We’ve hit it… twenty days, and twenty fabulous hybrid projects. Gen here, and I’ll be wrapping us up, because (as usual) I’m a huge procrastinator and I’m just finishing up my neighbor gifts in the nick of time. What am I giving? I’m glad you asked!
This year, I decided to go homemade. It’s no secret that I love decorating cakes, and I’m always looking for ways to make them special. (Remember the Monster Jam birthday cake?) However, my love affair with sweets goes beyond just cakes (as my hips can attest!), and cookies seemed a logical Christmas goodie.
The first thing you need to do, unless you’re lucky enough to have your own designated printer for edible ink, is find a local bakery or baking supply store that will print your images. I checked into a few places, and even your neighborhood grocery store probably has the capability to do that. I chose to go with a baker’s supply store, because I wanted someplace that could use a digital file (instead of scanning an image), to preserve the integrity. For one sheet (7.75″x12″) the cost was about $5, and that was enough for 40 cookies in the size I made.
It is totally possible to print your own, and you can find sources online for both edible wafer paper and edible ink cartridges for many different printers. I would not print them in the same printer that you use regular ink in, though. For an occasional hobbyist, I think outsourcing is the more economical option.
My next step was to design my images. The baking supply store I used gave me the paper sizes, and I started out with Jen Allyson’s Vintage Findings line; the Christmas Prints and Christmas Stamps had just what I needed. I really liked one of the stamps she included, but wanted to make it a bit more personal, so I modified it in PS. I also chose three of the patterned papers and cropped them to the dimensions I needed, before I had them printed.
I made gingerbread cookies and cut them out in two-inch squares, plus a few round ones I cut using a cookie cutter. Gingerbread is a nice option for something like this, because they don’t spread while cooking, and they retain their shape. Let the cookies cool completely before moving on.
Next up, making the icing. I used a traditional royal icing, for a few reasons. It hardens nicely, which makes it pack and travel well, it’s bright white, and it has a nice sheen when it dries. It’s not the best flavor, though, so I add a bit of almond emulsion (or extract) to mine. It takes a while to mix, about ten minutes on low in my KitchenAid, so while it’s mixing I get the rest of my supplies ready:
Spread out the cookies on parchment paper. Give yourself plenty of room to work, but you also need to be able to move from one cookie to the next without having a lot of area to cover.
Because royal icing hardens quickly, it helps to have a damp cloth nearby to wipe the tip. I’m using a size 3 round tip in a disposable bag, but you could just as easily use a zippered plastic bag and snip a corner. This doesn’t need to be very precise.
We’ll be doing a technique called flooding, so you need a fairly thin frosting. It should take ten full seconds for it to level out after you drop some from a spoon or the beater, or drag a knife through it. Just keep adding water, a few drops at a time, until you reach that consistency. You also want to keep your mixer on low, because we don’t want air bubbles.
Pour the icing into your bag (I’m using a cup to hold it, since I only have two hands) and tightly twist the top.
Outline the area you want to cover, and fill it in. You want to frost an area about the same size as your papers will cover. You don’t need to be super precise, we’ll be covering the edges. Also, if you miss a few spots, the frosting will level out and should fill it in. If you need to, go back in with a toothpick or sucker stick and push it around while it’s still wet.
Feel free to recruit some help (Aww. Isn’t my husband sweet?) until you get them all finished. Notice, they’re not perfect. It really doesn’t matter. Now, we just need to let them harden, for at least a couple of hours. You want the frosting to not just crust, but to harden all the way through. (Note: This is the perfect time to take a nap, if you were up until 4 AM baking the cookies. Just sayin’.)
Our next step is to prep the edible papers. I cut the round labels out very roughly using a pair of kitchen shears. (We’ll be covering up the edges, so it doesn’t have to be neat, but you could also use a round punch if you wanted.) I also trimmed my patterned papers into 1.5″ squares, using my paper trimmer.
To get our edible paper to adhere, we’re pulling out something sticky. I used corn syrup, since it’s clear, and definitely sticky. Remove the edible paper from the backing sheet, and lightly coat the back of it using a foam brush. (A new one, folks, but you knew that, right?)
Flip the edible paper over, and place it on the hardened royal icing. Smooth it down with clean, dry hands. Any moisture will cause the ink to lift, and sticky residue from the corn syrup will make it shiny. Then, flip the cookie over on the parchment paper. This will help keep the edges from curling up, and also absorb any corn syrup leakage. (Now THAT is a phrase I never thought I’d use.) You only need to leave it upside down for about 5 minutes or so, but it won’t hurt to leave it while you move onto the next step, which is another batch of royal icing. This one is normal piping consistency, so don’t make it thin.
Pipe your designs on, using either a star tip (I used 16 and 18) and/or a round tip (3, again.) Again, this doesn’t take a whole lot of skill, my husband helped out with this stage, too. (Bless his heart!) You can vary the borders to keep it interesting, and to keep yourself from falling asleep.
Let them harden a few more hours, overnight is even better, and then package them up. They may not be perfect, but I think they’re pretty darn cool.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our 20 days of Christmas – Hybrid Holiday posts, and we can’t wait to see your takes on our projects. Happy Holidays, to each and every one of you, from all of us here at Design House Digital.