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Julia M. Usher’s Ultimate Cookie Decorating Series

3 Dec

We had the wonderful opportunity to meet Julia M. Usher in person last month at CookieCon. She was there as a sponsor and instructor, and did an awesome demonstration on cookie stenciling and 3D cookie design and construction. On top of that, she’s simply a very nice person. So when she told us she had some lessons available online, we were very excited to watch them.

Well, now that we’ve watched every second of each of her 16 video tutorials we can tell you that they are awesome!

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The lessons are based off of her book “Ultimate Cookies”. But even if you have the book, it’s so useful to actually see the techniques she shows in video format. She covers a LOT of techniques too! She starts with the basics making icing, cutting out cookies, making parchment cones, her favorite tools, and then outlining and flooding. Then she gets into all sorts of fun stuff like marbling, stenciling, using rubber stamps on cookies, applique work, wafer paper, and more.

One of the coolest things about Julia and her decorating philosophy is that she’s a minimalist when it comes to tools. That means that she’ll show you how to get the very most out of very basic and inexpensive equipment. Seriously – you can spend a small fortune on tips, and bags, and couplers, and squeeze bottles… or check out all that Julia does with a sheet of parchment paper. It really is amazing – and VERY encouraging to anyone wanting to learn how to decorate. It really doesn’t take much to do some very beautiful work.

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So these are videos you need to pay for to view, but they are WELL worth the very reasonable price. You can actually just pick and choose the individual lessons for a couple bucks a piece, but the price for the whole set is a meager $12.99. It gives you plenty of time to watch them too, so you can look back and review specific lessons at your leisure.

So yeah, this gets an easy two thumbs up from us. Karen’s Cookies has always been about being the best resource we can to budding cookie artists, so we simply cannot pass up the opportunity to give Julia M. Usher and her Ultimate Cookie Decorating Series our full endorsement and encourage you to check her out.

Julia’s video series can be purchased securely and viewed through Youreeeka.com. Click here or on the image below to check out a free preview.

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Twelve Shades of Pink- A Guest Post

14 Mar

Hey guess what? I’m still alive! I’m embarrassed by the huge lapse of time that has passed since I last wrote, and the longer it goes, the more embarrassing it is to get back to it. I was dreading this “Hey, remember me?” first post back, and then I got an email from Anne. First of all, can I just say that I love Anne? I think the first time I talked to her was maybe 3 years ago (ish?) and from the first time I talked to her, I loved her. She is such a sweet lady, and her cookies are ADORABLE!! If you haven’t seen her site yet, do yourself a favor and get on over there. We can wait for you to come back.

So anyway, back to Anne saving my blog— She sent me an email and was gracious enough to offer to share her fun new findings with my readers.  I was so happy and relieved that she could take the burden of my first post back.  Thank you Anne!  You truly saved my sanity and my blog.  I am honored to have you be my very first guest post ever. And so without further ado…. I give you Anne:

Hi, my name is Anne Yorks and I love decorating cookies. So much so, that I have a little cookie shop online called Flour Box Bakery. I do cookie stuff every day…and even if I’m not decorating, I’m still thinking about COOKIES!

But as much as I love to decorate, I hate to clean up icing bags. AND, I really don’t like mixing all those colors. It’s super time consuming. Thankfully, Karen has a solution to the messy piping bag problem. And, I think I have finally found a solution to making color mixing a little easier.

For a long time, I have used Wilton food colors. They are easily accessible and they have a nice selection of color choices. However, I have recently discovered the wonders of AmeriColor gel pastes. I think I will continue to use a few of my favorite Wilton colors, but I am starting to phase my stock to AmeriColor. Here’s why…no toothpicks! Just squeeze and voila! I don’t know that using a toothpick is so unbearable, but squeezing is just so much easier (for me). Plus, I like the quality of the AmeriColor gel pastes.

In order to take them for a test drive I made these…

A dozen flowers in TWELVE different shades of pink. For someone who does not enjoy mixing colors…this was actually a fun experiment. (By the way, I should mention these are chocolate roll-out cookies. I used the amazing and delicious recipe from Georganne of LilaLoa. It is the best. Ever!)

Here is my messy counter from mixing colors. I started with white royal icing (and it was 20-second consistency – an icing consistency I learned from Sugarbelle). I squeezed one little drop of pink food coloring into the white. I then made my first icing bag.

Then, I added a second drop of food coloring. I mixed it up and made my second shade of pink icing.

After that, I added a third drop of pink. I mixed it. I made my third bag of pink icing.

