I've now finished the post and it's not "quick". Sorry I lied to you for a few sentences. But if you have ever wondered how I make these cookies, you can now stop wondering and instead be amazed by how much labor goes into them :P
To ice sugar cookies like this I use royal icing, which hardens as it dries. This means you can layer colors and additional piping to come up with fun designs...like Paddington!
You can pipe using sandwich bags, but if you've got a lot to do I recommend just buying piping bags because they're slightly thicker plastic and easier to handle and the seams won't split on you when you're dealing with thicker icing or more pressure using a smaller tip. Trust me on this one.
You'll also want to invest in piping tips (I've linked to all the ones I used below - but Wilton #1, 2, and 3 round tips should do the trick). If you're using the same colors for outlines and details, tip couplers to save yourself the trouble of rebagging your icing when you change tips.
- Powdered/Icing sugar
- Meringue Powder
- Gel food color (Americolor is a good brand too and the black bleeds less)
- Piping bags
- Piping tips (sizes #1, #2, #3)
- Tip Couplers
Bake Your Cookies
The first step is obviously to make the cookies and let them cool. There were about 100 cookies for me to ice (50 Paddingtons and 50 suitcases)...so I narrowed it down to one tray to show you the progress (until I needed that tray to bake something on, then I switched to a platter :P).
I set my cookies out on baking sheets to decorate - it makes life quite a bit easier.
FYI - my mom baked these to lessen the burden on me. Good thing too, because these were way more intricate than I anticipated, and it took me all week to get them done. I guess gone are the days of my marathon sessions staying up all night! Pregnancy has ruined that for me, lol. I made the icing for these the Sunday before the shower (which was on a Saturday) and I didn't put the final touches on until that morning.
Anyways. This was the start. Naked Paddingtons.
Royal icing is simple to make:
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 3 Tablespoons meringue powder
- 1 tsp vanilla or almond extract
- 1/3 - 1/2 cup water
- food coloring (I use gel color since it's more pigmented and doesn't mess up your icing consistency)
Mix together the sugar and meringue powder with a whisk, then add the water and extract and continue whisking until the icing is smooth and has no lumps of sugar. You can do this by hand or with a mixer.
Note: You want to make enough of each color that you don't have to worry about making more icing and trying to match the color! Once it dries the icing will be a slightly different color than what you started with so it's very hard to match.
The main thing to know when icing cookies like this is the difference between piping and flooding.
Piping refers to using a bag filled with icing and appropriate sized tip to pipe an outline or details using icing. When piping, your icing should be slightly thicker and able to hold its shape, so you use less water to make it. If your icing melts into a puddle when you pipe it then you need to add more sugar.
Flooding refers to pouring/spreading icing into the outlined space to fill it. When flooding, you thin your icing with water so it spreads and self-levels. If the icing does not self level, add a little more water. Once you flood, you set the cookies aside for the icing to harden.
For reference: I make my icing in one big batch at piping stiffness/consistency, divide it into bowls add color, pipe, and then thin out the icing in the bowl as I'm ready to flood. If you make your icing and it's too thin, you can always add additional sugar to thicken it, or vice versa.
For outlining, I used a semi-thick icing for this that held it's shape, and a Wilton #3 round piping tip.
I started by piping the outlines for all of the colors I'd need, as you can see from these pictures!
|Brown heads, legs, and hands (I filled the hands at the same time because they were so small)!|
Next up, I thinned out some of my icing a little and flooded everything I'd outlined.
Note: I did not thin all of the icing because I still needed some thick stuff for piping on details later! I left what was in the bags in the bags to use for detailing later.
You'll notice that the icing self-levels (if it's at the right consistency). As long as it's thin enough you'll get a nice flat finish after you flood and the icing hardens.
Brief Intermission to say...
Before I continue - check out this next picture. I have no idea how this happened, but I freaked out when I saw it. Normally, the icing should not go all "distressed" looking when it dries. This has never happened before, and I was actually pretty upset that it did.
I have a few theories about why it might have happened:
- The icing was too thin/watery when I flooded (but I don't know...I've done this so many times that I really don't think this was the culprit).
- I overmixed the icing and introduced too much air.
- The room was too cold (our thermostat is set to 66)
- Christina it doesn't matter, you've said you're not going to make these for a while again anyways!
To pipe the details I took a slightly thinner tip and the piping bags from before and started drawing! For these guys I needed to pipe the following details:
- Collars (blue)
- Coat seams (blue)
- Pockets (blue)
- Hat outlines (red)
- Hat brims (red)
- Coat fasteners (white)
- Buttons (brown)
- Faces (black)
|Collars, coat seams, and pockets.|
|Hat details (red) and coat fasteners (white).|
|They dried all distressed. Again.|
|Adding some initials!|
The final product! A tin full of Paddingtons!
A close up of the finished bear and suitcase, before assembling the favors:
And now, I pat myself on the back for finally posting about sugar cookies! The pat is not only for posting about how I ice them, but for remembering to take pictures of the entire process and finished product to share! I have always forgot some part when photographing...so yay!
*Pats self on back.*
This is something I've been meaning to post about (literally) for years, so I'm glad I was finally able to, and to show off the only batch of cookies I ever prepared like this that truly felt like they were for me.
I hope you've enjoyed reading - and if you ever decide to decorate sugar cookies I hope you find this helpful - be sure to let me know how they turn out too!!
If you're interested in seeing some of the other cookies I've made through the years, I created a public album on Google Photos which you can view here.