PAINTED BUTTERFLIES

A couple of weeks ago I spotted something on Instagram and fell in love with it instantly. It was in the page of one incredibly talented baker, Mary Mansfield, check her work here. I dropped her a message asking some details about her painting technique, and she was adorable, super helpful. So I took a deep breath and tried it myself. Basically you flood the cookies with white Royal icing, let it set for a day, and then use diluted gel dye to paint them. I tried Everclear and I tried water. Everclear has so much alcohol in it that it dries super fast and gives the icing a matte finish. I had trouble controlling the intensity of the color and their mixing, so I ended up switching to water. But you should figure out what works best for you.

This is your white canvas… I went with small cookies, because the smaller they are, the less likely I would mess them up beyond recognition as butterflies. Or so I thought. Once they are flooded and totally dry, you can gather your weapons of choice and start playing. My favorite of all was this blue baby. Reminds me of some that used to be common in Brazil.

You can use sharp strokes with the brush, or add a little water or alcohol to the surface of the icing and then do a kind of watercolor painting touching the dye on that wet spot and moving it around. Things sometimes get a bit out of control. I told Phil that this painting is similar to driving on icy roads: you slide here, you do a save there, you almost crash, but in the end it’s all good. If not happy with the outcome, follow my advice to quickly eat the evidence. As to the body, add it after the paint is dry, using toothpaste consistency royal icing. Let it dry and if desired, paint it.

So here are my 12 little butterflies, in different tones and styles…

THE RED SERIES

In some cases I painted the bodies because they developed craters, a real nightmare that I’m not that good at avoiding. Additionally, when the paint dried on the wings, I went back on some and added a few details with silver or gold luster powder.

THE BLUE SERIES

And the final four, which in fact were the ones I made first, so I was struggling a bit. Particularly with the one of the top left, there were “issues.” I went through a few “Oh, NO, what have I done?”, but decided to keep it. It also developed a huge crater, the poor baby. One abused butterfly.

You might think this is too time-consuming, but in fact the dye dries so fast that you cannot spend too much time fiddling with it. Decide what you want to do, pick a set of two, three colors at most to work on a single cookie, and hope for the best.

Butterflies are one of my favorite subjects to “cookie.” I have a few more examples to share in the near future, using different techniques. So hopefully I’ll see you back here soon!

SUGAR COOKIES: THE GROOVY SERIES

I dedicate this post to Dr. Aritri Majumdar.

From black and white, I do a 180. This time is all about color. The mini-projector is the easiest way to deal with all the designs, so if you are seriously into cookie decorating, I must tell you this little gadget will shake your world, in a very positive way… Please, sit back and let me show you some of the cookies that happened in our kitchen in the past few weeks.

Mandalas are wonderful to play with…

And you don’t have to limit yourself to simple circular shapes, the same basic style can be applied to many different designs…

Mandala or not, just embrace the colors, and have fun!

All cookies were made either with my default Neat Edges recipe, or the recently blogged Spicy Chocolate Cookie. For decoration, links to the food safe pens and luster powders can all be found in the end of this post.

SUGAR COOKIES: BLACK AND WHITE SERIES

One of the things I love the most is to bake a bunch of cookies without anything specific in mind. I cut them in different shapes, flood them with white Royal icing, and wait 24 hours for the icing to fully set. At that point, the fun begins. Whenever I feel like it (but with my cappuccino first thing in the morning is a favorite time), I decorate a few of them. You know I love colorful stuff, but there’s something to be said about a simple, black and white design. I share a few today, all made in the past few weeks.

All you need is a fine tip food safe black pen. My favorite for this type of work is this one. If you don’t have a projector, any design can be transferred using tissue paper, like Tanya, Tent-Baker-Extraordinaire, shows in her sweet video here. For more complicated designs, you won’t need to transfer every single line, you can do the overall frame and then fill in by hand with the fine pen.

Wild cats are a nice subject for the black and white approach…

But other animals will do great too…

If you are a horse person, a dog person, a cat person, there’s always the right cookie for you!

I also like to do a minimal painting sometimes, on a mostly black and white design…

The internet is an endless source of cool images, I save them and slowly work my way through. I close this post with perhaps my favorite image of this group, although the wolf put up a huge fight…

THE MANY FACES OF THE OREO COOKIE

As I just published on my regular blog, this is a cookie recipe I am quite fond of. It has a grown-up aura due to the chipotle heat (but kids love it too), and it holds any pattern during baking, making it perfect to play with patterned rolling pins and cookie molds. In my original post I shared simple cookies imprinted with a fondant mat (check it out here). Now let me show you a few variations using the same exact dough.

