How to Make Elf on the Shelf Cookies

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Learn how to bring this rosy-cheeked Christmas icon to your cookie tray.

Elf on the Shelf is a Christmas tradition that’s here to stay. This sweet (yet mischievous!) little helper finds his way into homes as the holiday draws near to help Santa sort out who’s naughty and nice. See the 12 ways Elf on the Shelf has been caught in the kitchen. Pay homage to this rosy-cheeked icon with this stunning royal icing cookie that will put your decorating skills to the test. Follow along to learn how these adorable cutouts came to life. What Is Elf on the Shelf, Anyway?

How to Make Santa’s Elf Cookies

Before You Decorate:

For this cookie, you’ll need to bake an elf-shaped cutout cookie and let cool. Grab this cute cookie cutter ($9) for the task. Here are a few tips for never-fail cutout cookies.


  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water plus 2 teaspoons water
  • 4-1/2 teaspoons meringue powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Food coloring
  • Black nonpareils
  • Edible food writing pen. We love this set from Wilton ($9).
  • Pink luster dust
  • 1 can chocolate frosting

Recommended Gear

  • Piping bags
  • Round tip #2 and #5
  • Leaf tip #67
  • Star tip #18

Get every tip you need in this 55-piece decorating set ($63).


Step 1: Create and color the royal icing

In a large bowl, whisk confectioners’ sugar, water, meringue powder and water for icing. Whip the ingredients until they’re light and airy. Add water until you reach a thick consistency for piping outlines, then divide the icing into thirds. Leave one portion white, tint another portion with red food coloring (this will be for the elf’s signature garb) and tint remaining portion with your desired skin tone coloring.

Step 2: Outline and flood

Divide each colored icing in half. You’ll need to use two different consistencies for your royal icing—one stiffer icing for piping and one more fluid one for flooding—the pool of icing that creates a flat, smooth texture.

Place the stiff white royal icing into a piping bag fitted with a #2 round tip and pipe on the elf’s signature collar and the brim of his hat. Then fill in (or flood) the design with your reserved white icing. To get it to a flood consistency, simply add water a tablespoon at a time. Repeat this design on the remaining cookies.

Pro tip: While outlining before you flood may seem fussy, it’s essential for a crisp design as it prevents the thinner icing from dripping out of place.

Once the white icing is completely dry, start the process again using the red royal icing to fill in the top of his hat and the lower part of his outfit by outlining and flooding the shapes.

Step 3: Fix up the face

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Create the foundation for this magical being’s cute little face by outlining and flooding the center using the skin tone icing. While the icing is still wet, carefully place two black nonpareils to create eyes. Let the icing dry completely.

Pro tip: If the icing dries before you add the eyes, don’t sweat it. Simply draw on eyes using an edible marker or two dabs of chocolate frosting.

If you’d like, dip a Q-tip into pink luster dust, tapping off the excess and dab onto cookies to create the elf’s cheerful pink cheeks.

Step 4: Add a smile (and a ‘do)

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Now it’s time for the finishing touches that will make Santa’s helper come to life. Using leaf tip #67, pipe the stiff skin tone frosting to create a set of pointed ears. Then using a small round tip, pipe the same icing to create his nose. Using an edible pen, draw on his smile.

To finish it off, place chocolate frosting into a piping bag fitted with #14 star tip and pipe along the top of the face to create his lush locks.

Editor’s tip: Make it your own by creating different hairdos and facial expressions on each cookie.

Find 101 more sweet ways to welcome back elf on the shelf.

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Nicole Doster
Nicole is the Content Director of TMB's Strategy and Performance team. She oversees the brand's shopping and trend editorial teams and assists with content planning across Taste of Home, Family Handyman, Reader's Digest, The Healthy and Birds & Blooms. With over seven years of experience writing and editing in the food and home space, she enjoys sharing cooking tips, recipe picks and product recommendations that make life a little easier. When she's not hunched over her laptop, she's either practicing latte art or fixating on her latest DIY home renovation.