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Shortbread Cookies with Icing for Tie Dye Cookies

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image of tie dye shortbread cookies with icing

For me, cookie making isn’t about the cookies, it’s about spending time with my children making memories. I learned a long time ago that I would need to have a relaxed view of cooking making if this was going to be an enjoyable experience for all. Keep it simple, let the children come and go as they desire, and looks are overrated. Making tie dye cookies using shortbread cookies with icing fits the bill perfectly.

image of little girl cutting out butterfly from shortbread cookie dough

Whenever we want to make cut out cookies or iced cookies, I like to use our shortbread cookie recipe (a printable recipe is at the end of this post). Unlike sugar cookie dough which need to be refrigerated before rolling out,  shortbread cookie dough can be rolled out right away. Also, the more you work with shortbread cookie dough, the more pliable it becomes. So there’s really no need to worry about children over handling the dough.

The other great thing about shortbread cookies is that they really aren’t very sweet. They have a melt-in-your-mouth, buttery flavor that is so wonderful they really don’t need icing. However, decorating cookies is fun so shortbread cookies with icing is our go-to cookie for decorating.

I like to roll the dough between wax paper. It just makes the whole adventure easier, especially with children. The wax paper keeps the dough from peeling off on to the rolling pin or rolling up onto it which can lead to a lot of frustration. 

image of cutting out shortbread cookie dough

Why, yes, we are eating some of the dough while we pull it away from our butterfly. It’s okay, the cookies will be cooked and I’m sure it will kill any germs. Also, we had a friend over to help, because you can never have too many children around, especially when making shortbread cookies with icing.

cookie cut outs for tie dye shortbread cookies

These are some of the cookies that were in the first batch. Since shortbread cookies don’t have any kind of leavening agent in the recipe the cookies won’t spread, so you can put them pretty close together.

baked shortbread cookie cut outs for tie dye cookies

This is the last batch. You can tell the children have lost interest, because when they are “done’ I just cut out circles. But circles can be nice.

painting tie dye shortbread cookies with icing

When everyone left to go do their things they do on Monday evenings, Esther and I decided to paint the cookies with some India Tree all natural dye.

When I first started using natural dyes, I did a little research before deciding how to use them. One comment I read said that when the dye is mixed with icing the colors are mainly pastels, which is fine. But I”m super frugal and I want these wonderful dyes to last a long time so I decided we’d try some painting directly onto the frosting. I love the way it turned out.

Besides tie dye cookies we did a couple of other things, including dabbing it on (like in the pumpkin above), painting it directly onto the shortbread cookie with no icing (the leaf above) and a wreath of hearts (on the circle above). Really, we just had a free for all that continued the next day. 

How to make shortbread cookies with icing using natural dyes

India Tree natural food dyes for shortbread cookies with icing

I decided to use our stuffed egg tray to be our artist palette. It worked really well. The India Tree dyes were really easy to work with, they have a gel like texture. The red is so beautiful and vibrant, to make purple we just put one drop of red and about 4 or 5 drops of blue. Same for the orange, except we used 4 or 5 drops of yellow. The blue is kind of a slate blue which I loved. To make the green I used just one drop of blue and one drop of yellow, it’s kind of an olive green.

I’m very happy with the colors I was able to make with these dyes but I think it’s important to realize that when working with natural dyes like this you are not going to get the range you would get from artificial dyes. For me, the trade off is well worth it.

piping icing on shortbread cookies

Then we put the icing in small ziplock bags and cut the corner off one end of the bag, just barely. This really helps keep the mess down and it keeps the icing from drying out too fast. I like to use a simple powdered sugar and milk icing for icing shortbread cookies, there is a printable recipe below for you.

All the cookies were made pretty much the same way, we used paint brushes to paint (we did a lot of dotting) on the dyes and then used toothpicks to either run through the paint or swirl it.

image of natural dye dots for wreath making on shortbread cookie with icing

image of natural dye wreath on shortbread cookie with icing

To make a wreath, just dot the dye in a circle around the outer edge of the iced shortbread cookie. Then using a toothpick, connect the dots.

image of beginning tie dye shortbread cookie with icing

image of finishing tie dye shortbread cookie with icing

To make a starburst, paint dye onto iced shortbread cookie in circles. Then take a toothpick and make lines starting from the center and going to the edge of the cookie.

image of natural dye dots for swirled tie dye shortbread cookies with icing

image of swirled tie dyed shortbread cookies with icing

To make the tie dye cookie, put random dots of dye on the iced shortbread cookie. Then using a toothpick gently swirl the dots together.

Decorating cookies with children is such a fun activity, it’s about making memories not cookies and shortbread cookies with icing helps sweeten those memories. You can find more kid friendly cookie recipes by clicking here.

image of shortbread cookies with icing that have been dyed with natural dyes

Shortbread Cookies

Making tie dye cookies is a great activity to do with children since you can't really mess up tie dye.

Homemade shortbread cookies are a wonderful treat. The buttery, not too sweet cookie makes a fantastic cookie for icing.

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes


  • 1 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cream butter, sugar and vanilla together.
  3. Add in flour. The dough will be crumbly. Grab large handful and begin shaping it into a ball. The more you work with the dough the easier it will be to work with.
  4. Roll out dough (I like to do this between sheets of wax paper) to about 1/4 inch thickness.
  5. Cut out shapes.
  6. Put shapes on baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes.
  7. They are ready when edges begin to turn brown.
  8. Let them cool slightly before removing them from the baking sheet.
  9. Finish cooling on a rack.
  10. Once they are completely cooled they can be iced and decorated or enjoyed plain.

Did you make this recipe?

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Icing for Tie Dye Cookies

Making tie dye cookies is a great activity to do with children since you can't really mess up tie dye.


  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 1tsp vanilla
  • India Tree all natural dyes


  1. Mix sugar, milk and vanilla together until smooth.
  2. Put into ziplock bag and cut one corner off.
  3. Pipe onto cookies and decorate as desired with natural dyes


I just make a little at a time since it dries pretty fast. This is enough for about 6-8 cookies

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