Tag: Beginner Cookie Decorating

St. Patrick’s Day Cookies with Royal Icing Transfers

St. Patrick's Day St. Patrick’s Day Celebration!

Do you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? Our family usually does and this year is no exception. I usually make the corned beef and cabbage but this year I’m bowing out for the meat and stepping in for the cookies… and the Irish soda bread which I’m buying from the store (Shhh! Don’t tell!)

I’ve never done St. Patrick’s Day cookies and was pretty excited at all the possibilities of green, rainbows, and pots of gold. The only problem is that I have a baby shower I’m making cookies for this week as well and really didn’t have a lot of time to put into these. I’m using these as a learning experience 🙂 (more…)

Multiple Sclerosis: Time to Get Real

Multiple Sclerosis. There, I said it.

If you’ve read my “A Little About Me” page, you probably saw that I have Multiple Sclerosis. I was officially diagnosed when I was 30, but had symptoms of it since around 21 (can’t remember exactly when it started). I’m not really upset about it as it’s pretty much the norm now, but it can get really bothersome.

In all honesty, I can say I’m thankful. It’s been pretty mild and I don’t need assistance for walking or daily living. If you saw me out and about you would never know I had a debilitating disease; I don’t ‘look’ sick. I have an amazing doctor and team of nurses at the Schapiro Center for MS, a 100% supportive and loving husband, and a helpful extended family. There is so much to be thankful for and I take nothing for granted.

What Exactly IS Multiple Sclerosis?

In the years I’ve had MS, I’ve realized the average person doesn’t actually know what it is or how it affects the body. I’ll give a very quick and simplified explanation of it (since I like things to be simple :).

  1. In extremely simplified terms, Multiple Sclerosis is when the immune system attacks the lining around the nerves in the central nervous system (CNS-brain, brain stem, and spinal cord). It’s one of many autoimmune diseases- a disease that causes the body to attack itself.
  2. Symptoms start popping up when the lining around the nerves is worn away and the signals sent from the brain are delayed and is eventually lost.
  3. The body is affected wherever Multiple Sclerosis is attacking the CNS. No 2 people with MS have the exact same symptoms. It is very hard to diagnose and can take years, although things are improving in that area.
  4. There is no known cause. Certain criteria have been established for people who are likely to get MS, and I happened to meet every single one.
  5. There is no cure for MS

How Multiple Sclerosis Affects ME

In spite of the ‘mildness’ of it, I do have my own set of annoying symptoms and live with the fact that I have an incurable disease. Things could change very quickly and my health could decline with little to no notice. On my bad days I have trouble walking, can’t remember where I put my keys (or kids-yikes!), weakness on my right side, and terrible fatigue.

When the word fatigue is mentioned, the majority of people say, “Oh yeah, I get tired, too.” In spite of trying to sympathize, they don’t understand so I’ll explain a little further. This kind of fatigue stops you in your tracks, fills your pants with concrete, drops you on the couch, and finishes you for the rest of the day. No amount of will-power or caffeine can bring you back from it. Believe me, I’ve tried the caffeine thing and it didn’t work. Have I mentioned I LOVE coffee?

On a daily basis I deal with the loss of sensation and tingling/numbness on my right side. I have to stay out of extreme temperatures and make sure I don’t over-exert myself physically. Stress is a huge factor and I avoid it like the plague. I’ve learned to say NO and mean it, and eliminate a lot of things in my life that were stress triggers.

I Thought this was a Cookie Blog?

So why a post on a cookie blog about Multiple Sclerosis?

2 reasons:

First: Any time I can raise awareness of this terrible disease I will. March is MS awareness month and I like to do my part… so be aware!

Second: I’ve realized I’m limited in what I can do for decorating. Multiple Sclerosis affects me on my right side… I’m right handed… see where this is going? I can’t pipe perfect lines, do a lot of free handing, or tiny details. I just can’t do it. My wrist and hand gets shaky and I end up becoming very frustrated. That cookie that looked so easy to do on Pinterest is impossible for me.

A Can-do Attitude

In writing this post, I almost feel like I’m able to admit this to myself and accept my limitations.

Instead of focusing on what I cannot do, I am determined to do and improve on what I can.

  • Can I bake some mean cookies that taste amazing? Absolutely!
  • Can I still decorate beautiful cookies? Yes!
  • Can I learn new techniques? Of course!
  • Can I learn all I can about blogging and food photography? As we say in Minnesota, You Betcha!

