Nautical-Themed Sugar & Shortbread Cookies {using fondant and royal icing}


Justin and I had a cruise ship-themed birthday party to attend last weekend, so I thought it would be fun to bake some creative and colorful nautical-themed cookies. I decided on baking both shortbread and sugar cookies for some variety.

Don’t be intimidated by the amount of steps in this tutorial – it looks like a lot of work at first, but it’s really easy if you break it up over a couple of days (the fondant shapes need to sit overnight to harden), and it’s really a lot of fun!

Step 1: Color Your Fondant…Which Is Like Playdough for Bakers!

Mix icing coloring into your fondant in separate bowls to create at least two different colors. For these particular cookies, I used one small bowl of white (plain) fondant, one small bowl of red fondant, and one small bowl of blue fondant.

Tip: Only add a very small amount of icing coloring at a time to fondant before kneading together to blend (use a toothpick dipped in coloring). The blue color came together easily, but the red took about 5 repetitions of a few drops of coloring before I was able to achieve the bright, vivid red color that I wanted.

Tip: If you’re worried about getting coloring on your hands as you knead the fondant, cover them with gloves.

Tip: Fondant may begin to turn sticky as the heat from your hands warms it up. When this happened, I placed fondant in the fridge for 5 or 10 minutes until it was firm again.

Step 2: Create Your Beautiful Fondant Works of Art

Once your fondant colors are blended and ready, chill fondant in the fridge for a few minutes (or however long it takes) to firm the fondant up so that it is easy to work with. Brush your fondant mold with cornstarch using a clean paintbrush to avoid fondant sticking to the mold as you work.


Roll a small amount of fondant between your fingers to form a firm ball and place it into the mold of your choice with your fingers, pushing firmly so that all sections of the mold are filled. Flatten out the top of the mold so fondant is even. Once you’re confident the mold has been adequately filled, fold the mold back onto itself so fondant piece can be carefully pried out. Place fondant on parchment paper to harden.

Continue doing this with all of your fondant color variations until you have enough fondant decorations to cover all of the cookies you’ll be making.

Tip: Leave fondant decorations uncovered overnight to dry in a cool place.


Step 3: Time to Bake!

Either bake your cookies the same night as you make the fondant, or bake them the next day. I baked both shortbread and sugar cookies for a little bit of variety, but feel free to make whatever you prefer! Here are some great recipes I used for my cookies:

Make sure cookies have cooled completely before you proceed to the next step.

Tip: Use fun cookie cutters to make shapes! I used square cookie cutters with a scalloped edge, but you can also use circle shapes, sea creature shapes, etc. Be creative!

Cookie cutters can be purchased at craft stores, home stores, or just your friendly neighborhood Walmart.

Step 4: Mix Your Royal Icing and Ice Your Cookies

Royal Icing

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes


  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 2 teaspoons milk
  • 2 teaspoons light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond or vanilla extract
  • your choice of icing coloring


  • In a small bowl, stir together confectioners' sugar and milk until smooth. Beat in corn syrup and almond/vanilla extract until icing is smooth and glossy. If icing is too thick, add more corn syrup.
  • Divide into separate bowls, and add food colorings to each to desired intensity.

Recipe by JBS Box

This is the royal icing recipe I prefer. It doesn’t use meringue powder (expensive and hard to find) or raw eggs (not everyone can/should consume raw eggs) like most royal icing recipes. It uses good ol’ corn syrup, which is easy to customize to your preferred flood/piping consistency by adding more icing sugar or more corn syrup!

Using the icing recipe linked above, add in small amounts of icing coloring to reach your desired cookie icing color (I went with a very light blue, much lighter than the blue I used for my fondant, for some contrast).

You’ll need to create two different batches of icing:

  • One batch of icing with piping consistency: should be thick enough that stiff icing peaks form in the icing when you lift a spoon out of it. When you fill your icing bag with the piping icing, you should be able to pipe a line from one of your fingers to another finger and the icing line should stay put and not break.
  • One batch of icing with flood consistency: when you drop a blob of this icing back into itself in the bowl, the blob should melt back into the rest of the icing in about 12-14 seconds. If it melts sooner, add more icing sugar. If it takes longer than this to melt, it means the icing is too stiff; add small amounts of corn syrup until you can achieve the 12-14 second melt.

Once both icing consistencies have been achieved, fill two icing bags with each of the icing consistencies and add the decorating tip of your choice.  (I used a #3 decorating tip for the piping and a #7 decorating tip for flooding).

Once your icing bags are ready to go, begin outlining your cookies by using the stiffer consistency icing: this is called Piping. Once your Piping (outlines) are finished, begin filling in the rest of the cookie by using the more watery consistency icing: this is called Flooding.

Tip: You can use a toothpick to help your flooding icing spread – just gently spread the icing on the cookie using the toothpick to fill any gaps. It will dry into a nice even surface!

Place cookies decorated with icing onto parchment paper and allow the icing to set (usually takes at least a couple of hours). Don’t throw out your bags of icing yet, but place them with tips in a very small cup of warm water to avoid icing clogs.

Step 5: The Finishing Touches: Add Your Fondant

Now that your cookies have been iced, it’s time to add the finishing touches – your beautiful fondant sea life creations!

This part is really easy, and you get to be as creative as you’d like. Simply use the remaining royal icing to “glue” your fondant pieces onto the cookies in a variety of color and shape combinations!

Here are some of mine:





Here are links to a few different resources I used to create these cookies:

I found all of these at Michael’s, but any other craft stores would likely have these or similar products!


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