For centuries, friends and lovers have been exchanging cards, flowers, and gifts to celebrate Valentine’s Day. There are many stories about the original Saint Valentine, who may have been a priest in third-century Rome. According to lore, Valentine sent the first valentine to a young girl with whom he fell in love, signing it “From your Valentine,” and thus the romantic tradition began. Americans started exchanging handmade valentines in the early 1700s, and today an estimated one billion valentine cards are sent each year.

While it’s fun to make and receive Valentine’s Day cards, it’s even more fun to throw a Valentine’s Day cookie decorating party. All you need are some heart-shaped cookie cutters, a good recipe for sugar cookies, icing, and loads of pink, red, and white decorations, and you’re on your way to some creative, tasty treats to share with those you love.

Cover a table or countertop with a red or white paper tablecloth, and make sure there’s lots of room or guests to move around; you might not even need chairs. Then set out platters of cookies, bowls of icing, some compostable, disposable knives, and decorations from heart-shaped candies and red-and-pink sprinkles to M&Ms and mini-chocolate chips. Kids and adults alike will have a blast embellishing their special cookie hearts. Participants can paint on the icing with watercolor paintbrushes, or you can purchase icing pens in different colors.

The Simplest Sugar Cookies

Since you’ll want to roll these cookies out in order to cut into hearts, you need a good, sturdy recipe that can be chilled to make it easier to work with.

What You Need:

  • 1 1/2 cups butter, softened
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour (or a blend of white and whole wheat flour)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt

What You Do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cream butter and sugar together in a large bowl until smooth.
  3. Beat in eggs and vanilla.
  4. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cover, and chill dough for at least one hour. 
  5. You can chill the dough overnight for the best results
  6. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick.
  7. Cut into shapes with a heart-shaped cookie cutter.
  8. Place cookies 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets.
  9. Bake 6 to 8 minutes in preheated oven. Cool completely. 

Easy Icing

The idea behind this quick and easy icing is to create a thin glaze that will help decorations stick to the cookies.  Tint the finished icing with food coloring of different shades.  It can be spread or painted on cooled cookies.

What You Need:

  • 1 tablespoon milk (plus more as needed)
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup sifted powered sugar

What You Do:

  1. Combine powdered sugar, vanilla and milk in a mixing bowl.
  2. Stir in additional milk as needed until the icing is sticky but spreadable.
  3. Separate icing into several small bowls.
  4. Tint the icing with a few drops of food coloring and use immediately before icing hardens. 

Other ideas for wonderful Valentine’s Day cookie decorations include jellybeans cut in half and then placed on cookies to form hearts. In addition to all-purpose icing you can use melted semisweet chocolate as a frosting for cookies and sprinkle on decorations. Let both icing and melted chocolate dry for at least an hour so the cookies don’t stick together.