Monday, December 15, 2014

How I Cookie Party - Royal Icing Sugar Cookies

Okay, so I've shared most of my sugar cookie royal icing attempts on here and instagram, and while you can learn all the same tips, tricks, and recipes with Alison's Cookie Party, I thought I'd share a little about my experience now that I've "partied" five times in less than two months.

Have I ever mentioned I love cookies?



Moving on.  Some background.

I love baking.  Cooking I can manage, but I am no chef. I am just not really into it and if it includes meat I become obsessive that it's not fully cooked and end up refusing to eat it.  Baking, now that includes my love language - sugar.   I could probably survive on muffins and cookies alone.  And some days, I do... just add coffee.

I've seen some royal icing tutorials or photos here and there and never really felt compelled to do it myself.  I was never a huge fan of the decorated sugar cookie.  Usually the cookies were more along the lines of shortbread and didn't include chocolate, so interest lost.

As you probably have figured out by now, I freakin' love Alison of The Alison Show.  She's ingeniously creative and business savvy, but she also basically spews positivity and rainbows and puppies and unicorns too.  Anyway, when she was promoting her Cookie Party course and said there would be a discount for the presale, I jumped in.  I had been seeing all her promotion pics on instagram and it might have been the emoticon cookies that did me in.  After learning that she enjoyed doing the cookies because it helps ease her anxiety, it was like she was speaking directly to me.  I love any type of crafting, sewing, painting, or baking because of how it's a nice relaxing escape for my brain, and I've been this way since I was in high school.  This year was particularly hard for me with dealing with post partum anxiety, and this was a light bulb moment.  Since I stopped making teepees, I was craving something that used the creative side of my brain to keep the balance.  This was the perfect answer.

As soon as I finished watching the tutorial and perusing the included e-book, I started ordering my supplies and committed myself to getting enough experience under my belt that I could make cookies for Kenley's birthday party and knock it out of the park.   While I waited for my AmeriColor gel based food coloring to arrive, I used an old Wilton kit I had and just didn't get the colors I needed, but was still able to make some fairly cute Halloween cookies.


Not perfect, but I was definitely encouraged that I had the ability to do it and would improve each time.  Learning the right consistencies to the icing, techniques, and color schemes.  The AmeriColor gel definitely has more vibrant colors and options, and according to Alison has less effect on the taste of icing.

Tangent here, but a bit more personal background.  When I was in elementary school, my mom got really into baking and decorating cakes.  She was very talented and soon began making cakes for neighbors and friends and word continued to spread.  She ended up with a nice little at home business making wedding, birthday, communion, you name it cakes.  Of course, this was the early 90s before the craze of fondant and reality tv extreme cakes, but she was really good.  She broke her wrist when I was 10, and she wasn't able to continue her cakes after she got her cast off since she was never able to squeeze the piping bags with the same precision.  However, the skills she had, I must have picked up along the way by watching and making many of my own 'for fun' cakes.  Let's be clear, I'm no professional cake decorator, but I know how to handle a piping bag and not be a total hot mess.

Point of the story, those skills definitely translate right into cookie decorating.



I've had a nice stash of piping bags, couplers, and tips for years.  However, I needed to purchase a standard number 1 tip since it really allows you to get the tiny detail for the cookies, that takes them from cute to professional.  There is no way I could have done the snowflakes above without that tip!

I actually ended up buying a second so I can do detail in two different colors.


I also ordered edible writing pens.  Alison used them a bunch in her tutorial and I loved how you can fancy up a rather plain cookie, like above, with text or a drawing. Let's face it, I can barely write in fancy or cursive handwritings with a pen, let alone an icing bag, so this was genius to me.

When I made the Thanksgiving cookies, I made the error of using icing that was a bit too stiff.  You can see above how the cookies didn't set in a nice smooth and glossy surface. This is definitely something I would warn, learning to do this whole royal icing technique is not something you learn on your first try.  My first batch was actually much better than these, which were actually my 3rd attempt.  I'm slowly learning my lessons as I go, evidenced below.




As for flooding my cookies, a royal icing term - search any tutorial to learn more, but basically the runny consistency icing that "floods" your cookie and hardens to a smooth surface overnight - I went with Alison's technique of using squeezy bottles.  Some people just use spoons and spatulas to drip and spread it, others piping bags, but I think the squeezy bottle is the happy medium.  There is enough control that you don't get sloppy like a spoon or spatula, but it's also easier and quicker than using a piping bag. And I like that you can put the cap on it and store it if need be.


