Introduction: Christmas Cookie Forest

About: I'm a visual artist and fashion designer. I make pretty things. I post pictures of what I make on my website:

Frosted cookies are a holiday classic.  With a Star Tree Cookie Cutter Set and a few extra sweet treats you can make a lovely holiday scene for the enjoyment of your sweet tooth.  

Lots of photos of the finished project can be seen in Step 11 of this Instructable. 

Step 1: Bake the Cookies

Any cookie recipe that is designed to be rolled-out and cut with cookie cutters works for this project (sugar, butter, gingerbread, etc). I used the classic Betty Crocker sugar cookie recipe from my 1950's Betty Crocker cook book because frosted sugar cookies are my favorite holiday treat.

In addition to the ingredients needed to make the roll-out cookie of your choice, you will need:
• Paste Style Food Color (Green and Brown for the cookies - other colors may be desired when decorating)
• Star Tree Cookie Cutter Set
• Parchment Paper
• Rolling Pin
• Oven, timer, oven mits/pot holders, mixer, measuring spoons, etc.

To make a tree like mine, you will need to acquire a star tree cookie cutter set.  These sets come with a varying number of layer sizes.  The set I used has 10 sizes of stars shaped cookie cutters.  I made my tree a bit taller during assembly by using the same size cookie more than once in the final stack.  

• Mix plenty of dough from the start to make enough cookies to see your design come together.  I wanted to have at least 1 full tree plus 2 smaller trees so I mixed 5 times the recipe together at once.  I didn't see any harm in having a few extra frosted sugar cookies around the house after the decorating process was complete so I went big with my estimate.

• Once you have mixed and chilled your cookie dough prepare a surface for rolling the dough out. 

• Add a bit of green paste style food color and kneed the dough to create a marble effect.  Add a touch of brown and kneed the dough a bit more to distribute the brown color.  

• Roll-out your cookie dough and cut your star shapes paying attention to ensure you cut enough of each size to accomplish the tree sizes desired.  I rolled the dough out on parchment paper and removed the scrap around the cuts as my dough was very soft after I added the food color. 

• For the largest 3 sizes of stars, I cut a small star from the center to speed up the baking time and so I don't have 3 enormous cookies.

• Bake your cookies according to your recipe instructions. 

Step 2: Decoration Preparation

I gathered up all my potential decorating tools and ornaments and decided as I worked which things I wanted to use.  

Here are the items I used to decorate my tree scene:
• Frosting - I used ready-mixed frosting.  If you want to pipe details and have them show clearly mix up your own buttercream frosting.
• Food Colors (paste colors work better for this)
• Frosting bags and Cake Decorating Tips
• Sprinkles for Decorating (tree ornaments)
• Pretzels to act as wood for the fire, axe handle, and the snowman's arms
• Edible Rice Paper/Wafer Paper
• Vodka (for mixing out the food color to use on the wafer paper)
• Marshmallows (large and small) to create the snowy ground
• A good sturdy tray to hold everything
• Aluminum foil
• Cookies to be decorated
• Frosting knife or a butter knife
• Food-Safe Scissors (you haven't cut anything with them that could be harmful if consumed or leave foul tasting residue on the food.)

In preparation for decorating, make sure your tray and scissors are nice and clean.  Cover the tray in tin foil if it is not themed to match your scene.

Suggestion! I used a TV Tray (with it's own stand) for my tray.  I brought the stand with to my family gathering so the large tray of goodies could be set up off the tables and counters as they were filled up with other food.  

Step 3: Setting the Basic Scene

Begin by stacking your unfrosted cookie trees to determine how you want your scene to look.  Once you are settled on the sizes and orientations of your trees, disassemble them in a why in which you will know how to reassemble them with frosting.  I chose to lay them in rows in the order I would stack them as I frosted. 

• Frost each layer of cookie as you stack them.  
• When stacking, rotate each star so the points of the cookie in each layer are not directly above one another to give the impression of tree branches. 
• Add large sprinkles as ornaments while the frosting is still soft. 

I frosted with green icing to begin with - later on I'll add some white frosting to touch them with a bit of 'snow'.

