookies would keep for 3-4 days in a sealed tub if you wanted to make them in advance and stack later.
What do you think of this recipe?
A Few Tips
- Don't try to decorate the cookies until they are completely cooled.
- If you don't have decorative piping gel to use as an adhesive to stick the rolled fondant to the cookies, you can use a little water instead. Brush the cookie lightly with cold water and stick the fondant onto it.
- If you can't find green ready to roll fondant, then buy white and colour it. Gels are best for colouring fondant as they don't alter the consistency as much as liquid food colourings do. Add the gel a couple of drops at a time and knead into the fondant. If the colour isn't quite right, add a little more gel.
- Edible food sprays in a shimmering silver or gold will add a nice touch to your cookies, but be sure not to soak the fondant. Follow the instructions on the can and add a delicate shimmer. If you want more, you can always add it, but if you overdo the shimmer spray, you may not be able to wipe it off.
- Keep the surface you are working on and your rolling pin dusted lightly with confectioners' sugar to prevent sticking. You can also dust your hands with some confectioners' sugar so that the fondant doesn't stick to you either.
- You don't have to make your Christmas cookie tree green. Why not try white fondant with gold embellishments instead?
- For the topper, instead of using a small star, you could make a cookie shaped like an angel for the top of the stack.
How to Make Your Own Rolled Fondant (Sugarpaste)
To make enough rolled fondant for one Christmas cookie tree, you will need:
- 4 tbsp cold water
- 4 tsp powdered gelatine
- 4 fl oz liquid glucose
- 1 tbsp glycerine
- 2 1/4 lbs confectioners' sugar (also known as powdered sugar or icing sugar)
- A few drops green food colouring gel
1. Place the water in a bowl and add the gelatine. Soak for 5 minutes. Place the bowl over a pan of hot water (double boiler) and stir until the gelatine dissolves. Add the glucose and glycerine and continue to stir until everything is well blended and you have a thick, runny liquid.
2. Sift the confectioners' sugar into a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour in the liquid ingredients and mix thoroughly until an icing sugar dough begins to form.
3. Tip the rolled fondant dough out onto a surface dusted with a little confectioners' sugar. Add a few drops of food colouring gel and knead until smooth and the colour is evenly distributed. If the fondant becomes too sticky after adding the gel, simply sprinkle with some extra confectioners' sugar and continue to knead until you have the desired texture.
4. Use immediately.