Halloween is just one day away and I am so excited to
eat tons of candy hand out candy to cute little kids in costumes. Halloween is one of my favorite holidays and every year I love baking halloween themed treats. I bought bat, pumpkin and candy corn cookie cutters last year to add to my ever growing collection, so I couldn’t resist making and decorating cookies this year.
I was intimidated by the process of decorating cookies with royal icing for a long time, but I have realized that it can actually be a lot of fun! The process is time consuming so the key to enjoying it is spreading it out over 2-3 days. I usually make the dough, bake the cookies and make the royal icing one day and then decorate the cookies the next 1-2 days. I have tried to do everything in one day but I was exhausted by the time I was ready to decorate.
Once you have baked your cookies and made the royal icing, it is best to plan out what colors you will need. I use Americolor gels for food coloring because you don’t need a lot to get a deep color and the gels don’t thin the icing as much as liquid food coloring does.
Royal icing hardens very quickly so it is best to store the colored icing in small tupperware containers with lids. This way it is easy to cover the icing when you are not using it.
Once the icing is colored, I prepare disposable pastry bags with small round tips (I use Wilton #2). It is useful to have a glass with a little water in the bottom to store your pastry bags when you are not using them. If the tip is sitting in the water, the icing will not harden.
When you are ready to decorate, choose which shape and color you want to use first and outline the entire area that you want to fill with icing.
If you mess up, just scrape the icing off of the cookie with a butter knife or a toothpick and start over. Continue to outline all of the cookies.
Once they have all been outlined it is time to fill them. To do this you need to thin the icing. I think it is best to get a new container for each color and add a couple spoonfuls of the original icing to it. Then add water just a teaspoon at a time and stir the icing. The icing is ready when it runs off the back of your spoon.
After stirring, allow the icing to sit for 10 minutes or so to get rid of any air bubbles that may have formed. Then you can use a small spoon or a squeeze bottle to add the thinned icing to the middle of your cookie. Use a toothpick to help spread the icing until it meets the border you made. You want the icing to almost reach the top of your outline.
Continue this process to fill every cookie with the proper color. Remember to keep a lid on the colors that you are not using!
Once all the cookies have been flooded with icing, it is best to let them dry overnight. Don’t worry about covering them. The icing creates a seal and they won’t get stale. Once the icing has hardened and the cookies have a matte appearance, you can add any remaining decorations/details. To do this, use the same icing that you used to outline the cookies. If you keep your pastry bags in a glass with water overnight (shown below), you should be able to use them to decorate the next day. Just make sure the bag is twisted well at the top so air can’t easily get in.
Once you have finished decorating, the icing should harden within in a few hours. You can enjoy them yourself (which can be hard after working so hard on them) or package them in clear cellophane bags to give away!
- Sugar Cookies
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 1/2 tsp. almond extract
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- Royal Icing
- 4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
- 2 Tbsp. meringue powder
- 5 Tbsp. water
- Sugar Cookies: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter on medium speed. Add powdered sugar and beat until combined. Blend in egg, almond extract, vanilla, salt and flour. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill until firm, 30 min-1 hour. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Roll to 1/4 inch thickness on a well-floured surface. Cut with cookie cutters. Place on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper and bake for 8-10 minutes, until cookies are set and very lightly golden brown.
- Royal Icing: Combine all ingredients in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed 7-10 minutes, until icing has a matte appearance. You will then need to add more water until the icing reaches a consistency that is easy to pipe. If you add too much water, just add more confectioner's sugar.
- Yields about 40 2-3 inch cookies