OREO STYLE COOKIES

You can use a patterned rolling pin and cut rounds, filling the with the traditional Oreo-type cream. I used the filling recipe from this post. Simple and delicious. A little gold dust with vodka, Everclear or lemon extract to paint the design, does a nice job.

You can also use a little impression gadget made for fondant (this set from Wilton is wonderful) and go with happy colors. They are all luster dust from Oh Sweet Art, my favorite brand.

For a totally different look, they can also be cut in small squares. I love this patterned rolling pin, very modern. All my patterned rolling pins were bought at etsy.com. Do a search for embossed rolling pins and get busy!

You can also keep it very simple, roll the dough, cut and just add a brush with gold in the end.

ICING ON THE COOKIE

They can also play the role of the traditional sugar cookie, the sweetness of the icing goes well with the chocolate base.

For this version, I flooded with white, let it set overnight, then used a stencil to paint a pattern with the air-brush. A little black pen makes the design pop. I am quite fond of the hexagon shape.

In this final version, I flooded the flowers and leaves (for flowers I used fuchsia from Sugarflair and Tulip Red from Americolor), let it set briefly (maybe 30 minutes), and added details with piping consistency icing. A little Diamond dust to finish them with some sparkle. Because… I am addicted to sparkle.

I hope you enjoyed this small collection of cookies, and try the recipe, using it in any way you like. You might have to play with the amount of chipotle, so I advise you to start with the small amount and see how you like it.

OUT OF THIS WORLD SUGAR COOKIES

I faithfully follow four Cookie Gurus to guide my path through all things Royal icing: Marlyn, Amy, Haniela and Amber. Today I share my adventure with Amber’s Alien cookie design. I thought the whole thing was super clever, joining the “galaxy” theme for the basic decoration with a cute little green being. Here they are, surrounding their Queen, my personal contribution to the theme. You can watch Amber’s detailed video as part of a recent Tuesday Cookie Therapy, with a click here.

Once again the shape of choice is the hexagon, these are 3 inches wide. Amber’s template (available in her ko-fi shop) is used to make the alien’s head, first the green part is piped, and after just a few minutes you can pipe the eyes in black. As usual, the transfers need to be made the day before.

They are centered on the flooded base later. For that step you will need five colors to be piped concentrically: black, turquoise, purple, pink and white.

Amber shows in her tutorial a perfect way to get the galaxy effect using a spatula, not a needle. She also made beautiful stars as transfers, but I failed at those and used star-shaped sprinkles instead. I will try them again in the future, those need a lot of skill to pipe and to handle later. After placing the transfers, add the sprinkles of your choice, and you could be done.

But I could not leave them alone, decided to shower the edges with some diamond dust. To do that, I made a little shield with parchment paper to protect Mr. Alien’s head.

Diamond dust sticks in every surface, so the only way to be selective about the coverage is protecting spots you want to keep without it.

For the Queen, I simply googled “alien coloring pages” and found that drawing ready for my projector. I thought it was a perfect match for these little guys.

FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS BEES

Once again I followed the cookie-steps of Amy to make these adorable cookies that celebrate one of the most fascinating creatures of this world of ours. Honey bees. Her tutorial can be found as part of Tuesday Cookie Therapy here (starting at 36 min and 30 seconds) and a more detailed version focused only on the bee cookie is available here.

Three different cookie shapes. Royal icing templates make two sizes of bees, and the little bee hive. All templates for transfers are available at Amy’s ko-fi shop for a very small fee. You get 4 PDF downloads, one of them lists all gadgets used in the project, from cookie cutters to cordless air-brush.

THE ROYAL ICING TRANSFERS

You can use parchment paper placed over the template, or stick them in plastic bags (or those plastic page protectors for folders) and pipe away. For the cookie recipe, I used my default (Neat Edges Sugar Cookies), flavored with 1/2 tsp honey extract and 1/4 tsp almond emulsion. Keep in mind those need to be made the day before to fully set before you add the details with a food pen. Once they are ready, you can plan their placement over the cookie.

