My New Obsession: Decorated Cookies

Ok confession time: I have a new obsession with cookie decorating. It started with the cookies I made for my son’s moustache party. I decided I could’ve done a much better job and needed to up my game. When we decided to throw our good friend a surprise 30th birthday party, I took the opportunity to I try my hand at piping and flooding cookies.

I watched numerous (too many??) tutorials for this and in the process discovered quite a few great blogs, but my favourite by far is SweetAmbs – her work is UNBELIEVABLE. It is truly edible art. Even then, I don’t know that I could bring myself to eat them; they’re all just so pretty! I now know what I aspire to create – I’m going to need a LOT of practice!

The party theme was mason jars, but I couldn’t find a mason jar cookie cutter, so I decided to make small gift cookies using a square cutter. I made regular sugar cookies following the recipe from Canadian Living. The party colours were turquoise and light pink so I decided to flood the cookies in the aqua and add pink “ribbon” and bows.

While my cookies weren’t even close to perfect, I was pretty happy with the outcome considering it was my first time.

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Like I mentioned, the perfectionist in me wasn’t 100% satisfied with the final outcome, but it’s all about trial and error. A few things I learned from this first batch:

  • In hindsight, I should have flooded the cookies and put the ribbon detail on wet on wet, but I had run out of royal icing ingredients so ended up doing it in two stages – first flooding and then adding the ribbon and bow once it had dried (the next day).
  • Another mistake I made was storing the flooded cookies in a tupperware container overnight between the stages. I used wax paper between the layers, but the icing hadn’t 100% dried so some of them had weird discoloration. Luckily, the ribbon and bow covered most of that up.

I used #2 and #3 piping tips (#2 for piping, #3 for flooding). Another confession: I used pre-made royal icing mix that I bought from Bulk Barn.  I needed to play around with my icing consistency as this is really key to making successful cookies.

Last week, I found an 18 pack of awesome fall and Halloween cookie cutters (for only $10!!) so I was very excited to get decorating some Halloween cookies.

How awesome are these!

How awesome are these!

I used the same sugar cookie recipe as before but I added some pumpkin spice (ground ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and cloves). I only used the pumpkin, spider web and ghost cutters for starters because I didn’t want to get too crazy with the different colours of icing I’d be using.

I decided to try making my own royal icing this time. I followed the recipe from Joy of Baking using meringue powder and it was SO easy. Getting the right consistency can be a bit tricky but I added my water one tablespoon at a time and if I overdid it with the water, just added a bit of powdered sugar to adjust. It was much easier than I expected. I also decided to add some vanilla extract. One thing I learned about adding flavouring to royal icing is to stick with extracts and stay away from oil as it’ll change the properties of the icing.

This time around, I also wanted to try a few techniques I’d seen on the many (many) video tutorials I watched including marbling and transfers.

I started off with the pumpkins – I only had 2 piping bags left and only have one #2 and one #3 piping tip so I actually just used Ziploc bags with the corners cut out to pipe and flood the pumpkin cookies. It worked surprisingly well! Not to mention it’s much more cost effective. My green icing was a little thicker than I would have wanted but I think they turned out ok in the end.

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I did the pumpkins in the afternoon while the baby napped (she was nice enough to give me a nice long one J) and when I was done the pumpkins, I piped out the spider body transfers using my purple icing. Unfortunately, the baby woke up just as I was starting so I had to rush to finish them and the designs on their backs aren’t as nice as I’d planned. I let them out to dry for the afternoon.

I made the spider bodies by piping a large dot and dragging the bottom a bit with a toothpick for the body and a smaller dot for the head.

I made the spider bodies by piping a large dot and dragging the bottom a bit with a toothpick for the body and a smaller dot for the head.

I finished the rest of the cookies later that night after the kids went to bed (so forgive the poor lighting in the pictures!) For the spider webs, I piped the outside in purple (I’m not a fan of black and wanted something more colourful), flooded with white.

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I then went back with the purple (on the wet icing) to create the cobwebs in a circular pattern.

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I just used a toothpick to marble the web pattern, starting in the center and lightly dragging out towards the corners.

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While the icing was still wet, I plopped the spider body onto the cookie. I waited for them to dry a bit then went back to pipe the legs directly onto the cookie.

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These were honestly so much fun to make and I wished I had baked more of them.IMG_3665

I saved the ghosts for last. They were very simple and I kind of regretted not going with a different shape so that I could have had more fun with them. My confidence had built from doing the spider webs and I wanted to try my hand at more intricate designs! I piped and flooded in white and added eyes and spooky mouths in purple.

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I refuse, REFUSE to throw out perfectly good cookie dough, so any leftovers or scraps that don’t fit my cookie moulds still get baked. I’d cut out some small square cookies from the spaces between the real ones to use as practice (and tasting!) pieces. I tried my hand at some plaid, chevron and herringbone, and of course one small tasting cookie for everyone in the family.

