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       Volume I - November 29, 2008

Paint Cookies for the Holidays
by Alice Osborne

Whether you are looking for a fun holiday project with the kids or just want to impress the neighbors, try painting cookies. It’s easy to do using food colors as paints.

Make chocolate or vanilla cookies with your favorite recipe. Cut shapes, bake, and cool. After cooling, frost your cookies with either royal icing or fondant. Royal icing dries to a hard shell and creates a nice, glossy surface for painting.

It’s easy to cover cookies with rolled fondant (see recipe below). Roll the fondant to about 1/8-inch thick and cut it using the same cookie cutters that you used to make the cookies. Lift the fondant off the counter, brush a little water on the back with your finger, and lay the fondant on the cookies of corresponding shape. The fondant will cover the cookies to about 1/8-inch of the edges and the moist back will hold the fondant in place until drying.

Fondant creates a little different effect than does royal icing. While royal icing is slick and shiny, fondant is more of a matte finish.

Use food colors for paint. Most store brand can be used as they are. Professional gels must be diluted with water. We use a drop of food color to a drop of water but you can dilute most professional gels more than that.

Use a brush and paint your cookies just as if you were using water colors. For fine work, such as the eyes on a snowman or the star on a Christmas tree, use a toothpick to dab color on. You can also use a food writer pen (found in gourmet, kitchen and food specialty shops) to paint on details.

New food coloring sheens (found in gourmet and kitchen stores) can be used to give your cookies a beautiful, glossy finish. You can paint the sheen on the cookie, let it dry, and then paint designs, if desired, over the sheen. If you paint the sheen over the painted cookie, it tends to smear the colors but beautifully blended patterns can be created. Sheens come in silver, gold, pearl, and some colors.

It’s fun to make pretty painted cookies and you can be as creative as you like. If you are more of an artist than we are, you can create stunning works of art with cookies and a paint brush.

How to Make Royal Icing

Meringue powder (found in gourmet and kitchen stores) is essential for hard shell frostings like royal icing. Traditionally hard shell icings relied on egg whites to create a shiny luster and a hard surface on the icing. Since there’s concern about using raw egg whites (due to the bacteria they may harbor) meringue powder is a great alternative.

Meringue powder is made with dry egg whites with flavors and stabilizers added instead of fresh egg whites so the concerns about safety are eliminated. And it's easy to use. Simply add the meringue powder along with the powdered sugar to your recipe to create a frosting that will set up with a firm shell. The more you add, the harder the shell. For a moderately firm frosting shell, add two tablespoons per cup of powdered sugar. We often use 1 1/2 tablespoons of meringue powder for each cup of powdered sugar and this gives us a hard enough shell for painting cookies.


1/4 ounce unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
1/2 cup corn syrup
1 tablespoon glycerine
2 tablespoons shortening
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or your flavor of choice)
6 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted

Combine gelatine and cold water; let stand until thick. Warm gelatine mixture and heat until dissolved (do not boil). Add corn syrup and glycerine, mix well. Stir in shortening and just before completely melted, remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Mixture should cool until lukewarm.

Place 4 cups confectioners' sugar in large bowl. Make a well in the center and using a wooden spoon, stir in the lukewarm gelatine mixture. Mix in the sugar and add more a little at a time, until stickiness disappears.

Switching to your hands, knead in remaining sugar making sure to keep a lot of icing sugar between your hands and the fondant to prevent the fondant from sticking to your hands. Knead until the fondant is smooth, pliable and does not stick to your hands. If fondant is to soft, add more sugar; to stiff, add water (a drop at a time).

Wrap fondant tightly in plastic wrap and store in a n air tight container. Allow the fondant to set for at least 12 hours before using it.

When ready to use dust the table with cornstarch and dust rolling pin as well. Roll out fondant as desired and cover cake. Will cover a 12 inch cake or if rolled to 1/8” thick, can cover at least a couple dozen cookies.

  Download this recipe.

Courtesy The Prepared Pantry

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