Part of my Woman behind the business blog series
Why I started the business
I have baked cakes for as long as I can ever remember and in 1993 completed a Christmas cake decorating course which I loved. This was one of my first cakes using Royal icing as the main medium.
Many Christmas cakes were made with royal icing but done as a snow scene with plastic novelty figures of snowmen and Santa stuck into the icing whilst it was still wet. I am sure many children had great pleasure waiting for those same ornaments to come out year upon year. In our house we took it in turns to put the figures on and over the years a new piece was purchased and we had a whole snow scene with trees, a sleigh and reindeer in the end.
Part of the course was to design the royal iced collar to exactly fit the size of cake.
I loved working with such fine detail and the fact that the icing dried smooth and hard meant that you could carefully handle the separate pieces and put them into place on the cake.
It was at this point I decided that I would like to go further and study more and I enrolled on a City and Guilds 7900 Sugarcraft Certificate.
This was a 3 year journey learning all the basics of sugarcraft and the essentials of art and form as well. More of this in later blogs.
Royal Icing Basics
Royal icing is made primarily from icing sugar and egg whites, either fresh or reconstituted. You can also get dried egg powders too.
I much prefer to use fresh egg whites however as there are risks to some groups of people when eating raw egg whites including allergic reactions and food poisoning it was recommended to me that I use a substitute for raw eggs although the improvements that have been made have made Lion Branded eggs safe to eat including for pregnant ladies. You can also purchase pasteurised eggs in shells at supermarkets and you will probably find these in the refrigerated section.
Finally, Lemon flavour is used to cut through the sweetness. This can be fresh lemon juice, essence or a food flavouring.
Glycerine can be added to royal icing to make sure it doesn't set really hard.
You should always keep the royal icing covered as it sets really quickly and can form a crust on an uncovered bowl of icing which if using a piping nozzle will cause blockages.
Fresh egg white royal icing must always be kept in the fridge and then brought to room temperature when you are ready to work with it. Use the mixture quickly if fresh eggs are used.
Using Royal Icing for decorating cookies
Royal icing is by far, in my opinion, superior when decorating cookies than using fondant icing to decorate. The skill in assessing the thickness of the royal icing is paramount to a beautifully decorated cookie.
I learnt that timing how long it takes for royal icing to flatten out itself on a cookie (without running down and off the sides) can ensure that you get the perfect consistency for royal icing. I had many messy mistakes I can tell you! When your icing is too thin it will run over the cookie edge really quickly and you may as well start again. Any I had many more mistakes where the icing was so thick it wouldn't flatten at all and stood proud in ugly lumps.
The difference between too thick or too runny is but a tiny drop of water or a couple of grams of icing sugar and it is so easy to tip the balance by adding one or the other to get the right consistency but do not be tempted to carry on if its not right as you will waster your time and ingredients!
Although I had done the City and Guilds course it was many years ago and skills get rusty and ideas change. I did lots of research when I was first setting out into being a new small business owner.
It was watching tutorials, mostly from America where cookie baking is huge, where I found the right help and expertise and her name is Julia.
I absolutely adore the work of Julia M Usher. Her cookies are exquisite and definitely not for eating only for admiring!
I would urge anyone with a passion for cookie decorating to take a look at her work on her YouTube channel as she must be the best in the business and someone to aspire to. With 400k subscribers she is definitely the queen of cookie making! Or take a look at her blog.
Julia's work inspired me to create my own unique way of creating a story in a box of cookies using my own designs, my own style and taking all of someones favourite things in life and turning them into a cookie box that tells their story. At this point Cookie Doodle Doo was born.
This is the first part in a short series of blogs to show "The Woman Behind The business" an insight into my life, who I am, where I live and all about how cookies became a part of my life.
I hope you have enjoyed this blog and found it interesting and are tempted to have a go with Royal Icing if only for a snowy Christmas cake that brings back childhood memories!