Thursday, March 26, 2015

Princess Cookies

Every little girl dreams of being a princess at one point or another.  Some may even request a birthday party or a tea party with a beautiful princess theme so that she may share a bit of royal magic with all of her friends.  This year, I received a request from my dear niece for some heart cookies with very specific colors for her princess-themed birthday party.

Being someone who likes to create a bit of cookie magic, I designed an entire set of cookies with a royal flourish for my little one, because I wanted to surprise her.  Knowing the exact color scheme (chosen by my niece), I took out a few cookie cutters in shapes fit for the sweetest of parties, and set aside some time to bake and ice Princess Cookies.

Keep these cookies in mind if you're thinking of throwing a birthday party or a celebration for someone extra special in your life.  Remember, they are a true labor of love.

Go through my step-by-step tutorial to create these sweet treats!

For the cookies you see here you will need:
  • Royal Icing Colors: a pale robin's egg blue, a carnation pink, a lavender rose, a pale lilac, black, a dark chocolate brown, a coppery chestnut, a creamy ivory, and, of course, some white
  • Sugar Cookies (1 batch)
  • Chocolate Cookies (1 batch)
  • Marbled Cookies (from leftover doughs)

If you're a royal, then a proper tea will have delicate cups in beautiful colors, teapots made from the finest porcelain, and sweets meant to be enjoyed with a cup or two of exquisite tea.  A dessert table can have multiple platters, such as these ironstone ones, set with iced cookies for all of your guests.  

The teacups are the easiest of the set to make.  Simply cut out and bake teacup-shaped sugar cookies or chocolate cookies and use pastel shades of royal icing to cover.  Personally, I like the dark color of the chocolate cookies (use Valrhona cocoa powder) for these.  Outline and flood an almond-shaped top to create the rim, and then outline and flood the body of the teacup.  Leave a space between both shapes to give the illusion of a rim. Outline and flood a small almond shape for a handle.  While wet, add pearl candies to make each cup unique.  Let dry.  You can then go back and trace a bead of icing for a looped handle and affix a pear candy against the body.

Cupcakes or fairy cakes are essential for any princess.  Cut out and bake cupcake-shaped cookies, then ice them in royal icing.  I start by outlining the 'cupcake liner', creating a ruffled top and then flooding the area with icing. Make the 'cupcake liners' different colors for visual contrast.  Pipe outlines for frosted tops in white icing, making swoops to create peaks of icing.  Go back and fill the areas with royal icing and then sprinkle lightly with colored nonpareils. Let them dry.  Delicious!

The teapot cookies are adorable!  Outline and flood the lid in white, and then add a finial with a candy of your choice while the icing is wet.  I happened to discover chocolate-covered sunflower seeds at the store one day, so I thought they would do for this purpose.  Outline and flood the teapot's body in a different pastel color.  Affix pearl candies along the seam between the body and lid while the icing is wet.  Let dry.  Go back and add the tiniest of dots of royal icing around the finial and teapot, then add a scrolled teapot handle.   

The hearts were a variation of what I created for Valentine's Day.  They were the ones my niece liked and requested in her favorite colors.  Again, these are done according to taste. Outline and flood an entire heart in one color and then affix pearl candies along the border (the easiest of these hearts).  For two-toned hearts, trace a center heart onto a baked cookie with a food-safe marker, and then cover the outline in icing.  Outline and flood the 'outer heart' first, adding pearl candies or leaving it as is.  Let dry completely.  You can then flood the center heart in a different colored icing, and flock it with sanding sugars or tiny nonpareils.  Add accents where you see fit.

Aren't these cute?  

Princess Cookies 
For the Princess Cookies, cut whatever sugar cookie shapes you want.  I happen to like scalloped rounds and I highly recommend this shape so that each princess ends up with a ruffled ball gown.

A.  On a baked cookie, sketch the shape of your princess with a food safe marker.  Add long hair that is flowing, and a gown with lots of volume. 
B.  Using a creamy ivory royal icing, outline and flood the face and neck using a #1 piping tip.  For the arms, simply pipe a bead to fill in the tracing.  The thumb is important, so pipe a small point with the tiniest of pressure from your piping bag or squeeze bottle.  The rest of the hand is a simple mitten-like form.
C.  Outline and flood the bodice of the ball gown in one color. 
D.  Outline and flood the shoulders and skirt in a different color.  While the icing is wet, center a pearl candy on the waist.  