And so on until I had 12 shades of pink. Using the AmeriColor bottle made this process pain free.

The first pink was so pale it almost looked white.

But by the end…the pink was dramatic. I loved this little experiment and I was so thankful to have my AmeriColor gel paste to help me.

I should mention that I wrote this blog post on my own…without any prodding or bribing from Karen or AmeriColor. The opinions expressed here are mine and I think each cookie decorator does things a little differently. This is just my little experiment and my experience.

Happy decorating to you and I hope you’ll visit me next time on my blog at Flour Box Bakery online.

Thank you again Anne!! Your cookies are gorgeous! It makes me want to get in the kitchen and get baking. Hmmm…. I just may do that.

Just a quickie… and a giveaway *GIVEAWAY CLOSED*

16 Nov

I told you I’d show you really quickly how I pieced together my Indians. It’s super easy, and even easier if you have a plain tombstone cookie cutter, which I didn’t have. I need to get one of those…

But since I don’t have one, I used these three sets of cutters:

The rectangle set, oval set, and the medium aspic cutter set. I have recently seen the light about the awesome versatility of the basic cutter shapes. Sometimes there just isn’t the “perfect” cutter shape, and you have to do a little doctoring.

So for for each pair of Indians, I cut one oval, one rectangle, and two teardrops.

Cut the oval and the rectangle in half.

Cut a little bit from the teardrop using the oval cutter.

Then put all your pieces together like a puzzle.

Then bake and decorate. I didn’t do a step-by-step tutorial on the decorating, but it was similar to the pilgrims. I used a 1 1/2″ circle cutter as a template for their heads, then drew on the hair, neck, shoulders and feather. I did the faces just like I did on the pilgrims.

I left the feather off of the girl, so if you have a plain tombstone cutter, she would be easy as can be. You could always add more than one feather too. Be creative. :)

I’ve showed you recently the fun things that you can do with plain rectangles and ovals. And I’m working on a top-secret project right now that I’ll post after Christmas that shows even more versatility with one of the basic shapes (can you guess which one?). It’s turning out to be lots of fun! So stay tuned for that…

But in the meantime, you need your own super-duper set of basic shapes. Comment on this post, and one lucky winner (chosen at random) will get the aspic cutters:

and the rectangle cutters:

And the oval cutters:

And the nylon circle cutters:

and the triangle cutters:

And the hexagon cutters:

and the square cutters:

And the blossom cutters:

AND a cool set of heart cutters that I don’t have a picture of because they’re not even in my store yet. But you’ll like them.

That’s a lot of cookie cutters!

Just comment on this post by Friday, November 18 at midnight (wherever you are!), and I’ll choose one winner using Random.org to win all 9 sets of cutters. Please enter only once. Good luck!

Pilgrim Tutorial

14 Nov

Thanksgiving is just over a week away, and I have a few more cookies to show you so that you can get decorating! What would Thanksgiving be without Pilgrims and Indians?

I’m going to show you how to do the pilgrims. For a great Indian tutorial, go check out Sugarbelle’s blog today!

It’s hard to find cute people cookie cutters. I wanted to do some pilgrims, but couldn’t find a cutter that would work. I had an idea of how to piece together a pilgrim boy (I’ll show you that in a minute), but I had no idea how to do a pilgrim girl.

So I was baking some cookies for my Leaves and Acorns post, and I used the Wilton Leaves and Acorns cutter set. I was cutting out the cookies, and I got to the largest acorn. I thought, “Who needs an acorn this big?? Acorns are small!” But I baked one anyway because I wanted one of each size. As I was pulling the tray of cookies out of the oven, the large acorn was up-side down, and I had an Oprah “aha” moment. I thought it might just make a cute girl pilgrim.

On one of these, I cut off the “stem” of the acorn, and the other I left it on. You can decide which way you like it best when you’re doing it. Here’s how you make her.

Bake some large acorn cookies. Let ‘em cool.

Unless you’re awesome at free-handing circles, find a circle template to trace around. I used the smallest circle from the Nylon Circle set, which happens to be 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Use a boo-boo stick (or some other sharp object) to trace around it on your cookie.

Brush off the crumbs, and you’ll be left with a nice outline to follow.

Trace around the outline with black frosting (I used a 1.5 PME tip)

Next, draw two lines out from your circle towards the outside edges.

Connect the two lines with a swooping arch.

Then finish the hat.

Draw in some hair:

And then draw a collar.

There’s your pilgrim girl outline. Now I’m going to show you how to do the boy, and after that, I’ll show you what to do next.

