Baking has always been a central part of my family’s traditions. I learned to bake from my Mom, and have been thankful for those skills ever since. I’d always loved looking at the beautiful cookies in popular magazines…you know, the kind that look too pretty to eat? How did they make that frosting so perfect? How fun to decorate those! I learned that the picture-perfect, beautiful magazine-cover cookies were frosted using something called Royal Icing. This type of frosting is made using meringue powder and it dries to a hard candy-like surface. It is very sweet, so I needed a cookie that would balance that out.
My mother-in-law has made and gifted wonderful sugar cookies for years. I always loved that when the shapes were cut out, the cookies kept their shape during baking, unlike the other cut-out recipes I had tried. She graciously gave me the recipe, and I had found my perfect cookie to decorate with Royal Icing!
The internet provided me with the rest of the necessary tools to learn how to make picture-perfect sugar cookies. There are all sorts of tutorial videos, blogs, and inspirational photos to learn every aspect of artful cookie decorating. Some of them are downright amazing.
This technique requires that the icing be different consistencies. First, the baked cookie is outlined with a stiffer form of the icing. Then, that outline is filled in with a more liquid consistency icing, so that it “flows.” More decoration can be done after the initial icing dries, using the stiffer consistency icing to pipe designs. Other decorations can be added as well, such as sugar crystals or various sprinkles.
I have made many cookies using the above techniques. This photo shows last year's cookie decorating project. Lots of colors, lots of time, hours of work. The results were very satisfying, beautiful, and….time consuming. Mixing the different consistency icings, in different colors, is quite a chore. So this year, I decided to try something different….I painted the cookies.
I made my sugar cookies as usual, then outlined and filled them all with just plain white icing. This meant only two consistencies of icing, making the project much easier. After the icing had dried completely, I painted different designs on them using gel paste food coloring. The results, I think, were awesome! The food coloring was painted onto the cookies using a regular paintbrush (brand-new, of course). I had so much fun, it was much faster, and the details I could produce were much better. It is a great project for kids, and I plan to take this to our family Christmas get-together this year for all the cousins to do.