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Highland Christmas Cookies

Highland Christmas Cookies

Beyond the Books

The idea for this project took seed while I was visiting my friend Lori in Louisiana.  We found a set of barnyard animal cookie cutters on my last day in Baton Rouge, and I’ve had gingerbread highland cows on the brain ever since! The belted-kilt men are made from a small gingerbread woman cutter I found at the island thrift store soon after I got home.

Considering that I’ve never attempted cookie decorating before (and that I was given a C in Grade 8 art if I promised never to take another class with the teacher ever again), I’m over the moon with how they turned out.

The cows make me coo whenever I walk by them on the kitchen table…I’ve even been caught petting one by My Englishman…but you probably don’t need to know that.

Highland Christmas Cookies

I made a mix of gingerbread and buttery sugar cookies and decorated them with royal icing.

Aside from the cutters, you’ll also need some way to dispense the icing.  Pastry bags and decorating tips are the obvious option, but they can be hard to control for newbies like me.

I decided on squeeze bottles – they’re easier to work with, and I just happened to have a couple hanging around.  If you don’t have any squeeze bottles, but are going to buy some for this project, I recommend specialized cake-decorating ones, as the tips are smaller than the ketchup/mustard ones in my catering cupboard.

Of course, you can also use ziploc bags and just snip off the corner.  This is a great option if you just want to have some fun and keep the costs down, but they can be hard to control, especially when you’re trying to draw a straight line.

Highland Christmas Cookies

After your cookies are baked and cooled, the first step is to outline the shape with royal icing.  While the outline is still wet, you “pool” the interior with more icing.  Fill about 75% of the shape in with icing, then use a toothpick to spread the wet icing to cover the surface completely.

Allow the base layer to dry completely before adding the details.


Here’s an opportunity to learn from my mistakes.  I should have done a base layer of brown on my cows before adding the black hooves, white horns/udders and pink noses/ears/teats (giggle).

I ended up fiddling with a toothpick to spread the brown icing around the details I had already added, and my efforts weren’t perfect, especially around the horns and ears.


I used a box of regular food colouring from the grocery store, as well as a bottle of Super Black, which is the only way to get true black.  You can try mixing all of the colours together to get black, but it will never even get close.

Similarly, getting brown from a mix of colours is almost impossible.  I did what the internet told me: I mixed red and yellow to get a deep orange, then added a couple of drops of green.  The result was a muddy green that I eventually made into black.

My final brown is actually chocolate royal icing, made with cocoa. When the base coat was dry, I squeezed on the first layer of shag and allowed it to dry before adding a few more strands for depth.

Highland  Christmas Cookies Sheep

The sheep are the easiest of the three shapes to make.  Two squeeze bottles and one batch of icing is all you need.  Divide the icing in half, mix super black into one half, and go crazy!


The gingerbread kilties proved to be a bit trickier. As you can see from my cute, but imperfect attempts, squeeze bottles with tiny decorator tips are what’s needed here.  Either that, or a larger cookie cutter so that the stripes don’t look so out of proportion.

More colours require more squeeze bottles, and a strategic approach.  Start with the lighter colours, like white and yellow, then add the darker food colouring when you’re ready for a new colour.

Highland Coo Cookies

I used this recipe for the gingerbread, and this one for the sugar cookies.  Both are delicious, and I’ve bookmarked them on my browser for next year.  I cut both recipes in half and rolled the dough out to a thickness of 1/4″.  I got a total of about 4 dozen cookies. Tip:  flour the cutters so that the feet don’t stick.

I used Martha’s royal icing recipe, with real egg whites and NO water.  Meringue powder is not available on my tiny island, but if you have any fear of salmonella, or are making these for young children, pregnant women, or anyone with a compromised immune system, raw eggs are not an option.  Meringue powder is available in specialty baking stores or online.

The chocolate royal icing below is adapted from this one, which uses meringue powder.

(Click on the link below for a printable version of the recipe.)

Chocolate Royal Icing

:Brown icing, perfect for highland cow gingerbread cookies.  Made with raw egg whites.

Yield:  About 4 cups

  • Icing Sugar – 3 Cups
  • Cocoa – ⅓ Cup
  • Egg Whites – 2 large
  • Vanilla – 1 tsp

Using a stand or hand-held mixer with a whip attachment, mix together the icing sugar and cocoa on low speed.  Add the egg whites and vanilla, mix on low until combined.  Increase to high speed and whip for 3 to 5 minutes, until stiff like meringue.

Refrigerate leftovers for up to 3 days or freeze indefinitely.


  • For the highland cows, divide the finished icing in half. Thin one portion with water, one teaspoon at a time, until it spreads easily enough to ice the base layer.  Use the stiffer half to pipe on the shag.

Highland Christmas Cookies


  1. Becky
    December 5, 2013 at 5:13 am

    Those are adorable! They take a lot of work….

    • Theresa
      December 8, 2013 at 8:06 am

      Thank you, Becky! You’re right, it was a long day in the kitchen, but it was a ton of fun and very rewarding!

