Wednesday 19 March 2014

Oh, Sugar, Sugar {Cookies} Part 2: Icing, Design and Specialty Products

I bought fun props! They make me giddy with happy pink sparkly joy.

It's Thursday, folks. Do you know what that means? No? Me either. Any-who-- want to see something funny?

No these were not decorated by toddler's. These are my FIRST ever batch of sugar cookies from December 2013!

My favourite is the gingerbread man with pants that are slowly wilting off his body. Yeahh. That's pretty sweet! The bears turned out okay I guess. But I used piping gel for their bow-ties and they never dried as a result. But man. There were SO many curse words flying from my mouth this holiday season. This is before I knew what the H-E double hockey sticks royal icing was and I just bought some random icing from the store! I also burned the cookies pretty badly...WOOPS!

My second batch, after I realized by first batch was kind of ugly and I couldn't give them away. My first attempt with royal icing. These took a loooong time because I didn't know what I was doing. They were also kind of This was also in December!

This being said, I'm NO professional now. The Valentines Day cookies above were my 3rd attempt, Superbowl cookies were my 4th and St.Patrick's Day my 5th. So, I'm new to the cookie game. But I think about cookies, dream up designs and now am VERY careful and make sure to stay calm instead of cursing, tossing sprinkles angrily into the air and knocking over cookie trays a la Hulk the Baker. I'm quickly learning that there are lots of things that you can do to make your life easier! I also read a lot and asked my Aunt a lot of questions!

Let's get to sharing tips, tricks and all that jazz!


Royal Icing:

Royal Icing is made of icing sugar, flavouring, meringue powder and warm water. It is a beautiful glossy icing that can be used to pipe a lot of different designs. Once dry, royal icing becomes hard and then can be drawn or piped on again!

I draw my royal icing recipe from Wilton's Royal Icing Recipe. Sometimes I play around with it. I have added cream of tartar on occasion to stabilize the recipe, but it can be done without. You will likely have a lot of icing left over from the recipe though. Wilton's recipe yields enough for me to decorate around 25-30 cookies depending on the design. After you are done you can store it in an airtight container (MUST BE AIRTIGHT) or else your icing will crust over and you will not be able to use it for piping designs(clumps will form and the icing will dry out).

As I discussed here there are different types of consistency for your icing and these are important. When making a big 'master' batch then keep it thick and thin out icing as you need it. After I colour and thin the icing out I put it in a piping bag and go to town! This method really has made my life wayyy easier. For cooking and baking anything you can make ahead of time is AMAZING!

My master batch of icing. See how it clings to the beaters? Quite thick. I just leave it like this until I need it and then batch by batch I colour and thin out the icing depending on what I need it for!

I store it wrapped in saran wrap to ensure it does not get exposed to air! Another good thing? After storing the icing for a little while the air bubbles rise to the surface and you can pop em!


A glaze icing is similar to royal icing insofar that it is made of icing sugar and water (or milk) and some colouring. This is a quick way to make cookies look special without adding a large amount of icing onto the cookie. Glazes are also a good base for sprinkles! Here is a glaze recipe. You can also use extracts to flavour your glaze.

No Icing 

Sugar cookie cut-outs are beautiful on their own. You can sprinkle coloured sugars on the cookies before you bake them or leave them alone! Like the images above, they are such a delicate and lovely cookie all on their own.

