Archive for November, 2011

How To Frost Sugar Cookies – Classic Royal Icing

Hokay so. I just cannot get over the cuteness of these cookies. I would take these to market. I was super nervous about decorating them, but luckily, the real cookie-decorating pros like Bridget over at Bake At 350 know what they are doing. Girl is a marvel.

If I can do this, you can do this. I think I made a couple mistakes along the way, but I will point them out to you, and then you will be even better, deal? Deal.


Royal icing is basically egg whites and sugar beaten together–a cinch. Bridget uses meringue powder because you can get a more consistent result not worrying about how large your eggs are or getting a bit of yolk in your whites that will cause them to remain flat, lifeless and useless except for supposedly heart-healthy lunch omelets. For more on how to give your egg whites life to the full, please read this post.

The key to a great royal icing is to beat them just right. That is, you shouldn’t beat them too much, as I did. It led to problems.

Once beaten, you can separate your icing into bowls and color it however you want. Once colored, you can put it into a pastry bag with a piping tip as I did, or put it into those cool little squeeze bottles, of which I wish I was the proud owner. They’re durn useful in unicorn sugar cookie situations.

But wait! There’s more!

In addition to your stiff royal icing, you need to make what is called flood icing. I divided my recipe in half and made half of the stiff stuff into the thinner flood icing. I did this by stirring in one teaspoon of water at a time until the frosting was the consistency of syrup. If you lift a little out of the mixing bowl and let it fall, the icing should take about 2-3 seconds to reabsorb into the rest of the icing. Kinda tricky, but there has to be a bit of leeway if I got it on the first try. You can put your flood icing into a piping bag, but I think in this case, a squeeze bottle would definitely work better.

So now you are ready to frost your unicorn cookies and bring smiles to the faces of women at baby showers everywhere. Begin by piping an outline of your cookie with the stiff royal icing. You hafta make it all the way around with no breaks in the icing. Mine had a break on the right side that I had to go back and fill in. Also, if you want to stick anything into the icing like the little dragees I used on the tip of the horn, make sure to stick them in right away. I was working with about four cookies at a time, but I did press in a dragee after piping each one.

And see how this icing looks a bit strung out and pitted? Yeah, that is because I over-beat it. It could also possibly be that my icing technique is less than super quality, but I’d like to think that is not true.

Then, you fill in the piped outline with flood icing. The flood icing should not be thin enough that it flows into the corners by itself. You kind of have to maneuver it around with a toothpick to get it into all the corners. (In my case, I used the end of a metal skewer that I found in the back of a drawer. It was sufficient, if not perfectly kosher.)

In retrospect, I should have doubled the frosting recipe. I frosted around 36 cookies and this batch of frosting was just enough–not a lotta room for mistakes.

Saweeto! Once the base frosting was dry, I gave the unicorns a purple royal icing swirl for a mane and used an edible marker to make little eyes.

You want to wait a good few hours or overnight before packaging the cookies so the frosting doesn’t mess up. I was worried that they would dry out, but I found out that royal icing is like sparkly lip gloss. It looks pretty, and it provides a moisture seal so the cookies don’t dry out as quickly as an unfrosted cookie. Yeah? :]

I couldn’t resist using my baker’s twine. Most of the time I can’t resist cute things, so no surprise there.



Royal Icing

Adapted from Bake At 350

4 tablespoons meringue powder
scant 1/2 c. water
1 pound (4 cups) powdered sugar
1/2 – 1 tsp light corn syrup
a few drops clear extract (optional)

Combine the meringue powder and water in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat until foamy. Sift in your powdered sugar, and beat on low speed to combine. If you want, add the corn syrup to keep your icing shiny and any extracts you want to flavor your icing.

Beat on medium/high speed until stiff, shiny peaks form (see picture above) and peaks do not fall when jiggled. Do not overbeat or your icing will get crackED.

Use immediately or cover icing with plastic wrap until ready to use.

