Sunday, August 2, 2009

Bridal Baking Extravaganza: My Best Wedding Shower Cookies Yet!

I love to bake beautiful things and my sister-in-law to be’s wedding shower was the perfect opportunity to nurture my inner Martha! For shower favors, we decided to make sugar cookies in the shape of wedding cakes. Here’s the story of what we did and how you can make cookies yourself.

My favorite sugar cookie recipe is actually from Martha Stewart. I couldn't find the exact one I use online but this is really close here. It makes buttery and crispy cookies. Because I had to travel right before the shower, I baked the cookies several days ahead, wrapped them well and froze them. When I returned, I frosted them the night before the shower. Lucky for me, I had the help of another "Martha"- my neighbor, Toni.

I prefer to use royal icing known for its ability to harden and remain intact. Traditional royal icing is made using egg whites as the protein is the active ingredient that forms the robust frosting. Because this frosting is not cooked, there can be a food safety concern of eating raw eggs (Salmonella risk) especially for children, pregnant women and the elderly. An easy solution is to use meringue powder which has the active egg protein but has been dried to eliminate the Salmonella risk. This is available at Michaels and other cooking stores.
So Toni came over armed with several pastry bags and tips. We whipped up two different consistencies of royal icing. I used the recipe from the Sugarbakers' Cookie Cutter Cookbook - which I highly recommend. This book gives three different recipes for three different consistencies of frosting:

• outline ( thick for piping),
• base (thinner for spreading but not runny)
• flow ( thinnest – a flowable viscosity to fill large areas)

We had two approaches for making these cookies: 1) outline first , fill, let dry and outline decorations again or 2) spread a base layer, let dry and outline the decorations. We chose option two which can be less precise but felt faster and didn’t overwhelm the cookies with frosting.

The recipe for base frosting:

2 cups of powdered sugar (measure and then sift or you will get lumps)
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon of meringue powder
4 tablespoons of warm water

Whip 3-5 minutes.

The recipe for outline frosting:

2 cups of powdered sugar (measure and then sift or you will get lumps)
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon of meringue powder
3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon of warm water

Whip 3-5 minutes.
A medium layer of base frosting was applied to each cookie. If the frosting is too thin, it won’t cover well. Add a bit more sifted powdered sugar if this is the case.

We then tinted some of the frosting with gel food coloring. We recommend gel food coloring because it is very potent and does not change the consistency of the frosting. Often to get deep colors, a fair amount of liquid food coloring is needed and can thin the frosting making it too thin to pipe. This is available at Michaels or cooking stores. We started to create our designs using different tips, sprinkles and pearls. And did we have fun with the designs.

Here are just a few of the designs. No two cookies were alike because we could help but make up a new design for each one! There were 35 in all!

The pearled cake cookie...

The wedding dress cookie...

The ruffled cake cookie...made using a ruffled tip...

The draped cake cookie...

The drum cake cookie and the Mad Hatter cookie...

After the cookie surfaces had dried, we put them in clear bags and tied them with ribbon. Here’s Toni tying them perfectly!

We bought clear bags from Michaels along with ribbon from the dollar bin.

The cookies were boxed and ready for transport to the shower...

AN IMPORTANT NOTE: Although the frosting was hard to the touch the morning I put them in bags, by the afternoon, the cookies and frosting had become softer. I suspect that even though the outermost layer of frosting was dry but that there was still moisture in the frosting that migrated. Because of the sealed bag, the moisture could not escape and the cookies and frosting softened. It was actually a pleasant texture, but the softened frosting wasn’t ideal for the bag. I would consider drying the cookies a bit longer before bagging (these dried for about 8 hours) and keeping the bagged cookies flat so that if they do soften, they won’t deform. I have noticed the cookies softening even without being in the bag due to moisture migration but usually the frosting remains somewhat firm to the touch.

The cookies looked marvelous and quite professional. We were so pleased!