How To Make Marbled Iced Cookies

Cookie and Photo by Julia M. Usher

Do you ever look at professionally baked cookies or those of someone who really, really knows what she's doing and think, “I wish I could do that?”  Well, there's good news: you can.  Most of the time, what separates average bakers from exceptional bakers is not incredible skill, fancy equipment, or magic.  It's knowing a few tricks of the trade, making cookies by design – and not letting on how easy it actually was to make those fantastic cookies!  Marbled iced cookies look wonderfully difficult, but with a few tips, you can whip them up with ease.

Start with the Icing

Marbling is simply the swirling or “feathering” of different icing colors on a cookie.  The best type of icing to use is royal icing because you can vary the consistency with water, it flows smoothly over the surface of the cookie, and it dries with a nice, shiny sheen.  You can use food gel or powder to add your favorite colors.

To make royal icing, you'll need:

  • ¼ cup meringue powder
  • 3 to 4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • ¾ cup cool water

To make:

  1. Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. Add the water and stir slowly to dissolve sugar.
  3. Mix on low speed, gradually increasing to high speed.  Beat until fluffy.
  4. While you are working with the frosting, keep it covered with a damp dishcloth and some plastic wrap or it will harden like a rock!
  5. Divide icing into smaller containers and mix your colors.

Creating the Marbling Effect

There are a few different ways you can create the marbling effect.  One method is to fill, or “flood,” the surface of your cookie with your main coat of icing and smooth it out.  Make sure all your icing is the right consistency and is ready to be used. Next, quickly add your other color or colors and drag them through with a toothpick, skewer, or pin.  You can create beautiful swirls and even more intricate designs this way.

Another method involves dipping the cookies.  To do this, fill a bowl with your main icing color.  Drizzle a scoop of your secondary color on top.  Carefully hold the cookie by the edges and dip it into the bowl.  Every few cookies, add another scoop of secondary color to the main bowl.

When you are marbling, especially with royal icing, make sure to work quickly!  You want the colors to blend when the icing is moist and workable.  If you wait, it will not create a swirl effect but instead stay separate. If you want to see it done, there is a series of cookie marbling lessons where you can get some more tips!

A Little Something Special

If you want to make unforgettable cookies for a wedding, baby shower, party, or event, try this marbling technique, courtesy of Annie's Eats:

Make and cool your cookies as usual.  Flood the cookie with the main or background color you want and smooth it out.  While the icing is still wet, use an icing bag to pipe contrasting-colored dots onto the cookie.  Again, working quickly, drag a toothpick through the center of the dot to create a heart.  This looks great with red on white, or white on red, for weddings or Valentine's Day, but feel free to use your favorite colors.

Some tips to make great marbled iced cookies:

  • Experiment with the consistency you want, making sure the icing flows smoothly from a decorating bag.
  • Work quickly.  We may have mentioned this, but it bears repeating!
  • Have materials out and ready before you start.
  • Try traditional sugar cookies, but also branch out into chocolate and flavored varieties.
  • Add a bit of mint extract or other flavoring to the icing.
  • Try some more advanced designs once you get the hang of working with royal icing.
  • Practice, practice, practice.  If your cookies do not look like masterpieces the first time, don't worry. They'll taste great, and you'll improve your technique.
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