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!
It's amazing how the human mind works, and how certain smells can immediately transport you to a time and place of your past. The scent created by lily of the valley flowers is one of those hooks for me. It used to grow in the shade below my parent's bedroom room in the house where I grew up. Whenever I smell (or even see) lily of the valley flowers, I can picture them below that window. I'm transported back in time.
These lily of the valley cookies are simple to make, and they're perfect for spring cookie collections for Easter or Mother's Day.
Here's what you'll need:
* cookie with dried icing flood base. Shape of the cookie and icing base color is up to you!
* 20-secondish green and white royal icing
* toothpick or scribe tool
1. Bake your cookie shape and flood with the icing color of your choice. Let it dry completely. Pipe the green leaves and stem for the lily of the valley. I curved my leaves and stem because I wanted to mimic the shape of the egg. But feel free to pipe the greenery how you wish!
2. After the stem is dry, pipe one white ball of icing at the end of one of the stems. You want the icing to form a smooth, ball shape. If your icing leaves a "tail" or tip when you stop and it doesn't smooth over, stop, thin your icing a little bit more, and then try again.
3. Immediately after piping the icing ball, take your scribe or toothpick and "tease" out the flared petal tips of the lily of the valley blossom. Start at the base of the icing ball, and pull the icing out. Do the remaining petal tips for the flower. Repeat for the rest of the flowers on your stem. That's it! See, I told you it was easy!
I liked pulling/teasing the icing from the base of the ball because it left the spherical shape of the icing intact, creating a ton of dimension.
Look at how puffy those blossoms are!
May you feel inspired to "cookie" something that reminds you of a happy time from your past!
One of my tricks in creating new, cartoony designs is to exaggerate one or more qualities of the character. Big nose, little eyes, tiny body, big head- all of these characteristics can make your design cute and whimsy. Plus, it takes away some of the pressure to make proportions just right.
You might just recognize the cutter I used to make this little chick! It's the round potted cactus from Sweet Sugarbelle! It makes the perfect fat chick in a little nest. Maybe they live down by the river? Sorry- I saw a Chris Farley clip the other day 😂.
What you'll need:
* Baked cookie shapes
* 20-second icing in yellow and brown, and tiny amounts of black, orange, and accent color of your choice
* Parchment paper
* offset spatula or knife.
Let's start with the nest!
There are lots of ways to make bird nests (like this one from LilaLoa), but I wanted to try something a little different. I love texture contrast between the chick's head and the bumpy nest. My method is definitely a little more fragile, but it's fun to try!
1. Make some icing lines on parchment paper. This is a popular start to make your own sprinkles, as detailed in this blog post from the Bearfoot Baker. BUT, for my nest application, criss-cross some of your lines! Allow them to dry. You could let them dry on their own for a few hours, use a dehydrator, or even a slightly warmed oven. I like to use my fan. If you go the fan route, remember to use magnets to hold down the parchment. It's irritating to have your parchment paper with freshly piped transfers scatter to the wind. Trust me on this one.
2. After the transfers are dry, use a spatula or knife to break your icing lines. They actually look like twigs for a bird's nest! Set these aside for now.
Let's make the chick!
1. Use yellow icing to make the chick's body. Let it crust.
2. Use brown icing to make the nest. Immediately place the icing "twigs" on the wet brown icing. It's ok if some of the twigs break in the process! Also, feel free to let them hang over the edge of the cookie.
3. Time for the next details! Pipe the wings, hair pouf, eyes, and beak. I used white nonpariels for the eye highlights.
4. I decided to add some other accents to make girl and boy chicks. For the girl, I just added some eyelashes, bow, and flower accents. For the boy, I just added a bow. I think I'd do a bowtie next time. And some glasses! So cute!
I hope that you're inspired to add some of these cute chicks
to your spring cookie collections!
