Frosting For the Cause: St. Paddy’s Day Cookies.
The following is my post as guest-host on Frosting For the Cause for Saturday, March 12th. I wanted to keep a record of it here in my blog as well.
Cancer is such an ugly, UGLY word. I really can’t think of another word that causes such despair in my heart so quickly, and if there’s one thing I really hate about cancer is that it doesn’t discriminate in how it chooses victims. Too often, cancer picks family & friends of MINE.
Growing up, I can remember my Great-Grandma Ruth and what a sweet, sweet lady she was. She was an avid crocheter, and she was always ready with a glowing smile. At a very young age, she taught me how to make one of the best foods on the planet – plain hot dog buns grilled in butter! – and she traveled long distances just to see us. (We lived in East Texas, but she lived in North Texas – easily a 14-hour drive!)
But despite being sweet as sugar, she was a fighter. She battled breast cancer in the 70’s and she lived to tell the tale. By the time I was in elementary school, my memories of her included her large, large left arm – an after-effect caused by the breast cancer surgeries of the day. (Her lymph nodes were removed, and without them, toxins built up in her arm, swelling it to massive proportions.) I don’t remember her complaining about her plight, though. I think she was far too busy making gifts for others and enjoying life! She lived to a ripe, old age, and died in 1995, years and years after her bout with cancer. What an inspiration!
But she isn’t the only great lady in my family, and this next one is even closer to my heart: my older sister, Erica. We’re 3 years and 3 months apart in age, but for all of my younger years, everyone thought I was her mini-clone. Even after my own kids were born, I thought they favored her in appearance more! We’ve been secret-keepers and secret-blabbers for each other for years, and I laugh every time I remember putting “stink berries” in her underwear drawer as a gag when I was young. Boy, she didn’t think it was funny when she found them!
(Erica is on the right side, in the blue dress.)
Just as she was celebrating her engagement and planning her wedding, she was hit with terrible news: possible cervical cancer. I was absolutely devastated myself FOR her, and I spent days crying my eyes out. Erica, on the other hand, remained strong, doing what she needed to do. She didn’t spare a moment for moping, and she has made a beautiful life for herself despite the predictions, refusing to worry about the future. She is an excellent seamstress, making quilts for all her family and friends. She even made the dresses that she and I are wearing in the picture above, and she was only in high school then!
You might be able to tell from the photos that my mom is definitely Irish stock. In fact, my Uncle James chose to be wed on St. Patrick’s Day many years ago, and Erica and I had important roles: she was the ringbearer, and I was the flowergirl. She did her job proudly, but as a tiny girl, I was too scared to face the wedding crowds, and I hovered instead in the back of the church. My Uncle James teases me about it even now!
Coming from such proud heritage, I had no trouble deciding what to make for my ‘Frosting for the Cause’ contribution: leprechauns, of course! I’m definitely not risking a pinch!
Aren’t these guys just so fun?! I bought a 4-pack set of St. Patrick’s Day cookie cutters, and then I set to dreaming. I tried to imagine drawing a leprechaun into just the shamrock shape, but I just couldn’t pull it together (the stem part would’ve made the head too small). Instead, I thought of using the hat, shamrock, and horseshoe to make an entire leprechaun that you can take apart!
These big dudes require a lot of steps, but I promise – nothing is difficult! You can definitely do it, and here’s how…
Preheat your oven to 365° (yes, really), and gather all your ingredients together:
Sweet Butter Sugar Cookies
(adapted from Alton Brown’s Sugar Cookies)
- 1 cup cold unsalted butter
- 1-1/4 cups sugar
- 3/4 tsp. baking powder
- 3/4 tsp. salt
- 1 Tbsp. milk
- 1 egg
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
(** You might notice in the picture above that I have SALTED butter. I sent my hubby to the store, and he bought the wrong kind. If you only have salted butter, proceed with the recipe, but omit the salt instead.)
1. Cream together the cold butter and sugar.
2. Beat for 3-4 minutes, or until light & fluffy, and the mixture begins sticking to the sides of the bowl.
3. Add baking powder, salt, milk, and egg; beat until well-creamed. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl after adding the milk and egg.
4. Add flour; mix until dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.
5. Divide dough into two portions and turn out onto sheets of waxed paper.
6. Roll out to desired thickness (I like my cookies in the 1/4-3/8″ range), and begin cutting shapes.
7. Remove excess dough. (I like using a citrus peeler for this part.)
8. Using a small circle cutter, cut the stem off of your shamrocks, leaving just a bit of “neck.”
9. Smoosh (yes, a technical term!) your cut circles onto the “neck” of the shamrock. Once your shapes are set, pop them into the freezer for about 5-10 minutes before baking.
10. Bake at 365° for 9 minutes, or until cookies are set, and edges are *just* barely beginning to turn brown. Cool cookies completely.
While your cookies are cooling, wash the bowl of your mixer really, really well (grease is the enemy here!), and gather your ingredients for royal icing:
- 1/2 cup water
- 4 Tbsp. meringue powder
- 3-3/4 cups SIFTED powdered sugar (or 1 lb. if you buy the boxes)
- vanilla extract
- light corn syrup
- a Beater Blade (not really an ingredient, but such a GREAT tool to have for icing!)
Now, before you begin making the icing (or even before you begin making the cookies!), it’s a good idea to know exactly what colors of icing you’ll need, and where you plan to put them. Royal icing can dry so quickly, and you don’t want to leave things hanging, so it’s best to sketch out your ideas before mixing the icing. Once you have that completed, move ahead with the following steps:
11. Beat the meringue powder and water for 2 minutes or until very foamy & frothy.
12. Add SIFTED powdered sugar (I seriously cannot stress the SIFTING process enough!); mix until just combined.
13. Add vanilla extract. (I can’t tell you exactly how much, so I took a picture. That’s a flatware teaspoon, if it helps. I always use those spoons, and I fill them 1/8″ below the rims.)