For the boy, I had a small pilgrim hat cutter that I wanted to use to piece a guy together. So I used that and the second-smallest circle from the nylon circle set (1 7/8″, but a 2″ cutter would do!). Cut one hat, and two circles, and then cut one of the circles in half.

Cut a chunk off one of the circles using the same size cutter you used to cut your circles.

Fit one of the half-circles into the first circle.

Then trim off the top of the circle with the pilgrim hat.

And fit the hat into place.

If you happen to have a large snowman cookie cutter with a top hat, you could chop him in half and it would be the same effect. I just didn’t have one large enough.

Bake him up and let him cool. Use the 1 1/2″ circle template (same one you used on the girl), to mark where is face is.

Outline the hat. It’s super easy to do because you’ll see the lines from where you pieced him together. Go ahead and fill in the hat band while you’re at it.

Then outline the head:

Add some ears:

And some hair. Notice I went outside the lines a little. I wanted his hair to be a little wider than his face. No problem. Nothing a boo boo stick won’t fix.

Scrape out the outlines from inside the hair area. Add a collar.

Now you’re ready to add some color. There is definitely no right or wrong way to fill these sections in. This is just how I did it. First I filled in their faces.

By the way, this is all Meringue Powder Buttercream that has been thinned to the point that it will smooth out at the count of about 8 seconds. Royal Icing would also work. This flesh color was Copper Americolor with the tiniest drop of Warm Brown.

Next, fill in their hair. I did these two different shades of brown, just because I happened to have it, but no need to make two different colors. They’ll look cute all matchy-matchy, too.

Next fill in the girl’s hat, and their collars.

Fill in the guy’s hat with gray (mostly Bright White, with a little drop of Super Black), and the bitty parts of their shirts black.

After it dries for a bit, go back and add some outlining to their hair to give it some texture. I just used the same color, and small tip (#1).

This next step is totally optional. I actually really hated it after I did it, and wished I hadn’t. But then it started to grow on me. So it’s up to you! If desired, add some pleat marks to the girl’s hat. Or not.

  Also add some white buttons to their shirts.  And a yellow buckle to the boy’s hat.

Then the faces. OHHHHH the faces! I really hate doing faces. This is how I did it the first time, and I really, truly hated how they looked. I think maybe it was the nose. I don’t know.  Noses are hard. So before you put a face on your pilgrims, practice a little, and also maybe check out how Sugarbelle does faces, because they’re totally cute.

On the next ones I did, I stole the Sugarbelle nose, and they were much cuter:

The way I make eyelashes is really easy (but I didn’t get a picture). Pipe on some black ovals in pretty thin frosting. Then, working quickly while the frosting is still wet,  use the tip of a sharp boo boo stick to pull the eyelashes outward (sometimes boo boo sticks can get a little dull with use. Keep one sharp for jobs like this).  It might take a few tries, but you’ll get the hang of it.

After you’re done, add a little dot of white frosting to the eye to give it some sparkle. And you’re done!

The girls:

The boys:

And here they are with their Indian friends:

Coming up, I’ll show you how I pieced my Indian together. But don’t forget that Sugarbelle has an Indian tutorial TODAY if you want to get decorating.

Happy week-before-Thanksgiving!

Easy Jack-o-Lanterns

28 Oct

Sometimes I think decorated cookies are so much a part of my kids’ lives that they are no longer impressed and/or interested in them. But every once in a while, they will surprise me. Like the other day when I was at the school volunteering and one of my sixth-grader’s classmates came up to me and said, “Hey, aren’t you Casey’s mom?” I said, “Yes, I am”, to which she replied “Oh, cool! Casey said you’re the best cookie decorator in the WORLD and you’re going to make cookies for the whole sixth grade for Halloween!”  Reaaaaallllly….

Sure enough, after checking with Casey, I find it is true that I have been volunteered to supply cookies to the 6th grade. So I needed a “cool” (6th grade cool) idea that would be easy and fast since I had a whole lot of ‘em to do. Very soon afterward, I saw this post by Sweet Sugarbelle. It was an answer to prayer. Ok, maybe not really. But it did save my bacon. Here’s what I made:

I did it a little bit differently than she did, so check out her post, too, and choose which way you want to do it. Her way is a little bit neater, but I think my way is a teensy bit faster, which is what I was aiming for for this project. Here’s how I did it.

First bake a ton of pumpkin cookies. I used the basic pumpkin cutter that comes in a lot of Wilton sets. This one happened to be from the Spooky Shapes set, but it is also in several other sets.

