This post is not a tutorial, but rather some backstory of a cookie that was very emotional for me to create. At a future date (and different design), I hope to share the main technique used to create this piece.
It's December, 1985.
I'm nine years old and in the fourth grade.
A visitor informs my family that my brother's great friend -a boy who was like a brother to me and whom I had known all of my life- had been killed in a plane crash on his return home from a peacekeeping mission in the Sinai Desert. He was a member of the US Army, specifically in the 101st Airborne Division, the Screaming Eagles.
All passengers on board, including 248 soldiers and 8 crew, were killed. To this day, it remains one of the deadliest air disasters in American military history.
The definitive cause of the crash is still unknown.
Was it due to weather? An onboard explosion?
Was it terrorism?
Look for yourself- Google "Arrow Air flight 1285". It's still being talked about, over 30 years later.
It was the first loss of someone close in my life. Not only was it a loss, but it was a tragic loss. Reports of the accident were on the news, in the newspaper.
It was tough for me as young girl to wrap her head around the loss.
A book was even written about my big "brother" David, as his life as a young kid was as tragic as his death. His death completely shaped how I handle (or rather struggle with) death to this day.
That's where my faith steps in.
I thank God that I can sometimes channel emotions to create pieces like this.
It helps me to heal.
It helps me to remember.
It helps me to honor.
Have you ever been stuck with something? Being stuck with the dishes after a big family meal. Being stuck with walking the dog when it's pouring rain. Maybe it's a literal stuck, like insisting on grabbing a live cactus at Lowe's even though your parents warned you not to touch it (ahem... youngest Clough child).
One of the worst things is having an idea stuck in your head. And you've planned out how you'll pull off said idea. But you're stuck doing other stuff instead of following through on your idea.
Cue this Cactus Cookie. Picture this: spring 2017, just as the cactus craze was really starting to take off. I pulled out a bunch of cutters, sketched out my "flips" (or ways to repurpose them). I even baked some of them! And then, I got stuck. Stuck doing laundry, stuck doing orders, stuck with the trials and tribulations of life. My sketches and baked cookie ideas got stuck on the shelf. Until now!
I thought this was the perfect tongue-in-cheek design to celebrate Mother's Day or Father's Day (imagine a Dad cactus with a mustache and bowtie!). You know the saying- you can pick your friends, pick your nose, but you can't pick your family?
You're stuck with them.
You recognize the cutter, right? You might have this exact one, or something similar. It's a mitten! Here's a line drawing so you can see where we're going.
Here's what you'll need:
* baked mitten shape cookie
* food-safe marker (optional) to sketch the design on the cookie.
* Royal icing:
-20-second in the pot color of your choice and medium green.
-piping consistency in black, white, and a different shade of green (lighter or darker than the medium green to be used for the cacti lines)
-thick icing in the flower color of your choice.
1. Use the food safe marker to map out the top of the pot, parent and child cactus. Don't go to the edge of the cookie- leave room for the cactus spines. If you're good at eyeballing stuff, skip ahead to step 2.
2. Use the piping consistency green and the pot color to outline the cacti and pot. Let the lines dry. Remember to leave room for the spines around the edge of the cactus.
3. Flood the cacti with the medium green (the 20 second consistency one). Flood the pot. Let these sections dry.
4. Add in the eyes, mouth, cactus lines, and rim of the pot.
5. After the lines are dry, pipe some spines and cactus flowers. Decorate the pot, if you want! If I were making these for Father's Day, I would do a mustache, bowtie, and blue flowers on the parent cacti at this step. You're done!
I hope that you try out these cacti family cuties, to celebrate those loved ones that you're stuck with. Wouldn't they be great for siblings too?
Imagine this: You have an order of 80+ princess carriages. You order the perfect cutter online, only to discover that it's too big when it arrives in your mailbox. There's not enough time to order a new cutter. What do you do?
You might recognize the main body of my princess carriage. It's a particular "mouse" cutter, and LilaLoa turned it into a great princess carriage in this post.
But my cookie carriages needed a finial- that little extra piece at the top for more ornamentation. And I needed 80+ of them that were exactly the same.