A.  You can see that I'm always working on a cake turntable.  This allows me to work with multiple cookies at one time.
B.  Every princess has a different dress, because each one is unique.
C.  Using the copper chestnut royal icing, outline and flood the hair of the princess.  Remember to allow her hair to fall on both sides of the gown so that it looks as if it's loose.
D.  The final treatment to each cookie is outlining and flooding the exposed cookie in an appropriate color.  This, of course, is optional, but I think it gives the cookie a better look.  Let the cookie dry completely.

Let's not forget the tiara.  

A.  Pipe the shape of a tiara as indicated.
B. Pipe stems that connect the points to the base of the tiara, and then pipe dots in between these spaces.  Add pink pearl candies along the points of the tiara to create an ethereal tiara.  Let this dry.
C.  In order to create a magical ball gown, after the icing has dried completely, pipe the smallest of dots along the neckline, shoulders and the skirt of the dress.  You're literally letting the icing drip down the #1 piping tip delicately, without adding any pressure.  The dots look like hand stitched pearls.  Magical!
D.  Add two black dots for eyes and center a smiling mouth.  Voila! 

The ball gowns of these princesses are simply beautiful.  I hope my niece likes them!

Some cookies are iced in shades of pink carnation. 

Other cookies have robin's egg blue for a bit of whimsy.

Dark brown confections are an absolute must.

This lavender rose tone creates an adorable bon bon color.

Pale lilac is customary for royalty.  It's a must-have for princesses!

Princess Cookies

Create a little bit of magic for the princess in your life with some sweet cookies.  Remember to add lots of love to each of your treats to make them exceptional.  

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Easter Cookies

Easter is right around the corner and you know what that means.  There are Easter baskets to be filled, chocolates to unwrap, eggs to be dyed in multiple colors, and, of course, cookies to be decorated with springtime colors.  Over the course of the few years I've been writing, photographing and creating for Good Things by David, Easter has had a special significance for me.  This time of year happens to coincide with my niece's birthday, so extra care is taken in making the best of the very best.

I've culled from my photographic library some of my favorite images of the Easter cookies that have flown the coop and made their way to the west coast. It's nice to look back at these beautiful cookies, because there is always so much to learn and remember from year's past.  Rather than post one long string of photographs, I decided it would be best to present photos with a few tips & techniques for you cookie decorators.

Let's begin!

What I loved about these particular designs was that I kept everything very simple.  With a handful of pastel colors in shades of Easter, I embellished tasty sugar cookies with a good royal icing and some pearl candies.  None of the designs were intricate.  In fact, most of the cookies were simply flooded with icing.

Here's a good tip:  always start cutting out your shapes from a slab of cookie dough around the edges of the rolled out dough.  Try to get the shapes cut out as close together as possible.  I can't stress this enough.  Not only do you get more cut outs from the first roll out (most doughs can be rolled out a few times), but you also get less scraps this way.  

I love Sugar Cookies and Chocolate Cookies to eat and to decorate. When I have leftover doughs from both of these, I roll them out to create marbled cookies.  Who doesn't love marbled doughs?

I highly recommend having one's cookie decorating station ready to go with the necessary sugars, candies, sprinkles, pearl candies, dragees and various decorating tools, laid out and organized.  When working with royal icing, which tends to set rather quickly, the last thing you want is to have to go searching for something at the last minute. 

In a future post I will let you know what I feel is essential in a cookie decorating kit.

To Outline & Flood a cookie is basic and simple.  All you need to do is pipe a border (bead) of icing along the edge of the baked cookie and then immediately go back with the same icing and fill the area(s) in.  Remember that while the royal icing on the cookie is wet, you may add whatever sweet edibles now.  Don't disturb the cookie until it sets completely.

Flocking a cookie with fine sanding sugars is completely optional, but it does add another dimension, texture and sparkle to any shape.  This should be done while the base icing of the cookie is still wet.  As you can see from the photo with the green hatchling, set the cookie to be flocked on a rimmed plate or a small baking sheet with a rim, and then sprinkle the sanding sugar liberally.  Let that set before shaking any excess off.  Whatever falls onto the plate can be put back into its appropriate container and be used again.

Good Tip:  work with a cake decorator's stand to ice cookies, because it makes maneuvering and working around a cookie very easy.  If you're piping icing and find that the angle of a certain cookie is awkward, simply rotate the cake stand to position the cookie just so, and then continue.  Set your cookies that need to dry on clean baking sheets which can be stacked on a shelf.  

Easter Eggs can be just about anything you desire.  From pastel-hued and sparkly, shimmery eggs to polka-dotted creations and marbled works of art.  All you need is a handful of tools, some colored icing and a little imagination.

Those giant marbled Easter eggs were made by piping three different colors haphazardly throughout the base of the cookie, and then dragging a decorator's tool (or toothpick) throughout it to create a swirl design.

