back to school cookies with buttercream

How to Decorate Back to School Cookies with Buttercream Frosting

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My son is growing so fast; he is starting his pre-k year of school already. To celebrate, I whipped up these adorable back to school cookies with buttercream frosting.

As homeschoolers, we have more time in our day to celebrate the first day of school. This year, we will be having a back to (home)school party. The cookies were necessary, of course.

These back to school cookies are a soft, vanilla sugar cookie with the-most-delicious buttercream. Seriously, I would compare it to a similar flavor profile to a high quality vanilla ice cream.

I’ve been noticing a trend in the classroom decoration niche that things are going a bit retro. I’m here for it as a 90’s baby who loved the 70’s. Give me all the smiley faces and checkerboard print.

To complete the back to school cookies set, I’ve also included some simple yet cute A, B, C cookies and what other than some crayons. Pre-K involves crayons pretty much every day so we needed a cookie to match.

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Part 1: Gathering the Supplies for the Back to School Cookies

how to decorate back to school sugar cookies

To decorate these cute back to school sugar cookies, you will want to gather:

  • 8 Icing bags
  • 7 Couplers
  • One Wilton #3 tip and one Wilton #4 tip
  • A, B, C cookie cutters – I used the ones in the Wilton 101 cookie cutters set
  • Circle cookie cutter – also in the Wilton 101 cookie cutters set
  • Crayon cookie cutter – I just hand cut mine
  • Square cookie cutter – I love this set
  • Black, white, and rainbow gel food dye; I used red, orange, yellow, green, teal, violet, as well as black and white
  • Palette knife
  • Ingredients for a crusting buttercream, found in recipe card below
  • Ingredients for sugar cookie dough, found in recipe card below

Part 2: Baking the Cookies and Setting up the Icing Bags

Use the recipe card below for the basic recipe. You will not use the sprinkles for these back to school cookies and will need quite a bit more food dye colors.

Pink Frosted Buttercream Cookie Recipe

Heavenly Buttercream Cookie Recipe

These buttercream cookies are so soft, almost melting in your mouth. Topped with a kid & adult approved buttercream frosting, you are sure to be everyone's new favorite cookie supplier.
5 from 9 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: All American Buttercream Frosting, Buttercream Cookie
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 7 minutes
Decorating Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 22 minutes
Servings: 20 cookies, depending on the cookie cutter size
Author: Leah Buehler


  • Stand Mixer with a Paddle Attachment
  • Rubber Spatula
  • Medium Sized Mixing Bowl
  • Measuring Cups & Spoons
  • Cookie Sheet with Silicone Baking Mat
  • Rolling Pin
  • Disposable Piping Bag
  • Angled Flat Spatula & Decorating Tip optional


Soft Sugar Cookies

  • 3 cups all purpose flour, plus more for rolling scoop & level method
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 cup cold salted butter cut into cubes
  • 1 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1 egg duck egg is highly recommended if possible
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

  • 1 cup room temperature unsalted butter
  • 4 cups powdered sugar confectioner's sugar
  • 1-3 tbsp. milk whole milk is best
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • gel food dye optional
  • sprinkles optional


  • While you will make the cookies first, you will want to set the unsalted butter out so that it comes to room temperature. The unsalted butter will be used when preparing the buttercream.

Soft Sugar Cookies

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • In a medium sized mixing bowl, add in the flour and baking powder. Stir the ingredients to combine them.
  • In the stand mixer, cream the salted butter and sugar together until all of the butter lumps are gone.
  • Add in the egg and vanilla extract and mix until just combined.
  • Slowly add the flour and baking powder mixture into the wet ingredients until the dough forms a ball. If the ball is very sticky, add another tablespoon of flour.
  • Roll the dough onto a floured surface and use the round cookie cutter to cut out the cookies.
  • Place six cut out cookies onto a cookie sheet lined with a silicone mat. Bake for 7-9 minutes or until the center of the cookies do not appear wet.
  • Allow the cookies to cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring them to a piece of parchment paper. Repeat the cookie baking process for all remaining cookies.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

  • Add the room temperature unsalted butter to the stand mixer and mix with the paddle attachment until lighter in color.
  • Add the powdered sugar to the mixer, along with the vanilla extract and one tablespoon of milk.
  • Place a clean towel over the stand mixer and mix on low speed until the sugar is incorporated. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides if needed.
  • If the frosting is thicker than a creamy peanut butter consistency, add in 1-2 more tablespoons of milk.
  • Use the rubber spatula to mix in the gel food dye if you want colored buttercream.

