All Posts Tagged ‘icing

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Sugar cookie decorating tips

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I will probably never create a sugar cookie as picture perfect as Kim Kardashian, and I am totally ok with that.

Recently I got so caught up dreaming of designs for the world’s best cookies that my stress levels shot through the roof. I sweat through my shirt. I overcooked a batch of cookies. I quite literally poured icing all over my hand in the process of  transferring it to a squeezable condiment bottle. I was a mess!

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I finally began having fun when I gave myself permission to make mistakes and just move on.

I didn’t create this blog to spend hours worrying about designing sugar cookies for a picture on Instagram so I could sit back and watch the Likes roll in. I created this blog with the intention of learning how to use my camera and to share my adventures in the kitchen.

Since then, my number one goal has become sharing my baking experiences as honestly and empathetically as possible. Curated social feeds shouldn’t prevent any of us from having fun and making mistakes in the kitchen.

Put another way: I’m not here for the ‘gram. Baking is messy, and I’ve learned something from every one of my projects – including the time I dropped a four-layer Fourth of July flag cake.

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So if you’re intimidated as hell by royal icing, and your cookies don’t yet look like the ones around every digital corner, girl, you are not alone. We’re all just doing the best we can, and done is better than perfect.

Below are some tips I’ve learned during my quest for the perfect sugar cookie and pictures that illustrate my process. I hope that by sharing what baking  in my house actually looks like, we can break down the lofty ideals of perfection one imperfect cookie at a time.

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Recipes

Cookie: Can you believe I almost threw out the cookies pictured above? Sure they’re pretty ugly, and I bet the cracked surface means I did something wrong, but they’re tasty and that’s what matters most. Plus they make for excellent practice cookies (as you can see in the heart in the bottom right above). There are a million and one sugar cookie recipes online, but I used Sally’s snowman sugar cookie recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction.

Icing: Sugar cookies usually require two kinds of icing: royal icing and flood icing. Royal icing icing is thicker and dries faster, so you can create borders and other designs on your cookies. Flood icing is royal icing thinned with water and you use it to fill in the shape of your outlines. You only need one recipe for both, and if you only use one, stick with royal icing.

Tools

icing tools.jpgPiping bags: Piping bags are ideal for royal icing. You can cut the exact size hole you want in the bag which will determine the width of your icing lines. Bigger opening = thicker border. I cut about 1/4 inch from each bag’s end and propped the bags up in a glass cup while working. Royal icing is usually thick enough that it won’t ooze out the bottom.

Thanks to my one of my best friends, I have a box of disposable piping bags that I can’t recommend enough! I also have washable, reusable bags, but I usually make so much of a mess (or forget about the icing in the fridge until it expires – oops!) that it’s nice to purge bags after using. One less thing to clean.

Piping bag alternative: If you don’t have piping bags, use a sandwich baggie! Just make sure you don’t zip it closed. This will cause the pressure to build inside the bag and the icing will spill out the top when it finally breaks open. Yes, I learned this the hard way.

Condiment bottles: Squeezable condiment bottles are great for flood icing. I use these from Amazon. They stand upright so you don’t have to worry about the icing leaking everywhere, and most have openings which are the perfect size for cookie decoration.

Condiment bottle alternative: If you don’t have condiment bottles, I recommend adding flood icing and then using something smaller like a toothpick or butter knife to spread it.

Decoration tips

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Always start with royal icing. It creates the barrier which will contain your flood icing.

While moving slowly in most decoration processes tends to yield the best results, I find the less precious you treat a cookie, the less shaky your icing will turn out. Hold your royal icing tip slightly above the cookie as you draw your desired border, and watch the icing fall into place. Floating the icing will help maintain clean lines.

I like to outline every cookie and let them set before moving on to flood icing. Royal icing should be hard to the touch when it’s done drying.

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Use flood icing to fill your cookie. There is no wrong way to fill in the empty space. I like to flood the outline first and then fill in the middle of the cookie. Just do whatever your heart moves you to do!