These adorable Easter Eggs can get tucked into baskets for gift giving or they can be displayed on a cake stand like this for your gathering.  If you want, you can even make a cracked egg to add a bit of whimsy.

If you want to see a complete tutorial on these particular cookies, click here.

Even if you don't have time to make my Easter Cookies in the coming weeks, bookmark this page so that you can make them for a spring gathering or some other special occasion.  I can see an entire flock of bunnies, chicks and butterflies for a baby shower or even a spring wedding tucked into cellophane bags or clear-top boxes.  They could also be displayed and propped up against a tower of cake stands for a dessert buffet.  Most importantly, remember to have fun decorating your cookies this season.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Happy St. Patrick's Day

"Don't you know that today's March seventeen?
It's the day for the wearing of the green...."  

I want to wish all of you a Happy St. Patrick's Day.
Enjoy a little bit of green for some luck!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

St. Patrick's Day Cookies

It's that time of the year when we all want a bit of the luck of the Irish.  St. Patrick's Day Cookies may not bring us good luck, but they sure will bring a smile to anyone receiving one.  Working with a good sugar cookie (tinted or left plain) base and some lemony royal icing colored in various shades of green, you can create the simplest of designs for quick & easy decorated cookies.  Set an afternoon aside for some of these special treats.  I think everyone is going to want one.

Ever since I can remember, I have loved the color green.  Whenever I use green in any shade, whether I set a table with it or say, decorate some cookies, I'll undoubtedly have a smile on my face.  Green colored dishes & linens are pretty much an everyday affair for me, but green cookies only pop up in my life a few times a year.  

You have to have something green on St. Patrick's Day, so why not some sweet edibles like these?  Shamrock cookies: easy, delicious, green & festive!  What's even better is that I only used three colors of royal icing for them.

I must tell you that I'm having way too much fun tinting my sugar cookie doughs every once in a while.  This gorgeous shade of green was made with only 1/4 teaspoon of leaf-green gel paste food coloring added to my Heirloom Sugar Cookie Dough.  Remember that it's best to add the food coloring as you're creaming the butter and sugar to get a vibrant dough that is completely saturated.  This, of course, is optional.

The three-leaf clover is a simple and inexpensive cookie cutter by Wilton and the bottom tin cutter is one from my antique collection of cutters.  I love both of these shapes.

After your cookies have been baked and cooled, do set some space aside to create your cookies.  Set out the tools, icings (I only used 3; white, mint green & kelly green), sanding sugars and that handy cake turntable, and begin icing.  

Straightforward outlining and flooding a cookie is really very simple.  If you leave a little of the cookie's edge exposed, you can then go back and add dots of icing or some other decorative element. In the photo above, I'm showing you how to detect air bubbles/pockets which may form in your icing.  Getting rid of them is essential for a smooth finish.  Click on the photo to enlarge it.

This easy shamrock, three-leaf clover technique is fun.  All you are doing is connecting bleeding hearts.  Outline and flood the base of your cookie in white royal icing, leaving about 1/4" of cookie exposed.  While wet, pipe three dots in the form of a triangle on each corner.  For each clover, drag a toothpick through the bottom left dot in a downward arc.  Wipe the toothpick clean. Drag the bottom right dot of icing on the right in the same fashion; wipe the toothpick clean.  Last, drag the top dot down the middle to connect the clover leaves.  That's it!  Let this dry and then pipe a border of alternating colored dots.  

Using green nonpareils for some of these cookies is required!  OK, it's really up to you, but if you must know, a four-leaf clover covered in these pretty mini candies is strikingly beautiful.  

This is how you do it.

Click on the photo to enlarge to see the technique.  For the nonpareil clover, make sure the negative of the cookie which is filled with icing is completely dry.  Once dry, flood the shamrock in any colored icing and while wet, sprinkle the nonpareils so that they adhere.  Once dry, using a fine brush, remove any excess nonpareils.  

As you can see, some of the cookies have plain iced shamrocks and others are enhanced with nonpareils.  It's up to you what you want for your cookies. Although it's not essential, you can go back and pipe small dots around the border of each shamrock as a finishing touch.  Go to my Cookies Page and scroll through the index of recipes.  Look for my Royal Icing and for my Heirloom Sugar Cookie recipes.  Create and then share!

St. Patrick's Day Cookies don't need to take all day to make if you stick with easy designs.  Give the kids squeeze bottles or piping bags filled with icing and let them have a go at some St. Paddy's day fun.  I worked with only three colors to create what you see here, so don't be intimidated by making some for your friends, family, coworkers or for your kid's classroom.  I can still remember mom (she was a P.T.A. mother!) bringing my classmates in elementary school treats for every single holiday throughout the year.  Spread a little bit of luck and good cheer this St. Patrick's Day!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

How'd You Do That?