First, let me get this clear- I AM NOT ALTERING MY CUTTERS IN THIS POST. NO CUTTERS HAVE BEEN HARMED IN THE MAKING OF THESE COOKIES :)
Of course I've been known to stretch/alter a cutter now and again, but this post takes a different spin on making your cutters work for you. A little back story, if you will...
I like big cookies, and I cannot lie. My preferred size for cookies has definitely increased over the years. Cutters that used to be "just right" back in the day are a little too small for me now. For example, a 3" circle is too small. I now prefer 3.25"-3.5" circles.
*Insert an order for blue ribbon cookies*
I knew I had the perfect blue ribbon cutter, as I had won several of these cutters at past CookieCons for different winning entries (yes, I'm a little proud of that). When I pulled out the cutter, I was dismayed that it was smaller than I had remembered. I began to stretch the metal cutter to increase it's size. Then it dawned on me...
STRETCH THE DOUGH, NOT THE CUTTER.
I realized that I could gently RE-ROLL the cookie shape after I cut it.
The cookie shape will spread and increase its overall size!
**But how to maintain my standard 3/8" cookie thickness?**
I always roll my dough with rolling pin rings. Rolling pin rings are rubber rings of various sizes that slide onto an ordinary rolling pin. They make the dough an even thickness when you roll it out. A Joseph Joseph pin or Dough EZ uses the same concept. If you don't already have some method of regulating your dough thickness, do it NOW. It makes so much difference in your baked cookies! I use the largest rings of my rolling pin ring set, which measure 3/8". Therefore, my un-baked cookies measure 3/8" in thickness.
I needed something thin and flat to line each side of my cookie dough, something that I could easily roll my pin + rings on top of.
After rolling my "thicker" dough sheet, I cut the desired shape. Notice the difference in cookie thickness!
Here's where the magic happens!
GENTLY RE-ROLL the thicker cut shape.
Don't roll in one direction, but in all directions to even out the spread.
Look at the before and after!
Here are some other applications:
I NEVER use this candle cutter because it's too small. I might actually use it now because of this technique! Also, HOW you re-roll can make a difference. Re-rolling a standard heart IN ONE DIRECTION ONLY can turn it into a stretched/primitive heart!
SOME THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND:
1. If you use a Joseph Joseph pin (or equivalent) and normally roll 1/4", you can skip the cutting boards on the sides of your dough. Roll your dough with the 3/8" ends, cut your cookie shape, then re-roll with the 1/4" ends.
2. Intricate/complicated/very straight-edge cutters may not work well with this technique. You will lose some of the delicate details/sharpness of the original cutter during the re-roll process. This technique is for shapes that are a little more "forgiving".
I am ASTOUNDED at the difference in size of these cookies. And I can't believe that they came from the SAME COOKIE CUTTER!
I cannot wait to take a second look at other cutters that might be a tad too small.
I just might win the size battle after all. #sizematters :)
Cookiers have been using cupcake and ice cream cone cookie cutters since the dawn of royal icing to make all sorts of hat-wearing characters, from snowmen to scarecrows. I certainly do not take credit for the "leprechaun from an ice cream cone" concept, but I wanted to share with you MY version of this popular idea using a new favorite ice cream cone cutter from Sweet Sugarbelle!
This particular ice cream cone cutter came in a two-piece set with a pretzel shape. It's the perfect sweet/salty combo! Hmmm... can you just imagine a pretzel cone filled with chocolate ice cream?! Oh YUM.
Here's what you'll need:
* ice cream cone cookie shapes
* food marker (if you wanted to mark sections on the cookie), or you could just wing it!
* 20-second royal icing in green, orangey (orange + tiny bit of warm brown, skin-tone, black, yellow. Have a variety of tip sizes on hand.
* shamrock sprinkles (optional). I found mine at Michaels.
1. Bake your favorite roll out recipe. Use a food marker to outline the face, brim, and hat band. Here's my sketch so you can see where we're going. FYI- I sketch 99% of my designs on paper, and then file them in binders for future use!
