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.
Can wood glue be used in place of white glue
Hi Heather, In addition to wood, wood glue adheres to a broad range of other surfaces, from metals and stone to ceramics and many plastics. So, I think you should be fine.
Hello, Ms. Ann
Thank you for sharing your recipe, it looks like fun and I think that your decorating ideas are very helpful…I have never thought of decorating them before! I also like your ideas for making beads from the dough, as well. I have not made these ornaments since elementary school, so I am really excited to make these with my girls and hopefully eith their cousins, too, this week!
Thank you and Merry Christmas!
Also, I like the idea of mixing spices to produce a wonderfully aromatic scent! How fun.
Hi Dawn, What a fun activity this will be with your daughters and their cousins. Hope they have fun decorating and maybe even making some beads. Thank you for your comment and wishing you a very merry Christmas too!
The texture was too wet so I had to keep adding cinnamon. I bought generic applesauce, I am guessing it is may be more watery than the other brands?
They smell delicious and the students had a great time! To keep the others busy while I helped one child at a time making ornaments, the others played with gingerbread playdough and cookie cutters.
Hi Trudy, What a fun time you created for your students, and that’s interesting about the applesauce. Watery applesauce could definitely throw off the balance. I’m glad you had more cinnamon to mix in and appreciate your feedback.
I love this idea and want to make this with my students. Can I make the dough the night before and keep it in the refrigerator? Then bring to my classroom for my students to create the ornaments?
Hi Mollie, The dough should work fine for you if you make it in advance. Just be sure to keep it well wrapped so it doesn’t dry out. How wonderful that you’re doing this for your students!
Can I make these ahead of time? Planning on making at home on Sunday and taking to school Monday, keeping in the fridge.
Also, I need enough for 50 ornaments. Ingredient amounts please.
Thank you so much!
Hi Marylynn, Making the dough in advance should work fine. Just make sure it’s well wrapped so it doesn’t dry out. Plan on about a dozen ornaments per batch, with some scraps that can be rerolled or rolled into beads to make necklaces. The yield will vary based on the thickness of the dough once rolled and the size of the cookie cutters used, but multiplying the recipe by five should get you to 50 ornaments. I hope that helps and that these make a fun school project!
I made these almost 25 years ago with my kids. They lasted about 10 years. My grandson and I just made some and we will be decorating them after they cool. He will give some as gifts to Mom and his teachers. So easy and fun to make!
What great memories, Michelle…and such a long life these ornaments have! How wonderful that you are making them all these years later with your grandson. What a special gift they will be!
These are baking in the oven now. It was a very wet dough so I added more cinnamon until it become a soft manageable dough. No worries. I bet it’s related to the applesauce. Maybe it was a bit more liquidy based on the brand.
So happy you were able to troubleshoot for the liquidy applesauce, Kori. These really are forgiving. Thanks for checking in.
Hi, I just made these with my son for the first time and the recipe was perfect! I watch them in my oven because my oven runs hot. Thank you for sharing!
I’m thrilled these were a successful project with your son, Leah. Thanks for your feedback!
Those were the good old days. ME and my Grandmom, used to make these on snowy days before Christmas!!
We had such a GOOD TIME!!
Love those special memories, Maria. Good old days for sure!
These turned out beautifully and are just like something similar I recall making as a girl. My daughters and I used glitter glue pens like you mentioned and the ornaments look like glistening works of art. Thank you!
I’m so happy to read your comment, Beth, and hope your girls, like you, have memories of making these when they are parents!
I’m so disappointed. I did everything exactly like the recipe but when I took them out of the oven they were all cracked!
Hi Mo, I’m so sorry to read this and am happy to help you troubleshoot. The things that come to mind are that the ornaments may have stayed in the oven too long or that your oven runs hot. Another culprit could be over measuring the cinnamon or under measuring the applesauce or glue. You may be able to “erase” some of the cracks by sprinkling some water over the ornaments and rubbing them lightly once it soaks in. Then you can let them dry on the counter. If this doesn’t help, let me know and we will get to the root of the problem.