THE BEEHIVE COOKIE

Amy designed a very nice method to make the beehive shine (make sure to watch her tutorial). Flood it in sections (so they are kept nicely defined), but when you do half of the sections, air-brush some brown color just at the edges. If you don’t have an-air brush, you can conceivably brush some powder but you will have to do that when the icing is totally set, so the cookies will take longer to be finished. Once the icing is crusted (probably after an hour or so) you can glue the bees on top.

But the final details must wait another day, as the fine pen can hurt the icing if not fully set. Add the antennas and flight path, and you are done!

For the hexagonal and honey pot, I flooded the whole cookie, let it fully set, and then air-brushed a honey comb stencil with brown dye. Bees and a honey drip were added, plus the final touches with a food pen. Diamond Dust gave some of the cookies a final shine I like very much. Amy is big on Diamond Dust too.

I painted the honey drip and the small hive with Baby Yellow pearl dust from Oh Sweet Art. Unfortunately it seems to be unavailable at the present time. It is one of my favorite colors, very subtle.

Hexagons are one of the most versatile shapes in the cookie universe. I have made bee cookies in a more simplified way, just piping small blobs of icing for the bee’s body. It works, but Amy definitely takes the concept to a whole new level!

BAKE COOKIES!

BEE HAPPY!

MARLYN’S PEACOCK PAISLEY COOKIES

I fell in love with these cookies the moment I saw them on Marlyn’s Facebook page. They seemed way beyond my skill level, but when I watched her tutorial, she stated that they would be a great ‘beginner’s project.” I tried to make them back in January, but was not too happy with the outcome. Not only my royal icing was a bit “flat”, but I messed up the dimensions of the design in relation to the cookie size. Since then I’ve been meaning to re-visit the project, and now I finally did. To speak like they do in a certain tent of my past, “I am chuffed.” Truly. Thank you, Marlyn!

These cookies are a labor of love, but so much fun to put together! If you become a supporter of Marlyn on Patreon, all her detailed tutorials and templates are available for you (she has almost 600 posts listed on Patreon). But you can also download just the templates for these cookies on her ko-fi page for a very small fee.

The cookie has three components: a base layer with flooding consistency (two colors), a floral Royal icing transfer, and decorative lines added with piping consistency icing. The most important thing is to make sure the size of your cookie matches well the template of the design.

I could have printed the design a tiny bit smaller, but I am ok with the way it turned out. One easy way to get the cookie ready to work on is to air-brush the exposed region, so that you can easily see where to pipe the flooded base. But you can always just draw the outline with a food pen.

Start by making the Royal icing transfer, keep in mind it must dry for 24 hours so it can be peeled off safely from the parchment paper.

My advice would be to pipe it on acetate instead of parchment. Maybe brands of parchment behave differently, but mine wrinkled a bit, and that resulted in some of the transfers not laying fully flat on the flooded base, particularly the pointed edges.

Next, time to work on the flooding. You will need two colors, teal and green, but as you can see, the green part ended up exactly the same as the color of the Royal icing transfer. Of course, if I wanted to do that, it would never happen! Murphy’s Law. Note to self: create more contrast next time.

The final details rely on piping fine lines, the step that can truly make or break your cookies. The Royal icing transfer is super smart, because it serves as a guide, but you still need to get the consistency of the icing right. I am always afraid of it, but keep picking projects that force me to do it, because that’s the only way to improve.

The cookie also works on a white background, but it is not as dramatic, in my opinion. At any rate, this cookie shape is one of my favorites to play with. So many possibilities!

I hope you enjoyed this post, and consider following Marlyn on IG and Facebook. She comes up with free tutorials at least twice every week, and her creativity and skill will blow your mind.

FOR THE LOVE OF LADYBUGS

Today marks the 4th anniversary of my Mom’s death.
I think she would have loved these cookies…

Ladybugs are adorable. We must ignore the sad fact that they can bite, although as stated in the link “they prefer not to.” I find that statement almost as adorable as ladybugs themselves… These cookies were made following a quick video of Haniela, a cookie artist who lives in Spain. I used my default recipe for neat-edges sugar cookies. These were perfumed with chai extract from Olive Nation. Make the ladybugs the day before, and follow the self-explanatory pictures to decorate them or the IG video from Hani. Air-brushing the edges is optional, the cookies look fine without it.

Let’s get started!

The day before, make your little ladybug friends…. I did not use a template, just eye-balled a red body and a little black head. You can make many more than you’ll need, as they keep forever.

