So you made all your cookies and you got all your pastry bags full of various colors of royal icing, right? I know, I know… You’ve been waiting patiently for me to tell you HOW to decorate the cookies. WHY?
How could you resist?
If you have never, ever decorated a cookie before, I urge you to just dive in and get piping (that’s what you call it when you squeeze the frosting out of a pastry bag). You’ll get the hang of it, I promise. And I bet you’ll find that you get more creative, faster, and more confident by the time you’ve decorated all of your cookies.
If you want a personalized cookie decorating lesson, well, you’ll just have to gimme a call and come by the farm. Not an option? Here are a few tips to get you going. Happy decorating!
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I first learned to decorate cookies using two types of royal icing – actually not two different TYPES, just two different consistencies. Use a thicker icing that holds its shape for piping designs and use a thinner one to fill a large area (also called ‘flooding‘) To thin the icing, add drops of water and stir – seriously, DROPS, because it’ll thin out too much too fast and you can’t really fix it without going crazy.
For outlining and detailing, I use a pastry bag with a size 3 plain pastry tip. That means nothing to you? Figure it makes a line like a Sharpie marker only in 3-D icing. Why size 3? ‘Cause that’s what I got. And also it’s a good size for writing on birthday cakes with buttercream. Too small a tip is ok, you just have to be very careful about your icing consistency. Too big a tip is also ok (jeez, do I sound like Goldilocks? A size 3 is just right!), but when cookies are small, a big tip just makes a mess.
Are we good then? I think I covered the vocabulary list….
One way to decorate snowflakes such as this is to pipe on a basic line drawing. This is great for outlining gingerbread house cut-outs and piping on detailing such as windows, doors, and wreaths. Holding the cookie in one hand OVER A PLATE or other sugar catch-all, immediately sprinkle on colored sugar sprinkles (‘sanding sugar’) to cover the surface, then hold the cookie upside down and gently tap it off.
The sugar will adhere to only the wet icing. This method nicely accentuates well-defined lines of icing.
Pretty, right? The sugar stays crunchy and is a nice textural contrast.
Sometimes you’ll have a design that just BEGS for multiple colors of icing. If this is the case, you’ll want to do the icing in stages. Pipe around the edges of the design with the thicker icing IN ONLY ONE COLOR. Use the thinner icing to flood the area and fill it in by pushing the icing around either with the pastry tip, a toothpick or the tip of one of these fancy schmancy squeeze bottles.
These bottles are so easy to use when the icing is quite fluid, and if you don’t want to mail order them, you can find them at craft stores like Michael’s (again with the coupons!). Your local restaurant supply store will have them, too, and if you’re interested in shopping at non-chain stores (which we LOVE), you’ll probably find them for a better price.
Once you have flooded the main portion of the cookie, let it dry for about 45-60 minutes on a cookie sheet or cooling rack. By this point, the primary icing base will be dry and you can pipe on decorative touches with the thicker icing.
If you pipe on the decoration too soon and the base hasn’t dried, you’ll end up with this effect. The blue sank into the white and made for a smooth top which was then subsequently dusted with sanding sugar. I like the look of this here, but keep the results in mind if you would prefer something with more dimension.
Also, be careful when you handle cookies with delicate parts. They’re prone to breakage.
When you let the base coat of icing dry for an hour or so, you can pipe decorations on and have them retain their shape. FYI, if you choose to not use the piping/flooding technique, you can use thinned royal icing and a 1-inch pastry brush to coat the surface of the cookies. Let them dry the same way and continue with your decorating.
I wanted the letters in JOY to be different colors, but if I piped them all at once the colors would bleed into each other. I chose, instead, to pipe the O and sprinkle with sugar, let it dry, then pipe the J and the Y.
And then I played with dots…
Please pardon the horrible lighting in these pics – it was getting dark and I was rushing as my darling boy, the light of my life and pride of my loins was about to come home and I knew he’d need SOMETHING which would take me away from my playing. I mean work…
If you want to do a marble-type technique, drop some food coloring into a base color of thinned royal icing, here green into white – not that you could tell with my lighting – and swirl ever so gently. DO NOT GO CRAZY MIXING OR YOU WILL NOT HAVE MARBLING. Got that? RESTRAINT is a good thing here.
Carefully paint on the hardly-mixed icing following the contours of the cookie. When the icing dries, you will have a nice stripey effect and you can pipe on additional decorations if you like.
These cookies will last for well over a week or more and they are perfect for gift-giving. They also make very nifty placecards for holiday dinners, lovely teacher/bus driver gifts, and just all-around cool break room treats.