The difference now is I’m not going to beat myself up over cookie outlines that aren’t straight. When I can’t do that intricate lace detail or piping border I’ll be ok with it and try something else that looks just as good.

Multiple Sclerosis is part of who I am but it is not my entire being. Living a full life to its extent and doing things I love is high on my priority list and I won’t let MS get in my way.

To learn more about Multiple Sclerosis, click here.

I’m sure there are some readers out there facing obstacles. It might not be MS, it could be anything, so what do you feel gets in the way of your dreams? How can you overcome it?

 

New Cookies Using Luster Dust!

new cookies

New Cookies!

Just a quick follow up post after getting my new goodies. The wait had been almost unbearable and I had to try out my new bags and dust. The results ended up creating a new cookies that I loved. There was no real plan here, I was just playing around and getting a feel for the bags. I liked the thinness of them and feel like it gives me a little more control. That being said, it will still take some practice plus making sure I have a good consistency for icing. This is also the first time I’ve ventured out with my dust and I really loved it.

Dust 3 Ways

I used it 3 different ways here, I flicked it onto wet icing with a dry brush, brushed it on dry, then mixed it with lemon extract for a paint effect. Overall, I love the look! I flicked on the blue and white dust I just got in my order, then used the blue to brush on dry and wet. I did some gold accents with the dust I had purchased at hobby lobby a few weeks ago. Loving the gold and blue together, it just looks so nice.

new cookies

Getting a Good Picture

The cookies were a little hard to photograph even with decent light. The dust is iridescent and so pretty in the light, but it was so hard to capture with the camera! I did the best I could for that and think I ended up with some pictures that come close to doing them justice.

new cookies

 

Overall A Good Experience

Since this was my first time using the dust and the bags I wasn’t sure what to expect but I really love this new cookie set. Since I did not plan any of these cookies or go for any specific design or theme, they turned out much better than I even hoped. I was just playing around and having fun! If we can’t do that every now and then as cookie artists, then what’s the point? They are cookies and cookies are supposed to bring joy for everyone, even the bakers 🙂

New Cookies

Thanks for reading!

Leah

 

 


Weekly Technique – Eyelet Lace with Royal Icing

eyelet lace

Eyelet lace is something that has caught my eye more than a few times on Pinterest. The design creates such a feminine, delicate look. Attempting this is something I wouldn’t have even dared before I made peace with my royal icing recipe and since I’ve got a good grip on that I feel like I can up my decorating game a little.

Eyelet Lace What?

The first time I saw eyelet lace on cookies was SweetAmbs book, Cookie Art. She placed eyelet lace cookies on the front and back cover, plus a page dedicated to teaching the technique. I’ve read the post several times and scoured Pinterest and think I have a good handle on how to do it.

You can find SweetAmbs Book “Cookie Art” here. It’s full of great ideas for cookie techniques and there are some templates in the back you can use for royal icing transfers, filigree, and a few other fun goodies. Check it out!

Where to Start

I’ve seen 2 different types of eyelet lace cookies, one that does the design on a naked cookie, and one on a flooded cookie. I’ll be doing both for this technique to see which one gives me better results.

Flooded Cookie

eyelet lace

I started with a flooded cookie. I had some white flooded hearts left over from Valentine’s Day, so waste not and all that! They aren’t perfect and there are about 1 million air bubbles in them, but they are good for practice.

The design inspiration came from a few different pins I found on Pinterest after searching for eyelet lace cookies. I’m keeping it simple just to learn the actual technique.

The first thing I did was trace my design onto the dried icing with a regular old pencil. Since no one will be eating these the pencil is fine, but I probably wouldn’t recommend it for consuming. The idea actually came from a group discussion on Facebook and I guess a lot of cake decorators and cookie decorators use it on a regular basis. I would have used my food coloring pens but I couldn’t find them at that moment so the pencil was a good substitute.

eyelet lace

My idea was to start very simply and then embellish it as I went along and got the feel for it.

After tracing the pattern I piped over it with my pink icing, more leftovers from Valentine’s Day. The icing is pretty stiff and I used a #2 tip.

eyelet lace

After piping on the patter, I embellished it with some simple dots and a border. The border was a little problematic for me. Because the icing was leftover from Valentine’s, it had separated a little. I thought I had mixed it up enough in the bag but as I started to pipe it on there I came to a watery, separated part and it was just a mess. That part is on the top and left side as you look at the picture. The right side is pretty neat and tidy.

eyelet lace

Overall, I really liked how this one turned out and will do this again. It was quick to decorate and fun to create a beautiful design. This probably doesn’t actually count for ‘true’ eyelet lace design, but it’s pretty close and I liked it.

