A Guide to Cupcake & Cookie Decorations ( with thanks to our partner http://www.preparedpantry.com/?affId=108736 for all the suggestions and products availalbe below).
Cookie decorations are the cookie baker’s best friend. It means that you can bake, frost, sprinkle, and you’re done. But what can you sprinkle them with? We’ll show you. Plus we’ll give you alternatives to sprinkling.
Immediately after frosting your cupcakes, sprinkle decorations on them. If the frosting starts to dry, the decorations won’t stick.
How to Bake Great Sugar Cookies
What are the secrets to great sugar cookies?
First, add flavors and colors to your frosting. Don’t make them plain. Make them interesting and flavorful. (It’s more effective to add flavor to the frosting than the dough.) Be a little creative with your flavors. Choose blackberry or apricot or caramel or . . .
Choose a color. Gel food colors will give you better control over your colors than liquid food colors and there is a myriad of colors available.
Second, don’t over bake them. If you roll your dough thin, they’ll bake in six or seven minutes and tend to be crisp. If you roll them thicker—as I like them—they’ll bake in eight to ten minutes. They’ll be softer and moist.
Decorating sugar or “sanding sugar” comes in an array of colors, both pastel colors like sage and lavender and primary colors—solid red, black, green and more. It also comes in blended combinations of colors.
Decorating sugars come in fine grain and larger crystals, AA being the largest that is commonly available.
You can also buy white sugar, add a drop of food color ( available in most stores including The Prepared Pantry), and stain the sugar any color you wish.
Metallic Sugar Crystals
Metallic sugar crystals come in sliver and gold. We used these for my daughter’s wedding. They really do look like metallic pieces, pieces of gold or silver but the silver pieces are less shiny and remind me of pewter. They are larger than AA sugar crystals. These are distinctive, classy decorations.
Recently we discovered bark decorations. Bark is a combination of chopped candy and white chocolate pieces. You may know of almond bark and peppermint bark. For decorations, the candy is chopped into pieces.
The candy is intensely flavored so instead of just making your cupcakes pretty, you get a burst of flavor. My favorites are lemon cream, cherry, and strawberry cheesecake.
For me, these are top-of-the-line decorations. I love adding flavor, not just color to the cookies. If there is a downside to bark, it is that there are fines in the mixture. Those can be removed with a sieve.
Decorating Sugar Cookies with Fondant Frosting
You can decorate your sugar cookies with fondant instead of spreadable frosting. (The cookies in the picture are chocolate sugar cookies but you can choose others.)
You can buy premade fondant in most craft stores or from The Prepared Pantry. We carry white fondant as well as colored fondant. You can also use food coloring gels to tint the fondant the desired color.
How to decorate the edges of a cookie
It’s fun to decorate the edges of a cookie; you can do that with refrigerator cookies.
Cookies with minimal spread work best for decorating. For best results, look for recipes that have a higher flour to sugar ratio or for those without leavening (refrigerator cookies with a high sugar content are usually light and crisp because the sugar in the dough melts in the heat of the oven. Cookies without leavening tend to be rich and shortbread- like but decorate nicely. The Festive Fruit and Oat Cookies and The Coconut Cranberry Cookies are perfect for edge decorating).
Use large colored sugar crystals, turbinado sugar, decorating sprinkles, decorating jimmies, crushed candies, or nuts. Simply roll the log of dough in the decorating materials prior to slicing the cookies. If you roll the log with the sugar or other decorations in waxed paper or parchment paper, you can press them into the surface of the dough.
Some folks use an egg white wash to assure that the candies stick to the log. Except for nuts, we don’t. We don’t find it necessary and the moisture from the egg white tends to melt the candies or sugar crystals into a blurry mess.
To showcase the edges, we usually cut the slices just a bit thicker before baking. We color white sugar crystals any color we like by mixing a few drops of food coloring with the crystals. You can buy large bags of white crystals to make a collection of different colors.
Turbinado is an excellent coating sugar with its amber color and large crystals. Learn more about turbinado sugar.