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How to Make Decorated Ugly Sweater Cookies

Written by: | Published: December 01, 2019 | Updated: January 16, 2023

Learn how to make decorated ugly sweater cookies for your next festive, holiday party. I love a good excuse to whip out the cookie recipes (or excuse for cookie dough eating)! Just in time for cookie exchanging season, I’m making all the ugly sweater cookies. It’s the perfect holiday activity to bake cookies and craft all in one making event!

DIY Ugly Sweater Cookies for a fun party activity

To celebrate the holidays, I’m making this yummy recipe and joining in with my friend Natasha’s Houseful of Cookies virtual cookie exchange. We’re sharing holiday cookie recipes from bloggers all over the web. This is my 2nd year participating in this event and I love it!

Last year I shared how to decorate sugar cookies. I create a variety of different flavors and design ideas without a ton of decorating supplies and only one batch of sugar cookie mix. You can use those tips with your Ugly Sweater cookies too.

How to Make Decorated Ugly Sweater Cookies

There are kits you can buy to create your own ugly sweater cookies, but in my house we make our own cookies. Cookie making day is a big deal around here and decorating is two thirds of the fun. So, that means we’re making cookies from scratch…mostly. Although, I did buy a kit so I could use the cookie cutter if we needed it.

Make your own fun, decorated, ugly sweater cookies

You can use an Ugly Sweater cookie kit or make your own cookies, the goal is to have fun with friends and family! The best part, in my opinion, is the decorating!

Decorating cookies with family - homemade or store bought - it's just fun for the holidays

In my house, cookie decorating has been a tradition for years. Originally, when my now teenagers were young, we’d invite my grandmother over to help make cookies with us. Then years later, my mom and dad would come and help. The kids each have their favorite recipes and things they like to make and I just love the family time.

Making decorated cookies for the holidays

We use whatever cookies we create to gift plates to neighbors and friends.

What cookies to use to make decorated ugly sweater cookies

You want to use a cut-out cookie recipe for your ugly sweater cookies. A classic sugar cookie or a gingerbread would work nicely. This year I wanted to make a gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan type cookie to see if we could make it work.

There different diet limitations in my house so no eggs, grains, gluten… and sometimes sugar. Which can make cookie baking difficult. But I found a shortbread recipe that looked promising, so I tried it out, added a few modifications and voila! Shortbread Ugly Sweater decorated cookies for the win!

AIP shortbread cutout cookies

AIP Paleo Shortbread Cookies – vegan, no dairy

A note about this AIP shortbread cookie recipe. Typically, potatoes (thus white rice flour and potato starch) might not be allowed as well as vanilla. But depending on where you are with your elimination process, this flour is ok. The original Paleo AIP shortbread recipe from Eat Health Thrive is true AIP flour mix.

Ingredients for shortbread cookies

  • 2/3 cup Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Gluten Free Baking Flour
  • 1/3 cup almond flour
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 1/2 cup melted palm shortening
  • 3 TB maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • up to 1/4 cup water – add in gradually

We love Bob’s Red Mill gluten free products. If you haven’t tried them before, I highly recommend you check them out.

Cutout cookie ingredients

Supplies and equipment

  • Mixing bowl and spoon
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Parchment paper
  • Rolling pin
  • Cookie cutter
  • Cookie sheet
  • Spatula

Originally, I didn’t have a sweater cookie cutter and I didn’t want to run out to the store to buy one. So, with the help of Pinterest, I found a tutorial showing how to make your own cookie cutters.

I happened to have an empty soda can and jewelry pliers along with a crafting tool that adds rivets to projects (hello Crop-a-dile). Our cookie cutter turned out great and works really well! However, I don’t recommend you make your own if you can buy one easily. You will also need to have all the required tools, crafting with aluminum is no easy task.

Ugly Sweater cookie cutter - I made myself


  1. Preheat oven at 350 degrees
  2. Combine dry ingredients
  3. Mix in palm shortening
  4. Add in maple syrup and vanilla extract
  5. Slowly stir in some of the water until you have a soft dough consistency. You can add more water if you need to, but thoroughly mix the dough before adding all the water. If the dough is too dry it will easily fall apart. If the dough is too wet, it might be harder to roll out and cut with the cookie cutters.
  6. Form the dough into a ball and place on a sheet of parchment paper the size of your cookie sheet. Flatten out a bit.
  7. Place a piece of parchment paper on top of the dough and carefully roll out the dough until its about 1/4″ thick. Thicker is a bit better than too thin as this dough can crumble once baked.
  8. Bake for about 10 minutes or until the cookie edges just start to lightly brown.
  9. Remove and let cool to the touch before decorating, about 15 minutes or so.
Cutout shortbread cookie dough
Decorate cookies by adding decorations with a fork before baking
Bake shortbread and let cool before decorating

How to decorate Ugly Sweater Cookies

Anything goes with ugly sweater cookies. You can decorate the cookies with a fork or other utensils before baking. You can also decorate with frosting and candies. If you’re sticking with the AIP limits, there are still some frosting options you can try. We like Mrs Jones Organic Frosting. I haven’t tried food colors yet, but the vanilla frosting is delicious!

Supplies you need to decorate cookies

There is no hard and fast rule of what exactly you need for decorated cookies. For this batch we decorated, we used:

  • A variety of colored frostings in piling bags or decorator tubes
  • Decorating sprinkles and candies
Pile on the candy and sprinkles when making decorated ugly sweater cookies

We also used forks and knives to “carve” designs in cookies before we baked them.

Use the frosting filled piping bags to “draw” designs on your cookies. We also use store bought frosting bags or tubes. The kids love the easy decorating and bright colors.

Decorate cookies with frosting
Decorate cookies with frosting

Add sprinkles and candies or dried fruit and nuts. Have fun creating patterns and designs and don’t worry about making your cookies look perfect. Ugly sweaters are the perfect NOT perfect cookie to decorate!

Add sprinkles to your decorated cookies
Add sprinkles to your decorated cookies
Have fun decorating ugly sweater cookies for the holidays
Have fun decorating ugly sweater cookies for the holidays

Join in the Virtual Cookie Exchange!

I’ve teamed up with other bloggers from around the web to share a whole pile of delicious cookie recipes. You don’t want to miss this list!

What is Houseful Of Cookies?

Houseful of Cookies is an annual, virtual cookie hop, hosted by Natasha Nicholes of Houseful of Nicholes. She really likes playing on the “Houseful” theme when there is more than one of something, and since there’s more than one cookie…here we are. Each year, she gathers a bunch of us from the internet to bake up our epic cookie creations and share them with all of you! It’s a fun time, and we all have dealt with butter, flour, and various flavorings to bring you our goodies each year. This year, we present to you, our cookie hop.

Houseful Of Cookies Participants

Take a few minutes to browse all these yummy recipes and let me know which ones you try!

DIY Ugly Sweater Cookies for a fun party activity
DIY Ugly Sweater Cookies for a fun party activity

Are you hosting an Ugly Sweater party?

I have more fun Ugly Sweater party freebies and ideas for you. Check out these tutorials:

I hope you have a ton of fun baking your own Ugly Sweater cookies. Make up a batch or 3 and decorate them with friends and family. Get creative, play with ideas and share the party!

Make your own fun, decorated, ugly sweater cookies
Make your own fun, decorated, ugly sweater cookies

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Jen is Passionate about Creativity. She is the owner and "doodle in charge" of JGoode Designs, a Denver based design studio. She is an illustrator, mixed media artist and creative lifestyle blogger. Jen has been a creative professional since 1998 but says she's been an artist since she was old enough to eat glue.

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