Cactus Heart Cookies
You’d never know it, but these cactus heart cookies have been in my freezer (undecorated) for months. I cut these hearts out with extra dough from a cookie project last fall. Yay me! I was thinking and planning ahead for a change. I gotta tell ya, it was pretty cool to skip the baking step and get right into decorating these cuties for Valentine's Day!
Why I love these these Cactus Cookies
I’m super jazzed about the gumpaste flowers and spines on these cactus cookies. I’ve been practicing gumpaste flowers and I’m really pleased with how these turned out. And they’re so easy! Check out my tips and a handy video below. The spines are gumpaste too. I used a clay extruder (I only use mine for gumpaste, not clay) to make homemade white sprinkles that could double as cactus spines. Honestly, I couldn’t believe it when they stood up in the royal icing. Cool, right?
How to use a clay extruder to make cactus spines
Choose the disc with the smallest holes.
Press soft gumpaste through the disc onto a baking sheet lined with waxed paper.
Let dry completely.
Break into desired pieces.
Place spines into wet royal icing.
How to make cactus flowers
I used this video to learn how to make my carnation cactus flowers: Flowerpaste carnations by Zoes Fancy Cakes The only thing I did differently: I hung mine upside down to dry so the petals would stay upright.
When my carnation cactus flowers were completely dry (let them sit overnight), I dusted the edges with dry ChromaDust in Copper/Fleshtone. Using the side of the brush so my dust just hit the edges.
When ready to assemble, snip the wire at the base of the flower. Using a little Royal Icing, fasten a flower to a cactus cookie and let dry completely before serving. REMINDER: These flowers contain wire and are for decoration only!
Jes Best Cutout Cookies
Makes 2-3 dozen cutout cookies (depending on size)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/4 cups chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" cubes
1 cup sugar
1 large free-range egg
1 large free-range egg yolk
1 tsp. vanilla or lemon extract
Sift 3 cups flour, baking powder and salt into a medium sized bowl. Set aside.
Using an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar on high speed until well combined (butter does not need to be fluffy), about 3 minutes.
Add egg, egg yolk, and vanilla; beat just to combine. Reduce speed to low and gradually add dry ingredients. Mix until dough comes together.
Separate dough in half and form two smooth discs for rolling.
Roll each disc to desired thickness (1/8"-1/4") between two pieces of lightly floured parchment paper on a Silpat mat or flexible cutting mat. Continue to flour top of dough so parchment doesn't stick or crease.
Transfer mat and rolled dough to refrigerator to chill for about 2 hours.
When ready to cut shapes, flip chilled dough so floured side is down. This will help cookies "release" easily.
Cut dough to desired shapes and place on baking sheet pans lined with parchment paper.
Re-roll scraps only once to avoid tough cookies. If dough becomes soft and sticky, return to fridge to chill until shapes cut easily. Chill again until ready to bake. Ideally, 20-30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 325º
Bake until edges are slightly golden, about 12–16 minutes, depending on size. Rotate sheet pans half way through to avoid dark edges.
Let cookies cool slightly on pans then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
Do Ahead: Cookies can be baked (left undecorated) 2 weeks ahead; separate cookies with wax paper, place in air tight containers and freeze.
Jes Best Royal Icing
Makes enough to decorate 2-3 dozen cookies, depending on size
970 g [2 lb bag] confectioners' sugar, no need to sift
80g [or 8-10 tablespoons] meringue powder (CK or Henry & Henry)
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar (to keep icing bright white)
1/2 cup water
4 tablespoons water
food coloring (optional)
Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix sugar, meringue powder and cream of tartar on low for just a bit to incorporate evenly.
Slowly add 1/2 cup water while mixing at a low speed. Add water 1 tablespoon at a time until sugar is just wet.
Scrape sides of the mixing bowl. Increase speed one notch (#2 on Kitchenaid stand mixer). Mix for five minutes. When finished icing should have a matte (not glossy) finish and hold it's shape on the paddle when pulled up/out of the bowl.
Separate into clean, oil-free containers and tint with gel food coloring.
This recipe yields "stiff" consistency for piping details. Add water as needed to achieve flooding consistency.
Keep covered tightly and store for up to a week in a cool dry place or 10 days in the refrigerator. Mix well when ready to use.
Nicholas Lodge's Tylose Gumpaste
Makes about 2 cups
125g pasteurized egg whites (or fresh)
725g icing sugar
30g Tylose powder (27g if using P&H brand)
Place the egg whites in a Kitchen Aid mixer bowl, fitted with the flat paddle or scraper paddle attachment.
Turn the mixer on high speed for 10 seconds to break up the egg whites.
Turn the mixer to the lowest speed; slowly add the 725g of powdered sugar to make a soft consistency royal icing.
Turn up the speed to setting 3 or 4 for about two minutes.
Make sure the mixture is at the soft-peak stage. It should look shiny, like meringue and the peaks fall over. (If coloring the entire batch, add the paste, gel or liquid color at this stage, making it a shade darker than desired)
Turn the mixer to the slow setting and sprinkle the Tylose in over a 5 second time period. Turn the speed up to the high setting for a few seconds. This will thicken the mixture.
Scrape the mixture out of the bowl onto a work surface that has been sprinkled with some of the reserved 100g of powdered sugar. Place shortening on your hands and knead the paste, adding enough of the reserved powdered sugar to form a soft but not sticky dough. You can check by pinching with your fingers and they should come away clean. Place the finished paste in a zip-top bag, then place the bagged paste in a second bag and seal well.
Mature the gumpaste for 24 hours if possible before use, keeping in a cool environment.
When you are ready to use the paste, cut off a small amount and knead until smooth and plyable. Add a bit of shortening if necessary. If coloring at this stage, knead the color into the paste until the desired shade is achieved.
When not in use, the paste will need to be stored in the refrigerator. Before use, remove from refrigerator and allow the paste to come to room temperature.
Vacuum-seal the paste with a food saver type system if available, or in zip-top bags with as much air removed as possible. The paste will keep refrigerated for approximately 6 months. You can keep the paste longer by freezing it. Be sure to use zip-top freezer bags. If you will be freezing a batch of paste, allow it to mature for 24 hours before placing into the freezer. The paste can be kept in the freezer for several years with no problems and can be taken out of the freezer, thawed, used and refrozen without any problems or ill effect on the paste.
Source: Nicholas Lodge
Less Tylose can be used if you do not want the gumpaste to dry as fast or if making dark colors that typically dry the gumpaste out, (i.e. Black, Dark Green, Purple.)