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I also bake scraps (yes, I’m THAT crazy about cookie dough waste). My husband pointed out that one of the scraps kind of looked like a mummy…so a mummy he became! To be honest, this might just be my favourite one hihi.

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So there they are, my second attempt at decorating cookies ready to go for Halloween! I still need a lot of practice but I’m pleasantly surprised at how fun these were to do so I’ll just keep making more!

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Now I’m hooked! All I can think of are excuses to bake cookies and decorate them! Luckily, Christmas is just around the corner and I’ve got friends getting married and having babies so I will have lots of opportunity to practice 🙂

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Melissa’s Mason Jar Themed 30th Birthday Party

It’s a big year for us 1984 babies – we all turn 30.  Yep, the big 3-0.  My friends and I are turning 30 this year.  We’ve known each other for a long, long, long time.  Some over 20 years.  We are sister-like.  We are always there for one another, have seen each other through all kinds of crazy adventures and heart break and we’ve always got each others’ backs.  We’ve gone through some big milestones together: weddings, babies, careers and personal accomplishments.  Through it all, we’re always there to celebrate with one of our girls when there’s cause to celebrate. Who am I kidding, even when there isn’t a cause, we make one up!

My good friends Lisa and Sabrina and I decided to throw our close friend Melissa a 30th “surprise” birthday party.  I use the quotation marks because the girl is a sleuth and there is NO way to actually surprise her.  She has the memory of an elephant (remembers my appointments when even I forget!!) and is SO detail oriented, she picks up on EVERYTHING.  Needless to say, when we decided to throw this shindig, we knew it would have to be up to snuff. We decided if the event couldn’t be a total surprise, the theme and details would be.  We decided to go with a mason jar theme and use her two favourite colours, turquoise and blush pink.  A little something about Melissa: she’s a Pinterest pro, so finding out what things she’d like was very easy – just go to the Boards!!  We divvied up the tasks and the party went off without a hitch.  It really was a group effort and so much fun to plan!!

My friend Lisa graciously (and bravely!) offered to host the party at her place.  We were lucky enough that the weather cooperated and we were able to set up outside and it made for a great party space.

We set up the sweets table inside because of the humidity. We had all kinds of goodies: sugar cookie cupcakes (made by Lisa), lemon and white chocolate chip cookies and sugar cookies decorated as gift boxes in the theme colours (made by me). We also had pink champagne for toasting.

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A chalkboard frame hung above the sweets table with some of Melissa’s favourite sayings in hashtag form.  Melissa (like many others) loves everything social media.  It’s not a party unless you hashtag it!

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The other girls pitched in a brought all kinds of yummy appetizers and munchies, including Melissa’s favourite macaroni salad made by our friend’s mom.

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Sabrina found these adorable chalkboard place cards that fit the theme perfectly! We love chalkboard everything!IMG_3333

Opposite the app table we set up a display of pictures and albums from Melissa’s childhood.  The girl is a ham! Doing photo shoots and posing at the ripe age of 6.  I’d also painted a canvas with one of Melissa’s favourite sayings as my gift to her and to use as decor. 1601096_10100923412107746_3049958779979686527_n

Melissa takes a LOT of selfies (or so it seems).  We printed off a bunch and hung them using cute clothes pins as a shrine to the birthday girl.  I also found these awesome thumbs up post its so that people could “like” the pictures 🙂 IMG_3311

Outside we set up the drink station with mason jars for people to use. IMG_3348

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We had white wine sangria (which unfortunately didn’t taste as good as it looked – we’ll have to try a different recipe next time), and lemonade as a non-alocoholic option.  IMG_3319

It’s all in the details: Sabrina found some cute blue mason jars and brought some gorgeous hydrangeas from her mom’s garden, and we decorated some other mason jars with twine and lace.  Melissa loves all things vintage so we tried to incorporate that into the decor anywhere we could.IMG_3327

What’s better than glass markers? Chalkboard!!!!IMG_3323

As the sun went down it gave the party an even more intimate feel and twinkle lights and candles provided the perfect ambiance. Lucky for us Sabrina LOVES candles and was able to provide some great outdoor lanterns.IMG_3347

People were asked to BYOB so we set up a watering hole wheelbarrow with ice to keep their beverages chilled. IMG_3329

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Lisa’s husband made the most AMAZING beef sliders and he home-made all the toppings too.  We all agree: he’s definitely a keeper. IMG_3355

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We know our birthday girl, we know our crowd, and both love props!  We’d gathered together some props to have some fun as the night went on – sure enough, the birthday girl was the first one to dive right in!IMG_3368

We were so excited about all the little details we were able to find and put together to make this party a memorable occasion for Melissa.  She’s always there for others, it was high time we celebrated her in nothing but grand Melissa fashion.  We love you to pieces Missy – here’s to 30, and plenty more parties ahead! xo