You GUYS! I am SO excited to be writing this tutorial for you! Maybe that seems a little overzealous for an icing tutorial, but I’ll tell you why.
- I’ve watched some of my all-time favorite cookie idols like the wonderful Elizabeth of Arty McGoo and Sally of SweetieDoodle create amazing works of cookie art with the most fabulous dimension, and it’s always left me scratching my head wondering how the heck they did it! Seriously guys… seriously. Spoiler alert: I scoured the internet and figured it out.
- Anyone who knows me well and/or has ever stepped foot into my home during the month of October knows I have a small army, ehm, collection of Halloween figurines. Many of these figurines, including my absolute favorite (sorry guys, I pick favorites), are designed by Johanna Parker.
So you can imagine how absolutely, ridiculously excited I was when I got in touch with the amazingly talented Johanna Parker to ask if I could use her figurines as the inspiration behind this tutorial and she so graciously agreed!
Holy guacamole Batman, this tutorial just got real!
If you’re not familiar with Johanna Parker’s work (Wait, whaaat?! Go familiarize yourself now! I promise this tutorial will still be here when you get back), you might be wondering why her work. What about it inspired this tutorial… aside from the obvious fact that her work is A-MAZING and I may or may not have just been looking for any excuse to cookie-fy it (in case you’re new here, I am aware that “cookie” is technically a noun, and that I may have just verbified it, and also, sometimes I just make up words… like verbify!).
But the real reason I wanted to use her designs for these cookies: those faces. Seriously, have you seen the faces she creates?! She is the master of whimsical expression and pinchable figurine cheeks. Seriously though, those cheeks. How could I pass up the chance to cookie those adorably pinchable cheeks for HALLOWEEN… AND write a tutorial about it? Obviously the answer is I couldn’t.
- The easiest way to go about these cookies, in my opinion, is to use uncolored royal icing for the base, and to paint over it with food gel colors once it hardens. Start with a batch of royal icing with a 20 second consistency. Pipe the base layer of icing, using your toothpick/skewer/scribe tool to work the icing around and fill in any areas that seem to have more or less icing than others. For these cookies, because I was planning on creating a ruffled collar and border around the hat, the face, hat, and round base were the areas I filled in with icing.
- Wait 2-4 minutes until a slight crust begins to form over the icing (or about the time it takes you to put down another base layer of icing on another cookie). Now for the fun part! Stick the end of your piping tip directly into the base layer of icing you created 2-4 minutes ago. Yes, you will be breaking the surface of the icing with your tip. Gently squeeze your piping bag, piping icing under the surface of the initial layer of icing. This will create a bubble of new icing under the surface of the old. Be sure to pipe a little extra icing into the bubble as it will naturally shrink a little before it settles. Use this method to create the cheeks.
- You can use the same principal to create dimension in other areas of the face, like the brow or chin. If you're working with a larger area, simply work in small areas, piping icing under the surface, removing the tip, and placing it a little farther along to inject more icing.
- To create even MORE depth in your cookies, you can apply shading, like in the skeleton cookies above. To do this, use a small, completely dry, food-only brush to gently rub the black powdered food coloring into the dry royal icing. For this part, it helps to think about where shadows would naturally fall on your cookie were it upright, or use a picture for reference. If for some reason you shade it darker than you'd like, you can easily remove the black food coloring with a slightly damp Q-tip. Just moisten it with the Q-tip, and dab it dry with the corner of a paper towel. Note: it's best to do the shading BEFORE you paint the cookie. You'll have a harder time correcting mistakes later if you don't.
- And that's it! Now it's just up to you to paint and add all your finishing touches!