A LOVELINESS OF COOKIES

Did you know that a group of ladybugs is called a “loveliness?” Cannot think of a more appropriate term… Today I share a set of cookies that made me very happy. I normally find a lot of boo-boos in my bakes, things that I wish I had done in a slightly different way, but sometimes… sometimes they come out the way I hoped. Without further ado, some loveliness for you!

The inspiration for these cookies came from painted rocks. It is amazing what artists can do, and the shape of a rock is quite appropriate to turn it into a ladybug. Cookies are flat, but I think they worked ok too. This batch was flavored with hazelnut and vanilla. Here are the steps to bring loveliness to cookie life…

First, I drew the basic design with a food pen…

Then, I used baby black luster powder + vodka to paint the area in between the wings…

Using flesh tone gel dye from Americolor, I flooded the head region, let that crust for 10 minutes, then outlined and flooded the wings, adding dots of black (wet-on-wet icing).

Here is the loveliness, waiting for final details…

After a few hours, a line of black icing was added to the separation of head and body, gold sanding sugar sprinkled on top (I used this product from Wilton), and a little golden bow (made with fondant) glued in the center.

The loveliness was then ready, just waiting for the facial details next morning…

All that was left to do is adding eyes, a nose and a smile… oh, yes, some blush to the little faces too!

ONE YEAR AGO: Royal Icing Etching

SUMMER GIRLS

Sometimes I decide to throw caution to the wind and try something way out of my comfort zone. Remember the gnomes I made recently? This set of cookies were also designed by Shirlyn, and they pushed me to the limit of my abilities. For sure. Character cookies are not easy, and the only way I could attempt those was following the very detailed instructions in her tutorial. If you compare my cookies to hers, you will realize I have a long ways to go, but every marathon starts with the first mile. So here I am to share my first attempt at these cute cookies, perfect to celebrate all things Summer.

I am thrilled with my girls, because I never imagined being able to even attempt this type of cookie a year or so ago. It was not that easy, I have to admit. My Royal icing was a little too thick, the colors a tad too strong. But I’ve learned quite a few things, and at some point intend to repeat them, trying to keep in mind the level of finesse that Shirlyn achieves.

A mini-projector is a huge help to transfer the image onto the cookie, but there are ways to do it without it, using paper, as demonstrated by my tent-baker friend Tanya (click here)

Below, a few of the steps in this cookie decorating marathon that involved 10 colors of icing…

You might notice (bottom right picture) that my icing consistency was not perfect. I think the lesson to learn is that even if it seems pretty painful to stop and adjust it, in the end it will be worth it. Shirlyn suggested opening the bag, spraying a little water, and massaging it to distribute. That makes it possible to thin it without having to go through the trouble of un-bagging, and wasting a lot of icing in the process. I intend to try it next time.

By the end of the first day, the cookies will be all fully piped with the design, and next day you will have a great painting adventure waiting for you!

I kept thinking that selling cookies like these would be pretty much impossible because they are very labor-intensive and unless you are a famous cookie-artist with a million followers in Instagram, no one would be willing to pay for the amount of work that goes into each one. But since I make them and give them away, this is not an issue. I am just happy thinking that maybe a little girl got the cookies and that they made her smile…

If you are interested in online tutorials by Shirlyn, jump to her Instagram page and stay tuned for her upcoming lessons. And you can still sign up for any lesson she has available right now, including the Flamingo-Gnome and the Summer Girls. I love her style of teaching, and also appreciate that she tells you how to get better, what to focus on next time.

ONE YEAR AGO: Jurassic Park Pizza Cookie Box

SHIRLYN’S FLAMINGO GNOME FUN

A couple of weeks ago I took a very deep breath and joined an online cookie decorating class that seemed way WAY out of my skill level. Let me just show you the kind of cookies this amazing artist does, by sharing her Instagram page. Still, I decided that if I don’t push my limits, I might be missing something. I won’t lie to you, this was hard on many levels, but once I saw these cookies staring at me, I could not stop smiling…

The class involved two videos, each one 3 hours long. Yes, big investment of time but you get to see Shirlyn making every single step (except of course baking the cookies), in a super detailed way. On day one you’ll make all the Royal icing transfers, and the basic icing of the cookies. Day two is devoted to painting and assembling everything. So many different techniques! She is big on shading, which is a method of painting using diluted gel colors and an almost dry brush to spread it. Sugarprism will also work, but this time I stuck with the gels. By joining the class you get a ton of materials, including all recipes for dough and icing, plus all the templates for Royal icing transfers. Also access to basic videos demonstrating specific techniques of general interest for cookie decorating. You can of course use your own recipes if you prefer, which is what I did. Below, some of the steps involved in making the cookies. I watched the videos and made the cookies a couple of days later, it would be too hard for me to try to decorate in real time with Shirlyn.