Naked Cookie

eyelet lace

For the naked cookie I used the same design just without the flood underneath using the same pencil to draw on the design. I thought I could get a good comparison by doing close to the same design on both cookies.

After drawing the design, I piped right onto the cookie with the same stiff pink icing and #2 piping tip.

eyelet lace

After drying for a few minutes, I then started flooding the spaces in between the eyelets. To do this, I used a Wilton brush and some thinned out pink icing. The icing was thinner than typical flood icing, it poured easily from a spoon. I then loaded my brush and eased the icing into the places that I wanted covered.

eyelet lace

eyelet lace

Here’s what it looked like right after I finished flooding it. I found that when the icing is thinned that much, it dries kind of sticky and I didn’t love it.

eyelet lace

I went back over the eyelets with the stiff pink icing and then added the same dots as the other design. Here’s the finished product:

eyelet lace

 

 

eyelet laceConclusion

While eyelet lace is a beautiful technique for cookies, I’m not sure if it’s something I’ll be using a lot in the future. It’s pretty time-consuming and for the effort I could have cranked out about 5 cookies just as beautiful, just not as complicated.

If I keep working at it I will improve and probably get faster, just not sure if I want to at this point. I loved the white and pink cookie and how it turned out and will probably make that design again.

 

Is this something you think you will tackle in the future? If you do send me a picture, I would love to see your attempts!

Thanks for reading,

Leah

 

 


New decorating goodies! Tipless piping bags, cutters, and luster dust!

 New decorating tools new decorating goodies

New Decorating Goodies!

With all the Valentine’s cookies I had going on, I quickly ran out of my Wilton disposable bags. I even had to resort to using a few generic sandwich bags to finish some cookies. Talk about hard times! Usually I would run to Wal-Mart and pick up another box, but I’m quickly realizing I need to go another route. The price of those Wilton bags was killing me and realized some new decorating goodies was in order!

First Up- New Piping Bags!

Enter TMP- Truly Mad Plastics. I’ve checked out their site before for their cookie cutters but never realized they sold anything else. I asked for recommendations on a cookie decorating Facebook group I’m a part of and Truly Mad Plastics came up.They have their own brand of tipless piping bags in 3 different sizes and I ordered the small and medium. I’ve found smaller bags are a lot more practical for doing fine detail work. When I saw the price I was in shock, but it a good way; 100 bags for $4! So I paid $8 for 200 tipless piping bags! Such a great deal and it should last me a while.

new decorating goodies

As usual, the clearance tab caught my eye and I threw some luster dust in my cart before I checked out for $2 each. Total spent including shipping was around $18. That’s a great deal considering I usually buy 15 bags from Wilton bags for around $5. I’m so excited to use them! Because I’m watching my costs I asked for the slow boat shipping and they have yet to arrive. I’m hoping they will be at my door tomorrow because I’m kind of at a stand still for decorating until they get here! Update – I received my package just before I posted so I  grabbed a few quick pics with my phone… sorry for the bad quality pictures!

Ordering from TMP

Great ordering experience from TMP – not only was my order accurate, they threw in a few goodies and sample, too! They included all 3 sizes of their piping bags, so I get to see the large as well. They also put in a discount code for a future order over $10 for next month, and some mints and a small sucker. Love it! Oh, and can’t forget the smiley face hand drawn on the packing slip 🙂

New Cutters!

new cutters new decorating goodies

I’m helping with a baby shower next month and will be using that as an excuse to try out a few of those adorable baby shower cookies I’ve been pinning (You can follow my Pinterest boards here). I didn’t really have any good cutters for a baby boy shower so I purchased a onesie and bow tie cutter.  I’ll be practicing before then and of course posting all my progress. I’m guessing everyone will be sick of seeing all my baby shower cookies before then!

On My Way!

Again, posting these new decorating goodies are just my way of marking my progress as a cookie decorator. I’m still building up my tools and my wish list is growing and changing every day. A realization of what is professional and what is hobby is also becoming apparent as I do more decorating. The Wilton piping bags are great for starting and I recommend them for beginners, but I realized I needed a step up. As I’ve started decorating more and more, I want something that is made specifically for royal icing and cookies. TMP bags fit the bill for me. There are other brands out there for the tipless piping bags, but I went with one that was recommended and had the best price. It’s also a small business and I try to support small business owners as much as I possibly can.

