Butterfly Sugar Cookies

I brake for butterflies.  Yes.  I unashamedly do.  When I see a butterfly drifting across the road, I slow down to avoid hitting it.  There is something so beautiful about the way they fly– so effortlessly bringing beauty to the day.  Did you know that butterflies are the only type of insect without one stinging or poisonous variety?  They seem to exist merely to brighten our days.  Thanks, God.  They’re beautiful!

I can think of nothing better to brighten a summer day than butterfly cookies!

What are we waiting for?  Let’s do this!

Butterfly Sugar Cookies

(Adapted from Sweet Sugarbelle)


1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 sticks (1 cup) butter or margarine, room temperature
2 tsp. extract of your choice (I tend to use vanilla or almond)
1 egg (room temperature)
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3(ish) cups flour


Cream powdered sugar and butter until light and fluffy.  Add extract and egg; beat well.  Sprinkle baking powder and salt over mixture; mix well.  Add flour, a little at a time, until it forms a stiff dough that does not stick to your fingers.  Place on a floured surface and allow to rest for 15-20 minutes.  Roll out dough to 1/4 inch thickness.  Cut out shapes and “peel” dough scraps (more on this here).  Bake at 375 for roughly 15 minutes until set and bottoms of cookies are lightly golden.  Allow to cool on a baking rack before decorating with royal icing (more on how to make this here).

Now, in pictures! ?


The beautiful thing about sugar cookies is that you can use the same basic techniques to make almost anything! 🙂  You can read my basic sugar cookie tutorial here, if you are new here, and you’ll be decorating these little beauties in no time!  Sugar cookies go best with royal icing (recipe and tutorial here).  The great part about these cookies is that . . . you need only 1 color of icing!  Yessssss.  These cookies will be ready to brighten up your next baby or bridal shower party in no time!

Once you get your 17 second icing in white, you’re ready to decorate.  Start by outlining all your butterflies.  I like to outline all the cookies and then come back and fill them in so that the first “outlined” ones are dry by the time you come back, ready to fill them with icing goodness.


Go ahead and fill in all the outlines with white.  If you see any air bubbles, you can pop them with a toothpick so that the surface will dry smooth.  At this point, allow the cookies to dry for at least several hours so they’ll be ready for the airbrushing.


These cookies are decorated fairly quickly because we are going to use an airbrush.  A cookie airbrush is a piece of equipment that I took quite a while to invest in.  But once I took the plunge I never looked back, and now my airbrush machine is one of the most useful decorating tools in my cookie arsenal.  The airbrush machine I have is here.  I’m going to show you the quickest way to airbrush these little beauties so that you have more time for the important stuff . . . like eating cookies.  😉

I start with yellow airbrush color (regular food coloring won’t work– you need colors made especially for an airbrush), and place a light layer on the wings of the monarch and the tops of the swallowtails.  I like to do all the yellow for all the butterflies at the same time so that I don’t have to keep cleaning the airbrush all the time.  Another great tip is to use a cheapie paper plate to catch the overspray– that way it will catch all the mess, and you can just pitch the plate when you’re done.


Next, you can lightly airbrush some orange around the edges of the monarch.  Just give it a light coat– we still want to be able to see the yellow.


Clean your airbrush in between yellow/orange and the blues.  We are going to be using both a light and dark blue, and no need to clean the brush in between the blues. Yay!


I used the same shape for the monarch and the blue butterflies.  Start by doing a little light blue on the wings.


Then do a little light blue on the bottom of the swallowtail.


Now a teeny bit of dark blue on the edges of the blue butterfly.  When you’re airbrushing dark colors, be careful not to glob on the color, or it will bubble and make splotch marks.  It’s better to do 2 light coats, drying in between, than to try to put too much color on, too quickly.


When you get the basic airbrushing done, let the butterflies dry for about an hour before going on to the hand-painting.  There are several ways you can do this painting, and it just depends on what you have on hand.  You can dilute some black gel color with vodka or lemon extract (not water– it must be alcohol based or it will remain gummy instead of drying on your cookie), or you can use plain black airbrush color.  In a pinch you can even use a black edible food writer marker.  Whatever you use, go ahead and paint the edges and veins of the butterfly with black coloring and a fine-tipped paintbrush.


On the blue butterflies do a center and then some feathery marks reaching outward toward the wings.


The swallowtail isn’t hard, but it takes several steps.  Start with the center and a few tiny lines on top.


Then a top line and a few marks on the wings . . .


Then the edges . . .


Then a few more marks on the tops of the wings and some dots at the bottom.  They don’t have to be perfect– just some semblance of the markings on a real butterfly.  I’m no artist, and the cookies still tasted great, so don’t sweat it if they aren’t perfect. 🙂


Let your paintings dry for about an hour, and then use a #1 decorating tip (get one here) to make some nice white dots along the edges for some color.


Give the blue butterflies a little love, too.


And then the swallowtail.

Butterfly Sugar Cookies

Let your cookies dry, uncovered, overnight.  The icing will harden as they dry, so that the cookies can be gently stacked when you store them.

Butterfly Sugar Cookies

I think these little beauties would be perfect for a tea party with your kiddos, during these last beautiful days of summer.  My kiddos and I have been studying the different butterflies we see every day, and these cookies were a fun way for us to put our “field” studies to work in beautiful, edible form.

Ah, beautiful butterflies.  The next time you see one, take the time just to look at it.  They really are beautiful, aren’t they?

You did it. And I’m just so proud of you.

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  1. Jacqui

    These are so pretty I love them.

    1. Emilie (Post author)

      Thanks so much, Jacqui! 🙂 My kiddos enjoyed trying different color combos. 🙂

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