12 Days of Christmas :: 1 Christmas Cookie Tree

Do you know when the 12 days of Christmas are? I didn't, so I visited my best friend – Wikipedia. They begin on the 25th of December. Of course. Christmas is about Jesus' birth, after all, so naturally the 12 days for follow it. I'd always thought they were the 12 days leading up to Christmas. I felt a bit silly.

Being non-religious, Christmas to me and my family has always been about taking time to acknowledge, appreciate and celebrate the wonderful people and experiences in your life, a time to say thank you. Christian celebrations have not entered into it, so I figured this lack of exposure to it was probably responsible for my derp moment. So I asked my Christian boyfriend, for whom his faith plays an important role in both his daily life and his family's Christmas celebrations, when he thought the 12 days were. His assumption was the same as mine. In fact, everyone who I asked, regardless of faith, assumed the same thing. So we all learnt a little something new.

I'd be planning a 12 days of Christmas blog series, assuming the 12 days where somewhere in December. Sharing recipes after Christmas felt a little moot. Besides, I won't be around much after Christmas, let alone for the 12 days proceeding. So we're going to do this the untraditional way. Every second day from now til the 23rd I'll bring you one of12 Christmas recipes.

This first recipe is something that's becoming a bit of a yearly tradition. Each year, I look for a way to reinvent it. Here's this year's take on it.

Making the templates for the stars is really simple. If you're smarter than me, you'll make these out of something a bit more permanent. Every year I cut them out of baking paper and regret that next year. Oh well. 

To make the stars, you'll want to first trace a whole bunch of different sized circles, dependant on how large you want the cookies. Make each circle 1-2 cm larger than the last. I use a set of circular cookie cutters I have, using every second one as a guide. Then, mark three dots on the circle in the shape of a triangle and connect the dots!

Do the same in the opposite direction and you'll end up with a 6 pointed star. You can measure for accuracy. I'm mostly lazy and just eyeball it. 

Cut them out, et voila. You have your templates. 

When you cut out your cookie stars, make sure to place the templates ink side up. The led or ink probably won't be enough to make you sick, but better to be safe than sorry, hey?

Once all your stars are baked, it's time to assemble. You can assemble them on a cake board. I use a terracotta pot I altered for the purpose. Either way, attach a piece of dowel with royal icing to the surface. You want your dowel to be just shorter than the total height of your cookies. 

You'll want room to fit the last star into place. 

The cookies are covered with white royal icing, then dessicated coconut to look like fluffy snow. 

Once the cookies are assembled you can let your mind wander with decoration ideas. I used large silver cachous (or dragées) as baubles.

I'd had thoughts of decorationg the star, using multi-coloured baubles, piping royal icing 'tinsel'. But in the end, I just really liked the simlicity of this year's design. 

The sugar cookies are delicious in their own right, but royal icing/coconut is one of our favourite icing combinations. These cookies don't last very long!

Christmas Cookie Tree


125g (4.5oz) butter, room temperature

125g (4.5oz) caster sugar
1 egg1 tbsp green liquid food colouring
225g (8 oz) plain flour
1 tbsp cornflour
225g (8oz) white royal icing
100g (4oz) desiccated coconut
dowelling rod
cake board or terracotta pot


  1. Make star templates as described above. 
  2. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy; beat in egg and food colouring
  3. Stir in flour and cornflour; knead until it forms a smooth dough.
  4. Roll dough between sheets of baking paper until .75 cm thick. Chill in the fridge for 1-2 hours.
  5. Preheat oven to 190°C (375°F) 
  6. Cut out desired number and size of stars, stamp out a circular hole (approx 2 cm) in the centre of all but the smallest star.
  7. Stamp out 11 rounds with a 2.5cm hole in the centre. Use the size of your stars as a guide – you want the rounds to be small enough so that they do not protrude from the sides of the stars. 
  8. Bake for cookies for 10-15 minutes for the larger pieces, less for the small ones. Cool on a wire rack until stiffened (try not to move them before they have cooled: you will end up with broken points on your stars and have to rebake).
  9. Cover the cookies with royal icing, then sprinkle with desiccated coconut.
  10. Secure dowelling to pot or cake board.
  11. Place three of the round cookies at the base, then add the largest star. Add another two rounds, then the next largest star; repeat until all but the hole-less star has been used. 
  12. Dab a bit of royal icing in the centre of the biscuits, then attach the last star upright. 

You'll find the printable version of this recipe here.


6 thoughts on “12 Days of Christmas :: 1 Christmas Cookie Tree

  1. Just wanted to say that I’ve been following your baking/cooking posts for a while now, and I’m so glad I have! Everything you make has something amazing going on, and your expertise and attention to detail are inspiring. I know you mention mistakes made during the process, but it’s hard to imagine because your recipes always come out so perfect and photogenic!

    Anyway, I’m super looking forward to these Christmas entries. 😀

    (And I totally thought the same thing about the twelve days of Christmas btw)

  2. That is one beautiful tree!
    I agree with you it maybe simply decorated but I think that is a big part of its charm..it just makes you smile 🙂

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