We can’t think of a sweeter way to show affection than with beautiful cookies you bake and decorate yourself. Our Valentine’s Day-themed cookie cutters, heart stamps and elaborate heart-cutout cookie cutters offer plenty of opportunities for bright colors and special touches, and they’re easy to master at home with the right tools and tips. To get some insight, we asked expert decorator Cathie Lopez for some tips on how to make gorgeous iced cookies every time.
What items should be in every cookie decorator’s toolkit? Other than cookies, of course.
Cookie sheets, parchment paper, flour for dusting your rolling pin, a rolling pin and rolling pin spacers (I like approx. 1/4″ thick cookies), food gels or food coloring, an X-Acto knife, icing bags, tips and couplers, and a large spatula.
What’s your secret to getting the best shapes and details out of cookie cutters?
It’s easiest if you roll out the dough directly onto the parchment paper. Then try to cut the cookie out and transfer it on the parchment paper to the cookie sheet, cutting any excess paper so it fits on the cookie sheet. Using a large spatula also helps with the transfer.
Any tips for mixing colors?
For these types of cookies, use pink, rose and red food gels. These three colors can be adjusted from a pale color to an intense color by adding a little or a lot of food gel. Resist the temptation to add more and more red food gel to your icing. You may not immediately see that dark rich red color you’re going for, but let it sit for 30 minutes (covered with plastic wrap touching the surface so it doesn’t harden) and the color will intensify to a nice deep red.
How do you create those perfectly smooth dots?
To make smooth dots of icing, try lightly patting down the peak of the dot with a clean damp finger right after piping.
Do you have any secrets for placing beads?
If you would like to add sprinkles, nonpareils (mini beads) or sanding sugars, the best time to do this is right after the cookie is flooded with icing. Place the cookie on a paper towel and carefully sprinkle with the sugar decoration. Pick up the cookie by the edges and turn upside down so the excess sprinkles fall back onto the paper towel. Carefully pour the sprinkles back into the jar to use again.
What’s the best way to achieve filled hearts on an iced cookie?
First you have to flood the heart cookies with a base color. To do that, the consistency of the icing needs to be just thick enough to control while piping but still thin enough so that any piped lines disappear. Test this by stirring the bowl of icing, then letting a stream of icing fall from the spoon back into the bowl. If the stream disappears within 30 seconds, the icing should be the right consistency to flood the cookies. I use a #3 tip for flooding. Start by outlining the cookie shape then fill in the body of the cookie. Let this dry for several hours or overnight before adding other royal icing decorations. The flooding will keep the cookies fresh for days.
Can you think of any fun packaging ideas for decorated cookies?
A nice way to package cookies is to place them in a heart-shaped candy box. For smaller hearts, I like to fill a wide-mouth mason jar, tie a red ribbon around the lid and add a tag that says “Jar of Hearts.”
Any other tips?
When cutting out the large hearts, also make sure to poke out the smaller hearts and bake them as well. These can be decorated and attached with icing to the larger hearts or sprinkles on a frosted cake, or they can be frozen and used later.
Have you ever made cookies for Valentine’s Day? Share your decorating tips below in the comments.