OK, so now my royal icing is made and ready to color, thin for flooding, and then meticulously apply to my cookies.
Prepping for the decorating stage is next on my agenda.
I gather my supplies and tools for decorating cookies. Some of these are essential and others I compare to having an assortment of the latest and greatest, trendsetting, back to school clothes: Nice to have, but not a requirement.
Taking stock of my inventory of tools for decorating cookies, I begin by rounding up some spatulas.
Flexible spatulas are essential. One is good to have but an assortment of them makes mixing icing colors much easier. Taking the time to wash one spatula over and over as I change colors would get old.
I keep a supply of pastry, or decorating bags on hand. My favorite size is the 12-inch bag because it’s not too big to handle.
Although I have a few reusable pastry bags I find that I always reach for the disposable ones. I just simply can’t be bothered washing out pastry bags.
If you’re not familiar with couplers, they are two-part little gadgets used to secure the decorating tips in the pastry bags. I will illustrate how to secure both the coupler and the tip to the pastry bag once I color the royal icing I just made.
Couplers come in a few sizes, ranging from about 1-1/2″ long, to much larger couplers. The large couplers are used with larger tips. By larger tips I’m referring to the overall size of the tip and not the opening of the tip.
You definitely wouldn’t use the large tips for cookie decorating: One squirt from the bag and the cookie would be covered in icing! Reserve the large tips and couplers for cupcake and cake decorating.
Some people don’t use couplers at all but I find them extremely handy. I can change tips easily by unscrewing the coupler, removing the tip, and replacing it with a different tip.
Why would I want to do that? Well, an example would be if I’m using a round tip and then want to add a star decoration using the same color icing. I need to switch to a star tip. With a coupler it’s a breeze to switch it.
Over time I’ve accumulated three or four of each tip size and that will make it easier for cookie decorating.
Let’s say I have pink, turquoise, and green icing and I want to outline some of the cookies in pink, some in turquoise, and some in green. I fill three separate decorator bags; one for each color.
If I want to outline all the cookies using a #2 tip, it’s much more convenient to have three #2 tips so I don’t have to switch tips and wash one every time I want to use a different color icing.
Makes sense, right?
After my first soiree into cookie decorating – the time I almost developed an acute case of carpal tunnel syndrome in less than 8 hours – I decided I would take the advice of some cookie decorators I follow and use squeeze bottles for my flood icing. I’ve heard it’s easier and I’m about to find out.
For sure it will make it much simpler to decipher which icing is for outlining and which is for flooding, and hopefully my wrist and fingers will still be in good working order after a day of cookie decorating.
I still vividly remember the pain.
Tip covers or damp cloths are good to keep nearby. They keep the icing in the tip from drying out.
I bought these tip covers a long time ago to decorate some cupcakes. Not sure if it’s just me, but I had to wrestle with them every time I tried to get the cover off the tip. I rarely use them but I know a lot of people swear by them.
When I realized that keeping the tips resting on a damp cloth works just as well, I switched to that.
I put the damp cloths in a cup and stand the filled pastry bags in the cup. It’s worked wonders for cupcake decorating so I’m quite sure I’ll have the same result decorating cookies.
Depending on the project at hand, you’ll want a variety of icing colors. I keep mine stored in clear jugs.
And I always use gel pastes; never liquid food coloring. By adding liquid food coloring to icing you change the consistency of the icing.
If I made a big batch of butter cream frosting and added a few drops of liquid coloring it might not be that big a deal, but I’ve learned that with royal icing it can make a significant difference: Consistency is key.
I stick with the gel pastes and put the liquid food coloring away until I’m ready to color Easter eggs.
A sheet pan or two, cooling racks, and a few mesh food tents are great to have. The cookies can dry on top of the cooling rack and the food tent protects them from dust and, heaven forbid, any other airborne creatures that may be floating around your house.
Covered bowls or containers are necessary to keep the icing from drying out. I save all kinds of covered containers. The plastic mixing bowls in this picture I found in HomeGoods a few years ago in two sizes.
These bowls have come in so handy and I could kick myself for not buying more when I saw them. Now, as is par for the course, I haven’t been able find again.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about cookie decorating to date, it’s to keep an endless supply of toothpicks on hand.
Toothpicks are a necessity for getting rid of little air bubbles and, in my case, trying to mend screw ups with icing.
I keep a bowl nearby to use as a holding bin for the used toothpicks, messy spatulas, and anything else I need to clean up later on.
A turntable is not necessary but I learned to love mine decorating cupcakes so I will use it to decorate cookies as well.
I know myself: The first time I pick up a freshly decorated cookie to turn or move it I will screw it up. It’s easier to maneuver the turntable and leave the cookies alone until they’ve had a chance to dry for a few minutes.
That’s about the extent of it. There are no expensive gadgets needed which makes cookie decorating a fairly affordable hobby.
Oh, and it doesn’t hurt to have some extra plastic wrap and a few damp towels on hand just in case the phone rings or someone rings the doorbell. The icing has to be kept covered at all times or it will be ruined.
Supplies in hand, I’m ready to prepare the pastry, or decorating, bags and move on to coloring and thinning my royal icing.