The blog, How'd You Do That?, is always inspirational to me because it is written from the heart.  Blogging colleague and friend, Joy, really dedicates time and care into her posts, and if you take a moment to go through her blog, you will see that it shows.  Her blog started off as a private blog for family members so that she could keep in touch with those who aren't near her, but at some point a few years ago, Joy decided to take it live.  The rest, as they say, is history.

Over a conversation last week I came to find out that Joy was contemplating ending the blog.  After giving it more thought and some much needed encouragement, she has decided to keep going!  I am so glad because Joy is a true inspiration to me, her family and her readers.  Not only does she blog about her baking, crafting, collections, decorating ideas and her family, but she volunteers and gives back to her community when she has the time.  This is one of the things that I truly admire about Joy.  She isn't apprehensive about giving back.

If you must know, although I have been planning to showcase my favorite blogs for several months, it is because of Joy that I decided now would be the perfect time. 

Joy and her family live in the beautiful state of Idaho near the Snake River. She has a year-round stream which runs through her property, where recently, some mallards decided to winter with their little babies.  She says that very soon they will leave the area, but will undoubtedly return at the end of the year when they migrate back.  A wife, mother and grandmother, Joy always finds the time to do a little something to spruce up her home.  Whether she's setting a nice table with pretty china and silverware, baking a cake or a set of cookies for her loved ones, Joy manages to always put in the extra effort in the details.     

Take a look at some of her wonderful posts.  

click on the link to view her blog

These vintage-inspired towels are whimsical, fun and so easy to make.  Click on the link to see how Joy made them.

The rustic edge of burlap is perfect for outdoor furniture.  These handmade monogram pillows look like something out of a high-end catalog.  I love them!

When I saw this project that Joy took on, I knew she had an eye for good things.  Do you see her beautiful collection of Danish Fern by Burleigh Ware?  It's a gorgeous set of brown transferware from England that she uses during the fall.  It's nice to see her Thanksgiving table decor neatly organized.  A kindred spirit indeed.

Rustic, vintage, classic.  This type of sign looks like it belongs on a farm with an old barn.  Again, this project is easy to do if you follow Joy's instructions.

I could probably devour 4 of these without even thinking.  Don't they look delicious?

When I asked Joy about her experience blogging, this is what she had to say: "I love the blogging community for their generosity of spirit and sharing of ideas. I think I will keep blogging my life until the time that it becomes a job instead of an extension of myself.  There is an innate loveliness in finding online friends all over the country who are from all different backgrounds, experiences, etc. but share the commonality of blogging, a great electronic community and I for one am proud to be a part of this community."

Please keep on blogging and inspiring me, as well as your readers.

Thank You, Joy!  

Sunday, March 8, 2015

My Favorite Blogs

I want to begin a small profile of blogs that I love and admire, because in the world of blogging, it's always nice do a share to share.   It's imperative for me to keep up with my favorite bloggers to see what they are doing so that I too can be inspired by them.  The idea of observing how another person writes, photographs and composes what they demonstrate or review on their blogs is fascinating to me.  I love good content.  I love a well-composed photograph.  I admire well-written posts and, most of all, I love to be inspired. 

When I have some down time after I've taken care
of things around the house, I get on the computer
here in the "office" and check to see what
my favorite bloggers are doing.  Yes, it's nice to
hear people tell me that they get inspired by this or that
through my blog, but to be perfectly frank, I also 
enjoy getting inspired by creative individuals.

Once a month, I plan to profile one blog and tell you a little bit about who the blogger is and what they blog about.  I may even do a little Q&A to see what they have to say.  It will be nice to do this, because in years past I have been fortunate enough to have been featured on certain blogs.  It's time to pay that forward.  I'm actually excited about this and hope that you are too, because there is always so much to learn from my blogging colleagues.  I'm sure they agree when I say that a little bit of sharing and kindness goes a very long way.

A snapshot of how I compose a blog post shows you a pinboard
of my photography or of some scans from other sources that I plan to use
on any given day I write a post.  
I was looking over my photo library the other day, and I have 
personally taken close to 40,000 photos 
in the last 4 years that I've been blogging!  

I'm not going to be following any type of alphabetical order 
for these Favorite Blog introductions, so I will choose based 
on what I see at the moment.  I promise to keep the posts light, 
short and thoroughly interesting.

All of us need a little bit of inspiration in our lives to help us along the way. Now it is time to show you the individuals who inspire me and why they inspire me.  I hope you stay tuned!