Mar 05

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50+ Secrets of a Cookie Decorator

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Secrets of a Cookie Decorator – What the recipe books don’t tell you!

I’m here to share them with you, in no particular order, because that would take way more time for me to do than is worthwhile when I could be cookie decorating instead! Here are some secrets you may or may not know about cookie decorating, cookie decorators, and me… I’d love to hear your sweet little secrets too if you’d like to share them. Join me in the comment section below.

Quick side note – these cookie cookies above, are from a plate I bought at the Hallmark store. More on them in another post soon.

1. My cookies didn’t look as pretty when I began.

2. Practice does help. That being said, knowing the right decorating tips will get you on the road to creating pretty cookies, quickly. (Practice helps with photography too – still learning lots about that!).

3. Figuring out icing consistency made the biggest difference in improving my cookie decorating.

4. I have almost all cookie decorating books I can get my hands on. Who says you need to share the bookshelf with your husband?

5. The cookie books are beautiful, but I learned through trial and error. For some reason it just didn’t click when I read, “Your pastry-bag tip shouldn’t touch the cookie surface but rather should hover just above it…” (pg. 104 of Cookie Craft - an awesome book btw. I’m just a hands-on learner! Translation – I’m a little slow). With practice, one day I just did it, and had an ‘ah-ha’ moment. I learn well with video or photos. There weren’t very many videos or step by step photos on decorating cookies when I first learned how to.

6. My hand did want to use a piping bag like a pen when I first began. After all, that’s what my hand knew. It can be re-trained. ;-)

7. It does get easier easy.

8. I see the world in cookies. I don’t come up with pretty designs all on my own. I copy many designs with permission and/or attribution to the artists. The world is my inspiration…. Fabric, stickers, scrapbooking paper, ads, nature, holidays, paint palettes, books, art… it all has cookie potential!

9. The Kopykake projector. {I can’t really draw, unless doodles qualify as drawing}. I use a kopykake projector.

10. Alternatives to the kopykake projector. {If you can’t draw, and can’t buy a projector}.

11. Bigger cookies are easier to decorate in terms of detail.

12. I had no real interest in baking until 2003, at age, ahem, never mind, until 2003.

13. Don’t be afraid to “fail”. Sometimes I make cookie designs I don’t really like… and I don’t post them. Like the postcard cookie below – I wasn’t thrilled with my piping there, so I didn’t even end up taking photos of it, hence the screen shot of the video they briefly appear in. Experiment, have fun with it, and if you don’t end up liking a cookie, that’s okay!

13. I’ve stopped talking about cookie decorating with my off-line friends, family, and colleagues. I know the eyes-glazing-over-look now, and just save the cookie talk for you. (Thank you! Mwah!)

14. Truly, my hands are shaky. I don’t even drink coffee. (But generally eat large amounts of chocolate). Resting my arms/wrists on the table when I decorate helps.

15. I once had to ask a friend to change her request for 100 motorcycle cookies to another theme, when I realized I wouldn’t be able to make a nice looking cookie (didn’t have the projector then).

16. When someone gives me a gift, I’m looking at the design of the wrapping paper and wondering how I can make it into a cookie.

17. One of my first cookie decorating heros was Nancy’s Fancy Cookies & Cakes. Her cookies were real works of art. She no longer has a web page. If she ever comes back, and she doesn’t mind of course, I will direct you to her right away. With her permission it would not be considered stalking (I think…LOL).

18. I love love love decorating with all my heart. New cookie designs make me excited and happy to get out of bed in the morning. (Most days).

19. Decorating cookies can be a zen experience in that you focus on nothing else than what you’re doing, so stress and worries fall away, and pretty cookies are the result.

20. Giving away the cookies is so much fun. People (who don’t decorate cookies), think they’re amazing.

21. Cookie decorating makes you feel good.

22. Sometimes, cookie decorating can be frustrating… Spots form on cookies due to humidity, colours bleed, you feel time pressured…

23. But, that can be fixed…. Here’s what to do about humidity , bleeding, and a schedule to help you out.

24. I make mistakes… and I cover them up. One example – The icing ran over on one yellow owl below, so I covered the area later with leaves.