Decorating the Buttercream Cookies

  • Take the cookies out of the freezer and arrange them on a piece of parchment paper.
  • Add about a cup of prepared buttercream frosting to a disposable piping bag.
  • Cut a hole at the end of the piping bag that is around 1/2" in diameter.
  • Squeeze the frosting out of the piping bag onto the center of the cookie until the frosting covers the cookie.
  • Optional: Use an angled flat spatula to swirl the buttercream and then top with sprinkles.
    1. Roll, cut out, and bake your sugar cookies according to the recipe. I made just a dozen cookies and saved the rest of the dough for later in the freezer. 
    2. Make your buttercream icing according to the recipe (you don’t need sprinkles for his one!) and separate it into eight equal bowls:
      • Dye one red
      • one orange
      • one yellow
      • one green
      • one blue/teal
      • one violet/purple
      • one black (add dye to a dark gray and let sit to deepen, it will turn black)
      • and one white
    3. Set up your icing bags as follows:
      • Place the tip #3 into an icing bag and fill it with the black frosting. Place a coupler into each of the remaining icing bags and add the remaining frosting to the bags. You do not need to add the decorating tips yet. 

Part 3: Decorating the Back to School Cookies

Check out the video tutorial showing all four first day of school cookies then follow the step-by-step photo series tutorials below.

How to Decorate Smiley Face Cookies

retro back to school cookies smiley face

  1. Attach the tip #4 to the yellow (or any color you choose) bag of frosting and outline and fill in the circle cookies. You can be sloppy here, as you will fix it in the next step. smiley face cookies first step covering with frosting
  2. Using the palette knife, smooth the buttercream frosting so that it covers the entire circle. smoothed yellow frosting on cookie
  3. Use the black icing bag to draw the smiley face. If you mess up, you can scrap it with the palette knife, place more yellow (or whichever color you used), smooth it out, and redo the black. Buttercream is forgiving! how to decorate smiley face cookies with buttercream

How to Decorate the ABC Cookies

abc sugar cookies for rainbow back to school cookies

  1. Attach the tip #4 to the teal bag of frosting. Outline and fill in the entire A, B, and or C cookies. outline c cookie with teal buttercream c shaped sugar cookie

How to Decorate the Crayon Sugar Cookies

back to school cookies red crayon cookie

  1. Attach the tip #4 to the red (again, any color works) bag of buttercream and outline and fill in the crayon cookies. outline crayon sugar cookie with red buttercream fill in crayon cookie with red buttercream
  2. Next, outline a rectangle over the crayon to mimic the crayon paper label. draw a rectangle on sugar cookie with red frosting to mimic paper label
  3. Use the black frosting to pipe squiggle lines and the oval. add squiggle lines and oval with black buttercream to crayon cookies
  4. Attach the tip #4 to the white frosting and draw a squiggle over the black rectangle. how to decorate crayon cookies with buttercream

How to Decorate the Checkerboard Cookies

first day of school cookies

  1. Attach the tip #4 to the white bag of buttercream and outline and fill in the square cookies. white frosted square cookie
  2. Attach the tip #4 to the green (again, whichever color) bag of buttercream. Draw four vertical lines, then rotate 90 degrees and draw another four vertical lines. draw four vertical lines with green frosting rotate 90 degrees and draw four more vertical lines
  3. Fill in the squares with the green frosting. retro checkerboard cookies with buttercream

These school cookies are so fun and cute. I love how they incorporate current trends and keep the classic rainbow primary school colors. 

You can see how I styled these for my son’s back to homeschool party for ideas!

If you want to package your back to school cookies, check out my post that goes over how to package buttercream sugar cookies.

back to school cookies

Save the Tutorial for These Back to School Cookies

Use the image below to pin this tutorial for back to school sugar cookies to your school board on Pinterest. Alternatively, use any of the social share icons on the top of the page to share it to your favorite social media site.

How to Decorate Back to School Cookies with Buttercream

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