14. Add light corn syrup. (Again, I “eyeball” this, adding roughly 1.5 Tbsp. of syrup. I pour it directly from the bottle, so no spoon picture here.)
Action shot! Incorporate the vanilla and corn syrup into the mixture on Speed 2 for just a few seconds, and then bump that baby up to Speed 4! Let it whirrrrrrr at that speed for next 3-4 minutes. When your icing is ready, it will form stiff peaks and be very glossy.
Separate your icing into cups/bowls for tinting. For these leprechauns, you will need the following colors:
- white (9s)
- dark green (P,F)
- light green (P,F)
- medium green (9s)
- black (P,F)
- yellow (P)
- light peach (P,F)
- reddish-orange (P)
- brown (P)
You will need both piping AND flooding consistencies for a few of the colors, and I’ve marked them above. For yellow,brown, and reddish-orange, you will need only piping icing. For white and medium green, you will need only what I call “9-second icing.” This is royal icing which has been thinned with water, but not as much as that of proper “flood” icing. You should be able to drag a knife through the icing, drizzling a bit on top, and the icing sink back into flow with itself in 9 seconds – no more, no less. (For regular “flood” icing, I use a rule of about 3-4 seconds for the same to occur.)
15. Using “9-second” white fitted with a #2 tip, pipe a bow-tie shape at the neck of the leprechaun.
16. Using “P” dark green fitted with a #2 tip, pipe the border of the shirt.
17. Using “F” in dark green, flood the shirt.
18. Using ‘9-second” medium green fitted with a #1 tip, pipe vertical lines for the plaid design on the shirt. Using “P” light green fitted with a #1 tip, pipe lines for the plaid also.
(** The daylight disappeared on me, so I apologize for the photos!)
19. Using the same icing as in Step 18, pipe horizontal lines in the plaid design.
20. Using “P” light peach fitted with a #2 tip, pipe the border of the leprechaun’s face.
21. Using “F” in light peach, flood the face section.
22. Using “P” and a #2 tip for all portions, pipe the brown accents on the shirt, the yellow bow-tie on the neck, the black eyes & mouth, the reddish-orange hair, mustache, and beard, and the peach nose.
23. Using “P” dark green fitted with a #2 tip, pipe the hat border, leaving a space for the black trim.
24. Using “F” in dark green, flood the sections.
25. Add a small portion of plaid detail as described in Steps 18 & 19 to the top portion of the hat, if desired. (I made half of the hats this way, and I used “9-second” medium green icing to make dots on the other hats.) Using “P” light green fitted with a #2 tip, pipe a scallop at the top of all hats. Using “P” black fitted with a #2 tip, pipe the remaining side sections of the hat’s border.
26. Using “F” in black, flood the center trim portion of the hat. Let dry for half an hour, at least.
27. Using “P” yellow fitted with a #2 tip, pipe the yellow buckle on the trim.
28. Using “P” black fitted with a #2 tip, pipe a black border around the entire hat.
29. Using “P” black fitted with a #2 tip, pipe shoes onto the leprechaun’s pants.
30. Using “F” in black, flood the shoes. Let dry for half an hour, at least.
31. Using “P” yellow fitted with a #1 tip, pipe tiny buckles on the shoes.
32. Using “P” brown fitted with a #2 tip, pipe a brown border for the pants. Fill in the same section with brown piping (to look like corduroy fabric).
33. Using “P” black fitted with a #2 tip, pipe a black border on the pants, and add seam/button details.
Let cookies dry completely overnight. The next day, package each leprechaun’s three pieces together in a bag and secure with ribbon. These friendly guys are headed to the pediatric ward of our local hospital to brighten some little faces!
These are just ABOVE and beyond! A DEF FAVE!!!
Thank you! 😀
I think it is so awesome that you share you recipe. Thank you so much. I can’t wait to try and make a super, simpler, dumbed down version of some of your cookies. 🙂
Thanks, Susi! 🙂
Saw the cookies on Facebook “cake wrecks”. I am now officially a fan!
Blessings to you and your family
Thank you so much, Dena!
Is this your current RI recipe? Do you still “sift” the powdered sugar? Also, do you routinely add other flavorings or emulsions to the icing (other than the vanilla)?
Yes, this is still my current recipe. I do not sift any longer, as I’ve found it isn’t needed. I don’t really use anything else except the regular brown vanilla for flavoring. 🙂
These are so cute!
How do you avoid the colours bleeding into one another?
So far, I’ve been lucky for about 5 years, haha! I’ve never had bleeding ever! When I lived in North Dakota (where I started making cookies), it was an extremely dry winter climate, and bleeding would have been unheard of. Now I live in an extremely humid area (along the coast of Texas), and I dry all my cookies in front of a standing oscillating fan to speed up the process… and I think perhaps it helps with not giving the colors a chance to bleed, too!
Hola!! Linda una taza de mantequilla equivale a 1bara de 90 grs. Muchas Gracías!
Spanish-to-English translator comes up with this:
“Hello!! Linda a cup of butter equals 90 grams. Thank you so much!”
Hi can you tell me how the corn syrup affects the texture of the icing ? This is my first time seeing corn syrup in a royal icing recipe. Also, thank you for the very detailed tutorial, making these types of cookies is very time consuming and you took the time to flash pictures as well!
Hi Kristi! The corn syrup gives the icing just a tiny bit of softness to its bite, and it also gives a bit of a sheen to the finished cookies, too. Once you try it, you’ll never make royal icing again without it! 😉