Friday, September 20, 2013

The Art of the Cookie–How Do You Do That?


I seem to be getting many of my blog ideas this week while I’ve been out walking the dogs.  Away from all technology and distractions. However, when I come back to sit down at the computer to write, I’ve got nothing :(  So when I got back today I just sat down and started to write.

I wanted to touch on a topic I get asked about all of the time, how do you decorate cookies?  My answer is pretty simple, because anyone can.  I know this because I too was where the beginner baker starts…at the beginning.

I won’t deny that there are some amazing cookie decorators out there and we all want to strive to be them, but let’s face it, not all of us can be them, myself included.  I mean, I make a mean cookie but sometimes I’m not willing or able to spend the 45 minutes on each cookie just to go that extra mile and let’s be honest, in the end, cookies were made for eating. NOM NOM NOM :)

Now that wasn’t meant to discourage you.  Quite the opposite in fact.  It’s to tell you that regardless of what the cookie looks like, they should always start by tasting good. You know, for eating!!! Start off by finding a roll-out cookie you like.  There are so many out there, so try, try and then try again.  Spend the time to find the one you like because if you don’t like them, you won’t be willing to take them to the next level.  So let’s find a sugar cookie recipe you like.

Here are some great ones:

But now you want to cut them out but don’t have a couple hundred different cutters to choose from.  Not to worry, you don’t have to run out and buy a dozen or so.  There is time for that later.  First let’s decide if you want to continue down this road.  So what to do?  You all have makeshift cutters in your kitchen.  The mouth of a wine glass for super simple circles or you can just cut them out using a knife.  Remember they don’t have to be perfect.  It’s your first time, so lets start slow. You had to learn to walk before you could run.

Once you’ve baked and let your cookies cool,  you’ll need to decide how you want to decorate them and with what.  The two mainstays in icings are royal and glaze.  Now I’m not a glaze person but some of the most amazing decorators out there prefer it above royal. Pam of Cookie Crazie, Cristin of Cristin’s Cookies and Christina of Sweet C’s Bake shop make some of the best looking cookies on the planet. 


I, myself,  like to use royal icing.  I was trained to use it first so it’s what I’m comfortable with using.  That being said, try them both and then pick what you like.  Just remember that taste and texture is very important.

Icing Recipes:

Now it’s time to decorate.  Start with simple and then after a few dozen cookies go ahead and attempt the masterpiece that must be framed.  Baby steps people, baby steps.

As an example, here is the start of my cookie adventures:

halloween 024

Oh this picture makes me chuckle. But you know what? I had no idea what I was doing either. Now this picture was taken with the icing still wet and I was so proud of my accomplishment, however that was short lived.  The next morning my Jack Skelton looked like he’d had one too many shots.  The black bled into the white.  I was mortified.

I knew how to make royal icing but felt it was to stiff, so I watered it down.  Definitely a bit too far. I didn’t know about 5 second icing, 10 second icing or even 20 second icing.  I had a vague idea of what base coating was but didn’t know that it should be outlined first or that it needed to be set before I put the next layer of icing on it if I didn’t want it to sink into one layer.  There were so many questions and I didn’t have answers, even from my baking background.  I chuckle now but it took several batches of really awful cookies until I got a “hey that’s not bad”. 

So please don’t feel bad or scared, just stand yourself up, dust yourself off (because I know you are covered in icing sugar) and try, try again.

I hated failing (you have no idea how much I hate this feeling), so I went on a mission to find out all there was to know about decorating sugar cookies.  I could fondant a cake with the best of them but this stupid little baked good was starting to get the best of me and that would not stand.  I read every blog I could find.  The Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle, Sweetopia, Bake at 350, Glorious Treats, The Vanilla Bean Baker and The Bearfoot Baker were my stalking grounds.  I read, I drooled, I copied and then I did something so daring and so crazy…I asked a question.  Yup, I asked the guru’s of sugar cookies some questions.  Come on people, they are just like you and me. Callye, Marian, Bridget, Glory, Paula and Lisa are the lovely ladies behind these blogs and they started from the basics just as you are doing now. Regular ladies with a flair for the art of cookie decorating and they absolutely love it when you ask questions.   You know deep down I’m right because they wouldn’t keep doing what they are doing if we didn’t ask questions.  They also really love it when you show them what you’ve created based on their tutelage.  So go ahead; ask, ask, ask!


Now we’ve got cookies, we’ve got icing and we’ve got the basics.  It’s your turn to go out and try and fail and try again until you eventually stop failing (and that’s really all just in your head because what you call failures because they don’t look like perfection, your family will love).  You don’t have to start a cookie business and you don’t need a website or FB page, its ok if you want to.  Just start by having fun.

So that’s all great and dandy but what do you gain by doing all this?  Understanding.

  • Understanding that not all cookies are created equal.
  • Understanding that you like what you like.
  • Understanding that, when done properly, twelve dollars for a dozen cookies no longer seems overly expensive, in fact it’s super cheap (so the cookie probably is too).
  • Understanding that patience is a true virtue.
  • and understanding that there is a true art to the decorated cookie.

I’ve come to love making and decorating cookies.  It took some time and it took some pretty grotesque cookies to find my groove but I eventually got there . I’ve also had the chance to meet all of these lovely ladies and am so proud to call them friends.  To this day, they still teach me every day.  Each new batch of cookies is always an adventure and if you stay at it, you too will start to love it like I do. 

So when you think you can’t do it, know you SO can! Start simple and then expand.  Just remember the Sistine Chapel wasn’t Michaelangelo’s first painting.

Here are some of my other other favourites. I’d list them all but there are just too many.

Ok, so if you have begun your cookie journey, I want to see your first attempts.  I showed you mine.  So go to my Facebook page and post your first attempt cookies.  No cheating, I want to see your first cookie “masterpiece”.  I mean that’s what they are!!!  So go and be proud of that first cookie that got you started.  I showed you mine, so show me yours!!!

Have fun and thanks for looking!

1 comment:

  1. Ok, I sent my very first cookies to you! I wanted to do Easter cookies for my grand kids, so I had the middle grandchild with me. So I threw him in the car (not really I buckle him in) and off to Michael's to get cutters. I remember making the cookies and they were good, but I just cried because I thought they were so ugly. But everyone in the family kept telling me how great they were and they wanted more! So I knew I was going to get better if they wanted more and now it still shocks me that people really want to buy my cookies.