Step 4: Add a Snowy Foundation

My tree scene needed a snowy landscape.  For this I used marshmallows - both large and small.  

Using food-safe scissors, cut the marshmallows in half and place with the cut side (sticky side) down.  I used the larger marshmallows for the majority of the scene - cutting them lengthwise.  Eventually the marshmallows will cover the whole tray but for right now we'll just fill in around the trees.  

I wanted to include a snowman, a stack of logs, and a fire to my scene.  To give the illusion of little people living in my scene building snow men and fires I cut down smaller marshmallows to create a path where tiny feet may have smashed the fresh snow. I created a basic pathway at this point and I'll finish with the details after I build the snowman and fire. 

Fill in behind the trees and in the close spaces between the trees with uncut mini-marshmallows. 

Step 5: Make a Snowman for Your Scene

The construction of the snowman was pretty simple.

• Place a couple large marshmallow on a toothpick and a small one at the top.  
• Break a pretzel stick in half and push the broken ends into the center marshmallow to make arms.

 I covered all of it in a layer of white frosting which was not an easy task but in the end it worked out!

• Place the snowman in your scene. 
• Fill in around the snowman with some 'snow' (marshmallows) to hold him in place. 

Step 6: Making Fire With Wafer Paper

Edible Rice Paper or Wafer paper is another way to create details.  In this case, it was used to make a 2D fire with just a bit of food color, a toothpick, and some (food-safe) scissors.

• Place a small amount of vodka in a small container and add a bit of food color.  The vodka thins the food color to turn it into a liquid you can paint on the wafer paper.  Water can be used but water does dissolve the wafer paper so use sparingly. 
• To make fire, thin a bit of red and a bit of orange color and smudge it on the wafer paper.
• Cut out firey shapes with your food-safe scissors. 
• You can also use wafer paper to make an axe blade (I used a bit of red and black food color).
• A pretzel stick was wrapped in wafer paper that was painted red to create an axe handle.  

Step 7: Setting Your Scene on Fire

For the illusion of logs, I used pretzel sticks.  

At this point, I have frosting in a decorating bag with piping tip.  It makes placing frosting exactly where you want it much easier.  It would also work to drop a bit of frosting on the foil without the piping bag.

• Place a dab of frosting on the near the pathway where you wan the fire to be.  
• Add the wafer paper fire to the frosting in an upright position.
• Add pretzel sticks around the fire to represent logs.

• Add a stack of fire-wood near by using frosting to hold everything together.  

Step 8: Make a Tree Topper

Two small cookies stuck (with frosting) back to back makes an adorable tree topper.  I made a star topper but other shapes would work, too!

• Frost the front of each cookie that will be placed back-to-back 
• Optional: Decorate your tree topper.  I used sprinkle hearts as decorations
• Let that frosting layer set up a dry a bit (I let mine sit for 2 hours or so)
• Add a bit of frosting to the back of one cookie
• Place at least 1 toothpick in the frosting (2 toothpicks is much more stable)
• Add a bit of frosting over the toothpick(s)
• Place the other cookie on the frosting with the decorated side out to sandwich the toothpicks between the cookies.

Step 9: Add a Bit of Snow to the Trees

Adding a bit of snow to your trees to give the impression that it snowed recently.  I added snow to the 'back side' of my scene.  My idea was that these trees offer a bit of a wind-break from the snow and winter wind allowing for a more comfortable winter experience on the other side (the side with the snowman and fire).  The side of the trees that the wind hits would be dusted with snow. 

With a piping bag full of white frosting, add ribbons of frosting to dust the tree branches with snow.

Step 10: Top the Tree

Using a free toothpick, push holes into the top of the cookie tree to hold the star topper.

Carefully set the tree topper in place.  Finish the edges of the stars with a bit of white frosting to cover the rough edges of the cookies and give it a nice clean finish. 

Step 11: Finishing Touches

Fill in the rest of the tray with marshmallows to create a full snowy tree scene. 

Enjoy your delicious sweet treat.  Who knew that pretzels and marshmallows were so tasty together?

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