Let them sit at room temperature overnight, then gently add the details with a black food pen…

Now, let’s work on the cookies…

Start outlining the edge and the empty spaces… You can eye-ball it all, or draw with a food pen to guide you. Keep in mind you will need to pipe a central vein on the leaf, so plan your empty spots accordingly.

Flood with green royal icing…

Let that set for 30 minutes or so, add details with piping consistency black icing…

Let that set for 10 minutes and pipe little decorative dots all around the empty spaces.

The basic cookie is ready… Now add the ladybug with a small dot of royal icing as glue, and if you like, air-brush a slightly darker green around the edges. I did, but it is a bit hard to notice (check the first or the last picture of this post).

I think those turned out pretty cute, and were not at all complicated to make. I still struggle with the fine lines, and feel that there’s a lot of room for improvement, but I try to have fun on my path to reach Nirvana.

AMY’S DOGWOOD SUGAR COOKIES

Every Tuesday at noon I try to join the Facebook live event called Cookie Therapy, hosted by Marlyn and Amy. You can read more about it here, and watch all episodes whenever convenient. Last month Amy showed how to make cookies decorated with my very favorite flower: dogwood. It was just a matter of time for me to gather the necessary gadgets and try to reproduce them. For Amy’s super detailed tutorial to make these cookies, click here. You can advance to 8 minutes to get to the beginning of her demonstration.

The flowers can be made way in advance, using an impression mold from Wilton and fondant. I have intense dislike for fondant, but after reading great reviews about this brand, I caved and tried it. I don’t think you can get fondant to taste better, unless maybe if you make it from scratch. That is not happening in my kitchen in the foreseeable future, so that’s what I used for my flowers.

In the video tutorial, Amy shows exactly how to form the flowers, leaves and centers using this cool mold from Wilton. The fondant is dyed green using Americolor Laurel. The ends of the petals are dusted lightly with luster powder after the fondant is set. I used Ruby from Oh Sweet Art.

A word about shaping of leaves. You can make those using special fondant cutters like this one:

It makes a leaf, alright. But it is quite artificial-looking. Using the impression mold from Wilton is a game-changer. Each leaf is unique, and you can cut it with a leaf-shaped cutter or even do it free hand.

Once you have the flowers ready, time to work on the cookie. The idea is to set the flower over a blue base (Wedgewood from Americolor is a favorite of mine), but with a white and green area more or less framing flower and leaf. Amy advises to plan the design, draw with a food pen, and then flood accordingly.

I absolutely LOVED making these cookies. Amy went the extra-mile drawing a delicate outline of the dogwood in the flooded area, but to do that I think I would need a slightly larger cookie and plan the area more carefully. So I skipped that step.

I hope you enjoyed this post, and please stop by Amy’s Instagram page (@seriouslysweetondavisst) and Facebook page to see the many beauties she bakes (she is a professional cookie and cake baker).

FOR THE LOVE OF A GOLFER

Last week my beloved went to play golf with a bunch of his buddies and took with him a batch of cookies to share after 9 holes. The idea was to give them a boost of sugar to hit that drive 50 yards further. Super simple design, you just need to make a template with a shape for the green to cut the cookies free-hand. The best way to make the hole is after they’ve been baking for about 7 minutes, get the baking sheet out of the oven and quickly stamp out the hole using a round piping tip. When you do that, you’ll get a nice rounded edge. I made two versions, depending on how you feel about icing, pick the first or the second.

Version #1

Cookie surface is just painted with luster powder + vodka, which gives a look of grass without any need for Royal icing. Icing is there only for the small details.

Version #2

In this version, the cookies were flooded with green Royal icing, and then half of them were sprinkled with crushed Graham crackers previously dyed green/brown. To dye the crumbs, place them in a ziplock bag, add food gel diluted with vodka, and rub until the color is evenly distributed. I used two tones of green and a bit of golden from Americolor. If the crumbs feel too moist, place them in a 250F oven for 20 minutes or so, as a thin layer. Add the crumbs after the flooded area sits for a few minutes, so that they don’t simply sink to the bottom.

To add the red flag, because it’s such a small area, it is a good idea to add a little bit of icing to the center, let it crust a little then fill the rest. It helps avoid cratering.

If you feel brave enough, make a green with sand traps around it. There is a very beautiful par 3 green in Colbert Hills Golf Course that would be nice to “cookie.” It’s in the plans…