On the end of the first day, I had the four cookies iced, and the Royal icing transfers made and painted (I made them early in the morning and could paint them in the evening). Once that was all done, the following day was devoted to adding all bells and whistles. It is truly amazing how shading will bring life to any design…

The coconut cookie was actually one of the trickiest for me. It is a simple design but the details are not easy to do. A lot of room for improvement in that one… But for a first time, I am happy with it. I intend to re-visit all these cookies in the future.

If you would like to learn of future online classes by Shirlyn, visit her website and subscribe to her feed. I will definitely be joining her again, she is super sweet and incredibly talented. And has the patience of a saint to answer questions…

ONE YEAR AGO: For the Love of Flamingos

CHERRY BLOSSOM TREE

This is a very simple project, two colors of icing to flood a plaque-shaped cookie, then four additional colors needed in very small amounts, to pipe the details. I added a gold air-brushed border, but that step is optional, the cookies will look ok without the border. But as you may have noticed, sometimes it is hard for me to leave a poor cookie alone…


For flooding the cookie, make a green and light blue Royal icing, and flood the two regions, let them set….

Then make a brown thicker consistency to pipe the tree. Just free-hand it, make a few branches and allow that to set for 10 minutes or so.


Next, add little dots for flowers, and using a very small leaf piping tip (or improvising by cutting a piping bag with scissors at an angle), pipe leaves.


The air-brush on the edges is the final optional step. And you are done!

ONE YEAR AGO: For the Love of Portugal

PLAYING WITH LEAVES

Inspired by a recent Facebook live from Haniela, this is a fun, unique way to decorate a simple leaf-shaped cookie. A mixture of textures, colors, and sprinkles come together to play with the basic design. Some cookies used the perforated mat as a component of the design, similar to what I shared in the latest online class by Amy (click here). Haniela used piped Royal icing flowers, I went with fondant decorations.

The cookie in the center is from the Mother’s Day Florals shared a couple of weeks ago (see post here).

For some of the cookies, the leaf was divided in two, the background painted with gold (or lightly brushed with a thin layer of green royal icing), and after flooding the other half, cookie crumbs dyed with green were added for textural contrast. Haniela’s tutorial goes over every detail of all these designs. Video available here.

Texture can also be added by laying a piece of crumpled parchment paper on wet Royal icing, and allowing that to set overnight. Once the paper is gently peeled off, the texture stays on the surface. Pretty cool technique. You see those in the picture below.

They can form a nice trio by coupling with a happy sun cookie, made with a spider-web cutter
(design by Marlyn, from Montreal Confections).

And the set below would be perfect for a Mother’s Day gift…

I love the use of the perforated mat to help decorate a cookie, and have some ideas for future projects using this approach. Stay tuned!

STENCIL FUN: A TESLA COOKIE SET

I’ve had my Cricut cutter since Christmas last year, a very thoughtful gift from my beloved husband. The learning curve to play with that baby is steep. So far I’ve mostly used stencils available online – many provided by Marlyn, from Montreal Confections, many from shops at etsy.com. In this post, I share with you my first adventure designing stencils myself. They were all super simple, using images available in the internet, and a straightforward cut. Stencils are great to design cookies for special occasions. This set was made for a potluck party we hosted recently for all Tesla owners in our town.

The simplest one was just the Tesla logo with the characteristic modern font. Once the image is found online, Cricut can size it to the desired cookie area. For that cookie, I flooded the base with red, let it set overnight, and spray painted with black. Since this is such a simple image, it is very important that the lines are sharp. I use a screen between the stencil and the air-brush to make sure no under-spray takes place. That takes a little practice, but now I feel a bit more confident using it. Some screens sold especially for cookies can be expensive. I am quite happy with this one, that is large enough to cover any size stencil, and also more affordable.

For the second type of cookie, I went with a gray background and either black or red air-brushing of the stencil image.

Yet another image – also found with a search for Tesla clipart in google – used a gold background and brown air-brushing. And finally the classic image of Tesla Model X (the one we own) with the Falcon wings open. I made some silver, some black.

Just for variety, I made a set of charging stations using the mini-projector and food pen.

This was a fun set to plan and make. Stencils make it quite straightforward, comparing the time needed to make each of the charging station cookies, the ones with the stencil are ready in the blink of an eye!

You can get by ordering stencils online, but it will limit a lot what you can do. In many cases you can order a stencil in different sizes, but there is little flexibility. For instance, some might offer three sizes, small, medium, or large, and you will have to bake your cookies to fit those sizes. If you own a Cricut (or Silhouette), you can tweak stencils to your needs, and also make your own. I have a lot to learn still, and to be absolutely honest, I feel quite discouraged at times. But I guess that is expected when learning a new skill.

DREAM CATCHER FLORAL

One of my favorite cookies of the past couple of months, I saw this design on a post in Facebook, and made my own. I simplified by using fondant flowers instead of piping them. It is not exactly a dream catcher motif, but I suppose it’s close enough….

