Baking isn't considered "scary" to most people. In fact, much of the time, it is a science and if you can follow a recipe, it's pretty fool-proof! I started baking at a young age with my Mammaw, who was always in the kitchen. I have always been an attention-to-detail type of gal, so naturally, I gravitated to baking, rather than cooking. I think my Mammaw was the same way -though, her southern casseroles and home-grown green-beans (w/added lard) are still my favorite meals! With my Mammaw as the chief pastry chef and me as her sous, I learned a ton about making tasty treats. They were never intimidating - always fun!
Sadly, my Mammaw (my most favorite person in the world), passed away in 2013, just before my Royal Icing Cookies hit the scene. Though she hasn't physically been a part of this new journey of mine, I have felt her support and presence throughout the entire thing! Funny how that happens. I certainly needed that comfort as I began to navigate this sub-category of baking: cookie decorating. It wasn't until the year 2014 when a dear friend (who is a cookie BOSS - follow her - @thecookiemomsterkitchen) brought me some "welcome home new baby" cookies (that she made herself) when my son was born that I knew what a "Royal Icing" cookie even was. Side-note: I'm also a huge art geek and LOVE to paint, draw, craft, etc. - but never truly committed to any of those genres. I was absolutely mesmerized. I couldn't get over how the cookie was so perfectly cut, decadent to taste, and decorated to perfection! The feeling was almost instantaneous: I MUST LEARN HOW TO MAKE THESE IMMEDIATELY! With having the baking piece down, I thought, 'I'm up for a new and exciting challenge. I mean, how hard could it be?' Which brings me to my first, VERY ambitious batch of Royal Icing Cookies.
My daughter was turning three and at the time, OBSESSED with the movie Planes, Fire and Rescue. All 20 "friends" who were invited, RSVP'd YES. Believe me, there IS a point of mentioning that. As it is with most parties, I was super excited to begin planning the decor and more importantly: favors. I've always been a sucker for party-planning and though I get in over my head WAY too much, in the end, the final product always excites me (enough to do it again...and again...and again!). So, I got to planning! Obviously, the theme was set: Planes, Fire and Rescue, but what was I to create? And that is when it hit me. Ding, Ding, Ding! An official excuse to try my hand at those fabulous Royal Icing Cookies! But, the next thought that hit me: Where the heck do I even begin??? Pinterest is a beautiful thing, y'all! I scoured the cookie decorating blogs, recipes (I used my cookie idol- Sweet Sugarbelle -for a lot of inspiration and recipe help. REALLY COOL SIDE NOTE - she now follows me on Instagram. EEK!), galleries, all to learn everything I could about: how to make a "perfect" cut-out cookie, necessary royal icing supplies, icing consistencies, etc. To be honest, I thought my head was going to implode. This was a whole new beast (rather, MONSTER!). I wasn't sure I would have the time or patience to even try. BUT I'm no quitter, and I had already committed to this party favor so I wasn't about to turn back now! Following a very tedious and extensive trip to Michael's Craft Store, I had all of the materials I needed to begin my first batch of Royal Icing Cookies.
So there I was, cookies made (though I picked the most complicated and time-consuming sugar cookie recipe to start with - lesson learned) and Royal Icing made (this was the part I feared most and it was SUPER easy & quick!). The next step was to begin decorating. And, like I mentioned earlier, I've always been into creating art, so I was truly excited to begin this process. I had all of my supplies ready to go: piping bags and bottles, tips (sizes 1-5 - OH MY!), couplers, gel food coloring, stylus tool, LOTS of parchment paper, and most importantly - patience, because, let's just say - you'll need A LOT of it! I taught middle schoolers for eight years, so my patience was prepped. Disclaimer: to eliminate extra steps, I now exclusively use tipless piping bags - though I recommend trying both to find your preference. If any of you have seen Planes, Fire and Rescue, then you would be able to identify my cookie choices. I didn't choose ONE, No. No. I HAD to have at least 3 - right?! If only I could go back in time (because 3 x 20 - yea. you can do the math!) ...Nevertheless, I chose to make a number 3 (no problem), the PFR Logo personalized with our guests' names (eh, OK) and lastly, my daughter's fav character from the movie: Dusty Crophopper (WHAT WAS I THINKING?!!!). A bit of advice to keep you motivated through this process (if you want to be ambitious with your designs): start off with your toughest designs and end with your simpler ones. Once I began making Dusty Crophopper, I was already exhausted but glad I had conquered that design first - it made the subsequent cookies seem easy peasy. Well, that may be a little exaggeration. And, I had a much more profound respect for cookie decorating and cookie/cake artists alike. HOLY crap! I didn't own (even still to this day) a cookie projector, so everything was free-handed. Dusty nearly killed me. The most difficult part, aside from choosing a complicated cookie, was getting the correct icing consistency for the outline and filler (if you haven't done this before, once you begin - you'll know what these terms mean!). Even though they weren't a "perfect" first batch, I was still proud of my cookies and inspired to do better next time. Yes, I said it: NEXT TIME.
Regardless of my first experience making Royal Icing Cookies being time-consuming, a little stressful and likely because I'm a bit OCD and maybe because I stupidly chose to create 60!!!!, headache prompting - I plowed through and though I saw all of the flaws, our friends and family only recognized my hard-work and were completely amazed by what I had accomplished. Since my first batch, I have learned A LOT about my preferences & techniques (I work smarter NOT harder) and now have a genuine respect and appreciation for this awesome art-form. So I will leave you with this... Do your research (OR use mine - links in paragraphs 3-4) -Start small (you don't need to begin with a party favor and then multiply it by 3) - If you can, choose simple for your first designs so that you get a feel for the icing - and lastly - Don't be afraid to try Royal Icing Cookies! I'm so thankful I did because I have found so much passion from this practice. I have made connections with a cookie world I never knew existed. But the best part - I have finally committed to something that I am proud of and love. I would like to think my Mammaw is proud of me, too.
Here they are! Not too bad for my first try :).
Above: Planes, Fire and Rescue LOGO personalized with guests' names.
Above: Dusty Crophopper. Damn you, Dusty!
And voila! 60 cookies packaged, addressed and ready to go!