Designs: How To and Short-cuts 

  1. Royal Icing Transfers: I will shortly post a detailed discussion with pictures on how to do this. For now just know it involves piping royal icing onto another surface and then transferring it onto the cookies. I like this for images of characters where spacing of the eyes and details matters a lot. Only downside is you can't trace things like eyes for example that don't connect with the rest of the shape. You have to do designs that connect fully into one cohesive shape (like a circle, flower, etc)
  2. Placing image underneath. This involves printing a picture you want (like a basketball) placing your cookie on top and then following the lines by using the underlying picture as a guide. This would work for simple shapes, but not complex ones. 
  3. Drawing on design with edible markers: this works well because you can gauge where to pipe certain colours. Even if its just a rough sketch to use to help you pipe your design. You can see this here for my St.Patrick's Day cookies 
  4. Creating your own stencil: print out your design and cut out the shape with an exact-o knife or sharp blade. Thick paper like card stock is ideal for this. Then use this to help you draw out your design onto your cookie and then pipe! You can do this for big designs or just to get certain details right. For example the spacing of the eyes --just do a simple stencil to mark key features on your cookie with a marker or a sharp pin.
  5. Using the right size tip: This can be so tricky and is why I like couplers. They allow you to switch the tips easily. For small details you will need thicker icing and small tips like Wilton's #1 or #2. For flooding you need the right consistency icing and a larger tip (or no tip at all). Projector machines: these include things like the kopykake machine you can see here. I will assume this option is not popular for those who do this as a hobby. The machine is expensive...But basically it projects any image you want onto your cookie so you can trace it! I want one soo bad! My and I both have been drooling over them :p
  6. Most importantly is be sure your consistency is right! Practice using stencils you can print online from here  and be comfortable with your grip and the way the icing flows out. This will allow you to get better at knowing when icing is too thin, too thick, and which tips to use for certain things!
  7. Make sure you keep your shapes as simple as can be. Trying to do a million designs makes it hard to focus and get good at simple techniques! 
  8. Don't use TOO many colours. I do this a lot and it makes things so difficult. It takes over an hour just to mix icing! Using fewer colours is better and allows you to focus on your design. 
  9. This tip about mixing icing in the same bowl! One bowl icing video by Karen's Cookies
  10. Remember that royal icing becomes very hard. Within a few minutes the icing will begin to crust. This can be helpful when trying to achieve different textures and layers on a cookie--so keep this in mind when planning! 

Specialty Products

Cookie Cutters

  • I know these don't seem like a speciality product but you would be amazed at cookie cutters available today
  • stick to the basics: geometric shapes like circles, squares, scalloped-edge shapes and cute designs that you might use often like baby themed, birthday themed or Christmas/holiday themed
  • Be creative. A square can be anything! And almost every cookie cutter can be used in more than one way! Like my St.Patrick's Day cupcake or 'pot'o'gold' here. I actually use my cupcake cutter for a lot of things unrelated to cupcakes. It is one of my favourites!
  • Buy them in sets or look for them in unexpected places like Winners/TJ Maxx, Marshall's, Bulk Barn, Wal-Mart and other places too! I love getting discounted cutters on sale and saving them for later! 

Speciality Dusts, Glitters and Sparkles

Lustre Dusts! I got this 3 pack from Bulk Barn for $5-6 CDN

  • I say specialty because there are so many different types of glitter and decor to add to cookies
  • I would say most of these items are optional but its always nice to have your run of the mill jimmies and non-pareils on hand (aka the round and long and thin sprinkles)
  • Lustre dust is available at craft stores and Wal-Mart too! You mix this with alcohol to make a metallic and lustrous paint. I have tried this a few times and can't seem to get it to reallllyy make things look shiny. Pearl dust gives a more opaque shine to fondant and icing. Disco dust is reallllyyy sparkly! I only have lustre dust and I don't really use it often because it's very subtle. 
  • Food markers: available at craft stores and Wal-Mart and other places where baking items are  sold. They are around 10$ CDN for a pack of 5 and are available in fine and bold tips. I do love mine to help me trace designs and add little fine details
  • Scribe tool: This long thin tool is used to move around flood icing and pop air bubbles. I use safety pins, toothpicks and other household items instead. 
  • Airbrush system: these allow you to spray paint the cookies with edible ink. Also expensive and not for the novice baker (or maybe it is...who knows!). I have heard of spray cans of edible colour available as well but have not tried them! If you have them they are great to stencil on designs and give a soft gradient colour to cookies. 
Packaging, Boxes, Bags and Ribbons!

Packaging haul and materials for DIY props and accessories!

  • if you make cookies as gifts, the FIRST place you should check is the dollar store. Especially around the holidays! I have found the cutest boxes, bags, ribbons, tins etc. for such a great deal from places like the Dollar Tree and Dollarama!
  • use coupons at crafts stores like Michael's for other little bits and bobs to make your packaging look the extra mile--simple little accents like a beautiful ribbon or cute tin make the world of difference
  • places like Ebay, Etsy, Amazon, etc. are also great places to check out tools and products!
I, of course, have a bunch of little tools and products, bags and molds and markers and AH! But only some of them are for cookies and then the rest are for baking in general, chocolate decorating and other such fantastical amazing things.  I really hope this helps you if you were unclear as to where to start with specialty products for baking and cookies! 

Happy Shopping!


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