Top 5 Last Minute Holiday Cookie Speed Decorating Tips

Gingerbread Houses At Monaco Baking

jgarbeeGingerbread Houses At Monaco Baking

Already convinced yourself there's no time left to make beautiful iced cookies before your self-inflicted holiday "deadline" date? Sorry to disappoint, but as we learned from Philip Moreau, owner of the wholesale cookie company Monaco Baking in Santa Fe Springs (known online as Cookie Gallery retail), it's all about how you approach the decorating side of the equation. He's gotten "speed decorating" down to a science (let's hope no reality TV execs are reading this). And damn it, those cookies look better than most that we've spent hours on.

Moreau's factory produces (very quickly) millions of hand-iced cookies and gingerbread houses each year for everyone from Williams-Sonoma to Harry & David, with Neiman Marcus couture mark-ups and Home Shopping Network discount deals in between. Talk about brilliant marketing -- everything is handmade from the same dough. Capitalist cookies at their finest, if you will. Get speed decorating tips from Moreau after the jump.

Gingerbread Houses And Toy Trains In Progress

jgarbeeGingerbread Houses And Toy Trains In Progress

5. Space. Your kitchen counter, a dining room table, any place where you can lay out your trays of cookies or gingerbread house parts like an assembly line. No room? The perfect excuse to call up your friend with the killer kitchen. Or sure, lay down a tarp on your apartment sidewalk.

Icing, Prepped And Ready

jgarbeeIcing, Prepped And Ready

4. Shape. This is no time to be democratic, as all that jumping back and forth between Santa and his 12 reindeer slows things down. Pick two or three shapes you like and use those rather than pulling out every cookie cutter you own (you can change things up as you decorate). When you decorate, stick to one cookie shape at a time, too. So, if you're making candy canes and Santas this year, start by dipping all the candy canes at once before you give Santa his due diligence.

Dip The Fill Color First

jgarbeeDip The Fill Color First

3. Fill Colors. Prep all of your icings (fill colors and piping colors) before you start decorating. Always start with your "fill" color rather than outlining the cookie with the stiffer piped icing first, says Moreau. Pick up a cookie, dip the top side in a bowl filled with your colored royal icing and quickly move on to the next one (easier said than done to keep the icing from running over the edges). The fill icing shouldn't be too stiff, more the consistency of molasses, so it spreads evenly over the cookie.

Snowmen Cookies Getting Half Their Hats

jgarbeeSnowmen Cookies Getting Half Their Hats

2. Piped Details. When the fill color starts to dry, your plan of attack should involve how to maximize your piped icing hours (the piped icing should be much stiffer than the fill icing so it retains its shape). Start with one edge of your snowman's hat, for instance, and move down the line piping just that hat edge rather than trying to pipe the entire hat on each snowman.

Decorating Candy Canes

jgarbeeDecorating Candy Canes

1. Other Decorations. Want sugar sprinkles or other decorations on top? Make sure you add them while the fill icing is wet enough so they stick, but not too wet or they won't sit on top of the icing. If there are parts of the piped icing you don't want to be covered in sugar (like the green bows on the candy canes here), pipe those after you sprinkle the cookies with sugar.

[More from Jenn Garbee @eathistory +]