 

I’ve already decorated some cookies with my new decorating goodies. I’ll be posting pictures of them in the next couple of days. They were just some cookies I had in the freezer and white royal icing I had left over from the last batch I had made, but the blue luster dust looks great on the white! I do love my blue and white combos.

 

Thanks for reading!

Leah

The Big Cookie Flop – why my fail proof recipe failed!

 big cookie flop

The Big Cookie Flop – My fail-proof recipe failed!

There was a request from my son’s teacher to make cookies for his Valentine’s party. After agreeing I realized I had to make more cookies as I had almost depleted my heart stash in the freezer. So I did what I always do; gather my equipment, get out my ingredients making sure I had all of them in the house before I started, and pre-heat my oven. Everything I normally do when I bake cookies was happening and going pretty, well, normally.

I even had the luxury of having my 10-year-old niece over to help me with my 2 youngest kids. This should have been prime baking time with perfect results!

The Bake

I weighed and measured everything and started combining the ingredients. Creamed the softened butter and sugar, added my eggs and flavoring, then started adding my dry ingredients. This is where I realized there was a problem. Not sure exactly what caused the problem, but something was wrong and this dough was showing me no love. It was really wet and still very sticky.

Usually by the time I’ve added in all my flour I’ve questioned if it was too much, but not this time. I added more flour, then I added more flour, and then, I added a little more. Still too soft to work with. The counter was already dusted so I decided to try rolling and cutting a few cookies. Well, it kind of worked. I was able to cut 3 hearts, and one fancy diamond shape, but the arrow wasn’t happening. It stuck completely and I couldn’t get the dough out. I pulled it out, cleaned it off and dipped the entire cutter in flour. Try, try, again, right? Wrong. I should have stopped while I was ahead! I got a knife and poked the dough out in some kind of a resemblance of an arrow.

Blobs, Anyone?

nailed it horse
Not my cookies, but could have been my cookies.

By this point I’m realizing this dough isn’t going to bake well, but I decided to try anyway. I don’t know if you’ve seen that Pinterest picture of a horse cookie and when it baked it spread like crazy, then they showed a picture of a photo shopped horse that looked just like that cookie? I thought that was so funny, but I wasn’t laughing as I pulled my blobby cookies out of the oven.

big cookie flop
You can see hearts, right?

Well, this was just great. I still have 4 dozen cookies to make and decorate, and now all my mixing utensils are dirty, and I have a bowl full of dough that I can’t use for rolling and cutting!

In spite of the terrible look of the cookies, I was able to get them on a pan with a cookie scoop (imagine!) and baking them off anyway. They won’t win the beauty contest but they do taste good if you close your eyes before eating them. I won’t be using them for decorating, I’m actually not sure what I’ll do with them, but at least the dough didn’t go in the trash. I imagined myself vengefully and dramatically showing that dough who was boss as I flung it into the trash can… nope. Didn’t happen.

big cookie flop
So many ugly cookies!

 

Time to Troubleshoot…

What went wrong? I’ve made this recipe at least 15 times without fail; what changed?

Butter brand?

big cookie flopbig cookie flop

There are a few logical explanations I can think of that would make this happen. The big thing that jumped out at me was that I used a different brand of butter. I usually use regular store brand unsalted butter. Nothing spectacular about it, just plain old plain old. When I checked my ingredients before I started baking like I always do I realized I was out of said butter and decided to use my Kerry Gold. Because this butter is more expensive than my store brand, it’s specifically used for bullet proof coffee. Have I mentioned I love coffee? I digress, back to the cookies.

My first buttery thought is that the moisture content in that butter is higher and that threw off my ratios. Of course, I have no real idea but it’s just a guess. Second, I thought the measurement might be off. My cookie recipe is always doubled. Even if I don’t need 3-4 dozen cookies, I will freeze the rest for later. That way I always have cookies to decorate when I have some time to practice. My doubled recipe calls for 4 sticks of butter, the Kerry Gold is sold in an 8 oz. package, equal to 2 sticks. I need 4 sticks of butter for my doubled recipe, so I used 2 packages.  I double checked this before I started. It looked like a lot, but that’s what the package said. I got out 2 packages, which I normally don’t have on hand but it was on sale at Aldi.

I’m still not convinced I used too much butter, my butter was prepackaged, I didn’t measure it out myself. There was no baker error in the butter category.

Too soft too fast?

