The day has finally come! I feel like I’ve been holding this secret in forever.
A few weeks ago, the Wilton Treat Team was asked if we’d like to do a Secret Santa cookie swap amongst each other. With me never taking part but always having the urge to participate in one, I jumped at the idea!
I thought the idea sounded like a blast. I was already thinking about the cookie I could make – a hot cocoa crinkle cookie that I love to put together this time of year.
But no, there was a catch! Turns out the cookie had to be crafted/decorated in a taste or style that fit the person they’re for.
Sweet! That’s a great twist, isn’t it? Makes everything about the swap even more exciting.
Turns out the blogger chosen for me was Danielle Doerr from Framed Frosting! It was exciting to get her as my Secret cookie swapping Santa. Her and I have chatted a few times before and she seems real cool. I figured she’d be easy to base a cookie on.
Or so I thought…
A few weeks went by and I had no idea what to do!
I resorted to stalki… no, wait, that’s a bad word. I began researching her social media accounts, trying to find something. I even entered the scary, forbidden land known as Facebook in an attempt to dig something up I could use. I finally found something on Instagram talking about how much she loves fudge oat bars from Starbucks.
Boom! I could make her those! I knew she’d love them, so it’ll be great!
Wrong. It wasn’t until after I got back from the store where I was buying the condensed milk for the Starbucks treats that the rules of the Swap rang in my head…
“Please create a recipe or decorate cookies in a taste/style you feel is well-suited for Danielle….”
It was echoing. Like the ghostly warnings of Jacob Marley. Bouncing off the walls and ringing in my head. I dropped to my knees and held the cans of evaporated milk to my forehead as if they were the chains I was now cursed to carry for eternity. All while thinking out loud, screaming at my chains, “they’re cookies! Why does this have to be so difficult!?!”
Then, as my wife was looking at me on the kitchen floor, looking at and talking to two cans of evaporated milk – probably wondering if this is the same man she trusts with her children – I had a House moment. You know what I’m talking about! In the most desperate time of need, when all else seemed doomed, something insanely random happened that made me stare off into space and then walk away with a purpose.
Going back to Danielle’s Instagram, I remember from
stalking researching it there was something she always posted about. Her nails! I remember even complimenting her on the baseball design from the Kansas City game at the World Series.
Hey, look, I know what you’re thinking. But if I’m here, as a man with 2 kids and a loving wife, talking to you on my food blog about decorating cookies, then it’s not above me to say that I complimented a girl on her nails. And besides, they were baseball themed. And that’s a sport. So it’s ok.
Anyway, you insensitive pigs, I took notice of Danielle’s love for nail art. I also took notice of her being a consultant for Jamberry. And a successful one from what I hear!
It’s here that I knew I found my cookie! Looking on the Jamberry site – after explaining the situation to my wife in case she came across my browser history and continued her suspicions of me – I looked at the holiday line.
At first, I picked out like 4 or 5. They all seemed doable and like something that I can easily do. But as time went on, and the hectic rush that is the holiday season began sinking its claws into my life, 4 or 5 designs turned into 2 or 3. Then really looking at those designs, and all of a sudden remembering the crazy fact that I have never iced cookies before (yeah, seriously), those 2 or 3 designs turned into 1.
Yup, just 1! And I was totally cool with it. I felt really bad thinking it was the easiest, plainest design on there. But with time against me and my decorating skills equalling that of a grade schooler, I thought I was doing pretty good for myself. Also, there’s the whole thing of me being a guy. So the effort of just going to the site itself should’ve been enough. 😀
Anyway, that’s the design I went with. I figured it’s simple with 3 colors, basic shapes, and nothing crazy. Perfect for the cookie decorating n00b I am.
I was contemplating the shape of the cookies and if I was going to go traditional cookie cutter shapes or not. But the design might’ve gotten lost in those. So I went with the same shape the nail art designs are advertised on the site with.
Sadly, I didn’t have said shaped cookie cutter, so I had to free hand it with a paring knife. A paring knife! Some were bigger, some were smaller. Some had jagged edges, and some were perfect.. for testing on….. Point is, I did my best and that’s what counts, right!?
After thinking about it, of course when everything was done, I could’ve easily bent a cookie cutter I didn’t regularly use. It would’ve been faster, delivered a better product, and I would’ve felt like MacGyver. But no, I wasn’t thinking!
As for the cookie, I knew it was going to be chocolate. It had to be. I noticed she loves chocolate, and really, who doesn’t? So I gambled on a recipe I found and as it turns out, it’s pretty amazing. It’s a chocolate sugar cookie, but it’s so chewy and fudgy, it tastes like a straight up brownie. Seriously, if you don’t have a glass of milk handy, you’ll feel like your life has amounted to nothing till you fill the milkless void that was just created. Yes, this cookie makes you rethink your life and your accomplishments. It’s that freaking great.