To make flood icing to fill piped outlines, stir in water with a rubber spatula one teaspoonful at a time until icing is the consistency of syrup. According to Bridget, you should be able to spoon up a little icing and let it fall back into the bowl. If it takes 2-3 seconds to disappear back into the rest of the frosting, you’re golden.

Pipe Dream #75: To Believe They Exist – Unicorn Sugar Cookies

Ok. Do I even need to write anything?

Yes, I suppose I do. But aren’t you even freaking out about how cute these are? I mean, I know I am not really normal sometimes, but seriously. I was freaking out.

I was especially flippin’ because I had never tried this recipe or icing technique before. Never been a cookie decorator have I. Plus, I don’t exactly have a set of cookie cutters with which to cut cookies for decoration and consumption. This one was lent to me for the occasion.

In the past, I have skipped over the traditionally frosted sugar cookies, like the ones you get on a cookie plate at Christmas? They are cute, but they always seem super thin and overbaked. Overall, not worth the calories that could be spent on peanut butter blossoms or gingersnaps or something.

These are special though. I took care to roll these out a little thicker. The result was a slightly soft sugar cookie with a bit of snap left. Far better than the sugar cookies I’ve eaten in the past.

In honor of these cookies, I have slightly adapted a quote from my dear aunt:

“Really excellent sugar cookies are like unicorns. They sound really great, and you’d really like to believe that they exist, but you’ve never actually seen one.”

Well, you’ve thought about them, hoped after them, and now you have finally seen them, folks. The ultimate sugar cookie.

Never fear, the icing tutorial is coming later this week. Then you will know. :] :] :] Gosh, these cookies are so fun.

Wishin’ and hopin,’


Vanilla Almond Sugar Cookies

From Bake At 350

3 c unbleached, all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 c sugar (I use sugar that I’ve stored vanilla beans in)
2 sticks (salted) butter, cold
1 egg
3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp pure almond extract

Preheat oven to 350.

Combine the flour and baking powder, set aside. Cream the sugar and butter. Add the egg and extracts and mix. Gradually add the flour mixture and beat just until combined, scraping down the bowl, especially the bottom.

The dough will be crumbly, so knead it together with your hands as you scoop it out of the bowl for rolling.

Roll onto a floured surface and cut into shapes. Place on parchment lined baking sheets (Bridget recommends freezing the cut out shape on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before baking, but I didn’t do it.) and bake for 10-12 minutes. Let sit a few minutes on the sheet, then transfer to a cooling rack.

Favorite Shots: Fixed On A Statue

Sometimes, the things that are supposed to be interesting don’t demand my attention.


Pipe Dream #2: To Have A Model-esque Face, Revisited

This girl is fierce. She has a model face like no other (and also, pretty sweet boots).

I really appreciated shooting with her, because she knew that her family at home would love to see her smiling.



And smile she did.



Pipe Dream #74: To Never Use A Box Mix Again – Minted Cocoa Brownies

There is something significant about a brownie that is one part brownie to two parts frosting. Perhaps it is a dire significance. It seems incredible looking at this picture that I and a few other people actually ingested these when our eyes could clearly see what was in front of us. The sheer audacity of 3/4 of an inch of frosting is absurd on paper. But in person…it was irresistible.

The brownies in this recipe are divine. They are dense and fudgy and rich and wonderful. Even without the frosting, they would be wonderful. I will never use box mix brownies again! Well, maybe in a pinch, but now I really have no excuse.

This is a picture of the batter from a previous making. I’ve had these brownies a few times before, you see. I just added it in because it is pretty. I hope you don’t mind.

Here was the batter from this time.

Ok, you got me, I put in two batter pictures to try and tempt you. Just make these! They are awesome!

I was so glad I could find peppermint extract. The lady who wrote the recipe assured me that if I used mint extract instead of peppermint, my frosting would taste like toothpaste. She was adamant. It would have been un-stomachable.

