It wasn’t long ago Vicki Gentz was just like us– mixing, kneading, rolling, cutting, and decorating cookie dough during the holiday season. Actually, she’s still like us– only now, baking has become her business. Six years ago, she started Vicki Cookies, a creative sugar cookie company, as a side business “just for fun.” 3 years ago, she made her creative outlet her full-time career, so we knew she’d be the perfect person to answer all of our cookie questions!

What’s a go-to, fail-proof cookie recipe that’s hard to mess up? 
The best (and easiest!) type of recipe for beginners is one that doesn’t require the dough to be chilled and doesn’t spread much while baking. I give this one to students in my class. It’s a great recipe to start with! 

When do you recommend people start baking?
Early! The holidays are busy. Most sugar cookies freeze really well, so baking can be done before the holiday madness starts. 

How do you make sure your cookies stay fresh?
Stack them in an airtight container before freezing them. Then, take them out of the freezer the night before decorating them, and you can skip right to the fun part!

What is the biggest mistake you see recreational bakers making?
When it comes to decorated sugar cookies, I think there are two common ones: adding a bunch of flour when rolling out cookies and using “glaze icing.”

How do you avoid adding too much flour?
One of my favorite tips to make rolling out cookies easier is to roll your dough between 2 sheets of wax paper or parchment paper. This completely eliminates the need to flour your work surfaces, and the dough won’t stick to the wax/parchment. You just lift the paper off the counter, and peel off the cookie shapes!

Any tips for rolling out cookies evenly?
If you don’t have a fancy rolling pin with guides, you can use paint stirring sticks from a home improvement store. Just put a stick on each side of your dough, and roll the rolling pin over the sticks. All of your cookies will be the same thickness as the sticks. If you want thicker cookies, tape two sticks on top of each other!

Now let’s talk about icing. What’s wrong with glaze?
There’s nothing wrong with it! It’s what most family recipes use. But it is thin and more difficult to work with. 

What do you suggest instead?
Make a royal icing with meringue powder. The meringue powder is what makes it puffy and easy to pipe with. Royal icing also dries completely, so you can stack your cookies or individually bag them.

Where can you buy meringue powder?
It’s in the baking section of most craft stores! Sweet Sugarbelle also has a great recipe for beginners!

Let’s talk homemade versus store-bought– what is it okay to “cheat” on?
If you have to cheat on one thing, I’d say you could use a sugar cookie mix or refrigerated dough. Every “cheat” comes with a trade-off though, and the downside to store bought dough is that the cutout shapes will likely spread quite a bit. 

What shouldn’t you “cheat” on?
While I love store bought canned frosting on a cake, it’s just not possible to decorate pretty cookies with it. However, if you’re busy and just want to spread some canned frosting on a cookie with a knife and toss some sprinkles on… go for it! If the goal is quick, tasty cookies, I’m sure they would be delicious!

Which type of cookie would you recommend to experienced bakers looking to try something new?
One of the most impressive and surprisingly easy decorating techniques is called “wet on wet” designs. Right after you flood your cookie with the base color, you can add dots or lines which sink into the base layer. You can also use a toothpick to swirl the colors together in different patterns. There are lots of tutorials online!

Do you have any creative ideas for packaging cookies to give as gifts?
One of my favorite things to do is to combine cookies with gift cards! My best-seller every holiday season is a cookie decorated like a coffee mug, placed inside a gift box with a gift card for a coffee shop. It’s also fun to put mini-sized cookies in printed paper cups or even snow globes from the dollar store! Add snowflake-shaped sprinkles to make it extra fun!

If you’re rather buy than bake your holiday cookies, anyone in the Madison area can find Vicki Cookies at the Black Friday Makers Market on November 25th and The Crafty Fair on December 3rd.

You can also pre-order Christmas cookies online (for pickup in Fitchburg) the week of December 4th. Click here to follow Vicki on social media update and be the first to know about upcoming sales.

Vicki also leads incredibly popular cookie decorating classes; she sold out all 110 spots in her holiday classes in less than an hour!  But if you want to get an early start on perfecting your skills for next year, she’ll be offering more in January!