Three simple ingredients come together with ease for a project that’s fun for adults and kids alike. Once dried, you can decorate as desired or opt for a rustic look. Great as a gift and the aroma will last for years!
Choosing the right gifts for the many special people in our lives can be a daunting task. What present will be just right? Ultimately, the quest can be time-consuming and expensive, sometimes adding more stress than joy to the holiday season.
And let’s face it. Even the most well-intentioned gifts are often stuffed in a drawer or closet, never to be used or enjoyed.
When my boys were little, we’d pick a craft that they could make on their own (perhaps with a little help from Mom) and the recipient could put to good use. Projects ranged from pinecone birdfeeders to hand painted picture frames. Christmas tree ornaments were always a safe bet. Rather than becoming clutter, ornaments can go straight to the tree.
In addition to their clear purpose, handcrafted ornaments improve with age. As the years go by, who doesn’t love to look back on crafts made by the precious hands of a young child—or even a teenager for that matter? They take us back to an earlier time and place, rekindling memories that bolster the holiday spirit.
My children were always proud to give gifts that they created instead of bought. Even now that they’re older and have a little spending money of their own, we still brainstorm something to make for their dad and grandparents each year. In addition to being practical and thoughtful, it’s become a fun tradition.
The following recipe uses a combination of pantry and household items to create a dough that can be rolled out and cut into a variety of shapes and sizes. The shapes dry into sturdy, long-lasting ornaments that aren’t edible but smell wonderful. Left unadorned, they have a rustic look, but for added fun, they can be decorated in a variety of ways. We love the addition of some festive sparkle. Use them as a gift topper or a present in and of themselves.
First, you roll out the simple dough. I like to roll it between 2 pieces of parchment paper to approximately 3/8-inch thickness. (You can make thicker ornaments; they will simply take a little longer to dry out.) After cutting into desired shapes with your favorite cookie cutters, use a straw, skewer, piping tip or pencil to punch a hole near the top of the ornament for a ribbon.
For the drying process, you’ll want to place the ornaments on a parchment-lined baking sheet. As I transfer them, I use my finger to soften any rough edges. Depending on how soon you wish to decorate, you can use the oven or air-dry method for this.
Once dry, decorate as desired and then insert a ribbon through the hole for hanging.
- ¾ cup (6 ounces) applesauce (plus a few tablespoons as needed)
- 1 (4-ounce) container ground cinnamon (or about 1 cup*)
- 2 tablespoons (30 grams) white liquid glue (such as Elmer’s glue)
- Twine or ribbon for hanging
- Straw, skewer, pencil or piping tip to make hole
- Royal icing, glitter glue, small beads, etc., for decorating
Mix together the ¾ cup applesauce, ground cinnamon, and glue until well combined. Add more applesauce, a tablespoon at a time, as needed, to form a soft dough. Knead with your hands until the dough is smooth.
Roll out the dough. I like to roll it between 2 pieces of parchment paper to approximately ⅜-inch thickness. (You can make thicker ornaments; they will simply take a little longer to dry out.) Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters. Use a straw, skewer, piping tip or pencil to punch a hole near the top of the ornament for a ribbon. (Make sure to do this now. Once the ornaments have dried out, they will be too hard to make a hole.)
Place the ornaments on a parchment-lined baking sheet. As I transfer them, I use my finger to soften any rough edges. Dry in a 200℉ oven for 1½ to 2 hours. I usually flip them halfway through, but this isn’t critical. As an option, you may allow the ornaments to air dry for 3 to 4 days, flipping about once per day.
Once dry, decorate as desired and then insert a ribbon through the hole for hanging.
*Note that 4 ounces of powdery ground cinnamon is equal to 1 cup, not a half cup as with a liquid measure.
•To vary the aroma, ground cloves, allspice, nutmeg, and/or pumpkin pie spice can be mixed with the ground cinnamon.
•We got 11 standard-size ornaments from our last batch. I used the scraps to make a few smaller shapes and a bunch of beads for my nieces to make necklaces. The yield will vary based on the thickness of the dough once rolled and the size of the cookie cutters used.
•The recipe may be doubled if desired.
It’s was a big fail! I tried with a class. I don’t know want I did wrong. Never got to a soft dough.
I’m so sorry, Lori. Did you use enough cinnamon, making sure to use 4 ounces, which is not the same as 1/2 cup with something powdery like this? If that doesn’t seem to be the reason and I can help you troubleshoot further, I’d be more than happy to help.
Hi, can you make hand/foot/paw print ornaments with this dough? Would the impressions stay in the dough when baking? Like salt dough?
That’s a really good question, Kylie. I think if you kept the dough thicker it would give you enough for a good impression and work well. Because of the added thickness, it would take longer to dry out, but I’d definitely try. And if you do, I’d love to know how you make out!
The dough is so wet and sticky. How can I fix it???
Hi Julie, Dough that is too sticky and wet would result from too much applesauce, too much glue, or not enough cinnamon. Check your cinnamon container for its weight in ounces to be certain you started with enough. For the full recipe you do need that entire cup of cinnamon. If these suggestions don’t provide a remedy, let me know and we can keep troubleshooting.
This did not work for me at all! The mixture never came together to form a “dough”. It was quite a mess and a waste of money:(. I’m sorry, but maybe something is missing from the ingredients list?
Anyway, merry Christmas and happy holidays!
Hi Gretchen, I’m very sorry this didn’t work for you and I’d be happy to troubleshoot if you’d like. The instructions are correct and tend to work for most, so perhaps there was an inadvertent error with the measurements? Thanks for checking in and happy holidays to you, too!