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You know those Instagram videos where someone uses a small gray needle-like tool on the flood icing? I always thought they were spreading the icing. During my icing class this past spring at Biscuiteers, I learned they’re actually popping air bubbles in the icing.

Do you see the four bubbles on the flood icing in the picture above? To remove them, gently poke them with a toothpick or pick up the cookie an inch or two from a surface and drop it. The pressure is usually enough to pop the bubbles as seen below.

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Voila!

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My biggest tip (and yes I feel like a big cheese ball saying this) is to be kind to yourself and just have fun. Your first, second, and third batches will be far from perfect, but don’t let that stop you!

Once I threw perfection out the window, I had way more fun piping and throwing sprinkles around with reckless abandon (there may or may not have been several Jackson Pollock shoutouts).

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So your lines are crooked and they’re giving you an eye twitch? Just add more lines! Your royal icing broke and now flood icing is pouring out the side of the cookie which is most definitely happening in the picture above? Move that cookie to a plate and pop it in the fridge so the icing can harden. I guarantee no one will care. At the end of the day, you’ve got cookies in your house and that’s all that really matters.

Happy Valentine’s Day, friends! And an especially Happy Valentine’s Day to Kevin, who has eaten his fair share of imperfect cookies and doesn’t make me feel any less because of it!

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Scrabble tile shortbread cookies

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If you’re reading this on Wednesday, there’s a good chance we’re 30,000 feet in the air pretending like there’s more than a paper-thin carpet and a giant floating body of aluminum separating us and the ocean beneath us. Aluminum. The thing which can barely contain hot dogs and hamburgers when they’re fresh off the grill! I should’ve never googled “what are planes made of.” I was better off not knowing.

I’m a bit of a nervous flyer, and after an especially turbulent (and teary) flight last month, I’m crossing my fingers that our flights throughout the next week are a lot smoother! Or at the very least, that I fall asleep for every single one. Knowing we’ll soon see geysers and waterfalls in Iceland makes boarding the plane a lot easier. Plus I’m hoping I can drown out all the weird plane noises with some Jonsi! If I listen hard enough, I’ll better understand Icelandic by the time we arrive, right?

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I’ve been anxiously anticipating this trip for many reasons, but mostly I’m excited to feel very small! I can’t wait to consume the news from a different viewpoint, to lay off the social media, and to meet new people from all over the world! There’s nothing like time away from home in a new place to make you realize how much is out there.

To say nothing of all the food and sights! And audio tours! All the audio tours in the land!

Who am I kidding. I’m way too excited to sleep!

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I wish I could take these Scrabble tiles (and all of you!) with me for an on-the-go game! The best part is, the set I made has neither a Z nor Q because I ate them. I also drew an exclamation point which I promptly ate before Kevin could see it and remind me that exclamation points aren’t regulation tiles. But wouldn’t scrabble be more fun if punctuation was allowed? That sounds like a game I’d like to play.

I used the same sugar cookie recipe as the softball cookies, and I’m happy to report the recipe made about 150 Scrabble tiles to scale. I took these photos in a bit of a hurry before a game night at a friend’s, and at the very least I’m glad I noticed I originally spelled “Congrats” as “Congarts” before I took the picture. Phew!

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These cookies are the perfect addition to game night, and I guarantee if you eat two dozen while you’re icing them, you’re in good company 😉 They’re incredibly snackable and instantly recognizable, and as a result, they won’t last long!

Scrabble cookies spelling Game Night

Shortbread cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks of butter
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 cups of flour

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Cube the butter and put it in a mixing bowl. Add the sugar. Combine until fluffy and well incorporated.
  3. Add the flour and mix on low speed for 2 minutes. Increase speed to medium for 5 minutes.
  4. When the dough begins to stick together or to the sides of the bowl, dump it onto a well-floured surface for rolling.
  5. Place a wooden spoon on either side of the dough (but not wider than your rolling pin), so the roller stops flattening the cookies after a certain height.
  6. Flatten dough. Cut desired shapes. For these tiles, I cut strips of dough and then cut the strips into smaller squares.
  7. Place shapes on cookie sheets and place in the oven. Decrease the oven’s temp. to 325.
  8. Rotate cookies after 10 minutes and cook for another 5-6 minutes until golden brown on the edges, but mostly the bottoms.

