Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Frosted Animal Cookies

Lions, Tigers and Hippos, Oh My!

I made some frosted animal cookies last weekend for my nephew's first birthday party and they turned out SO CUTE (if I do say so myself!). I used the same cookie recipe that I blogged about before, when I made some sugar cookies for Valentine's day, but they were decorated pretty modestly and this time around I thought I would go bold :)

I am just going to share some pics of the cookies with you, and at the request of my friend, Sarah, I am going to provide you with some of my favorite tips and tricks for making some really great iced cookies. If you would like to get the recipe for the cookies, or the icing, click here. Just note that I used a different royal icing recipe this time around, found here.

So...where do you start?

I always start with outlining the area that I am going to 'flood' or fill.  That way, you have a border for your design, you can control where the icing goes {the outline serves as a frame or a dam for the icing so that it doesn't spill out of the designated area}, and you have a clean, finished design. Use an icing bag/Ziploc with a hole, or squeeze decorator bottles so you get a good, controlled line. You can see the outline in some of my cookies, though it blends with the flooded icing. Some cookie decorators use a different color for their outline than their flood color, which can be cool too. Just pick whatever works for your design, and make sure to let it dry before you flood! :)

Same Color Border

Different Color Border
Photo from Bake at 350 Blog

Once the border sets, you are free to start flooding! The key is to make the icing thin enough to spread easily, but not too thin that it doesn't give the cookie a nice coating. I prefer to use a spoon when I put the flood icing on the cookie because it is easier to spread and move around. I just place some icing on the cookie and use the spoon to push the icing into the areas of the cookie, and right up to the border. You can always add more, if needed.

Some details/decorations should be done while the flooding is still wet, which means you have pretty much have to work cookie to cookie instead of flooding all of them and then doing the detailing. For example:

Stripes, Dots or Spots...

...and any detailing that you want to be flush and not raised

Like a lion's mane

Monkey paws and funny face

Elephant and hippo toes

Or simply swirls
This Photo from Bake at 350 Blog

I do love the look of monochromatic decorating, and sometimes I think it is necessary. For example, when I did the ears on my elephant cookies, it would have looked weird if I did the ear outline in a different color than the elephant's body, so I used the same icing (NOT thinned out), and just piped the ear design right onto the dried icing. It is a subtle design element, but sometimes less is more!

It works really well when doing classy cookies, like these, from Bake at 350 Blog:

When doing the eyes for the animal cookies, I really wanted them to 'pop' {not literally!}, so I added the eyes last, to make them raised a bit. I used a toothpick and dipped it into the white icing, then onto the cookie. For the black dot, I did the same thing, but didn't use a lot of icing, and very gently dabbed the toothpick into the white dot, so it would be one piece.

Here are a few tips to remember when making the cookies:
  • After you make your cookie shapes and have them arranged on a baking sheet, put them in the refrigerator for a few minutes so they are chilled. Once you are ready to bake them, put them straight from the fridge into the hot oven. This will keep the cookies from puffing up too much or spreading, so the shape is still defined.
  • Keep a damp paper towel on top of any bowls of royal icing that you are not using. It will keep it from drying out.
  • If you thin your icing out and then decide it is too thin, or that you need thicker icing for decorating, just leave it out for a little bit and the icing will begin to thicken.
  • Warm water seems to work better when adding to the icing to make it thinner.
  • When mixing colors, search online for color combinations to use. I just have the standard colors, and brown and black were harder to make and more time consuming. I recommend searching for a good food color that you can just use and do not have to worry about mixing to death.
  • I recommend using a tabletop mixer when making the icing. You have to mix for a little while before the icing is ready and it is nice to just turn the mixer on and walk away.
  • If you make mistakes with the icing, you can usually just wipe it off {but you have to react quickly}. This works especially well when you are piping decorations onto already-hardened icing. Just gently wipe clean if you mess up on a small area. Larger areas...good luck... :)
  • I prefer to pick up the cookies when I do the outlines and fill them, but you can lay them out on a cookie sheet and do them like that as well.
  • Leave the cookies out to dry overnight, in a dry, cool place. If they get warm or there is moisture in the air, they can take a while to dry, or worse - dry with spots or weird lines.
I think that about covers it. If you have any questions, just let me know!! Good luck with your cookie-making!

I will be making some more iced cookies next week with my mother-in-law, for a couples shower, and I am really excited to do some simple, elegant designs. I will post the results of that session soon, and I promise to include step-by-step instructions on decorating techniques.