25. I am forever stocking up on icing sugar, butter, meringue powder, and cream of tartar.

26. Meringue powder is expensive – you can’t get around it; except…

27. Michael’s has an awesome 40% off one regular item coupon. That’s how I buy my meringue powder.

28. I don’t like cleaning piping tips.  I need a ‘house elf’.

29. I don’t like preparing piping bags. Again, a ‘house elf’ would be helpful.

30. Sometimes, my husband cleans the piping tips. =) He does not want to be considered a ‘house elf’!

31. If I ever do watch TV, you might find me making piping bags at the same time.

32. I have 75 couplers, so that I can make lots of piping bags ready ahead of time.

33. I have a zillion piping tips between the sizes #00-#10 (Okay maybe not a zillion – 57).

34. Cookie cutter addiction is possible – I have over 400 cookie cutters and won’t take the time to count exactly how many. (Really though, over 400).

35. I know Martha Stewart has tons more (cookie cutters) – I would really like to see her collection.

36. I would also like to see how hers are organized. Mine are half decent, but I know hers would be amazing. She must have a ‘house elf’, or two, or three… Here are some of mine… (Cutters, not house elves):

37. Every where I go, if there are cookie cutters, and I don’t have the shape, I usually buy it.

38. Turns out, the main shapes I use are geometric cookie cutters.

39. Here are my bins of geometric cutters. (Ahem). I was blessed to inherit many classic cutters from my father, who retired as a chef and professor of George Brown College after having taught there for 28 years. (Funny enough, he isn’t a pastry chef).

40. Favorite decorating medium – royal icing. Fondant is fun too, but I prefer the taste of R.I. on cookies.

41. I don’t like squeeze bottles (but that’s just me). I find them harder to fill than piping bags.

42. I can’t make a parchment paper triangle piping bag. Have developed a certain fear of them. ;-)

43. Elastic bands and hair ties work in pinch, to tie the ends of your piping bags off, but I prefer the Wilton icing bag ties.

44. I listen to my iTunes while decorating.

45. Sometimes I watch listen to YouTube videos while I’m decorating.

46. My husband puts up with my cookie stuff in the kitchen quite often all the time. He is so supportive. (Mwah!).

47. I would like a bigger house so that I could have a ‘cookie decorating’ room.

48. My husband would like a bigger house so that I could have a ‘cookie decorating’ room.

49. Ribbons make a decorated cookie package look even prettier. My favorite ribbon is American Crafts. Or, ribbon at a store called Mokuba, in Toronto. Michael’s has pretty ribbon too.

50. I’m addicted to sugar tools. I have so many tools, I have lists of projects to do with them which would take years to make.

51. My husband came home one day, and I was hammering nails into our storage room wall, so that I could see my tools and get them easily when I need them. (My husband is an easy-going man). I am a very visual person. I need to see things to be inspired to create. Ahem. We were going to renovate that room some day anyways. ;-)

52. I have a million ideas, and not enough time to make them all.

53. Besides online spots like Amazon, Ebay, and various other fabulous sites like CopperGifts and Fancy Flours, some my favorite places to shop in Toronto are the Bonnie Gordon College, Golda’s Kitchen and McCall’s Baker’s Warehouse. There are more super places  - deserves it’s own blog post I think.

54. The only thing which has taken my attention away from decorating cookies is an addictive little site you may have heard of, called Pinterest.

55. I have dreamt of cookie designs.

56. I daydream about cookie designs.

57. I have found my bliss… Who knew it would take the form of royal icing! (Thank you John Snediker for the quote!)

58. I am a cookie nerd, and happy to be one.

59. My blog means the world to me. So do you. Thank you for visiting me here.

xo,

Marian
p.s. If you’d like to never miss a post, and/or receive more tips on cookie decorating, click on this button below to sign up:

 

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180 Comments

  1. marian
    August 29, 2013 at 10:29 pm | Permalink
    153

    Hi Everyone!
    Your comments make my day! ***Thank you!***

  2. Sue-z
    October 3, 2013 at 10:10 am | Permalink
    154

    Your cookies are beautiful and i look to you for inspiration. Thank you. Please tell me how you did the lettering on the stand mixer cookies – The one that said – Stand Mixer Cookie How to. Did you utilize you KopyKake? Thank you so much.

