From Off My List: Graduation Cookies


“I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.”

-David Bowie

Seems like everyone is graduating lately- June will do that to you.  The student’s simple senior-itis of spring transforms into a full fledged feeling of joy over freedom from high school or college.   A dear friend asked if I would make some graduation cap sugar cookies for the party she is throwing for her daughter’s high school graduation.  Indeed over the years I  have made my share of decorated sugar cookies and sugar cookie favors- but hadn’t created graduation cap cookies before and was frankly a little nervous.  Internet research on making cookies of this type showed that a steadier hand than mine is best for the also multi-step process. Regardless, neither feelings of anxiety over the unknown nor my inexperience would stop me from rising to this occasion.

Sugar Cookie Recipe:

  • Cream together 1 c. butter and 2/3 c. granulated sugar
  • Beat in 1 egg
  • Add 1 tsp. vanilla extract and 1/2 tsp. salt
  • Mix in 2 1/2 c. sifted flour until all ingredients are well blended (do not over mix)
  • Chill dough at least 3 hours before rolling. I usually make my dough the day before I want to bake and chill for a day.  Also, this dough freezes really well if you want to make it several days before you need it.

I love my marble rolling pin (a gift from my best friend and cookie making partner in sweet crime) and like to use these rubber rings to control dough thickness when rolling it out (pictured here in green), 1/4 inch thick for these cookies.  I used a keeper mortarboard cap cutter, a 4.5 inch round cutter and mini number cutters.


Preheat oven to 350°, roll out to desired thickness and cut.  Bake for 8-10 minutes or until barely browned.  Remove from cookie sheets and cool on wire racks.


Once the cookies cool down, they are ready for icing.  I make mine with Wilton’s Merenge powder, water, gel food coloring and flavoring.  This batch of icing was made with a mix of Forest Green and Leaf Green to arrive at just this right color, and lemon citrus oil for the flavor.


The number cookies due to their smaller size only need to bake for 6-7 minutes before they are ready. Once they’ve cooled down, I ice the numbers first because need to completely dry before attaching them to the round cookie base.  I use a culinary paint brush to smooth out the icing on the sides of the numbers so that they keep a tight shape. After they’re all iced, I then outline the keeper mortarboard cap cookies while the numbers are drying.  This icing outline also needs to be dry prior to filling in the rest of the cap cookie with icing.


Once the numbers have dried, I’m ready to attach them to the round cookie.  I mixed white icing gel coloring into a nice thick consistency of icing, thick enough so that the numbers could sink and be pressed down into it.


Immediately after setting the 2017 number cookies firmly into the cookie icing, I then also quickly distribute the green and white candy sprinkles on the still wet icing.


 After applying the sprinkles, the cookie is finished and can be set aside to dry, which takes 8 – 10 hours.  I like to dry mine overnight, letting them air out in the open an hour or two before I go to bed, and then covering them with a thin, dry cotton dishtowel for the rest of the night.

After the cap cookie icing has dried for several hours, the next step is to add the square board outline and center button on the cap, by using some of the green icing set aside earlier for this purpose.  Once this step has been completed, the final step is to add the cap tassel, and I saved some of the thick white icing I used on the 2017 cookies aside for this purpose.  These final steps should be completed with the precise help of an icing bag and tip.  I used a #2 Wilton tip and plastic Wilton icing bags.


Once completed, these cookies are also ready to dry overnight on a cookie sheet under a thin dry dishtowel.

In the end, I guess these turned out OK for a first time attempt at a moderately difficult design, but when I look at them all I can see are the flaws 🙂  The internet is full of great instructions and photos of every kind of decorated cookie you can think of, and when I look at other people’s handiwork I wonder how it is they get their cookies to look so perfect.  I am however happy to report that as imperfect as mine are, they taste great and my sweet friend loved the results- which in the end is the most important thing.

Hats off to the Class of 2017, each and every one of you!


©2017 Lisa Ihnken All Rights Reserved

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