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…

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 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).

STAINED GLASS SUGAR COOKIES

I am hopelessly in love with this technique. I won’t lie to you, these cookies are a bit involved, as you need to take your time with each step. But mostly it is waiting time for the base to set, then the lines, when finally the real fun part starts: the painting!

Keep in mind that for any design you choose, you will need to pipe fine lines with Royal icing to set the boundaries of each section. My advice is to keep it simple. Obviously, at first I did not follow this rule and decided to make a peacock. It did not have a happy ending, which explains why you will see no peacock in this post.

I flooded the cookies with white Royal icing, and allowed it to set overnight. Then I projected an image on the surface, and drew with a fine food pen. I should not have used black, a lighter color would have been better, so that is my advice #2 for you. After that, grey Royal icing that was used to pipe the lines (using white would work too, I just wanted to give it a head start for the final color). I still struggle a lot with that piping consistency, and my lines are never as smooth as I would like them to be. But I think I’m slowly getting there.

Once you pipe the lines and they are fully dry, you can paint them with silver or gold luster dust diluted with vodka, and then fill the sections with colors. This step can be omitted if you prefer to leave the lines white or maybe use another color. I wanted to go for a more “metallic” look to mimic the traditional stained-glass motif.

The stained-glass effect is obtained by mixing corn syrup, water, and gel dye. It is a trial and error experience. Place a tiny amount of corn syrup in a watercolor palette, a tiny amount of the color you want to work on in another spot, and a small amount of water in another spot.

Wet the tip of a brush with the water (you’ll need very little water, so dry the excess on a paper towel), and make a diluted mixture of corn syrup and food dye. Soon you will realize how much to add of each component. If it is too light, add more dye, if it is too runny, add more corn syrup. The abstract flower I painted with luster powder + vodka, for a slightly different look.

I am definitely going to use this technique again in the near future, as I need more practice with the fine lines. But of all the cookies I’ve made recently, this stained glass trio of flowers might be my very favorite.

MY FIRST COOKIE PLATTER

This would be perfect for a Mother’s Day gift, don’t you think? Cookie platters can be made with sets of cookies especially designed for the purpose (as the clam petal in today’s example), or you can create a composite by grabbing cookie cutters you already own and coming up with your own unique design. To make my first platter, I followed an online class taught by Marlyn. It was set as a group meeting in which the participants could show their progress and ask questions. In other words: 2 hours of pure fun! You can join Marlyn’s Facebook page or Instagram account to get notification of her new classes, and also visit her youtube channel for many free tutorials available.

Materials used for this cookie platter:

Clam 3-petal cookie cutter + teardrop leaf cutter, any 3-inch round cutter and any mini-daisy cutter, with 5 or 6 petals, about 1.5 inches.

You can bake the leaves separated from the petals and place them together after baking, or do as I did, joining them as one cookie. They will end up as a solid single piece.

Choose your weapons and charge them…

Petals from the large central cookie and the small daisies are piped with stiff consistency Royal icing and a Wilton 104 tip. Everything else takes flooding consistency (about 15 seconds), and two tones per color, no need for tips. Thanks to Marlyn’s guidelines, I finally feel better about using the 104 tip.

Once everything is done, let the pieces set overnight…

It was a lot of fun to decorate live with Marlyn. She made it all seem very easy and simple, and was quite attentive to the timing so that no one was left behind. The pace was perfect. I learned a lot, and also realized that practice is everything. You can watch videos for hours and hours, but you won’t develop that “feel” for the consistency of your Royal icing until you grab the bag and try it yourself.

I close this post with one of many sayings by Marlyn:

Some days you make great cookies, some days you learn.

SUGARVEIL BLUES

Have you heard of sugar lace? It is a great option to add a touch of elegance to cookies and cakes. You can make the basic mixture but most people prefer to buy the powder. One of the best brands is called Sugarveil. I bought a small bag to play with but could not make it work. In fact it was an epic disaster with messy consequences. Discussing my ordeal online led to a wonderful person – whose name should be kept confidential – send me many little round pieces she made herself so I could have fun with them. And so I did. Needless to say, I already ordered another bag, because I need sugar lace in my life. On a regular basis.

To make the decoration, you’ll need special silicone mats to spread the mixture on, then allow it to set either at room temperature or in a very low oven. My dear angel-friend sent me several, with different designs. I show some examples in this picture.

Aren’t they gorgeous? So to incorporate them in cookies I had two ideas in mind. First, make a cookie with a center of chocolate ganache. To achieve that, I measured the size of the sugar lace and built a cookie around it. Started with the outer circle, using a patterned rolling pin, then the center portion with a second, thin layer of smooth dough. I baked them together so they formed a solid cookie with a little shallow space in the center.

Next, I painted the edges with luster gold to allow the pattern to be more evident, filled the center with chocolate ganache, and when it was almost set I gently placed the sugarveil on top.

My favorite is the one in the center, because the decoration hit exactly the edges of the ganache. You don’t get a second chance to place the design, so that is something you need to keep in mind. Think steady hand and determination!

My second “experiment” involved modeling chocolate, something I’ve been using more and more. I dyed some pink, rolled it thin and cut a little smaller than the cookie, but bigger than the sugar veil (using this set of cookie cutters). I actually tried two different sizes, one with less molded chocolate, so that the cookie surface was more exposed.

Modeling chocolate can be made from scratch or bought ready to use. It keeps forever, handles like fondant, but the taste is infinitely better. Very easy to manipulate, the heat of the hands do all the softening you’ll need to make it pliable. To glue to the cookie I used melted chocolate. The sugar veil requires minimal moisture to glue, so I brushed a tiny amount of water on the chocolate base and placed the lace on top.

The possibilites to use sugar lace are pretty much endless. Go to pinterest or instagram and prepare to be amazed. I truly want to make it work, so once I get my new order, I’ll get busy. Cross your fingers for me!

To my secret friend, I cannot thank you enough, your gift made me melt inside!