    • marian
      October 4, 2013 at 7:05 pm | Permalink
      155

      Hi Sue-z! I mention it in the mixer tutorial post, but those letters are not real icing… they are photoshopped in by my web designer. They are the only cookies I have on the site which have been added to like that, just an fyi. :)

  3. Cathy Cappiello
    November 9, 2013 at 7:58 pm | Permalink
    156

    Reading your comments tonight made me feel more at home than I’ve felt for years. Thanks for sharing the very thoughts I have had for years!! Yo are an inspiration, an artist a a friend in spirit. Rock on! And I wish you So much more success. I will follow you to the ends of the earth!
    <3

    • marian
      November 11, 2013 at 6:20 pm | Permalink
      157

      Awww, Cathy, thanks! I think that’s one of the sweetest comments I’ve gotten to date! xo

  4. December 23, 2013 at 9:18 pm | Permalink
    158

    This is my favourite post so far xx

    • marian
      November 14, 2014 at 11:16 am | Permalink
      165

      Hee hee, I think mine too.

  5. Niki
    March 5, 2014 at 8:35 am | Permalink
    159

    You are very inspiring!! I just began making dog cookies and hope to incorporate some of your techniques. Congrats on your success!!!

    • marian
      November 14, 2014 at 11:16 am | Permalink
      166

      Aww thanks Niki! Good luck to you too!

  6. Shan'e Wesley
    March 14, 2014 at 2:52 pm | Permalink
    160

    Im just starting out I make cookie bouquets.. its my happy place I love making
    Them and its funny because I never liked baking but this is a new passion for me

    • marian
      November 14, 2014 at 11:17 am | Permalink
      167

      I get it, I’m the same way! Have fun!

  7. March 25, 2014 at 4:00 pm | Permalink
    161

    I want to be your friend and live next door and make cookies with you! :-)

    • marian
      November 14, 2014 at 11:17 am | Permalink
      168

      Well what a compliment; I’d like to live next door to you too!

  8. Susan Scott
    April 2, 2014 at 3:28 am | Permalink
    162

    Thank you so much for your site and your generous sharing of wisdom! I am 64 and have just gotten into trying to learn to make and decorate cookies. I have done three batches so far and learn something with each one! I really appreciate your tutorials and will watch them over and over I am sure. Thank you again.
    PS. Your cookies are beautiful!

    • marian
      November 14, 2014 at 11:18 am | Permalink
      169

      Hi Susan,
      Isn’t it great! I’m so glad you found this passion too! xo

  9. jacqueline
    July 14, 2014 at 3:46 am | Permalink
    163

    Love love love this one! ♥♥♥
    I can totally relate to almost everything you listed. Minus the experience. Lol just started cookie decorating for about a year now but have always had an appreciation for edible art! Your blog has definitely been extremely helpful. I love that you made this list. I have been buying decorating supplies for more than 5 yrs not knowing what my “thing” was. I just knew I wanted to be part of this creative world. I bought wiltons 101 cookie set years ago and just recently used it! Lol Now that I know I love making / decorating cookies, its funny to see how many tools I had to make them just sitting in a drawer (I have a baking supply dresser in my kitchen lol). Ive literally been “collecting” supplies til now. Since my first set of cookies, ive added about 100 cookie cutters since then. Lol Your blog is a go to for help! Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and AMAZING tips!! ♥♥♥ p.s. I can look at your cookies all day for inspiration! ;-)

    • marian
      November 14, 2014 at 11:19 am | Permalink
      170

      Thanks sooo much for sharing Jacqueline! I’m the same way… I can’t stop collecting cutters… Whenever I see one and I don’t have it, I just have to buy it! Have fun baking and deeeecorrrating!

  10. Jay
    November 14, 2014 at 8:58 am | Permalink
    164

    Thanks for letting me into your cookie world, it makes me feels I can make it too, I’m just starting into this and I just love it and thanks to the internet I know I’m not alone

    • marian
      November 14, 2014 at 11:20 am | Permalink
      171

      Hi Jay!
      Thanks for visiting my cookie world. :D Please come back any time!

  11. November 23, 2014 at 9:27 pm | Permalink
    172

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