It's time to FrankenCookie (aka. piece cookie parts together to make a single cookie). In my case, the "mouse" cutter is the core shape, with the accessory "round" cookie being the finial. By using the small round cookie and cutting the section out of the main carriage, there are more points of contact between the two cookie shapes. This will increase the stability of the cookie joint, and make it less likely to break off.
A parchment paper template will ensure that I piece together the cookies in the exact same spot,
each and every time!
What you'll need:
* parchment paper
* cookie cutters that you plan to piece together
1. Trace the INSIDE of the cutters you're using on parchment paper. You want to trace the inside of the cutters, since that's closer to the cut size of your cookie shape.
2. Cut out your template. Cut away the piece that will be "added on" by the other/ accessory/ smaller cutter. Erase any pencil marks on the parchment paper and be sure to clean the cookie cutters. You don't want to transfer any pencil marks to your cookie dough by accident.
3. Cut your main cookie shape and transfer it to the baking sheet. Place the parchment template over the main cookie shape, and cut out the accessory piece.
4. Cut and fill in the accessory piece. Be sure that the accessory piece is flush with the original cut piece. You might have to flip over the accessory piece to make it fit properly. See this blog post why this happens!
5. Bake the cookies just like always!
Look at the baked, undecorated cookie! They're perfect! The size and placement of the finial is the same for every cookie! Winning!
A comparison of the front versus the back.
Some tips and tricks to piecing cookies together:
You might be thinking, "I'll never piece any cookies together, because that seems like so much work!". Yes, it is time consuming, but it is another tool to add to your cookie arsenal, and it just might help you out of a jam like me! Here are some other pieced ideas!
If you are a cookie decorator, you might have heard of "tipless bags". These bags are different than the "disposable" clear plastic Wilton or other branded decorating bags. FYI- I wash and re-use these disposable times dozens of times before I pitch them. So don't be misled by the word "disposable" in that case.
The tipless bags I'm referring to today are ones that are truly disposable. They are thinner, less expensive, and come in larger quantities. The tip is completely intact, allowing you to cut the end in a variety of ways or diameters for different purposes. You can order them from a bazillion places like Grunderfully Delicious, Bees Baked Art Supplies, and Truly Mad Plastics, and even Ebay. Not only are they great for royal icing on cookies, they're perfect for buttercream too! I even use them to fill my deviled eggs.
Some people use a drinking glass or jar of some sort to fill their decorator bag of choice. I use a pint canning jar, and turn down the open end for easy filling.
There are lots of ways of closing these bags to keep the contents from spilling out the wrong end. Some methods include rubber bands, tying them shut, or even using clips like these from IKEA.
Some of the tipless bag sellers are carrying their own clips- So smart! I got the idea from using the clips from LilaLoa. Because she's brilliant. But what LilaLoa couldn't help me with was ORGANIZATION...
I have a catch-all drawer in my cookie kitchen (some may call it a junk drawer but that would make one think that the items are "junk", which they are most certainly not). My bag clips were just dropped into this drawer once they were washed.
My apologies. I should have warned those Type-A personalities, as they have probably fainted from the mess of this picture. Can you imagine my small bag clips being dropped in here? They quickly fell to the bottom of the drawer, and I had to dig around to find them, usually once the icing bag was filled. But one day, it dawned on me: Store my clips IN my fill jar!
There's still enough room to fill my icing bag ON TOP of the clips! Once the bag is full, I just pull out the bag, twist, clip, and cut the tip to size.
On some occasions, I will actually re-fill these bags. Like if I were using them to flood my cookies. If you're re-filling the bag, the tip has already been cut. So the icing could just flow out through the open cut end. Blah! Use a clip to close the cut end while you re-fill the bag! So easy!
If you haven't tried out tipless bags, I encourage you to do so! They're perfect for those small icing tasks, where you just have a tiny amount of icing to use. They're also great for decorating parties or decorating kits- no expensive icing bags and tips to wash and return! And now you have a handy-dandy idea of where to store those bag clips too!
I'm Amy. Wife, Mom, former science teacher- and now full time cookie baker on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Pull up a chair and we create! I'll bring the coffee- maybe Mike (The Cookie Widower) will make it for us.