In late June, I was commissioned to create custom baked goods to send to California. Originally the request was for cupcakes, but there’s no way I could manage to deliver them in one piece (crumbs mashed into buttery sweet frosting doesn’t sound too good). So I convinced my client, Philly indie game developer Cipher Prime, to go with decorated sugar cookies: The customized look would be doable, and the cookies, when packed well, could be shipped.
It was agreed upon and we set the date for when the cookies would need to go out. Only one problem:
I had never made sugar cookies decorated with royal icing before. I had less than 2 weeks to learn, bake, decorate and pack.
A number of the blogs I read regularly make these kinds of cookies, so I understood the decorating process in theory. I ordered some supplies, fiddled around with designs and flavor ideas, and probably did a great deal of thinking “Ohmigod what if these don’t look good? What if the royal icing is tasteless?” The usual “creator being the worst critic” kind of thing.
But then I pulled it together, baked the cookies, let them rest overnight, and then spent the remaining part of my weekend in early July meticulously making 4 different flavored and colored royal icings and practicing my design work. And in the end, it turned out well (I’ll post photos from that project tomorrow).
Once the project was done and the boys at Cipher Prime were pleased, I had a bunch of royal icing left over. Since it keeps well, I stored it until I decided in mid-July that I’d make some more cookies: partly to practice, and partly as a thank-you gift for Cipher Prime since they’re big supporters of my baking. And really, do you need an excuse for adorable dinosaur cookies?
For these cookies, I used a different recipe than what I originally baked for the commissioned order, as well as the leftover icings (which I still have some leftover!)
I’m not going to rewrite these recipes, but I will include the links to the originals, then give you my notes. Enjoy!
For the cookies: I used Bridget from Bake at 350′s vanilla almond sugar cookie recipe. Based on my personal preferences, I added of 1 tsp salt, and tweaked the extract amounts to the following: 1 tsp vanilla extract and 1 tsp almond extract. I used my favorite dinosaur cookie cutters, creating tyrannosaurus rexes, brontosauruses, stegosauruses and pterodactyls.
For the royal icing: I used Sweet Sugarbelle’s royal icing recipe and her general technique for creating the various consistencies. I have to agree completely with Sugarbelle and every other cookie maker though â€¦ consistency is VERY important AND you’ll only figure it out if you play around with it.
Sugarbelle’s icing recipe makes A LOT of icing, so even though I scaled it down to 25 percent, there was a lot to work with because she starts with a pretty firm consistency, then thins it out with water.
My dinosaur cookies had 3 different main icings, with the details done in contrasting flood colors. Each color has a different flavor (another reason why my initial batch of cookies took longer to make â€¦ each color was a different flavor). The colors correspond with their flavors: Red is strawberry, blue is blueberry and green is lime. As I’ve said before, baking extracts are your friend!
Process tips: Bake the cookies first. You can let them sit overnight to ensure the butter doesn’t leach into the icings, but really, as long as the cookies are fully cooled, you should be in good shape. Next, make the icing while the cookies bake and cool. If you’re coloring your icing, plan to let these sit overnight–especially if you’re going for bold and/or dark colors–since royal icing “matures” naturally (no need to waste so much color gel!). This makes for a good weekend project: You bake and prep one day, decorate the next.
Also, take some time to check out The University of the Cookie. There are so many tutorials and videos that it makes decorating sugar cookies with royal icing easier for beginners and novices alike. It’s a GREAT resource.
For me, the flavored icings (and dino cuteness) really made these cookies. I also loved Bridget’s cookie recipe–it was buttery and sweet, and since I added it in, there was that perfect touch of salt. Everyone who had these cookies loved them, so much so that the Cipher Prime boys had to stage a tableau of sorts.
Final photo courtesy of Cipher Prime … that poor, poor brontosaurus.