Next, I stenciled on some faces using the Jack-o-Lantern stencil from the Wilton Halloween Stencils. (This method would also be cool on plain circles or squares using some of the other stencil shapes.)

To stencil, I use an offset spatula, and squeeze a little frosting onto it.

I’m using Royal Icing here, which is unusual for me. But Meringue Powder Buttercream would also work.

Then anchor the stencil to the cookie using two fingers, and swipe the frosting-ed spatula over the stencil.

Then carefully lift off the stencil.

Ok, now if you want your stencils to look nice and perfect, you’ll want to wash off the stencil in between each use. But if you’re in a hurry, and it doesn’t really matter how they look, then by all means, continue on without washing.

Like so.

Ha ha… I actually had some friends come over when I was at this point. I just kept praying that they wouldn’t walk into my kitchen. You don’t exactly want anyone to see them when they look like this.

I did some in black and some in yellow, and they looked equally horrible.

It looks like they have milk mustaches. But the good news is, that it doesn’t matter in the least. Yay!

Next, outline in orange. I used a PME 1.5 for outlining. It’s my favorite outliner!

Actually on the bottom three, I forgot to switch my tip, and outlined with a 2. Then I remembered and switched it back to the 1.5 for the rest. Can you see the difference? The 1.5 is just a little more defined. I like it better.

After outlining, you’ll want to wait a bit and let your outline dry. But if you’re doing a ton of them like I was, by the time you get to the last one, your first ones will be ready to fill in.

Fill in with a larger tip. I used a #2, but a #3 would also work. This is a cool trick I learned from Callye–

Fill in every-other section and let it dry for about a half hour. (Or, like the outlining, if you have several dozen to do, by the time you get to the last ones the first ones will be ready.) Doing it this way helps SO MUCH with keeping definition in your design. Best tip EVER. Thanks Sugarbelle!

Then fill in the remaining sections.

Then add a stem.

I usually do green stems on my pumpkins, but I had seen some pumpkins done by Laura at A Dozen Eggs that had brown stems, and I loved it!  So I had to try that this year.

You could add some green vines at this point, but I was in simplify mode, so I left them off. It’s cute either way.

Cute, easy, and you don’t have to have any artistic ability to do these.  You could try this method with all kinds of stencils.  I’m definitely going to keep it in mind for Christmas cookies this year. Give it a try!

Patriotic Stars!

21 Jun

Here’s a fun little tutorial on decorating some simple patriotic stars.  Just in time for Independence Day coming up!  Enjoy…

 

Patriotic Stars Decorated Cookies

Bake a batch of star cookies using one of our recipes or your own. For every 24 large star cookies, make a batch of frosting using one of our frosting recipes.

Divide frosting into thirds. Color one third white using white coloring. Color the second third red, and color the final third blue.

Prepare 3 disposable bags, inserting a coupler into one bag, and #2 tips into the others. Fill the coupler bag with half of the red frosting. Fill the #2 bags with about a third of the blue and white frostings. Place a #2 tip on the coupler and secure with ring. Close all bags with rubber bands.

Turn remaining frosting into glaze by adding water, a few drops at a time, until it is a thin consistency. A few drops of glaze should disappear into the mass by the count of 6 or 7. The amount of glaze you need will depend on how thin you make it. If you run out of glaze, you can squeeze some of the frosting from your bags to make more.

These instructions include steps for two styles of star cookies, each having 5 steps.

STYLE 1


Pipe a wavy line across the middle of the star with blue frosting. This will make a dam for the glaze.


Glaze the cookie blue above the piped line. Allow to dry briefly, then glaze the remainder of cookie white.


Using tip #2, pipe a series of evenly-spaced vertical red lines on the bottom of the cookie. Switch to a #4 tip and fill in between every other set of lines to create broad stripes.


On the blue section of the cookie make several staggered blue dots. While the dots are still wet, use accent tweezers to place a white accent star on each dot.


Finish the cookie by adding a small blue bead border along the line where the blue and striped areas meet.

STYLE 2


Use red frosting with #2 tip to pipe a straight horizontal line across top 3rd of the cookie. Glaze top portion red down to that line. Allow to dry for a few minutes.


Glaze the next third of the cookie white. Push the glaze up neatly against the red line. Don’t worry about your precision at the bottom, as it will be covered in the next step.


After white glaze has dried, pipe a blue line over the white glaze, approximately 3/4 of an inch below the red line. Glaze below this line blue.


Pipe five evenly-spaced white dots across white section. Alternating colors, use accent tweezers to place red and blue accent stars on wet dots.


Outline star with white frosting. Finish by piping white bead borders on top and bottom of white section.