For the icing, I didn’t go traditional. Usually for sugar cookies, a lot of people like going with egg whites. But since I didn’t know if Danielle shares the same iffy allergy as my wife when it comes to eggs, I played it safe and went with a sugar and milk based icing. It works really good and it’s what I’ll always use from now on. You know, because this is the first time I iced cookies. I’d just like to put that out there again.
Alright! You have the backstory and what led me to deciding what I was going to do. It was a long read, I know. But I had to share the inner struggles with Ghosts of Christmas Pasts, the narrowing down of the design, and you even have the reasoning behind the choice of cookie and icing. I think you’re ready for a peek behind the curtain.
So without further ado…
Chocolate Cutout Cookies
1 1/2 cups – Flour
3/4 cup – Cocoa Powder
1 1/4 teaspoon – Baking Powder
1/8 teaspoon – Salt
3/4 cup – Butter, softened
1 1/4 cups – Sugar
1 each – Egg
For the border icing:
1 cup – Powdered Sugar
1/2 teaspoon – Vanilla or other extract
2 to 2 1/2 tablespoons – Milk
For the flood icing:
Same as above, but add 1/2 – 1 tablespoons of milk
- I doubled the recipe and it came out perfectly fine. Enough for about 20 Jamberry cookies and 10ish regular cutout cookies.
- No. That still wasn’t enough.
- Instead of rolling out the cookies in powdered sugar like you normally would, I used cocoa powder. That way I didn’t have to worry about random patches of sugar on my chocolate.
- Like most cutout doughs, this should be refrigerated for a few hours. Mine was wrapped up good and refrigerated for 2 days. Because life.
- Once you start to work it, it’ll be more crumbly than rollable. Just knead it for a minute or so and it’ll roll like Limp Bizkit. #RollinRollinRollinRollin #HashtagsFromTheYear2000
- Ok, the icing. It’s super simple to put together and I’m glad because I feel like I made it a hundred times. If it needed to be sifted I would’ve been highly annoyed.
- There are 2 different icings – Border and Flood. The Border icing should be self explanatory. This is the stiffer icing that will go around the cookie. It’s also used for the belt and the buckle. Since those are the only features of the cookie, you want to make sure they stay strong. The Flood icing does exactly that – it floods the cookie. It’s what puts the border icing to work. The flood icing isn’t as thick so it can easily spread out, or [smacks forehead] flood, the cookie within the confines of the border icing.
- To be safe I doubled each icing. I wound up with a little bit left over of each, but with minimal ingredients used, I didn’t lose any sleep from wasting any. Besides, when you’re making cookies, there’s no such thing as extra icing, is there?
- The flavoring! The recipe calls for vanilla extract. Which is great and all. But in my chaos, I didn’t think to deviate from it like I normally would’ve done. Because knowing Danielle’s love for Starbucks I would’ve spiked the icing with my annoying and needy coffee liqueur. Unfortunately, I didn’t think about it until I was in the car taking the box of cookies to the post office. Sorry, D. You gets plain ol’ vanilla icing.
- So keep that in mind. You can flavor it with whatever you enjoy. Almond extract, peppermint extract, coffee liqueur, whatever you got. Spice it up and give the icing some love.
- I used Wilton color gels for colors. It’s pretty much all I use so you shouldn’t have expected otherwise. Just remember, use a toothpick! A little goes a long way.
- When piping, if you ever wonder where to put what, always refer to the original art. I started piping the buckles quickly, and in a rush, I didn’t notice there weren’t any spaces between the buckle and the belt. It left half the batch with tighter, better looking buckles than the other half. Professor Moody was right – Constant vigilance!
Colors and decorating tips
I figured I’d separate this part since it’s fairly important.
There are 3 colors I used, so if you really want to recreate these cookies, pay attention.
- For the black I used Black.
See, aren’t you glad you’re paying attention?
- I used Christmas Red for the red, and to it, I added a single little drop of black. Did it make a difference? I sure like to think so. I mean, I felt really mad scientist-like doing it.
- And Golden Yellow for the buckle. I tried to use Copper at first but… well, let’s just say it’s better to go with Golden Yellow. The original design had a sort of sparkly gold look to it. Since I didn’t have a Wilton color gel for sort of sparkly gold, I just went with golden yellow. A little brighter than I would have liked but it worked good. Guess I should’ve put on my lab coat and added a dot of black to that too.
I used 3 different tips:
- A No.3 Round tip for the border and the belt.
- A No.5 Round tip for flooding with the red.
- And a No.2 Round tip for the belt buckle.
Alright, I think most of the need-to-know stuff is out of the way. Let’s stop lolly gagging and just get to the deets.
First thing we have to do is the dough. And the first thing in making the dough is sifting.
- So sift together the cocoa, flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix it up then set it aside.
House Elves love to mix.
- Take your softened butter that is probably half melted since you just took it out of the microwave because you forgot to leave it out to soften before you started, and cream it with the sugar. Add the egg and once it’s in there good, add the sifted dry ingredients. Mix till it’s dough.