My train of thought then led me to the softening process. I’ve mentioned several times I am a do-it-now person and I want things done quickly as possible, even if that means my butter might be softened a little too quickly in the microwave and is a little runny when it comes out. I put it in the microwave, pressed the quick 30 second button with every intention of standing right by the microwave and stopping it every 10 seconds to turn it until it was nicely softened all the way through. Lets just say when the microwave dinged I thought it was the timer to let the dog back inside. Oh yeah, I have butter I just left in the microwave on high for 30 seconds!

In spite of my microwave-capades, not convinced my butter was too soft because it creamed nicely with the sugar and eggs.

Too little flour?

So my last possible idea is this: I just didn’t put in enough flour. To make things easier on myself, I pre-mixed all my dry ingredients for several batches. That worked great until I ran out of pre-mixed goodies and have to do all the measuring again. If you could see my recipe, you might put it in the hot mess category of your recipe box. I have a print out of the recipe with all my scribbled changes, my measurements in grams, then doubled in grams, and all sorts of other secret code messages to myself. The need is great for me to just type a brand new one for myself so I can actually understand it!

You might have caught my possible mistake… I think I may have measured out flour for a single batch instead of a double batch. I’m not even sure and I can’t remember, but it’s entirely possible and I think it’s the most plausible of all my hypotheses.

Conclusion for my big cookie flop?

Yes, I have a conclusion to the blob cookie blunder. Have a well written recipe that’s easy to read, follow my own baking tips, and double check my measurements! Oh, and don’t walk away from butter in the microwave 🙂

I tried to make this as humorous as possible, but the reality is I have about 3 dozen hideous cookies that are now staring at me, another batch of (hopefully) pretty cookies to mix, roll out, cut, bake, and decorate, and another sink full of dishes.

You can read my post about my recipe here.

Have you ever had a big cookie flop or a cake catastrophe? Lets laugh and cry together in the comments 🙂

Thanks for reading!

Leah

update!

I realized I only added half the flour. While using a different butter might have changed it a little, it wouldn’t have caused that massive disaster! I looked at my messy recipe and realized I used the grams for the regular recipe, not the doubled one. Problem solved!


Weekly Technique- The Stencil

weekly technique stencilWeekly Technique – Stencils

I decided to practice with the new stencils and the results are in…still… need …more …practice. The neat and tidy royal icing pattern stencils can offer is wonderful, but like every other technique, it’s a little more difficult than it looks. Actually kind of bummed about how these turned out, I really thought I had a better grasp of this technique but toss a new stencil in the mix and I’m beginning all over again!

Royal Icing Re-Do

stiff royal icing

I tried the royal icing recipe again and I ended up with the same result too thin. I added sugar and meringue powder until I got the consistency I was hoping for in the first place. The icing was thick and held stiff peaks well. I will definitely be trying some new recipes in the future and will probably start with the tried and true Wilton recipe. I’m also thinking of adding some corn syrup to my icing as well, but that’s for another post!

The Colors

Blue Gray cookies

If you ask my 2 older children or my husband what is my favorite color, they will quickly tell you gray. Not sure if gray actually counts as a “color”, but it is my favorite. All shades of gray or any color with that cool gray tone just speaks to me. I love gray! Over Christmas I was able to  order the Wilton Garden Color Set. The Delphinium Blue is, as you can probably guess, a blue-gray! I mixed up 2 different shades of this; one a very light gray, and the other the full color. I attempted a royal blue but it didn’t turn out as dark as I was hoping even after letting the colors develop for a few hours. Blue and white are another one of my favorite color combos and one of my new stencils was purchased with that in mind.

The Stencils

blue and white stencilfiligree stencil

 

Blue and white cookies
1st attempt at the top, 2nd attempt middle, and 3rd attempt bottom.

Hobby Lobby stencils were in full play during this cookie decorating session. The plan was to use the lettering stencils and the 2 designs for all 9 cookies, but because the others didn’t turn out like I’d hoped, I brought in the old standbys. First up was the blue and white, and I was hopeful after the first cookie turned out decent. There was a little edge problem where I didn’t get the stencil all the way down onto the cookie so I tried to compensate for that on the second one. Next cookie was worse, the icing was too thick.

The last cookie I don’t even want to talk about, but since this is all about learning… if the icing was too thick on the 2nd one, it was extra too thick on the third. I actually had to let it dry, then knock down the tall stuff with a serrated knife! I was so embarrassed as I was sawing off my high places knowing it would have to be included on my blog post but hey, live and learn!