2. Pipe the hat sections with green royal icing. While the icing is still wet, add the shamrock sprinkle. If you don't have these sprinkles, you could pipe an icing shamrock after the hat dries. Allow the icing to crust.
5. Pipe the final details- nose, mouth, beard squigly, brim outline. You're done!
Happy St. Patrick's Day!
When I was growing up, Thanksgiving in my house was the traditional roasted turkey feast, from the juicy bird to the jellied cranberry sauce from the can (My dad insisted on having the whole cranberry stuff too- blech!). Aside from my mom's sweet potato pie, my absolute favorite part was the STUFFING. Now this term is actually a little misleading because my mom never put this seasoned bread concoction actually inside the bird, but rather in a pan that was baked until crispy and brown and absolutely delicious. So I guess "dressing" would be the more appropriate term for it. But in my house, it was "stuffing", and that's exactly how I felt at the end of the meal. Stuffed.
Ever since I began my cookie journey, I've made turkey cookies to accompany the pies on the dessert table. So before we all get stuffed for Thanksgiving, let me share with you how to make these turkeys!
What you'll need:
* turkey cookie shape (mine is from this Ann Clark cutter)
* royal icing (in a 20-second consistency) of the colors: brown, white, black, gray, red
* black sugar pearls (optional)
* scribe tool or toothpick
* food marker
1. Use a food marker to mark the location of the tail, wing, and neck.
2. Starting with the outer edge of the tail feathers, pipe a line of icing. Immediately pipe the next icing line right next to the previous icing line. Continue with this wet-next to-wet technique.
3. Immediately take the scribe tool or toothpick and drag it through the icing, starting at the edge of the feathers and working your way to the base of the tail.
4. While the tail feathers are starting to dry, use the gray icing to pipe the head of the turkey and drop on the sugar pearl eye (if you don't have black sugar pearls, just pipe an eye once the head is dry). Use some black icing to add feet. Truthfully, you could use all sorts of colors for the head of the turkey, including brown, red, or even blue! Yes, blue! If you're feeling brave, go ahead and do a google image search of "turkey head". Ugliest.things.ever. LOL! Let these sections dry for a bit.
5. Use the brown icing to create the body of your bird. Use the black icing to pipe a tiny beak. Let these sections dry for a bit.
6. Time for the final details! Pipe the wing using the same wet-next to-wet technique as you did the tail. Once again, drag the scribe tool or toothpick through the icing, creating the feathers. Grab the red icing and make the waddle. You're done!
Add in some beautiful fall leaves or acorns to keep your cookie turkeys happy, like these acorns made from this Ann Clark cutter!
Or even add in some pilgrims, like these made from a turkey cutter, designed by LilaLoa (also found at Ann Clark)! You can see some other pilgrim cookie designs from different cutters here and here!
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
Frankly, I think the creature we commonly call Frankenstein might just be my favorite Halloween-time character. Maybe it's because I love the pop of green that my soothes my eyes amidst the sea of traditional orange and black Halloween colors. Maybe it's because I like to picture him as a cute cartoony character instead of the monstereous thing that is depicted in the book/movies. In any case, I love making Frank in cookie form!
This year, I got my hands on one of these sets of Halloween cutters, designed by Sweet Sugarbelle.
Do you see a Frankenstein cookie design on the box? Nope! But I let my cutter-flipping brain take over, to repurpose that awesome skull cutter pictured on the upper right of the box cover.
1. Bake the skull shape with your favorite roll-out cookie recipe.
2. Use black and purple icing to make Frank's hair and shirt. Let these sections dry.
3. Use green icing to make Frank's face. Let this section dry really well before adding the details.
4. Use orange, green, black, and grayish icing colors to make the final details. You're done!
You can pair your Frankenstein cookies with some other fun Halloween shapes, like these other cookies make from Sweet Sugarbelle cutters. Aren't they great for a not-so-scary Halloween party?
But I think Frankenstein is still my favorite!
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.