Tuesday 7 November 2023

Baby Jesus and Angel Cookies

 This is the third year our church's Culinary Arts Ministry is having a cookie giveaway project. And for this year, we decided to tell the Christmas story through cookies! Several of us are involved in baking hundreds of cookies so this takes some co-ordination and planning in advance. With many of us having busy schedules, using royal icing transfers is one way to make a big project more manageable. I am in charge of making the angel cookies and a couple of other members have kindly volunteered to make the baby Jesus cookies. We have sheep, heart, star and candy cane (representing shepherd's staff) as part of the cookie storytelling too! Of the whole collection, baby Jesus and the angels will be made using icing transfers as they can be made way in advance and the use of templates makes it easier for those of us who cannot pipe by freehand. Here are some of the icing transfers and sample cookies I made.

I chose to use my default brown sugar cookie as the cookie base as it is actually adapted from a gingerbread cookie recipe which does well being exposed for long periods, has a long shelf-life, and has a soft chewy texture that is still great after being softened by royal icing. I coloured and flavoured it by substituting 10% of plain flour with black cocoa powder. I wanted the cookie to appear like the angels against the night sky as they brought the good news of Jesus' birth to the shepherds. As the cookies are smaller (about 4-4.5cm), baking time should be around 10-12 min at 170-180C. Cookie and royal icing recipe is in the link for my default brown sugar cookie recipe. 

Here are the templates for baby Jesus and the angels.

Resize the templates to fit on A4 paper before printing. Please acknowledge me if you use the templates and share your work 😊. The icing transfers can be used on cookies that are 4-4.5cm in diameter. Feel free to change the hairstyles if you wish like what I did for some of the angels. I crafted the design with simplicity in mind for those of us who need to produce hundreds of cookies but have limited time. So if you have the bandwidth, feel free to embellish your icing transfers with more details like halo, rosy cheeks etc.

You may refer to my reel or YouTube video for the piping steps (will update the post soon with the video links). 

Here's the angel royal icing transfers I made in advance! I will be baking the cookies and sticking the transfers on nearer the date. This method of making the design really makes the work more manageable when you have to make so many!

Here are some tips and pointers you may find helpful.

How long can I store royal icing transfers?

They can be stored in airtight conditions at room temperature for a few months with no issues if they are thoroughly dried and sealed. This means that you can already prepare the icing transfers right now in early- mid November if you intend to give out the cookies at Christmas time. You may stick the transfers to the cookies a week or even two weeks before the giveaway.

What surface can I pipe the icing transfers on?

You may use parchment paper, teflon sheets, silicone mats or even acetate sheets. Refrain from using warm oven to dry the icing transfers if you are using acetate sheets.

Royal icing transfer tips and Instructions

- Store unused icing in the fridge covered in airtight container and with cling wrap touching surface of icing. You may prepare the royal icing in advance and it can be stored in the fridge for a month.

- Stir icing thoroughly before transferring into piping bag or OPP (oriented polypropylene) cone for use. Do not overfill OPP cone if using.

- Make sure consistency of icing for baby Jesus/angel is at flooding consistency I.e. when you try to draw streaks of icing in the mixing bowl, it should disappear within 10 -15 seconds. If it does not, add a few drops of drinking-safe water at a time and stir thoroughly before testing the consistency again.

- Make sure consistency of icing for the hay is stiff. i.e. when you try to make any peaks of icing in the container, it should stand up straight without curling over.

- Cut a hole about 2mm in size in piping bag for piping baby Jesus' swaddle, angel's body, the face and hair. Cut a 1mm hole in OPP cone for the nose, angel wings and eyes (if piping dots for eyes instead of stamping with toothpick). 

- Use a skewer to nudge the icing where necessary. 

- Use a damp paper towel to quickly erase any mistakes before the icing sets. 

- Make sure icing for face is hardened on the surface before you pipe/ stamp out the nose and eyes. Use the blunt end of a toothpick to stamp out the eyes for a quick way to ensure that the eyes are consistently round and the same size. Use fan or oven with fan mode at 60-70C to speed up drying process.

- Make sure icing transfer is thoroughly dried before attempting to remove it from the parchment paper. Icing may appear dry on the surface but inside could still be soft and wet so it may be safer to err on the side of drying for a longer time. Overnight drying in the open is definitely safe.

- Store icing transfer in airtight condition before use.

- After baked cookie has cooled down completely, you may pipe the hay using the stiff icing in piping bag fitted with a #233 tip with adapter for attaching baby Jesus icing transfer. Pipe a swirl starting from the circumference and ending in the middle of the cookie. Gently but firmly press the icing transfer onto the hay.  Pipe a small dollop of icing to stick the angel onto the cookie. (See video tutorial)

- Please switch piping tips once the holes of #233 tip starts becoming clogged. Quickly wash and dry thoroughly before using again. Using a tip adapter helps you to make the switch more seamlessly because stiff royal icing hardens much faster than flooding consistency icing.  

- Dry in the open overnight before storing/packing. Alternatively, you may dry in oven at 60-70C for 15 minutes + 30 minutes in the open or until icing is dry. Cool completely before packing.  It is not recommended to dry the icing with the cookie for too long in the oven as it may cause oil from cookie to seep into the icing.


1. Help! My piped icing is bumpy and not smooth!

Icing consistency may be too thick so you may need to thin it out a little. Be careful not to over-thin it or you may experience issue number 2 below. Try to work in a more humid area that has no draft to prevent the icing from setting too fast on the surface. Resist the urge to prod the piped icing too much with a skewer once you have piped it as the longer it stays piped, chances are a thin crust has already formed and disturbing the icing will cause the surface to appear bumpy.

2. My piped icing surface is smooth but after sitting out for a while, the middle starts to sink in and form a crater/crack.

There are 3 possibilities:

a) Your icing consistency is too runny

b) You didn’t stir the stored icing sufficiently before transferring into piping bag 

c) You left the piped icing sitting out for too long and the meringue structure of the royal icing breaks down before a crust starts forming on the surface 

For issue with c), try splitting the templates into smaller quantities to work with e.g. pipe only 4 or 8 at a time before sending into 60-70C oven to quickly dry the surface. This is what I practice at home to prevent the cratering effect. I set up 2 or more trays and keep rotating them between oven and work surface, piping only a few to several transfers at a time. Oven drying for about 2-4 minutes helps the crust to quickly form, preventing the cratering effect.

3. Help! I broke the icing transfer! Is there anyway to rescue it?

That depends on how bad the damage is. I would usually discard because trying to fix it and still make it look nice is difficult. Prepare to make extras because icing transfers are generally fragile and time consuming to make. Accidents usually happen while removing transfers from parchment paper and while transferring it from place to place. The risk of breakage only stops happening once it is stuck on the cookie where it belongs! If a clean crack happens across the swaddle, you may use white icing to pipe across it so it appears like part of the design on the swaddle. If the crack happens across the face, sorry you may have to discard the transfer.

4. Help! I accidentally thin out my royal icing with too much water!

Add icing sugar a little at a time until royal icing reaches the correct consistency.

I am not a cookie decorating expert but I have made iced cookies since about 9 years ago. Hopefully what I shared is helpful for you if you intend to make large batches of Christmas cookies!

with lots of love,

Phay Shing


  1. A shining example! Your post is both insightful and eloquently presented. Appreciate you sharing your valuable perspective.

  2. Thank you so much for such a detailed tutorial! I will be trying this!