27 September 2010

The Sweetest Thing : A Daring Bakers' Challenge

I've been a Daring Baker for almost 2 years now and have loved so many of the challenges. We've made things from scratch I would have never dared to try on my own, and I have discovered new recipes for some of my standard desserts which are so much better than what I had traditionally been making. This month's challenge, basic sugar cookies, falls into the latter camp. For years, I have given sugar cookies at Christmas as teacher gifts, to our neighbors, etc. and I thought I had an excellent recipe for them. That is until I tried these which come from Peggy Porschen (who by the way I am dying to take a Master Cake Decorating Class with if anyone wants to sponsor me to the tune of 973 GBP!).

The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of “What the Fruitcake?!” Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking.

These were so much fun to make; if I had the time, I would have spent hours on different shapes and ways of decorating them. Unfortunately, with my pop-up store at Printemps this month, I have had very little free time and so I actually made these as cupcake toppers, which was a little bonus for those of you who had a chance to taste them.

I made a batch of heart-shaped cookies and decorated half with yellow royal icing and a checkerboard band which was my take on a NYC Checker Cab (the theme at Printemps is I Love New York!).

For the second half of the cookies, I covered them in white royal icing and before they dried, made heart decorations with hot pink royal icing and Wilton Sparkle Gel. I loved how these turned out; the sparkle gel looked like stained glass inserts on the cookies. I used these as toppers for some of the 150 cupcakes I donated to their breast cancer research charity event.

I've seen some of the amazing cookies the Daring Bakers made this month and you really should check them out. To make your own, here's the recipe...

Basic Sugar Cookies:
Makes Approximately 36x 10cm / 4" Cookies

200g / 7oz / ½ cup + 6 Tbsp Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
400g / 14oz / 3 cups + 3 Tbsp All Purpose / Plain Flour
200g / 7oz / 1 cup Caster Sugar / Superfine Sugar
1 Large Egg, lightly beaten
5ml / 1 tsp Vanilla Extract / Or seeds from 1 vanilla bean

- Cream together the butter, sugar and any flavourings you’re using. Beat until just becoming
creamy in texture.
- Tip: Don’t over mix otherwise you’ll incorporate too much air and the cookies will spread during
baking, losing their shape.
- Beat in the egg until well combined, make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Add the sifted flour and mix on low until a non sticky dough forms.
- Knead into a ball and divide into 2 or 3 pieces.
- Roll out each portion between parchment paper to a thickness of about 5mm/1/5 inch (0.2 inch)
- Refrigerate for a minimum of 30mins.
- Tip: Recipes commonly just wrap the whole ball of dough in clingwrap and then refrigerate it for an
hour or overnight, but by rolling the dough between parchment, this shortens the chilling time and
then it’s also been rolled out while still soft making it easier and quicker.
- Once chilled, peel off parchment and place dough on a lightly floured surface.
- Cut out shapes with cookie cutters or a sharp knife.
- Arrange shapes on parchment lined baking sheets and refrigerate for another 30mins to an hour.
- Tip: It’s very important you chill them again otherwise they’ll spread while baking.
- Re-roll scraps and follow the above process until all scraps are used up.
- Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C Fan Assisted) / 350°F / Gas Mark 4.
- Bake until golden around the edges, about 8-15mins depending on the size of the cookies.
- Tip: Bake same sized cookies together otherwise mixing smaller with larger cookies could result in
some cookies being baked before others are done.
- Tip: Rotate baking sheets half way through baking if your oven bakes unevenly.
- Leave to cool on cooling racks.
- Once completely cooled, decorate as desired.
- Tip: If wrapped in tinfoil/cling wrap or kept in airtight containers in a cool place, un-decorated
cookies can last up to a month.

Royal Icing:
315g – 375g / 11oz – 13oz / 2½ - 3 cups Icing / Confectioner’s / Powdered Sugar, unsifted
2 Large Egg Whites
10ml / 2 tsp Lemon Juice
5ml / 1 tsp Almond Extract, optional (I used Vanilla Extract)


- Beat egg whites with lemon juice until combined.
- Tip: It’s important that the bowls/spoons/spatulas and beaters you use are thoroughly cleaned and
grease free.
- Sift the icing sugar to remove lumps and add it to the egg whites.
- Tip: I’ve listed 2 amounts of icing sugar, the lesser amount is good for a flooding consistency, and the larger amount is for outlining, but you can add even more for a much thicker consistency good for writing. If you add too much icing sugar or would like to make a thinner consistency, add very small amounts of water, a few drops at a time, until you reach the consistency you need.
- Beat on low until combined and smooth.
- Use immediately or keep in an airtight container.
- Tip: Royal Icing starts to harden as soon as it’s in contact with air so make sure to cover containers with plastic wrap while not in use.


  1. These are so cute! Great job on the challenge!

  2. Adorable cookies! So delicate! Love all the tiny details!

  3. Thank you for your lovely comment :)
    I really like the idea of decorating cupcakes with these cute cookie hearts of yours. They're so adorable! Oh, and the sparkle gel is very "juicy" addition to the white royal icing :)

  4. WOW, I love how you decorated them, they look fantastic :)

  5. Very sweet! Always a pleasure to check out your work.