So I took a trip to my favorite local cake supply store, New York Cake West, and found everything (and more) I would need. I used a circle cookie cutter for the baby faces, a bottle cookie cutter, and lots of pink royal icing and disco dust to make everything pretty in pink! As it has been a WHOLE month since I baked sugar cookies, I thought I would try out a new sugar cookie recipe. I usually use the sugar cookie recipe from Martha's Cookie Book, but after getting hooked on Marian's blog Sweetopia, I decided to give her Sugar Cookie Recipe a shot, and while I was at it, I used the Royal Icing recipe she has posted from Antonia74’s book.
First off, let's start with the cookies. Marian's recipe for sugar cookies tastes PHENOMENAL! The best tasting sugar cookie I have ever had, and I have had a lot of sugar cookies in my day! The cookie is so buttery and rich with a dense but flaky texture that when combined with the royal icing, screams absolute delight within every taste bud in your mouth. It resembles a shortbread cookie but not quite as dense as shortbread. I followed her recipe to a tee as I am always nervous about trying out a new recipe. I was worried the cookies would "spread" too much while baking and therefore lose their shape. Well, the first couple of batches did, but then I went back to my old method to ensure minimal spread during the baking process, and it worked! So here it is...
- Roll out dough to approximately 1/8" and cut out shapes
- Place cut-outs on cookie sheet and freeze for at least 10 mins.
- Allow cookies to cool 10 min on cookie sheet, transfer to wire rack and place warm cookie sheet in freezer until ready to place cut-outs on it.
Now, I know this may look like a little extra time to make these cookies, but if you have ever made and decorated sugar cookies, you know well that they are not exactly quick to make. So take the extra time, make yourself a latte and multi-task while you are chilling your cookies. You will be glad you did because your shapes will look as they should instead of blobs of dough with frosting! The only concern I had about these cookies was their durability for shipping. Their delectable texture that keeps my mouth watering was also what worried me about shipping these cookies. They seemed to be a bit more fragile than the recipe I traditionally use. But nothing a good packing job can't overcome, and after speaking with the lovely shower hostess, it seems that all 47 cookies made it intact to Maryland! Yippee!
On to the frosting, one word...PERFECT! Antonia74’s recipe for royal icing is the perfect combination of taste and texture that one can find from powder sugar and water (and a couple other things of course). Let me just describe its perfection. It goes on smooth and silky, holds its form but at the same time can be manipulated to "flood" (a term used to refer to the filling in of the outlined cookie with royal icing) and dries perfectly, not too quick and definitely not too slow...JUST RIGHT! When it is dry and ready to eat, it breaks off with every bite with a crisp crunchy candy-like coating of this rich buttery cookie, and all the while it has been sealing in moisture and freshness into your cookie, it is like a natural preservative, who'da thought! Let me tell you, years ago when I started using royal icing, I would just mix a little meringue powder with powdered sugar and water and stir, it still worked, but trust me Antonia74's frosting is the Rolls Royce of Royal Icings ;)
Tips for Royal Icing...
- With Antonia74's recipe, you can use the same consistency for both outlining and flooding, which saves you a lot of time so you are not mixing up 2 different thicknesses.
- I usually work in batches of about 8-10 cookies. Outline them all, then flood two at a time letting the frosting naturally spread itself out and then I make sure it is completely spread and even with either a toothpick or the decorating tip.
- If you are using sanding sugar, disco dust, sprinkles, etc, make sure to do it immediately after flooding, otherwise it will not stick very well. This method will give you a great concentrated covering as well, which looks beautiful!
- Allow to dry at least 8 hrs before eating and 12-24 hrs before shipping (dependent upon your humidity) because the last thing you want is semi-dry frosting oozing out and ruining your design. Trust me, it is worth the extra time, and again, these are not time-saving baked treats, they take a while from start to finish, but they make excellent, thoughtful gifts!
- As for decorating tips, I use either Ateco #2 or #3 for outlining and fill-in and Ateco #1 or Ateco #000 for the finer details (I will illustrate in later pictures).
- For large cookie flood-work I use plastic squeeze bottles which I think are a little more efficient than piping bags for larger spaces.
- You can also refer to Marian's Sweetopia Tutorial on her Royal Icing Tips, she has an abundant wealth of info if you are new to sugar cookie crafting or just want to improve on your skills!
Ok, now for the pictures and how-to.
1. Make and Bake your cookies...Here is what my dough looks like when all rolled out:
2. Royal Icing: after making it per the recipe, this is what it will look like, thick clouds of sugary goodness. If you can tell from my picture, it is a bit thick here, after dividing and coloring it, I added a little water to each to make it a thinner consistency.
3. Here are my colors. I made the frosting the night before I was going to decorate to allow time for the colors to deepen. I divided the frosting into about thirds:
- 1/3 Ameri Color gel paste in Ivory-for baby's faces
- 1/3 Ameri Color in Deep Pink-for bottle base and baby cheeks (just use a couple drops)
- 2/3 Ameri Color in Deep Pink-for bottle nipple color, number increments on bottles, and baby bows (use twice as much color gel as you used for the bottle base)
- 1/6 Ameri Color in Black-for baby eyes, lashes, and mouth
- 1/6 Ameri Color in Lemon Yellow with a touch of Brown-for blonde baby hair curl (use a little color at a time, you can always add more)
5. Assuming your cookies are baked and cooled, get decorating!
- Outline the bottle nipple with Ateco #3 tip, let dry a minute or two to set. Don't worry too much about how perfect your outline is, as once you flood, you can disguise wiggly lines with frosting.
- Flood outlined area with frosting, if you have wiggly lines here, push the flooded frosting up onto the outline frosting to make the line appear more straight.
- Within a minute or two, dust the entire area with Pink Disco Dust and let sit a couple minutes before tapping cookie on its side to remove excess.
- Now outline the bottle base and flood.
- Allow base to dry for an hour or two and once ready, pipe on the number increments using Ateco#000. There you have it, the bottles are done, just allow them to dry!
Now onto the baby faces...
- Outline and flood the circles in ivory royal icing.
- Allow to dry and hour or two before piping on the light pink cheeks with Ateco #3, using either a toothpick or the end of the decorating tip to smooth out into about a 1cm wide circle.
- Pipe on yellow curl for hair with Ateco #1, after the curl dries for a couple minutes, pipe on the deep pink bow with Ateco #1.
- Finally, pipe on the eyes and mouth. To make eye lashes, take a toothpick to the lateral side of the eye and pull the frosting out to make a tip, repeat 3 times. This step can be a little tricky because if you do it too soon and your base is not dry enough, the black will "bleed" onto the ivory, not pretty, so do this step very very last!
6. Now onto the packing...
Happy Baking...happier eating!