Tip: When I make cookies, I take them out of the oven just before I think they’re fully done so they can cool on the pan for 10 minutes before I transfer them to a cooling rack.

Royal icing recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of powdered sugar
  • 2 egg whites
  • A pinch of salt
  • Food coloring

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients until well-incorporated.
  2. If you want to make black icing for writing, I set aside about 2/3 of the royal icing for white icing and then combined the remaining 1/3 with equal parts of red, blue, and green food coloring until the desired color was achieved.
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Harry Potter cake and a buttercream frosting recipe

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At the end of April, Kevin and I are headed to Iceland followed by an almost-week in London. I couldn’t be more excited so to celebrate the trip, I made an exact replica of the cake Hagrid gifts Harry when they first meet!

I would be remiss not to mention my heart goes out to the victims of this week’s terror attack on Parliament. “No act of terror can shake the strength and resilience of our British ally.” Sending my deepest sympathies across the pond.

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Conveniently, neither of us has ever visited London so we hope to check off quite a few tourist spots (hel-lo, London Eye) while also leaving plenty of room for exploration. Have you ever been? I would love to hear about your must-see places!

For starters, I signed up for a cookie icing class at Biscuiteers and am so excited I don’t know how I’m going to wait another month! I’m sure it comes as no surprise at all that we also snatched up tickets for The Harry Potter Studio Tour.

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I know true Harry Potter fans out there will tell me that this cake is more fitting for Harry’s birthday in July (have I hit my nerdy comments quota yet today?), but I just couldn’t help myself! You can see the cake from the movie here. Some friends pointed out it’s not quite accurate since I didn’t sit on it like Hagrid does. Haha! Maybe next time 😉

If only I could take this entire chocolate cake with us. I made Julia Turshen’s Happy Wife Happy Life recipe from her cookbook Small Victories. Once I saw that there is a full cup of coffee in the batter, I had to try it.

This turned out to be one of the best chocolate cakes I have ever eaten. The coffee makes the layers perfectly moist which you can tell from the photos above. I also accidentally added almond extract to the frosting and decided to still add vanilla extract (#yolo). Together they complemented the chocolate layers perfectly. The happiest of accidents!

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Unless the author posts the recipe in full on their site, I don’t believe in posting the recipe in full on my blog. However, with a quick google search, you can find others who don’t feel the same (like the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel here).

My reasoning is that recipes are special, and if the author wanted this online, they would share it online. If I had written a cookbook, I wouldn’t want other bloggers to copy and paste my work in a format where I might not have intended it to live without seeking explicit permission first.

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Julia’s recipe calls for raspberry jam sandwiched in between each layer, but I used a traditional buttercream icing. If anyone missed the jam, I didn’t hear about it!

This cake lasted all of two days in our house which is without a doubt the quickest turnaround of any dessert around here. I know it won’t be long before I make it again. Happy weekend, friends!

Buttercream Frosting Recipe

Ingredients 

3Cups of powdered sugar

1 stick of butter

1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons milk or whipping cream

Food coloring (optional)

Directions

  1. Mix together 3C of sugar and 1 stick of butter on low speed (or by hand) until it’s well incorporated.
  2. If you’re using a stand mixer, increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes.
  3. Add 1/2 T vanilla and 2t milk and continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Add more milk until you’ve reached your desired consistency.

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Special shout-out to my friend Claire for letting me shoot in her apt., capturing some extra photos, and bearing the ever-important roles of taste tester and hand model! You can tell by the giant slices missing how much we hated it 😉