So excited to try this! Two questions, first does baking or not baking affect the intensity of the scent? I’d love them to be as fragrant as possible 😉
Second question I saw noted in one of your replies to another poster that you’ve tried glitter glue. How did that turn out? Was the glitter very visible? (Also if I’m not mistaken most glitter glues are in a transparent base correct? Whereas Elmer’s tends to be white) Would this be something to be wary of? Last part to question 2, if using glitter did you bake them, or air dry?
Thanks so much and Merry Christmas!!
Hi Cara, I’m excited for you! These are really fun and the scent lasts for years. I can’t say I’ve noticed a difference between the oven and air drying methods. Maybe air drying retains a touch more…but honestly I think any difference is negligible. As for the glitter glue, you can see what it looks like in some of the pictures (along with the linked royal icing recipe). I really like way it turns out. I buy the glitter glue pens from the craft store because they are easy to work with. Glitter glue also avoids tiny pieces of glitter everywhere, which inevitably happens with the basic dry glitter. If you go the Elmer’s route, you could use their clear option which would eliminate any chance of white showing through once dry. Also, I decorate with the glitter after the ornaments are dry, just like the other decorations. I think that answers all your questions. If you think of anything else, let me know…and have fun!
Oh yes I see, I think I may have misread the comment I mentioned. I thought you had used the glitter glue in the dough
I wonder though if it would be noticeable or affect how the dough held together.
I think the cinnamon would mute the glitter, but some of it may show through and create an interesting effect. Perhaps you could experiment with a portion of the batter. If you do try, I’d love to know how you make out!
If we put the decorations on before they dry and push them down in there will they stay?
Hi Melissa, The dough isn’t especially sticky or thick, so depending on what you’re trying to push in, you may or may not have success. For best results, I recommend decorating once dry with royal icing or glue (even glitter glue) that will dry hard and serve as a long-lasting adhesive.
I just found your recipe. I’ve seen others using just cinnamon and applesauce. I want to make a small gingerbread type house. Does adding the glue make it stronger?
I believe it does, Jane. I haven’t made these with just cinnamon and applesauce to truly gauge the difference, but the ornaments made with this recipe are quite sturdy. I love the idea of using for a house!
Can I use water instead of applesauce?
I haven’t used water in place of the applesauce, Rocio, so I’m not sure if the ornaments would be as sturdy that way. If you try, you might want to test with a half batch, and feel free to report back if you do.
Hi! Does the glue need to be white? Does it change something if you don’t use white?
Hi Samantha, I’ve only used white (Elmer’s) glue and glitter glue, so I can’t guarantee results with something different. If you want to use something different, I’d make a small test batch to be sure. Elmer’s now makes clear glue, so that would likely work well, too.
Can you give me a comparison texture to look/feel for? I think I got our first batch right but it seemed a bit…wet? Is that right? Also, side note, don’t use tacky glue like I did for our FIRST first batch that I will not be admitting to anyone but you all.
Haha, Melissa. We won’t tell. ; ) Think of the dough as a pie dough or firmer pizza dough. You want to be able to roll it out without sticking. If it’s too wet, the dough will even stick to the parchment paper. Most of the tall, standard-size containers of cinnamon contain between 2 and 2½ ounces (as opposed to the short alternatives that contain about ½ to ¾ ounce). So you’ll want to look at the weight on the container you have on hand (or purchase) to be sure you have enough cinnamon for the project. I hope this helps. If you have further questions, don’t hesitate to ask!
Thank you so much. You are so kind and quick to respond. Happy holidays!
My pleasure and happy holidays to you, too!
I have been making these for 45 years. I have the originals and they still smell cinnamon.
I love that, Linda!
Looks fun, thanks
My pleasure : )
What is the harm in rolling much thinner? I did a batch and probably only rolled them less than 1/4 inch. They look ok .
Hi Venita, There really isn’t a problem with rolling the ornaments thinner. They will be a little less sturdy, although they will dry faster.