MyKenzie's Birthday Sugar Cookies

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MyKenzie is my friend Shannon's 7 year old daughter. Shannon and I have known each other since the seventh grade where we very quickly became best friends. Throughout middle school and high school we were pretty inseparable. When Shannon found out she was pregnant with MyKenzie, she asked me to be her godmother. I gladly accepted.

Last year Shannon had asked for my help with making Kenzie's birthday party invitations. Since I was in the final stretch of wedding planning and my creativity meter was ranging off the charts, I agreed to make the invitations. With just a few minutes of searching on Etsy.com I was inspired to make these invitations. I'm still pretty proud of them. This year Shannon didn't ask about the invitations. A couple of months ago we were talking about the party and what theme she wanted to have. Since my royal icing skills have improved a bit, I asked if she wanted me to make sugar cookies. Shannon said yes and I set off to make 7's, butterflies and ladybug sugar cookies.

My first snag was that two of the local craft stores didn't have ladybug cookie cutters. By then it was too late to order one online so I decided I'd just freehand the ladybug and see what happened.

Since I needed these cookies to be dry by 12:30 on a Saturday and I was really busy at work that week, I decided to cheat and use pre-made Pillsbury sugar cookies. This isn't even a recipe, but here's what you'll need:
2 packages of pre-made sugar cookies (makes about 50 cookies)
1/2 cup flour
cookie cutters of your choice

1. Preheat the oven to 350.
2. Microwave the cookies on their cardboard trays for 10-20 seconds until they're just soft enough to roll out.
3. Sprinkle the flour onto a flat surface and place the cookie dough on top. Flour your rolling pin and roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thickness. Using the cookie cutters of your choice, cut out the cookies and place them onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
4. Bake them for 11-15 minutes (mine always take 12) and then transfer to wire racks to cool.

I let the cookies cool overnight, uncovered. You don't need to worry about the cookies getting stale because of the royal icing. Usually while the cookies are cooling, I'll mix up a double or triple (I needed triple) batch of royal icing (recipe here), transfer it to plastic containers with lids, add the food coloring and seal them.

I like to use the Wilton Icing Colors. The second snag that I ran into was that I was almost out of the red icing. I had planned on making pink and purple butterflies and sevens and red and black ladybugs. Luckily, Kenzie's two favorite colors are pink and purple and I was able to create a nice hot pink color which would work for the ladybugs.

To icing the cookies:
The next day, transfer some of the colored royal icing into a piping bag fitted with a #1 Wilton tip. You'll need the icing to be somewhat thick, but no so thick that it can't be piped. The consistency of syrup is a pretty good indicator that you'll be able to pipe with it. Trace the outline of the cookie or freehand close to the edge the shape that you need. Do this on all of the cookies.
Flooding the cookies:
The icing that you'll need to fill in the cookies needs to be thinner than the outline. Add 1-2 drops of water at a time and stir the icing until it will slowly run off the back of a spoon. Before you can flood the cookies, you need to make sure that your outline has hardened. If it hasn't, you'll run the risk of it chipping or the the flooding going over the outline. Typically you need 3-5 hours for the outline to set before you can start flooding the cookies, but if you have enough time to let it set overnight, its better. I like to use either a #5 Wilton tip for this (if its a small surface area) or I'll transfer the icing into squeeze bottles.

Have I ever mentioned that I'm a perfectionist? I truly am. There are many times where I'll redo something over and over again until I get it right. Yet, somehow, I'm not like this with cookies. Because I was in a rush and worried the icing wouldn't set completely, I decided to rush the flooding. I only let my outlines dry for an hour before flooding them. It is possible to do it without messing up the cookies, but you just need to be really careful when spreading the icing to the outline, making sure that you don't accidentally hit it with the tip.

Other decorations:
I decided to add white sanding sugar to the seven's to make them glittery. You need to add this within a few minutes of flooding the cookies to make sure that the majority of the sugar sticks to the icing. I just pick up a pinch of the sugar and sprinkle it over the cookies.
To add any further detail on the cookies, like the spots on the ladybugs and the butterflies, you need to let the flooded icing set for another 3-5 hours, but preferably overnight. I used a #3 tip for the dots on both.

Once you're done decorating the cookies, I like to let them sit out another 24-48 hours to ensure that the icing has completely hardened. I always seem to have a few cookies where the icing refuses to set and they smear almost instantly. I'm debating on putting a fan on low speed in front of the cookies next time.

I wasn't completely impressed with my free-handed ladybugs but I thought they were at least recognizable. And the perfectionist in me reminded me that these are for a 7 year olds birthday party. She's not going to care if the ladybugs are perfect or not.

MyKenzie did love the cookies as did everyone else. They were devoured up in about 10 minutes. One of the little girls at the party told me that they were the best cookies she ever had and she would like me to make some for her next birthday party. I told her that her mom could ask Shannon for my information if she wanted me to make them.

One of my other friends is planning a 2nd birthday party for her son next month. She picked a baseball theme because she found him a really cute Oriole's outfit. I asked if she wanted me to make the cookies and she said that would be great. This morning I ordered a baseball bat cookie cutter.

I'm definitely excited to make baseball and bat cookies. As much as I like playing with royal icing and testing myself for more intricate designs, I'm still not that comfortable with small details and baseballs and bats require neither.

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