 

The filigree stencil was my most difficult. Due to the pattern and the thinness (cheapness) of the stencil, the pattern lifted off the cookie when the icing was spread, which of course smudged the pattern. I tried it twice with the same horrendous outcome. Warning: Cringe-worthy photo ahead…

filigree

 

One cookie was done with the letter K, and it turned out fine, just a little plain.K stencil

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since the other stencils didn’t turn out as I had hoped, I brought out “Old Faithful”, my damask stencils. It has 2 designs on each stencil and it looked beautiful with the Delphinium blues. Even with those I had a smudge and my self-confidence was gone at this point.

damask
This one turned out the best, no smudges!
damask
You can see towards the bottom it smudged a little.

damask

Time for a Tool Change!

My offset spatula had been my tool of choice but after all those bad cookies I had switched to my small pink rubber spatula and that seemed to work much better. You better believe I’ll be using Pinky for stenciling from now on!PINKY

 

What Did I Learn?

Will I stencil again? Absolutely! Stencils are still high on my list of great tools for cookiers, they give the ability to crank out uniform designs relatively quickly and easily. Well, with practice of course.

Here are a few things I will do differently next time:

  • Try for more even flooding – If I can get a better working surface, I’ll get a better stencil design. I’m still tying to find my own way of flooding and icing consistency, which affects EVERYTHING!
  • Use magnets – While I would love to have a Stencil Genie, I’m going to start with something a little easier on the budget… magnets from the dollar store used on a metal baking sheet I already have.
  • PINKY!!! – To say that I was kicking myself for not using Pinky from the start would be an understatement. So much easier. The rubber is just better at going over the surface and lays the icing smoother. I might have had a completely different post if I’d used Pinky the entire time.
  • Clean my stencils after each use – big problem with my blue and white cookies, the icing just kept getting thicker with each cookie.
  • Keep practicing! – I love this technique and want to improve.
Blue Gray cookies
Before…

 

finished stencils
After…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Any stencilers out there? What’s your favorite stencil to use and favorite color combinations? I’ll be using the gray again (of course!) and still loving that blue and white.

Thanks for reading!

Leah

 

 

 

A Wish List for Beginner Cookie Decorators

 

wish list

The Wish List

If you’ve been bitten by the cookie decorating bug like I have, you’ve probably already assembled the basic tools of the trade. You also probably have a wish list of tools you hope to add as you develop your skill. Here are some items I’ve listed and descriptions of why you would want/need them for cookies.

These aren’t in any particular order, so here goes!

Stencil Genie

This little gadget holds the stencil in place so it doesn’t smudge when you are applying the icing or airbrushing. Great idea! You can find out more here.

Airbrush system

The possibilities are endless with airbrushing! You can add a little shimmer, a bold pattern, lettering, whatever you can think of! Really can’t wait to get one of these. You can see a few choices here.airbrush

Luster dust

A great brand is Crystal Colors. I’ve seen it used over and over with amazing results. You can find them here. Truly Mad Pastics also carries some great colors, you can find them here. luster dust

Color palette

You can use this to mix extracts with luster dust to create a ‘paint’ for your cookies. Again, possibilities are endless. I like this one here. color palette

Americolor soft gel color paste

I love the bold colors you get from this product. They each give you a true color which is hard to obtain in food coloring. Here are some choices for Americolor. americolor soft gel paste

Specialty Cutters

Any cutter you can imagine can probably be found online. There are a few shops that make their products in the USA and are great quality. Ann Clark Cutters and Truly Mad Plastics are two that I follow and enjoy their work. They have also partnered with some fellow bloggers to create cutter lines. Ann Clark is here and Truly Mad Plastics is here. Check them out, they are amazing!

Piping tips

I use mostly Wilton tips 1,2,3, and 4. They are easy to use and readily available in most craft stores and even Wal-Mart. You can find them here. Another brand that’s great for fine details is PME, they start at size 00 and go up from there. You can find them here. wilton #3

Flower Nails and Rose Tips

Royal icing roses are great to keep on hand as you can use them to dress up any baked goods. I love the idea of making a large quantity of flower decorations to store and use any time. You can find the Wilton Flower Nail here and the rose petal tips here.flower nail

Pico projector

This projector makes it easy to transfer images or writing onto cookies (or any baked goods for that matter) and I’ve seen some amazing work done on it. This really ups your game and can give you uniform writing on your cookies. You can find Pico handheld projectors here and here.wishlist

Decorator bottles with couplers

Squeeze bottles are great for flooding cookies quickly with less mess. These bottles here have couplers on them so you can use your favorite tips instead of bags. You can find them herewishlist

Dehydrator

Dehydrators are definitely on the wish list, they are great for drying royal icing faster than a fan or air drying. There are several different brands, check them out here.