A finishing touch? Oreos. As if these weren’t already perfectly awful.

Have fun! Go running!

With your best interests at heart,


Minted Fudge Brownies

Adapted from Tasty Kitchen

2 cups sugar
1 cup butter
⅓ cups cocoa
4 whole eggs
1-½ cup flour
½ teaspoons salt

¾ cups butter
1 pound (4 cups) powdered sugar
3 teaspoons milk
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
3 drops green food coloring (if desired)

For the brownies, melt sugar, butter, and cocoa together in the microwave (or in a janky double boiler like I did) until fairly hot. Stir to combine and then cool slightly. It’ll look a bit gritty until you add the eggs. Add eggs, beating well after each egg, then add flour and salt and stir to combine. Bake in a 9×13″ pan in a 350ºF oven for 25 minutes. Cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting, mix ingredients together with a hand mixer until smooth and creamy. Frost cool brownies. If you want, you can sprinkle the top with crushed Oreo pieces like I did, or you could drizzle it with chocolate.

Favorite Shots: Epileptic Hostel

So the light in the shot is exactly how the light in the room was, which is just dumb chance on my part. And ok, so maybe you don’t think it is awesome. but I love this picture with a super love.

I think I extra love this shot because I took it after I got semi-reamed by some neurotic British guy. I paid a pretty annoying price to get it. Here is the story: We were in the common room of our hostel and some guy that we were hanging out with was annoying the British guy (let’s call him Harry) by taking two pictures with the flash on. Of his friends or something. So Harry comes over all fast and serious and is like, “Hey, I have epilepsy, and I’m really sensitive to the flash, so can you please not be taking pictures with it.” And everyone was super apologetic and sorry, and the guy quit taking pictures.

So later on, I was taking a few quick shots of the room WITHOUT FLASH, and this is the conversation Harry and I had:

Harry: Hey.

Me: Oh, I’m so sorry, I’m really not using the flash; I’m just taking a couple of pictures really quick and I promise without the flash so…

Harry: Me and my friends were just having a piss.

Me: What?

Harry: I was just having a piss.

Me: Um…sorry.

Harry: Where are you from? (Because he could tell I had no idea what he was talking about.)

Me: Um, the United States. (And I was thinking, “Shoot! Why didn’t I say Canada? Now he really doesn’t like me.”)

Harry: Ok, we were just having a laugh at you. I don’t really have epilepsy. (He said all of this very condescendingly.)

Me: Oh. (And I just kind of stared blankly at him.)

Harry: I used to work in the film industry, and so I got tired of all the flashes, and it is just so annoying when people are flashing pictures of their friends every five seconds, innit? I mean, I want you all to have memories of your trip or whatever, but if you could just not take pictures, that would be lovely.

Me: Right. (But I’m thinking, “Dude, he took two pictures. Two. Chill yourself out. Plus, you don’t need to be telling me. I’m not even using the flash, which you darn well know.”)

Harry: So what do you shoot with?

And I showed him.

Harry: Ah, very nice. Cheers.

And walks away. And I was annoyed. And produced this shot. Which I will now cherish for its sweet composition and fantastically interesting depth of field rather than for the psychoness of Harry.

So good at blending in,


Pipe Dream #73: To Walk With Whimsy

This past summer, I sometimes found myself struck with fits of whimsy. I don’t even like Alice In Wonderland (gasp, I know), but these pictures sort of remind me of that book. They also remind me of Lord of the Rings and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.


I came across this mushroom one day when I was running. It was just so huge, bigger than any other fungus I had seen recently. And it kind of looked like…a tea saucer. So. This is what happens when I see fungus I like. I accessorize it. Kind of like the way people wear huge blingin’ pockets on ghetto booties. Big fungus, flashy crystal.  Wow. (Refer to my previous disclaimers about bad analogies.)

Anyway, I don’t know what else to say beyond that except that I hope you like these. Even if you don’t though, it’s cool. I do.

It’s a happy day,


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