That’s all there is to it! Try out other fun patterns and designs. These are perfect for the 4th of July, a soldier’s care package or home coming, or any other patriotic occasion. Swap out colors to decorate for other countries. Have fun!

Baby Onesie Tutorial

8 Mar

We put this Baby Onesie tutorial up on our web site, so some of you may have already seen it, but I decided I’d better get it up on the blog, too!  Try some of the piped embellishments and see what you think. I love making baby cookies! :)

To make these cute cookies, start by baking a batch of onesie cookies using one of our recipes or your own. For every 2 dozen cookies, make a batch of Meringue Powder Buttercream or Royal Icing.

Mix colors according to your preferences, baby gender, etc. Since color combinations are endless, just remember a couple of rules. First, the outlines and piped designs take little frosting, so make smaller amounts of those colors, and larger amounts of the colors that will be used for glaze. Second, for all pastel colors, start with a tiny bit of coloring and add to it until you get the color you want. Add a few drops of Bright White to each color to soften it. For brighter colors, omit the white.

Select the tip sizes you will need for your design and insert them into disposable bags. The tips you need will depend on your desired piped design size. See the chart to below for help. For outlining, I prefer tip #2. Fill the bags with your colored frosting, and close them with rubber bands.


This chart shows approximate teardrop sizes using tips #1 – #4. It’s pretty hard to get true-to-life sizes on a computer screen, but it might at least give you an idea of their size in relation to each other. Your actual size will be a bit smaller than this illustration.

To make glaze, add water to frosting, a few drops at a time, until it is a thin consistency. A drop of glaze should disappear into the mass by 3 or 4 seconds.


Scoop glaze onto cookie with a spatula. Spread toward edges, adding more as needed, and scraping off any excess. Allow to dry for several hours.


Outline entire cookie with a #2 tip. Then use the illustration above as a guide for piping the seams for the sleeve and shoulder area.


Experiment with the necklines and sleeves to create different looks. Some options include broken lines for stitching, wavy lines for lace, and “train tracks” for ribbing.


Add different features (such as snaps and/or stitching) to finish the bottom.

All of the piped designs that follow are made with a series of teardrop shapes.
If you can master the teardrop, you can do any of these designs (and many others!) To make a teardrop, start with your bag at a 45 degree angle, with the tip slightly off the surface. Start squeezing until the round side of the teardrop is the desired size. Gradually release pressure as you pull back toward the tip of the drop. Stop squeezing, pull your bag away, and you’re done!


Hearts are two slanted teardrops with tails meeting. First make a right-pointing teardrop, then a left-pointing teardrop next to it.


Butterflies are made by piping two hearts, connected as shown. Finish by piping a thick line down the middle with another color.


Dragonflies are made just like butterflies, except the teardrop shapes are elongated as shown. To create the effect of flying, try piping a dotted path behind the bug.


The base of the duck is made with 3 yellow teardrops. Curve the ends of the body and wing upward as shown. Using a smaller tip, pipe a beak with 2 tiny teardrops, and an eye with a small dot.


Create cute rose buds by starting with a single teardrop. Follow with a piped swirl on top using tip #1. Finally add leaves by piping two smaller green teardrops.


To create simple flowers, pipe inward-facing teardrops for petals. Then add a large dot in the center, overlapping the tails. You can also add a green teardrop or two for leaves.


So there you go! Master these simple tear drops and all sorts of designs are open to you! Use the examples of onesie cookies on this page as inspiration or come up with your own designs.

We have cookie decorating kits on our web site that compile everything you need for specific cookie projects like this one. In the Onesie Cookie Decorating Kit you’ll find…

all the tools you need to decorate some cute onesie cookies:

Instruction card
Recipe sheet
Onesie Cookie Cutter
7 Soft gel paste colors: Soft Pink, Sky Blue, Lemon Yellow, Bright White, Mint Green, Violet, and Orange
3 oz. premium Meringue powder
Cookie decorating spatula with wooden handle and stainless steel blade
12 disposable decorating bags
1 package small rubber bands
Cookie scraper
4 metal decorating tips- #1, #2, #3, #4

 

Would you like to make some onesie cookies? Comment on this post by Midnight on Wednesday, March 9th, and you’ll be entered to win a Onesie Cookie Decorating Kit all your own. This time, I’ll let my daughter pick the winning number because the 9th is her birthday, and she asks me every time I do a giveaway if she can PLEEEEEEEEEEEASE pick the number. Since it’s her birthday, I’ll let her pick this time. I think it’s probably as good as Random.org!

 

Good luck!
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