What a wish list!

These are not necessarily beginner tools, but something to work up to when it’s no longer just something you want to try.

Do you have a list of things you hope to get to up your decorating game? I would love to hear about them and maybe add a few things to my own list!

Thanks for reading!

Leah

Check out my new decorating toys!

New decorating tools

New decorating tools

Hobby Lobby Anyone?

Check out my new decorating toys! I’m always looking to up my decorating arsenal, so when  said we could go to Hobby Lobby I printed out my 40% coupons and was out the door in record time! I was so enthralled to see all the different decorating tools Hobby Lobby has I almost didn’t hear my toddler screaming through the entire store as my husband tried distracting her so I could browse. I said almost. Did I mention I have an amazing husband?

Luster Dust

I picked up a few things and wanted to share them with you. I’ve been immersing myself in decorating videos on multiple social media platforms and see over and over again the use of luster dust. Most of the dust used is either gold or pink, but there were a lot of different colors. Hobby Lobby just had one brand and I haven’t looked up any reviews on it. It’s Sunny Side Up Bakery Luster Dust. I think it’s their brand of baking equipment but since it’s the only brand they had, and since I had 40% off, I went for it. It was regularly priced $4.49. I’m looking for a link to it on Hobby Lobby but it goes to a wilton product. I think it might be mis-labeled on the website, it’s the same thing. I’ll link it anway here

I’m really, really excited to try this! I’ve been so busy with blog stuff the past week I haven’t had time to do any decorating. I’ve got another batch of royal icing in the works, then I’ll do some practicing with the luster dust. I’ll be posting pictures of all the cookies I decorate, even the bad ones, so you can see how I use the dust. Did I mention I’m really excited about it?? I’m also excited to get back to making some cookies!

Stencils

I’ve played around with stencils before and really love the uniform look I get with them. Since I’m still working on my free hand work with piping and, well, pretty much everything else, stencils can do for me what I still can’t do for myself. The stencils I’ve used before came from Hobby Lobby so I knew it would be ok to get some more from there. I purchased a set of letter stencils, and 2 other designs. I’m excited about these, too. The cookies I decorated with stencils before were well received, so looking forward to doing more! The stencils can be found here and here. The ones I already had purchased and the ones in the pictures below are here. Those are still a favorite 🙂

Here are some cookies I made using stencilefor our neighbors at Christmas.

Building Up My Arsenal

I know it doesn’t seem like much or maybe even warrant an entire blog post for 3 items, but my goal here is to show that I don’t have everything already. I’m still a beginner working my way up to the next level. I’ll share things I pick up here or there and probably be just as excited about the next goody!

In an upcoming post, I’ll be sharing what I’ve got on my wishlist for decorating. I’m sure it won’t be all-inclusive becuase I’m sure there are things out there I need and don’t even know it yet!

What are some supplies you have built up for decorating?

Thanks for reading!

Leah

 

Royal Icing Problem Solving (and my recipe!)

Royal Icing

Royal Icing Problem Solving

Royal icing is what gives the WOW factor to decorated cookies. It gives depth, dimension, and color, and can transform a plain sugar cookie into a work of art. Royal icing is also one of the most tricky things to get right in the beginning.

There are so many different recipes out there that give vague terms and amounts that are open to your own interpretation. If you are making a recipe for the first time, like royal icing, how do you know when enough water has been added? When is it over mixed? Does it need to be mixed? When I try to make a recipe, I want to know exactly what to do to replicate what’s in the picture. That’s what we’ll tackle today, making a great royal icing the first time!

Royal icing consistency is a whole other blog post, so I won’t be going over that here. I will be adding my own recipe and instructions at the bottom of the post.

 

royal icing

What is Royal Icing?

Royal icing is an icing that gets hard as it dries. Its used in decorating cakes, cookies, and other confections.

Here are the basic ingredients that all Royal icing recipes include:

  • Confectioners Sugar
  • Meringue Powder or egg whites
  • Flavoring/Extract
  • Water

The ingredients all serve a different purpose in the recipe:

  • Confectioners sugar ( or powdered sugar) is the base of the recipe. It’s what gives the icing its sweetness and body.
  • Meringue powder or egg whites cause the icing to harden.
  • The extract gives the icing its flavor. You can use any flavor to change up your recipes, although vanilla is the most commonly used flavor.
  • Water combines all the ingredients together.
  • Food grade vegetable glycerin or corn syrup is also added to some recipes to keep the icing from getting too hard as it dries.