You’ll need to get those fine lines going, the finer you can get them, the better the outcome. I went as fine as I could, but intend to repeat this type of design in the future and aim higher. Or, maybe I should say aim finer? 😉

It all starts with a frame-shape cookie cutter flooded in red. Then just eye-ball the design, going down the cookie in rows, as shown in the composite below.

For one of them, I tried to do a more complex pattern, that could have worked better with finer lines. Still, for a first attempt, I like the way they turned out. Once you have the lines piped, get some fondant flower and add them with a tiny bit of Royal icing. The leaves were piped with thick consistency icing and a very small leaf tip from Ateco (ST50).

Since I had the fine lines going, I did one more design over white background. I think they go well together.

I visualize similar designs with a background in Americolor Wedgewood, or Dusty Rose, or even a simple gold, flowers with different shapes and colors. Perfect for Mother’s Day, or just to offer to a special friend.

ONE YEAR AGO: Fun with the Mini-Projector

TUNDE’S NEEDLEPOINT COOKIES, TWO WAYS

Needlepoint cookies are probably one of the most challenging to make, however, Tunde (from Tunde’s Creations) shared a reasonably easy method to approach this technique. The secret is to use sugar veil lace mats as the starting point. Her hour-long tutorial taught how to make a few heart-shaped designs with the lace method, and finally she proposed the real challenge: make a large cookie in which the grid is fully piped by hand, then add a floral motif. Today I show you the little heart cookies, come back tomorrow for the floral.

I know that it seems like the most complex design ever, but by making the lace heart using a silicone mold, you kind of “cheat” your way out of trouble and the whole process is just fun: follow the design and fill the little holes with royal icing. In her tutorial, Tunde shared many variations for the pattern, but you can also search online or come up with your own. If you want to embellish the area around the heart, make sure to choose a cookie that is large enough. I could only do that in one of them, the others I had no working space around it.

It all starts with the basic lace. I will not lie to you, it took me three attempts, and quite a bit of frustration to make it work. I used frostflex sheets from Icing Images, but the drying time is crucial, as well as the amount of water you use to moisten the sheet. What worked for me: VERY little water, dehydrator for 1 hour, freezer for 10 minutes, room temperature for 5 minutes. Then they peeled off the mold. Make sure to set the mold down on parchment paper and peel the mold away from the lace, slowly. My first two attempts ended in the mess I show below. The problem was drying overnight, and using too much water. I also did not have enough material pressed into the mold. All in all, a nice recipe for disaster.

Once you master the lace issue, you are pretty much done. I air-brushed some color over the baked and cooled cookie, and while the dye was still wet, carefully placed the lace on top. If the edges don’t fully stick, don’t worry, that’s where the piping on the edges will help you. As you can see, some of the dye sipped into the lace. I was worried but in the end that was not at all visible.

Once you get to this stage, it is all a ton of fun! Use a soft piping consistency, and the finest tip you have, I went with a 00.

With the design fully finished, you can get piping consistency royal icing with a PME 2 tip and pipe a border around the heart, and if you have space, around the cookie surface.

I took a little departure from Tunde’s color scheme, and made a little cookie to celebrate Ukraine. Ukrainians don’t leave my mind, and my admiration for Zelenskyy is endless.

If you like to join Tunde’s group to profit from her monthly online tutorials, visit her facebook page with a click here.

HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY!

May your blessings outnumber the shamrocks that grow.
And may trouble avoid you wherever you go.”

This year I was not able to indulge in baking St. Patrick’s cookies, in part because we were away on a trip. But I could not resist making a small batch, inspired by a recent video posted by Amber (link here). Irish Coffee, anyone? Perhaps Irish Cupcakes suit you better? I changed slightly the decoration but kept most elements the same. The tiny shamrocks are prepared as Royal icing transfers the day before using medium consistency and a piping tip #2. I brushed some with luster powder (Green Touch, by The Sugar Art).

The Irish Coffee design is actually a “franken-cookie”: a coffee cup joined with the top of the small cupcake, also included in this group. Keep in mind that it makes a pretty large cookie, but I find the design very clever. Credit of course must go to Amber. I used a stencil to decorate the coffee cup, and just piped lines on the little cupcake.

For a little more inspiration, I share cookies made last year, when I did not have a cookie-dedicated blog, so they all went into the Bewitching Kitchen spot.

A jar with shamrocks, also inspired by Amber…

A few shamrocks and clover leaves decorated in different ways…

“May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back.”

FOR THE LOVE OF UKRAINE

I don’t know what it is like to wake up to the sound of bombs. To be forced to say goodbye to a husband, a father, a brother, and flee with a suitcase and kids. Or to stay and face the unthinkable. From far away I admire the courage of the Ukrainian people, and the leadership of Mr. Zelenskyy. May they be strong enough to win this senseless war. May we all help in any way we possibly can.