The next thing to note, the actual cookie itself.  Alison also gives her sugar cookie recipe and tips how to bake them in her course.  These cookies aren't quite the Pillsbury sweet sugar cookie that I'm used to, but they aren't dry boring shortbread cookies either.  I did have a nice collection of cookie cutters, though I'm not sure where some of them came from, especially considering I didn't even own a rolling pin.  I bought this one, and it's awesome (and it was cheap).  I prefer to keep my cookies on the thicker side.  When baking, you definitely want to error on the side of underbaking to overbaking. This density will help keep the cookies soft and fresh, especially if you choose to bake them one day, and then decorate them the next night like I do since it a time consuming activity.  Once they are iced, it's also as they are almost "sealed" and the icing also helps keep the cookie from getting stale too quickly. 



For Kenley's birthday,  I baked her cookies on Wednesday, and decorated the bears on Thursday night and the number 1s on Friday night.  Her party was on Sunday.  They stayed fresh stored in an airtight container and we actually just ate the last ones over this past weekend.  While not the freshest, they were still good and worth eating. 

Royal icing takes a while to set.  I would say you generally have a few minutes while it's wet to manuever it around on your cookie before it starts drying.  After ten minutes or so, if you add more icing, it will bump up against the drying icing and create that groove that you see between the bears feet and body, and body and arms.  When I did the bears I first did the feet and ears (dark brown) of each bear, I had 21.  Then I went back to the first and did the head.  Then the body.  And then light brown on the feet.  Then arms and finally the mound for the snout nose.  After I finished the snout, I piped the eyes and noses and them set on cooling racks over night.  After ten hours or so, they are fully set and you can CAREFULLY stack them back in an airtight container.   Warning:  Do not try to stack them if they appear set, but significant time hasn't passed.  The outside may appear dry, but underneath is not and they will smudge and like nail polish, they will be almost impossible to fix.   I know it's hard, but.. patience!


So there is my ode and too many words about cookies.  The best coincidence is that over the weekend, after I already planned on putting together this post for today, I was notified by Alison that she is offering 20% off her Cookie Party course thru Wednesday with code COOKIEFACE for anyone who would like to gift it for a holiday present or purchase it for themselves.  She says she most likely will never offer a discount lower than this, so if you were on the fence, you are probably being swayed the way I was when purchasing during the pre-sale.  Personally, I've definitely gotten my monies worth taking her course and while I don't know if I'll keep up the speed at which I've been doing these cookies - which seems like every other week - I definitely love having this skill in my wheel house to impress when needing to bring something to a party or event.

And full disclosure, I am not getting paid or receiving swag or flamingos from Alison for all this promotion.  I seriously just genuinely love this stuff and love supporting other blogger moms.



Did I miss anything?  What is your favorite impressive dessert?  Cupcakes? Cake Pops? Cookies?...


I've never made a cake pop, truth.





12 comments:

  1. I am so tempted to check her out! I've been a novice cookie decorator for a few years (like you, it's a total stress reliever for me!) and I'm thinking it's time to learn some tricks of the trade! Thanks for letting us know about a great deal! :)

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  2. I am obsessed with allison and her cookie parties! I need a LOT more practice with royal icing to say the least. But Allison makes it so easy and fun. And you are msstering it quite nicely that's for sure!

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  3. All of your cookies look beautiful!
    XO Kelly

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  4. I am so impressed! Buying cookie party for sure -- hoping to create something decent for a cookie exchange the day after christmas!

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  5. They all look so so good!! Alison grew up with my best friend, so it's fun to hear more about her from the "other side". ;)

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  6. These are all so amazing!!! You have skills girl! I kind of want to try this out - because how fun would it be to make these for my own kids, family and friends!!!! Thanks for all the tips!

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  7. Wow! I had no idea that you made Kenley's bear cookies! They are all beautiful; you are so talented.

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  8. You're amazing! I'm just like you, I need a creative outlet to keep me sane.. and one that involves eating cookies. I'd be in too ;) feel free to send some our way!

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  9. You are killing me with your amazingness. These are awesome! I have zero artistic ability so there's no way I could ever pull this off. You rock, mama!

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  10. Untrue! The majority of them I was inspired by others so it's not like I'm some overly original artist!

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  11. Love them--and agree that RI cookies are like therapy to me, too! Baked 6 dozen cookies today and I can barely wait to ice them. So fun. Great post!

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