Star-shaped gingerbread cookies stacked tall on a platter creates an edible Christmas tree centerpiece for your holiday table. Royal icing acts as the glue that holds the cookies together, while metallic dragees give the tree sparkle.
This is a fun Christmas baking project, especially if you have help from an extra elf or two in the kitchen. The cookie recipe makes a large quantity of dough, so there’s plenty of rolling, cutting and decorating to be done. Having more than one pair of hands will make the work go faster, and it’s a great way to make memories with little ones. At the end you’ll have a towering Christmas tree – that you can eat!
Lots of Cookies!
You’ll need a set of 10 graduated star cookie cutters ranging from 8 inches (largest) to 2 inches (smallest) to stamp shapes from the dough. I used this handy set from Wilton. The kit also comes with a couple of disposable piping bags, which is useful and nice if that’s not something you keep on hand.
The cookies have a deep, dark, classic gingerbread flavor, and as they bake your kitchen will be filled with the scent of warm ginger and molasses. It’s so lovely. In the above picture you’ll see that I’ve placed medium to small cut-outs (2-4 inch) on one pan for baking. Larger sized cookies (6-8 inch) should all be baked together so they will be done at the same time.
For decoration, I used the same cookie cutters to stamp shapes from white rolled fondant. If you prefer royal icing over fondant, you can use the flood recipe from these Flowers of Scotland Sugar Cookies. If you use the flood royal icing, the cookies will need to dry for at least four hours before stacking.
Pastel dragees were pressed into the points of each star for a little holiday bling. If you don’t have dragees, any little sugar pearls will work. You can find mulitcolor dragees similar to the ones I usedfor purchase here.
The decorated cookies were so simple and pretty on their own, for a brief moment I considered not stacking them!
Even if you don’t want to make a tree centerpiece, this cookie recipe is excellent for any type of cut-outs. The dough is quite sturdy and will make about four dozen 3-inch cookies.
A batch of stiff royal icing will be the cement that holds these cookies together. Once dry, the tree can be safely transported from your kitchen to your table, or anywhere you’d like to place it for best viewing.
I decided the last little star needed to be standing upright. Just pipe two royal icing dots on top and stick the star upright. You’ll need to hold it in place long enough for the icing to crust, which is about 3 minutes.
If you’d like to give your tree a little more height and presence, you might consider building it on a cake stand as shown here. The tree itself will be about 12 inches tall when complete. This was such a neat baking project that garnered lots of attention and compliments. It was just as much fun to disassemble (and eat!) as it was to build!
Gingerbread Star Cookie Tree
- Set of 10 graduated star cookie cutters
Large batch gingerbread cookies
- 5-5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons ginger
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 cup unsalted butter melted
- 1 cup 226g granulated sugar
- 1 1/4 cups molasses
- 2 eggs slightly beaten
- 1 lb. white fondant
- Piping gel or corn syrup
- Multicolor pastel dragees
- 3 tablespoons 4 oz. Meringue Powder
- 4 cups about 1 lb. confectioners’ sugar
- 5 tablespoons warm water
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
For the cookies
- In a large bowl, thoroughly whisk together the flour, soda, salt and spices. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the butter, sugar, molasses and eggs. Mix well. Add four cups of flour mixture and mix well. Add in additional flour while mixing on low until a firm non-sticky dough forms. You may not have to use all of the flour.
- Turn mixture out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll dough to 1/4 inch thickness. Use the star cookie cutters to cut out two of each size, so that you have 20 cookies total. Place cookies on parchment-lined cookie sheets and chill 10 minutes. Bake small and medium cookies 6-10 minutes, and large cookies for 10-15 minutes. Let cool completely before decorating.
Decoration and Royal Icing
- Knead fondant well and roll out to 1/8-inch thickness. Using the same star cookie cutters you used for the cookies, cut 2 of each size. Brush cooled cookies lightly with piping gel and attach a same-size stars on top. Press a multicolor dragee at the end of each star point. Let stand until set, about 20 minutes.
- For the royal icing, beat all ingredients together until icing forms stiff peaks, about 5 minutes at high speed.
- To assemble, use a perfectly flat serving platter or cake board on which to build the tree. Begin by placing a dot of royal icing (pipe or spoon) on the server and then place the largest star on top. Place a small dot of icing on top of the large star and top with a second large star, shifting the star points so that they are staggered. Repeat the process with largest to smallest stars, reserving the smallest star to stand upright on top of the tree. Pipe a little royal icing on the top smallest star and stand the second smallest star upright; hold until it is stable.
- Allow the entire cookie tree to stand until the royal icing sets firm, about 2 hours. After the icing has set the tree can be transported to your holiday buffet and used as an edible centerpiece!