- Divide the dough in 2 and form a disc or a ball or whatever floats your… a boat. Go ahead and form a boat. Wrap them up and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, matey.
- When you’re ready to get them going, turn the oven on to 375. Spread some cocoa powder on your work surface and start to knead the dough a little bit. Once it feels good, start rolling it out.
- Don’t be afraid of the cocoa powder either. You don’t want to roll it, cut it, and have your dough stuck to the counter. You’re looking for around 1/8th inch thick or so. Once you’re there, start cutting.
- I cut 2 lines perpendicular to each other, and connected the top and bottom with small arched lines.
Try and use a sharp knife, it helps. And if you feel it dragging and not really slicing through the dough, be sure to clean the knife before each slice. You can cut them whatever size you want, which is the benefit of free-handing them. But try and keep them more wide than narrow. 1 1/4 inches wide should be alright.
- After you have as many as you can cut from that sheet of dough, remove the excess so you can easily pick up what you cut out.
If you feel your free-hand cookie cutting skills aren’t up to par. Worry not! Just push the dough around and shape it the way it should be. I promise, no one is watching.
- Place them on a sprayed sheet pan, and continue rolling the dough and cutting till you fill up the pan. Try and keep the cookies about 1 1/2 inches away from each other so they can get proper circulation in the oven.
- Bake them for 8-10 minutes. I was good at an even 9 but ovens vary. Let them cool on the sheet pan for a few minutes before putting them on the cooling rack where they have to cool completely before icing.
Now for the decorating…
As I have tried mentioning numerous times, this is my first time icing cookies. But with some general knowledge I was able to get by. Maybe there were easier ways of doing it, but hey, this worked for me!
- First, gotta make the icing. So just combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix.
And where there’s mixing!
Boom, You just made icing! Look out, world! Nothing can stop you now!
I found it easier to divide the border icing into 3 different containers – one for black, one for golden yellow, and one left uncolored – and mix all the colors in one shot.
I was having fun Instagramming the blotches of coloring. I didn’t notice it till a friend pointed it out, but I inadvertently swirled the Thundercats logo!
- However you do it, once all the colors are ready, Get your piping bag all set up and pour the uncolored one in first. (Don’t pay attention to the color in the picture below. It was a long day. Do as I say, not as I do!)
If you’re having trouble pouring the icing into a bag, just fold the bag over onto a cup. Works like a charm. And no, it doesn’t have to be a Destiny cup.
- When ready, make a border around all the cookies.
Try and give yourself a good amount of space since the icing process needs the cookies to lay flat without being touched for a while.
- Next, do it all over again with the black icing. This time though, you’re just doing a straight line across the width of the cookie.
- After the belts are done, it’s the red icings turn. Remember, this is the flood icing so it’s a different beast. Go ahead and start filling up the cookies.
If you’re going and you notice it’s not flooding as much as you’d like. Don’t panic! Just be like me and push it along with a toothpick.
Once you have the red icing down, you might run into a few cookies where the belt is being overcomed by the suit. It looks like poor Santa is letting himself go, but you can fix it! Just grab the black icing and pipe a new belt on top of it. Crisis averted.
- Ok, the home stretch! Get your golden yellow icing in a bag and start piping the buckle. Remember, constant vigilance! Keep an eye on the original nail art because the buckle can make or break the design. It’s the only thing that really stands out in the cookie so you have to make it good. (Not like I did with this cookie in particular. Notice I started too far down and went too far up.)
What I noticed was the left side of the buckle ran straight down the middle of the cookie. So it’s an easy starting point. Also, like I said before, keep the buckle on the belt. I got excited and before I noticed, I started making buckles bigger than the belt and it just looked ridiculously sloppy compared to the correct ones. Go ahead, look at the purposely unfocused cookies in that pic compared to the one in the front.
And that’s it! A lot of work huh? Not really, but it does seem like it. Trust me, I made it easy on myself. I was totally planning more designs. More complicated too. I’m pretty sure I would’ve been checked into a mental hospital if I tried to do them, not to mention the star of future “Top ‘Nailed It!’ Pinterest Fails”. God, those compilations are hilarious.
I don’t know if I mentioned this before… but this is the first time I’ve iced cookies! I know right?!?! What a shocker! Seriously, I was nerve racked all the way up to the end. I was worried my plans would fall through and they’d look terrible. But all in all, I’m pretty happy with how they came out.
Not to mention the way these pictures came out! I’m sorry, I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but I impressed myself! I need to start taking pictures at the dining room table more often instead of that boring kitchen counter.
If for some insanely bizarre reason I make Jamberry style cookies again (I mean, how many more times can my Man Card be taken away, right?), I know there are a few things I’d do differently. But for the most part, I’m happy with the process!
Here’s to hoping Danielle enjoyed them! I’m looking forward to her comment here after she sees the thought process leading up to them.
And if I don’t post anything else, I hope everyone reading this has a very merry Christmas!!