For Archer’s 2nd Birthday, I had the brilliant idea of making sugar cookies and trying my hand at some royal icing. Well, actually, I had the brilliant idea that my friend Randi make them for her son’s birthday first and then I would learn from her mistakes.
I’ve had sugar cookies with super cute decoration at baby showers, weddings, in my Greenling Box, and again at Jackson’s birthday (Thanks, Randi!) and they always seem to have a taste that is slightly off. Except for the ones from Sweetish Hill that Greenling sends me, it often tastes like there are chemicals in the cookie. So, what better dessert to try for my son’s birthday, right?!
I decided to go with Alton Brown’s recipes for sugar cookies and icing since he hasn’t let me down yet. The cookies came out great aside from the fact that they were not uniform thickness, so some were slightly more crispy than others. Sugar cookie perfection is found by pulling them out of the oven at the precise second they are done, so uniformity is kind of important. Upon mentioning my flub to (the fabulous) Lauren, she clued me in on the rubber band trick. You just put thick rubber bands on the ends of your roller until they equal the thickness you want. Then I went and found these. Either way, I’ll be closer to perfection next time.
After two batches of cookies were baked, cooled, and miraculously saved from probing 2-year-old paws, I made two batches of royal icing. It’s little more than wet sugar and food dye that hardens as it dries. The trick is to plan exactly how you are going to create your masterpiece on each shape. And maybe don’t make three dozen cookies in three different shapes your first go-round. For decorating tips, I found these two posts to be extremely helpful. Don’t zoom through the instructions. They’re detailed for a reason. Seriously, you need to plan ahead.
The beach balls were probably the easiest since they are only flooded with no detail work. The two tutorials I followed show you how to flood the whole cookie one color and then detail on top of that with various tips. Squeezing that icing bag was giving me hand cramps, so I’m all for a simple design created from one outline and multiple flood colors. When outlining for a flood, just go ahead and use a #3 tip. It’s the most readily available small round size, it’s a helluva lot easier to squeeze icing out of the larger hole, and it allows you to get a nice, thick layer of flooded icing on your cookie. A #1 or #2 is going to give you hand cramps, limit your sugar intake per cookie, and generally rain on your cookie parade.
Did I mention that this will require some serious time investment? And because the icing dries fairly quick, you can’t just stop and start willy-nilly. I suggest you try to find a friend as awesome as my friend Lauren (you probably won’t, but go ahead and try) to sit there for several hours decorating the cookies for you while you try to get the toddler down for a nap and convince (unsuccessfully) the baby to stop shrieking and play with her toys so you can get your sugar high on. Er, I mean, create museum-worthy masterpieces out of sugar.
After you’ve spent an absurd amount of time creating cookies that as gourmet as straight sugar, butter, and flour can get, and are loaded with who-knows-what chemicals in the dye, you’ll still have to provide a variety of snacks that cost twice as much and take no time to throw on the table. No one can live on sugar cookies alone. According to this photo, they can live on guacamole alone. Maybe next time I’ll skip all the complications and just smear guacamole all over the table.