The recipe is a balancing act of ratios. Most recipes call for a 2 lb. bag of powdered sugar to 5-6 Tbsp. of meringue powder. Two to Three Tbsp. of extract is used for 2 lbs of sugar, and if you are using corn syrup or glycerin, it’s usually 1 Tbsp. per 1 lbs of sugar. I like to add 2 tbsp. per batch.

stiff royal icing

How to Mix:

There are several different ways you can mix up the icing.

  • Sift the sugar and meringue powder together, then add wet ingredients and mix
  • Combine the meringue powder and water until powder is dissolved, then add to the sugar and mix
  • Add the extract to the water, then in the mixing bowl, mix the sugar and meringue powder together, then combine them slowly together and mix.

I’ve tried all of them and I prefer to mix the meringue powder and water together until the meringue powder is dissolved. I don’t sift the powdered sugar because it dissolves so quickly in the water I’ve never had a problem with it being lumpy. Then I add the water mixture to the sugar, add the extract, and right before I turn up the mixer I add my corn syrup.

 Common Problems:

There is nothing more frustrating than making a recipe, messing it up, and not being able to figure out what went wrong. Here are some common royal icing problems and how to fix them.

Icing won’t harden

The easiest solution for this would be not enough meringue powder and there’s not much you can do about it at that point. The ratio of sugar to meringue powder has to stay in that 1 lb. to 3 Tbsp. range.

Icing didn’t become “stiff”

Stiff icing is a must for certain types of decorating techniques, and most recipes will give you an end result of stiff icing. It’s a lot easier to thin it out than to go the other way. I had this problem multiple times, and I was under mixing my icing.  The meringue powder has to be mixed on medium speed for about 4-5 minutes to get that stiff texture. When I was first making RI I was thinking it had to be like a glaze, where you just mix the liquid and sugar and it’s done. Royal icing has to be mixed for it to get stiff.  

Icing crumbled after it dried

This could be a result of over mixing. If you mix for more than 5 minutes your icing will probably be crumbly and fall off the cookie after it dries. Again, not a lot to be done at this point.

Air bubbles

This is a really common problem that all decorators deal with. It’s so frustrating to decorate a beautiful cookie and see an air bubble rising to the surface! The best way to deal with this is before it’s even put in the piping bag or bottle. Let the icing sit for a while, tap the container on a solid surface to bring those bubbles up, then pop them. I use a spatula to wipe the surface and pop as many as I can without creating more.

Icing too thin

If you started out with thick icing and thinned it too much for flooding, this is a pretty easy fix. The easiest way is to add more stiff icing. If your whole batch is too thin, you can add some powdered sugar but you have to be careful of your ratios. If you just add sugar your icing won’t harden. A good thing to keep on hand is a small bag of sugar/meringue powder mix. You can do 1/2 lb. of sugar with 1 1/2 tbsp. meringue powder. You can add this to thinned icing and not worry about your ratios being off.

The Simple Cookie’s Royal Icing Recipe

royal icing

Ingredients

  1. 2 lbs powdered sugar
  2. 6 tbsp. meringue powder
  3. 2-3 tsp vanilla extract
  4. 3/4 cup warm water
  5. 2 Tbsp corn syrup

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, combine the meringue powder and water. Wisk until combined.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, add the powdered sugar and water/meringue powder mixture.
  3. Turn mixer on low and combine.
  4. Add extract and combine until ingredients come together.
  5. While the mixer is still mixing on low, add the corn syrup.
  6. Turn mixer on medium and mix for 4-5 minutes. The icing will form stiff peaks when mixed enough. Do not mix for more than 5 minutes.

A few tips…

This royal icing recipe is easy to make! I’ve tried to take the guess work out of it for you.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with flavors and extracts, the sky is the limit!

This royal icing recipe will keep for about 3 weeks in the fridge. Place plastic wrap on the icing, pressing down to get out all the air bubbles, then cover with an air tight lid. This keeps the icing from drying out and crusting over.royal icing

Stir the royal icing after it has been stored, it will separate but is still good to use.

Let the royal icing come to room temperature before using or coloring.

I recommend Americolor food gel paste for coloring royal icing. You can find that here.

 

Will you try it?

I really hope I’ve inspired you to try this recipe! I’m a firm believer that you don’t have to own a bakery or have an art degree to create beautiful cookies.

Thanks for reading and I would love to know if you tried my recipe!

Leah