[EDITOR'S NOTE: Woo hoo! Lucky us! Another surprise guest tutorial by Manu!]
I have a thing for benches. I especially like those in parks in spring and fall, and those along rivers.
The idea for this project developed around this white little bench once I sketched it on paper. Then I started to think about spring and Easter, and it suddenly became easy to add other elements. One idea led to another until memories of an Easter egg hunt in Germany, organized by a friend in her yard, came to my mind. At the time, I didn't know about this tradition. (I live in Italy, and, on Easter Day, kids here don't do hunts; instead they receive big chocolate eggs with surprises inside!) I loved watching the kids hunting for their eggs, while sitting on a bench with my friend. The kids had so much fun. The squirrels participated too by stealing some of the little eggs before the hunt ever started!
Back to our cookies! In short, my fond Easter memory resulted in this 3-D project: a little yard scene set on a cookie, where I have hidden some decorated eggs here and there.
- Cookie dough of your choice
- Egg-shaped cookie cutter (7 x 5 cm or about 2 3/4 x 2 in)
- Plaque cookie cutter (11 x 9 cm or about 4 1/3 x 3 1/2 in)
- Mini rabbit cookie cutter (2 cm or about 3/4 in)
- Square cookie cutter, for sign (4 cm or about 1 1/2 in)
- Assorted templates (see attachment below), for hand-cutting other shapes (bench, tree, bird bath, and sign supports)
- Sugarcraft knife or little sharp knife
- White royal icing, medium consistency, for two bases, mini rabbit, bench, and sign
- Green sanding sugar
- Scribe tool
- White royal icing, thick consistency, for assembling bench and sign, and for egg transfers
- Brown royal icing, flooding consistency, for tree
- Pink royal icing, piping consistency, for tree flowers and roses
- PME #1 tip (or equivalent), for tree flowers and daffodils
- Gel colors extended with alcohol, for decorating tree flowers, daffodils, and egg transfers
- Small craft paint brushes
- Wilton #101S tip (or equivalent), for roses
- PME #3 tip (or equivalent), for bird bath arch and basket
- Acetate or parchment paper, onto which to pipe transfers
- Brown royal icing, piping consistency, for bird bath arch and basket
- Green royal icing, thick consistency, for assembling all parts except for bench and sign
- Green royal icing, piping consistency, for leaves and grass
- #349 leaf tip (or equivalent)
- Gray royal icing, flooding consistency, for bird bath
- Yellow and white royal icing, piping consistency, for daffodil petal and daffodil centers, respectively
- Purple (or pink) nonpareils, for hyacinths
- Food marker (optional), for writing on sign
Step 1: Cut and bake cookies
The 14 cookies in this project are cut using both standard cookie cutters and templates (for hand-cutting):
- Standard cutter cookies: the two bases on which the bench and sign sit (egg and plaque cutters), the mini rabbit, and the square sign
- Hand-cut cookies: the bench (templates #1, #2, #3, and #4), the bird bath (template #5), the tree (template #6), and the sign supports (templates #7 and #8). You'll need to cut two pieces (each) with templates #3 and #4. Again, all templates can be found in the attachment below.
It will take about 10 minutes to cut the templates and to hand-cut the cookies for one project. I know that hand-cutting can be annoying. But . . . if you use a sharp sugarcraft knife (or equivalent) with chilled dough, chill the dough again before removing the excess dough, and do this entire process on parchment paper, the annoyance factor will be greatly diminished! What's more, the cookies can be lifted, on the parchment paper, and placed directly on your baking sheet without risk of the cookies losing their shapes.
Once you've cut all of the pieces (again, a total of 14) as directed above, simply bake according to your recipe, and cool completely.
Step 2: Decorate both bases and mini rabbit
These three cookies are going to be decorated with green sanding sugar sprinkled over royal icing to create a grassy look - a technique I learned from Sweet Sugarbelle. Cookie "moss" (colored ground cookie crumbs) is another option, but I chose sanding sugar, because it looks more like dry grass, which is better for egg hunting!
- Flood the two bases (egg and plaque) and the mini rabbit cookie with medium-consistency white royal icing, and let the icing set about 10 minutes. This way, the sugar will not sink into the icing and dissolve (which has happened to me . . .). You could also use green icing, but the icing color doesn't much matter, as it will get covered in the next step.
- Sprinkle the green sugar evenly over the cookies until they are entirely covered. I used a tea strainer to have more control over the sugar - a tip I picked up from The Bearfoot Baker. Once the underlying icing has set, remove any excess sugar by gently shaking it off the cookies.
