Because why wait for gingerbread house season?

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Are you a member of one of those families who wait every year for your annual gingerbread house decorating? Do your holiday cookies look like little works of art? Do you love to design gingerbread people with distinct personalities or individual fashion sense? Then I have good news. You don't have to wait for Christmas to get your decorating juices flowing. In fact, I might argue, you are sleeping on the decorating project that might even be superior.

I'm talking about Halloween, and for me, Halloween means monster cookies.

What are monster cookies?

Monster cookies are one of those projects that tick all the boxes for me. The cookies can literally be pretty much any type of cookie you love, from basic sugar or shortbread to chocolate chip. The decorations can get wacky and wild, and unlike the usual holiday cookies, imperfection is actually better here—after all, monsters are weird and misshapen. Someone might look at your gingerbread man a bit sideways if his eyes are two different sizes and one is halfway down one cheek, but that is just the ante for your run of the mill monster and actually a benefit!

Monster Cookie
Credit: Getty / Ekaterina Morozova

How to make monster cookies

The cookies: If you want full-body monsters you can use any animal or man-shaped cutter, but I like to just do the heads, so I stick to large round cookies. You can use slice and bake, rolled and cut out, or portioned with a scooper to help make them round. Once you have your baked and cooled cookies (or store bought, no judgment), then the real fun begins.

The icing: Either make a large batch of vanilla buttercream or buy a few tubs of the store-bought stuff. Color small batches with food coloring to whatever wacky or spooky colors you want for your monsters. If you want your creatures furry, get some shredded coconut and dye it by putting some in a Ziploc bag and adding liquid, gel, or powdered food coloring and shaking it well to tint it. 

The candies: Load in a bunch of different candies, pre-made decorations like eyeballs, and some gel piping icing designed for writing on cakes.

  • Licorice strips can make everything from mouths to ears to scars.
  • Mini marshmallows can become teeth.
  • Starburst-style taffy candies can be softened and used like clay to form all sorts of things like ears or horns.

You can make your monsters fun and playful—think Monsters, Inc. or Muppets—or go full-on gory with red icing dripping blood or a werewolf face with fangs dripping blood.

You are limited only by your imagination! I use a thin smear of frosting to get things to stick, and once an initial layer is down, from fur to scales, then a dot of tube icing can work as glue to add details.

Best part? Any leftover candies and decorations can get saved for use once Christmas rolls around. Just don't be surprised if this year, your gingerbread men turn out to be zombies!