  2. Lee Ann Monat
    December 5, 2013 at 6:20 am

    I LOVE them all!!!

  3. Lora Hansen
    December 5, 2013 at 6:42 am

    Adorable! The little cows are precious! I got an A in Art, and I don’t think I could have done better! These are too cute for words.

  4. Taking On Magazines
    December 5, 2013 at 6:53 am

    I’d be petting your cows too. They’re adorable! The sheep are too. And the little kilted men. Heck, they all are.

    • Theresa
      December 8, 2013 at 8:05 am

      Thank you, Christiane. Merry Christmas to you and your family!

  5. Patricia Eichhorn
    December 5, 2013 at 7:19 am

    Love these. Flip over part of the cutout dough before baking to have cows and sheep looking in different directions.

    • Theresa
      December 5, 2013 at 8:19 am

      I didn’t even think about that, Patricia! Great idea.

  6. meesh1957
    December 5, 2013 at 7:43 am

    I love the cookies, great job!

  7. littlewhiteapron
    December 5, 2013 at 8:34 am

    Those are super cute! I love them all! Great job.

    • Theresa
      December 8, 2013 at 8:05 am

      Thank you, my friend!

  8. Lynn Bischoff
    December 5, 2013 at 10:13 am

    those are so cute. Great decorating.

    • Theresa
      December 8, 2013 at 8:04 am

      Thank you, Lynn! I had a ton of fun with them.

  9. Stacy
    December 5, 2013 at 10:27 am

    So BEAUTIFUL!!! It must be so hard to eat such works of art…if it’s too difficult for you, just send them my way! 😀

    • Theresa
      December 8, 2013 at 8:03 am

      After the pictures are taken, Stacy, it’s every cookie for themselves! I kept my favourite cow aside until the rest were gone, but eventually, she too succumbed. LOL

  10. Carolin
    December 5, 2013 at 12:22 pm

    Those are just great, I think I have to get yet a few more cookie cutters , especially a gingerbread woman, err, kilted scotsman… Great!!!

    • Theresa
      December 8, 2013 at 8:01 am

      Nothing wrong with a few extra cookie cutters! They hardly take up any space at all… 😉

  11. Jilly Rush (@sireesanwar)
    December 5, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    Those are totally adorable! I love them!

  12. Nicole
    December 5, 2013 at 5:07 pm

    So cute!!!!

  13. Jeanne
    December 5, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    Just awesome Theresa! Love Love Love the Cows…great job!

    • Theresa
      December 8, 2013 at 8:00 am

      Thank you, Jeanne! It’s always great to see your smiling face. 🙂

  14. Rev. Samantha Gray
    December 5, 2013 at 7:35 pm

    Love it! I’m the Chaplain for Clan Leslie Society International, and I recommended your page to some of the creative souls in CLSI. I’ll definitely be doing these. Thank you so much for sharing this excellent idea! I think they would also be a great part of a dessert tray for the Robbie Burns Nicht celebrations. Tapadh Leat!

    • Theresa
      December 8, 2013 at 8:00 am

      Thanks for the recommendation, Samantha! I hope you have as much fun making these as I did.

  15. musiance
    December 5, 2013 at 11:56 pm

    Reblogged this on Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ.

    • Theresa
      December 8, 2013 at 7:59 am

      Thank you for the reblog, musiance!

    • musiance
      December 17, 2013 at 5:55 am

      You’re welcome! Anytime 🙂 x

  16. Tanya
    December 6, 2013 at 5:55 am

    Too cute

  17. Anne
    December 7, 2013 at 10:22 am

    These are so cute and I love finding new uses for old cookie cutters. Love it!

    • Theresa
      December 8, 2013 at 7:51 am

      Thank you, Anne!

  18. Leigh
    December 7, 2013 at 9:23 pm

    The cows are brilliant, Theresa! I too think highland cattle are the cutest thing. And ironically, while you had a middle school art teacher tell you harshly, but honestly about your artistic talents, I had one who was clearly delusional! EVERYONE knows I can’t even draw stick figures, and she insisted I had “true talent somewhere”. I hate to think where that “somewhere” is.

    One question: why mix the gingerbread cookie dough with butter cookie dough? Did you already answer that, and I’m just being dense, or is it for obvious reasons like colors?

    • Theresa
      December 8, 2013 at 7:47 am

      I made 2 types of cookie dough, because I wanted 2 types of cookies, Leigh. Some gingerbread and some sugar.

      As for my artistic prowess, I’d like to think that that teacher missed recognizing my talent within. Tooting my own horn for a minute here, I have learned that I can make food look beautiful, and I’m a pretty good photographer too. Just because one can’t draw or paint, doesn’t mean they’re not artistic. We all have talent…it’s just a matter of nurturing it.

    • Leigh
      December 8, 2013 at 11:00 pm

      Well that makes sense. Thanks for pointing it out. Guess I was over-thinking it.

  19. huntfortheverybest
    December 10, 2013 at 8:00 am

    these are so cute and creative!

  20. Amy
    September 3, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    I’m a new fan to Outlander and I’m super excited to read more of your recipes. I have been bouncing around looking at ones from the past and this one caught my eye. I’m an avid baker of cakes and cookies and I love these little barnyard animals with a twist. I always give my gingerbread men a theme, last year they were Charlie Brown and his gang, but maybe this year they will be Outlander themed!

    After several very messy attempts to make Royal icing a few years ago, I found CK Royal Icing Mix in my local baking store. It is pretty widely available online and it is cheaper than buying meringue powder (it may be a local issue but meringue powder is pretty expensive here). It’s a just add water mix and it’s still tasty, you can add extracts to it for flavor, and it takes color very well. My only advice if you do decide to use it is to add water very slowly.

    But thanks for the great inspiration, can’t wait to dig into the rest of the recipes!

    • Theresa
      September 3, 2014 at 2:06 pm

      The problem with lactose free milk is that it is often ultra-pasteurized, which will not work to make cheese. If you can find non-ultra pasteurized milk, I’m told it will work just fine. If you can only find the ultra, then you need to include some lactose-free yoghurt to provide the bacteria cultures needed for the curds to develop. Here’s a recipe for ricotta cheese that uses a small container of yogurt:

    September 17, 2014 at 7:58 pm

    I almost never comment, but i did a few searching and wound up here Highland Christmas Cookies – Outlander Kitchen. And I actually do
    have 2 questions for you if you do not mind.
    Is it only me or does it give the impression like a few of these comments come across like coming from brain dead folks?
    😛 And, if you are posting on additional places, I’d like to follow everything new you have to post.

    Could you make a list of the complete urls of your communal pages like your linkedin profile, Facebook page or twitter feed?

    • Theresa
      September 18, 2014 at 7:38 am

      If you look to the banner at the top of each page, you’ll see little icons for all my social media links. Your idea to put them on a page is a good one though! I’ll add it to my list. 🙂

  22. Antje
    September 22, 2014 at 1:05 pm

    When I initially commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time a comment is added
    I get four emails with the same comment.
    Is there any way you can remove people from that service?

    Appreciate it!

  23. LizL
    December 1, 2014 at 10:49 am

    Too cute…I’m pretty sure I’ll be making decorated cookies this year…just have to find that cow though!

    • Theresa
      December 2, 2014 at 2:27 pm

      Have a look on Amazon…he was there last year. 🙂

  24. Beth
    December 3, 2014 at 7:58 pm

    I’m a big fan of you and your kitchen, and I really enjoy how you’ve been inspired by the books to create such beautiful food. These cookies are whimsical, and look like a lot of work, but are lovely. and, I bet, delicious, too. I hope you’re planning to publish a book of Outlander recipes. I’ll buy it!

    • Theresa
      December 4, 2014 at 6:47 am

      Thanks very much, Beth! We are talking about a cookbook now…I’ll let you know what happens. 🙂

  25. Jan Mayr
    December 4, 2014 at 5:45 am

    I’m allergic to royal icing. Is there a good alternative for the icing?

    • Theresa
      December 4, 2014 at 6:47 am

      Is it the eggs you’re allergic to? In that case, a buttercream icing is your best option, although it won’t harden like the royal.

    • Juanita
      January 15, 2015 at 5:19 pm

      Since I was young we always frosted our Christmas cookies with powdered sugar mixed with either milk or plain water. Mix it to the desired consistency for spreading by adding more sugar or liquid. Setting the decorated cookies out, they would harden in one to two days and it tasted great.

  26. Carol Mackey
    December 8, 2014 at 4:36 pm

    Theresa, did you add the link for the cookie cutters recently? If not, I totally missed it!! But thanks a bunch–my cookie cutters are ordered, and if they get here soon enough, the g-grands and grands in NC and IN will be getting them; otherwise, just the local grands here in CO this year–and I’ll have an up on 2015!! I’ll definitely use Royal Icing on them for long distance shipping. And cupcake papers. Moren Tiang!! =D P.S. –I’m looking forward to that cookbook!!

    • Theresa
      December 8, 2014 at 4:42 pm

      Glad you found it! It’s always been there. Lol

  27. Kate
    December 5, 2015 at 8:00 am

    Did you know that Heiland Coos come in different colors? I recently saw a photo of some calves that were ginger red, chocolate brown, a light tan/blonde, and white! The white one is the one I found most interesting. Its ears were black inside, it had a black nose, and black hooves. So cute!

    Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful recipes. They’re amazing!

    Happy Holidays!

  28. Dorianne Reinhardt Paul
    December 5, 2015 at 10:29 am

    These are adorable! What a great idea to use the gingerbread “girl” cookie cutter to make a kilted Highlander! I’ll have to keep my eyes out for barnyard animal cutters.

  29. Marte Lawrence
    December 7, 2015 at 4:11 pm

    These are absolutely adorable!! What a cute fun idea for something different for Christmas Cookies!

  30. Lesley
    February 19, 2016 at 6:37 am

    Do you sell highland cow cookie cutters or know where to buy one?

    • Theresa
      February 19, 2016 at 8:42 pm

      No to both questions I’m afraid. My only suggestion is to google. Best of luck!

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