Step 3: Decorate and assemble bench
I imagined the bench in white, because I wanted it to stand out in the scene. But I also wanted a somewhat rustic look, so I decided to paint it with royal icing, rather than flood it, and then texture it using the wood plank technique.
- Paint all six pieces of the bench with a thin layer of medium-consistency white royal icing, making sure to paint the edges as well. Once the icing has set, paint on another coat of royal icing.
- While the icing is still wet, use a knife to draw a line in the middle of the seat and the backrest, so that each piece looks like it is made up of two wood planks.
- Make some nail holes at the end of each plank with a scribe tool. Let the icing dry completely.
- Turn the seat upside down and glue on the two legs (template #3) using thick-consistency white icing. No need to prop the legs, as they are very light. Glue the backrest to the back legs (template #4) in the same manner.
- Glue the seat to the back part of the bench.
Step 4: Decorate tree
- Outline and flood the tree cookie with brown flooding-consistency royal icing. Let the icing crust or dry completely.
- Pipe on tiny flowers and dots using a pastry bag fitted with a PME #1 tip (or equivalent) and pink piping-consistency royal icing. Let the icing dry completely.
- Paint some accents on the flowers using fuchsia gel food coloring extended with alcohol.
Step 5: Decorate and assemble bird bath
- Pipe some little royal icing roses to adorn the bird bath. For instructions, check out the various tutorials mentioned in Practice Bakes Perfect Challenge #16. I used a Wilton #101S tip to make tiny pink classic royal icing roses. You'll only need to pipe a few of them (six or so) though . . . but "practice makes perfect".
- Using a PME #3 tip (or equivalent), pipe an arch on a piece of acetate (or parchment paper) with brown piping-consistency royal icing, and let the icing dry completely. You can find the arch template in the attachment as well. Once the icing is dry, flip over the arch, and pipe another arch on the back. This way, the piece will be sturdier. Again, let the piece dry completely.
- Glue about half of the roses along the arch with green thick-consistency icing; then pipe some leaves using the green piping-consistency icing and a #349 leaf tip (or equivalent).
- Flood the bird bath with grey royal icing, and let the icing dry completely. Glue the arch transfer to the bird bath, propping it so it sits level. (I used small paint brushes for props.) Add a few more roses and leaves to hide the "glue" between the arch and the bird bath.
Step 6: Pipe daffodil and hyacinth transfers
- Using a PME #1 tip (or equivalent) and yellow piping-consistency royal icing, pipe a three-pointed star on a piece of acetate (or parchment paper). As a guide, imagine piping a mustache and then pipe an upside-down teardrop on top. Repeat this process to make about 15 to 20 stars (or flowers).
- Allow the icing to set a few minutes, and then pipe another upside-down teardrop (or petal) between each of the previous petals to get a six-pointed flower. Repeat this process on all of the previously piped three-pointed flowers.
- Once the icing is set, pipe a swirl with white piping-consistency icing in the center of each flower. Let the icing dry.
- Paint the top edge of each daffodil swirl (or center) with light orange gel food coloring for contrast. Let the flowers dry completely.
- Using the green piping-consistency icing and a PME #1 tip (or equivalent), pipe an outline of three long leaves on acetate (or parchment paper). You'll need one such set of leaves for every six (or so) flowers that you just piped.
- Flood the leaf outlines with the green icing, loosening it, as needed, to get smooth coverage. Let the icing dry completely.
- Pipe some stems on top of the leaves, again using the green piping-consistency icing, and glue a flower to the top of each stem. Pipe some leaves over the bases of the stems. Be sure all icing is completely dry before removing the flowers/leaves from the acetate.
- Pipe a stem using green piping-consistency icing and a PME #1 tip (or equivalent). Repeat to make at least 5 or 6 stems. (I ended up using 5 hyacinths on this project.)
- While the icing is still wet, cover the upper part of each stem with purple (or pink) nonpareils. (Alternatively, pipe some dots.)
- Once again using the green piping-consistency icing and PME #1 tip, pipe a few leaves at the base of each stem. Let the hyacinths dry completely before removing them from the acetate.
Step 7: Pipe and paint egg transfers
Jelly beans or tiny chocolate eggs are a time-saving alternative to egg transfers, but I had fun decorating these tiny eggs.
- For tracing guides, draw some egg outlines (about 1 1/2 cm or 1/2 in long) on paper. To find out the quantity of eggs needed, you'll have to hunt for them in the finished picture below.*
- