These Jack Skellington cookies are family-friendly and absolutely perfect for Halloween! Use soft, delicious sugar cookies as the base, then bring Jack Skellington to life with white and black royal icing.
This is Halloween! This is Halloween!
I'm not a fan of horror movies, but I will always be down to watch a Halloween classic. And one of my all-time favorites is The Nightmare Before Christmas.
And let's settle this debate once and for all: do you think it's a Halloween movie or a Christmas movie? Definitely Team Halloween over here.
No matter what kind of movie you think it is, I think we can all agree that these Jack Skellington cookies are freaking adorable. How cute are those little faces?
Let me show you how to make them!
What You'll Need
You'll only need a few key ingredients and tools to make these Jack Skellington cookies.
This is a short overview of some of the ingredients for these cookies and why they're important. The full recipe can be found at the bottom of the post!
- Unsalted butter - You'll want to use unsalted butter (rather than salted) in this recipe so you can control the amount of salt in the cookies.
- Eggs & egg whites - We'll use whole eggs in the cookie dough and egg whites for the royal icing. Be sure to use pasteurized egg whites for the icing!
- Whole milk - I prefer to use whole milk, but 2% or skim milk would also work well. I haven't tried making this recipe using plant-based milk, so I wouldn't recommend that.
- All-purpose flour - Be sure to use the spoon & level method when measuring out the flour.
- Powdered sugar - Be sure to sift it first to avoid any clumps.
- Water - This will help thin out the royal icing.
- Black food coloring - To help us draw Jack Skellington's features!
Here's a list of the tools I used to make this recipe.
- Mixer - Personally, I like to use a stand mixer with a paddle attachment for this recipe. However, an electric hand mixer will also work.
- Rolling pin - You can use any rolling pin you'd like, but I prefer to use a French rolling pin because it helps ensure that you roll the dough out evenly.
- Circle cookie cutter - To keep things simple, I just used circle cookie cutters when cutting out these cookies. Feel free to use whatever size you prefer.
- Baking sheet - This recipe calls for 2 baking sheets.
- Black food coloring - I used the Wilton black gel food coloring to get that perfect shade of black. I also love to use the Wilton Color Right Food Coloring Chart to figure out how many drops of the food coloring to add.
- Piping bag - I like to keep a stash of these disposable piping bags in my pantry at all times.
How to Make These Cookies
We'll start by making the sugar cookies, and then once they're baked, we'll decorate them with royal icing to bring Jack Skellington to life in cookie form.
1. Make the sugar cookie dough. Start by mixing together all the wet ingredients, then add in the dry ingredients until just combined. It's okay if the dough seems sticky at this point — it will firm up in the fridge. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
2. Roll out the dough. Roll out the dough to ¼-inch thickness, then use cookie cutters to cut out circles. Transfer the cookies to a baking sheet.
3. Bake the cookies. Bake the cookies for 8-12 minutes, or until the edges are a light golden brown.
4. Make the royal icing. Whisk the pasteurized egg whites until light and foamy, then gradually add in the powdered sugar. Add in the water one teaspoon at a time until you can make a figure eight with the icing that disappears in eight seconds. You want the icing to be stiff enough to pipe, but not too runny.
5. Decorate. Color half the royal icing black and divide the royal icing into piping bags. Cover all the cookies in white icing first, then use the black icing to create Jack Skellington's facial features. Don't be afraid to get creative with his expressions!
Tips to Make Perfect Cookies
These cookies are pretty simple to make, and the fun part is definitely the decorating. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when making them:
- Make sure to use softened butter (not melted). When mixing together the butter and sugar, make sure your butter is just a little bit soft. If the butter has melted, the dough will be too soft, and you will have to refrigerate the dough for a longer period of time. If it's coming straight from the fridge, I like to warm my butter up in the microwave in 15-second increments until it is ready.
- Make sure to refrigerate the cookie dough before rolling it out. This lets the dough firm up, which makes it easier to roll out later. You can even refrigerate the dough overnight if you want to make the cookies in stages.
- Flour your surface well so that the dough doesn’t stick. Honestly, is there anything worse than cookies that won’t come off the counter? I will usually re-roll the dough once or twice, and I recommend flouring the surface well in between each roll.
- Use the figure-eight test to see when the royal icing is ready. After making the royal icing, make a figure eight in the icing with a spoon, and if it disappears within 8 seconds, the icing is ready to go. If the icing is too stiff, you can add in some water a teaspoon at a time. If it's too loose, you can sprinkle in small amounts of powdered sugar until you reach the desired consistency.
Common Questions About This Recipe
These are some common questions I hear about this recipe. If you have an additional question that isn't answered below, feel free to leave it in the comments.
Absolutely! I personally love to make these cookies in a few stages so that I'm not too overwhelmed all in one day. Tightly wrapped in plastic wrap, this dough can be refrigerated for up to 2-3 days. Alternatively, you can freeze the dough for up to 2 months — just let it thaw to room temperature before rolling it out.
Yes, you can double (and even triple) this recipe with ease. If doing so, I would recommend separating the cookie dough into a few circular disks before refrigerating it. You will also want to roll the dough out in stages so that it's manageable.
First off, make sure to use softened butter, not melted! If the butter has melted, the dough will be too soft and you will have to refrigerate it for a longer period of time. Then, don't skip the refrigeration time for the dough. This lets the dough firm up, which makes it easier to roll out later. Finally, make sure to flour your surface well so that the dough doesn't stick.
How to Store & Freeze
To store: You can store the cookies in an airtight container for up to one week.
To freeze: Baked cookies can be frozen for up to 2 months. Wrap them in plastic wrap and place in a frozen-safe zip-top bag before freezing. You can also freeze the cookie dough for up to 2 months. Just be sure to let it thaw to room temperature before rolling it out and baking.
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