I spent the last two weeks of September in Tokyo spending time with my family and friends. While home, I had the pleasure of having one of my SUPER talented friends, Yui, who has her license to teach cookie decorating, teach my friend Emi and I how to ice cookies.
A little history on me and decorating cookies… In 2015, while I was still living in Boston, I became really interested in icing cookies simply because I followed SweetAmbs on Instagram. If you don’t follow her, I highly recommend you check out her ‘gram because her work is AWESOME. I definitely will never be as talented as she is, but I thought I would give it a shot. I ordered all the necessary materials, watched a bunch of YouTube videos and set out on making the perfect Valentine’s Day cookies using SweetAmbs’ techniques. Welp, 5 hours later I had some cookies that looked….Ok.
After the Valentine’s Day cookie decorating, I attempted to decorate cookies on my own a few more times (very unsuccessfully) trying to use techniques like brush embroidery (failed miserably). After a lot of failed attempts, I decided to give up for a bit because I just had too many sugar cookies and it was becoming a huge waste of food.
Fast forward 2.5 years, after seeing Yui’s insanely gorgeous cookies on her Instagram, I decided that if Yui would be willing to teach me, I would re-attempt cookie decorating. This time turned out A LOT more successfully than in 2015!
We started off making the royal icing. Super simple, but you have to make sure you use the right proportion of meringue powder to powdered sugar to water. We used a recipe similar to this one by Wilton. What I hadn’t done in the past that I realize now is vital, is to make sure to keep mixing using a stand mixer for at least 7 minutes.
What we end up with is the HARD icing that we use for the outline of our cookies. We then put a small amount of icing into individual bowls to create the colorful icing. Only a TINY bit of food coloring is necessary for this step. We used the Wilton gel food coloring. Just dip a toothpick in the gel, and that’s about how much you’ll need if you’re looking for more pastel colors.
Once mixed, we added them into the cornets that Yui had made using clear plastic sheets. For this process, you can also use parchment paper. Here’s a step-by-step of how to make your own cornet (aka cookie decorating pastry bag). Once the hard icing has been added to the cornets, we add about 1/8 – 1/4 tsp of water at a time to the hard icing to create the FLOOD icing. We then add these to cornets and make sure we can differentiate between the HARD and FLOOD by marking the cornets
Now that we had made the Royal Icing it was time to decorate! Yui had asked her cookie decorating teacher to make the sugar butter cookies for us. Another point I learned during this lesson is that VERY FLAT cookies are necessary in order to decorate cookies neatly (and nicely). The cookies I had used back in 2015 were way too lumpy which is probably why I had such a difficult time decorating them.
Yui had a practice sheet where we could practice outlining our cookies. When outlining the cookie, you LIFT the cornet while the icing is coming out so that you get a super straight line.
After outlining our cookies, we used the flood icing to fill in and “color” the cookies. Once the cookies have been filled with the flood icing, make sure to wait for the flood icing to dry a bit to add more decorations using the HARD icing. After a couple of hours, our masterpieces were complete!
Not too bad eh? Yui’s cookies were obviously a lot prettier, however, I felt that I learned a lot of new, not to mention super important, tricks and tips on how to make proper royal icing and how to decorate cookies! After our lesson, I decided that I wanted to try making lace cookies that I had seen before on Instagram. I looked up how to do it on YouTube using Haniela’s video and used the HARD icing. Basically it’s like cross-stitching (I think…). It takes time and a lot of concentration but it turned out all right!
Overall, cookie decorating takes a LOT of time and patience, but if you’re looking for a fun gift for friends or family, I think it’s worth it! I think I’ll attempt to make some cookies for the upcoming Holiday season, so we’ll see how I do decorating on my own!