Wondering if fabric glue would work??
Wendy, I think it would but haven’t tried. We’ve used craft glue and glitter glue, and good old Elmer’s should work well, too.
Looking at ornaments this year and found the bell my son made over 30 years ago. This year I want to make some for a few ladies at church. Found your recipe and made my list. Tomorrow I will get to baking. Happy Holidays !
I bet that bell ornament brought back wonderful memories! How thoughtful of you to make these for some of the women at your church. I’m sure they will be much appreciated. Happy holidays to you, too!
We decided to make beads in place of cookie shapes. We rolled the beads and put a hole through the center. Once air dried (4 to 5 days) we painted them with poster paints (red and white /green and white sprayed a clear coat over & strung on twine and put on our tree. They smell fantastic..
The beads are so much fun! I bet they look as fantastic as they smell!
I’m so excited to try this as a homeschool activity! Thank you for sharing!
My pleasure, Kirsten! Have fun!
Just the recipe I was looking for! I have 2 ornaments that my son made probably 24 or 25 years ago when he was in kindergarten-and they still smell amazing! I’m planning on making them this year with the residents in the care home I work in. I’m hoping that the cinnamon scent helps bring back memories especially with the dementia residents… thank you for sharing…
Your comment made my day, Nancy. I love that your son’s ornaments still smell good after so many years. My heart is also warmed that you will be making these with the residents you work with. What a wonderful activity that will be, and I love the thought that the scent may bring back memories, especially with the dementia patients.
How do you store them after the holidays?? Cookie tin in between parchment paper ??
That would be prefect, Patti. The ornaments are rather sturdy, but a layer of parchment, paper towel or tissue paper will protect any decorations.
These are so cute. Since it is made with apple sauce, is there a chance bugs will bother them?
Hi Kristie, I’ve never had a problem or received reports of any problems. If you’re concerned, it wouldn’t hurt to store them in an airtight container.
Hello! I want to use this recipe but do not have parchment paper. Will they stick to a pan?
Hi Kati, Like any dough, they can stick. Short of parchment, I’d try wax paper or flour your work surface. The latter will cause the one side to have some white dust clinging to it, so you could even try “flouring” with extra cinnamon. Most grocery stores carry rolls of parchment near the plastic and other wraps, so to be safe you could pick up a roll when you buy the cinnamon if you haven’t already.
Thank you so much for the recipe! My daughter and I will be making these tomorrow morning for my grandson’s 1st grade class!
Mrs. Erin, the teacher, had all the kiddos color their own pic of a gingerbread man, then they all marched off to gym class. Upon their return all the gingerbread men disappeared, lol.
Mrs. Erin has parents and friends writing to the class telling them the gingerbread men have been spotted all over the country, lol.
Magically the children’s colorings will return on Wednesday and so will our renditions of their colorings, except now they will be ornaments!
Thank you again!!
Shelia, I just love this! Thanks so much for sharing and have so much fun. I know the children will! I especially like the part about the sitings! 🙂
which is it? 4oz ( small bottle) or 8oz (1 cup)
Hi Terrie, I’ve mentioned in some of the other comments that 4 ounces of cinnamon is actually about 1 cup. Because of its powdery consistency, it weighs less than 1/2 cup (or 4 ounces) of liquid. If you measure out the contents of a 4-ounce container of cinnamon, it will make sense. I hope this helps and that you enjoy them!
Wonderful idea and makes for great family time. Thanks so much.
My pleasure! So happy you like it!
we made this when I was in 3rd grade and I am 14 now and I still have the ornament and it still smells amazing
I love that – and I’m sure it brings back fun memories every year when you hang it!
We are doing a class experiment with this recipe. However, our class is only 45 minutes long. Where can we store this so we can use this the next day? Thanks!
Perhaps there’s some free shelf space where you could place the baking sheets? Good luck with the experiment!
HI! I would love to make these with my preschool class, but there is someone in our school deathly allergic to cinnamon so we try to keep it out as much as possible. Is there any way to make these ornaments without cinnamon. Maybe a nutmeg/ginger combination?
Hi Holly, That’s a really good question. I am optimistic that spices like nutmeg and ginger, which are ground to a consistency much like cinnamon, would work. To make sure, I’d try a small sample batch. If you do, please report back, as others may run into the same allergy – and you may just solve the problem for them!
Approximately how many does this make
Hi Christine, As I mention in the recipe, we got 11 standard-size ornaments from the pictured batch. Then I used the scraps to make a few smaller shapes and a bunch of beads for my nieces to make necklaces. The yield will vary based on the thickness of the dough once rolled and the size of the cookie cutters used. Hope this helps!
Love making these every year but 1 cup is 8 oz, just saying check your amounts. Maybe you meant up to a cup?
Hi Liz, One cup is 8 liquid ounces but that doesn’t apply to everything. Cinnamon is so powdery that, cup for cup, it weighs less than water and many other solids…sort of like once cup of all purpose flour weighs less than 8 ounces. Hope that helps!
For the cinnamon, it states a 4oz container or a cup? 4oz is only half a cup. I need to make a lot and I’m going to buy the cinnamon in bulk. Do you use the 4oz or do you measure out a cup?
Hi Patti, Cinnamon is much lighter than liquids and other solids, so this is why the measurement does not appear to be standard. For this reason I was sure to provide both measurements and hopefully avoid confusion. The recipe should multiply well – simply stick with the same proportions.