Have you baked your sugar cookies based on the Wilton recipe I shared in my previous post? Then you are ready for the next step: decorating them.
Other cookie decorators use royal icing, and they have their own recipe. Meanwhile, I decorate my sugar cookies using Wilton color flow. Wilton also has it’s own royal icing recipe, but it dries very hard and they don’t recommend it for sugar cookie decorations, unless you want broken teeth.
The Wilton color flow recipe uses Wilton meringue powder, which is quite difficult to find here in the Philippines. I usually order it from Gourdo’s, and I have found a few online suppliers to order from. Wilton meringue powder costs around 450 pesos (I’ve included the shipping cost) per 4 oz. container, but a little goes a long way. I like using it because it makes the color flow more stable, it adds flavor, and it smells so good! I’ve tried other meringue powder brands to substitute Wilton, but they don’t work and taste as well (after all, the Wilton color flow recipe was formulated for use with Wilton meringue powder! Duh! :D). I’ve tried traditional royal icing with egg white, which are used by other cookie decorators, but I don’t like it because (1) they don’t give a shiny surface when dry (it was probably just the recipe that I used, I’m not sure), (2) I can smell raw eggs, and (3) the possibility of Salmonella.
Wilton color flow recipe (a copy of the recipe is included in every meringue powder container):
- 4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
- 1 tbsp. Wilton meringue powder
- 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- Place sugar and meringue powder in a bowl and slowly add in water. Start electric hand mixer at slow speed, and gradually increase speed to medium. Mix for five minutes. Cover with damp cloth to avoid “crusting.” To color, simply add a few drops of gel paste and mix with a spoon.
Here are two videos that you should watch before you start decorating with color flow or royal icing.
Wilton video on color flow
Julia Usher is one of my cookie goddesses. Her cookie advice is gold.
Color flow/royal icing is very tricky to work with. If you haven’t mastered it yet, you might encounter problems that will make you give up and throw away your piping bag. The weather plays a big part in keeping the right consistency for decorating. There are only two scenarios for us cookie decorators here in the Philippines: decorating on a very hot day (especially during summer and decorating on a rainy day (or when there’s a typhoon). These are the things that you should note.
- If it’s very hot, you might need more than 1/2 cup of water to achieve the right consistency for decorating. You’ll find that while you are still mixing the color flow, it is runny. But after you set it aside while you are preparing the piping bag and cookies (especially if you left your mixture uncovered), it has already dried out and a crust has formed on the top. Simply add water, drop by drop, and mix again with a spoon. You have to work fast so that the color flow doesn’t dry up again. Make sure that you don’t overfill your bag. The hotter the weather, the thicker the color flow will become. An overfilled bag will be difficult to handle, and it will give you arm and back pain. Also, if the color flow dries out fast, it will clog the piping tip/nozzle.
- On hot and sunny days, the color flow could be air-dried within two hours. Sunny days bring out the shiniest and smoothest color flow surface you can ever achieve.
- If it’s rainy, control the water that you add to the dry ingredients very carefully. Sugar attracts moisture, and you’ll find the color flow to be thinner than you want it to be if you pour all the water into the sugar in one go. One way to fix this situation is to reduce the amount of meringue powder that you put in the mixture while increasing the amount of confectioners’ sugar.
- On rainy days, it could take the entire day or more to dry the color flow decoration on your cookie. One way to help dry cookies is to place them in an air-conditioned room. Set the air conditioner to activate its dehumidifying function. Color flow does not dry up nicely on rainy days. The color is dull, and the surface is porous. This is why I prefer using fondant in decorating sugar cookies during rainy days.
Fondant can definitely be used to decorate sugar cookies. You won’t have problems in drying it, and you can add more details and textures, but I personally think it does not taste as great as a cookie decorated with sugar icing. However, when there are details or shapes that need to be cut out or mass produced and when the weather is not favorable, fondant decorations is the way to go.
You can also do a combination of royal icing and fondant decorations.
When using fondant to decorate, you can actually use the techniques that you use in decorating cakes and cupcakes on your cookies. You can add textures, ruffles, and layers of design details. Anything goes!
One question you might have: How do you stick the fondant on the cookie?
I’ve seen other cookie decorators brush corn syrup on the cookies to stick the fondant. Personally, I use confectioners’ sugar diluted in a little water or thinned down color flow to stick the fondant on the cookie.
Painting on cookies
Painting is another technique that you can use to decorate customized sugar cookies.
I use gel paste diluted in vodka to paint on the dried color flow. I let the painted cookie dry for about an hour before I wrap them up individually.
Color flow/royal icing transfers
If you have batches of cookies to decorate with the same design, it might be a good idea to have the design elements prepared ahead of time by making color flow/royal icing transfers. You can print designs on a sheet of bond paper, stick a transparent plastic sheet on top, and trace the image with the use of color flow/royal icing.
I hope you learned a lot from this post. If you have other questions, just drop me a comment or send me a message here or in my Facebook account. You can also check out the YouTube channels of the following cookie decorating experts: Julia Usher, SweetAmbs Cookies, Haniela’s, Montreal Confections, and SweetSugarbelle. Get design inspirations from The Painted Box, Funky Cookie Studio, You Can Call Me Sweetie, Butterwinks, and The Flour Bakery. They are my favorites, and I’ve learned a lot from them.