Why are custom sugar cookies so expensive?

So you’re planning a party. Awesome! You start planning the menu and you want to include some of those adorable sugar cookies you saw on Pinterest on your dessert table. You go on Facebook or Instagram to find someone local who makes them. You ask for a price quote and you are floored when the cookie decorator replies “My prices start at $30 a dozen and go up from there.” You think “Seriously?! $30? I could make those cookies for $5.” And you’re right; you could make a batch of cookies for $5 and I’m sure they would taste great. But let me walk you through why we cookie decorators charge what we charge. Because I promise we are not trying to take advantage of you.

Let’s start at the beginning; the baking. A batch of my dough costs about $5 in ingredients (including icing) and takes me about 1.5 hours to bake from start to finish.  One batch makes between 18-24 cookies depending on size. Next: the icing. Here’s where we start to get a little more complicated. Say you want a Toy Story theme with Woody and Buzz and Rex and maybe a few of the cute little alien dudes. For that set I would have to mix blue, dark green, light green, brown, black, red, yellow and white. For each color I need two consistencies (thick and thin.) That means I almost have to mix each color twice. So coloring and bagging that many colors would take another 1.5 hours. So you have 3 hours of work before the frosting even touches the cookie.

Now lets get to the fun part; decorating! Decorating can be simple or elaborate, but even the simple designs take a lot of time. Let’s stick with our Toy Story set scenario. As you can imagine, Toy Story cookies are going to include character details; they aren’t going to be simple circles with one color on them. Say I’m making Woody. Each section of his costume has to be done one at a time with at least 20 mins of dry time between layers. All these layers are what make professionally decorated cookies stand out, but it is also what takes the most time. To not complicate things further, I’ll just simplify it by saying that it takes me on average 7 hours to decorate 24 cookies. If there are hand painted details or extensive piping those details will add even more time. Once I’m all done decorating, I package them up for you. I usually individually package each cookie in it’s own heat sealed bag and then arrange those on a platter with a cute bow. Packaging takes me about 30 mins and costs me about $3 in materials.

So let’s break that down and see how much I am paying myself per hour. So it’s $60 for 2 dozen cookies. That takes me 10.5 hours to make – $8 in materials. So that’s $60-$8=$52. $52/10.5hours = $4.95 per hour. Yep. I make $4.95 per hour.

This estimate is not including any overhead costs either. We cookiers also invest a good amount of money into our supplies; airbrush machines, stencils, gold dust, projectors, piping bags, and tips just to name a few. Cookie cutters deserve a special mention because they are an obvious necessity to perform our job. I have over 600 cookie cutters, with a good chunk of those being 3D printed cutters that cost an average of $5 a piece. Now am I charging you for use of my cutters and other tools when I take your order? Of course not, but they are necessities for me to produce beautiful cookies.

So if I only make $4.95 an hour, why do I take custom orders? Because I LOVE IT. I love making cookies! I love making people happy with my cookies! It’s my creative outlet. I don’t tell you this to make you feel bad or feel like you should be paying more; my sole intention is to put our pricing into perspective. Every cookie is a labor of love and creativity and I believe that they are worth every dollar you will spend. Plus they taste good!

Happy Baking!



  1. Truth. I also make sugar cookies. You described it beautifully! IT is an art that we love. It’s amazing how many people do not know the work that creates the little masterpiece. Thank you!

  2. Thank you so much for putting the cost into perspective. I too do the cookies for the love of it. I hate the baking and mixing but love the decorating and the smiles it brings to faces. I only decorate with candy coating so my process is slightly different but just as time consuming. Would you mind if I use some of your verbiage if I ever need to defend my pricing?

  3. From me decorating sugar cookies once from my co-workers where I worked, I can definitely understand and appreciate all the effort that it goes to make custom cookies. Mine weren’t even that elaborate are pretty and it took me a long time to make about 20 of them. Anything custom or that is deemed art is going to be more expensive than something you can just buy the store and make yourself. Very well written article that puts the cost into perspective.

  4. I’ve always wondered and had no idea how much work went into these! Thanks for the explanation as I’ve considered taking up cookie decorating myself. But now that I’ve read your post, not sure I have the time to invest. So I will just continue to support my local cookie decorators!

  5. So true! I’ve just costed out my ingredient increases for this year and it’s so sad to see how little I make at the end of the day!

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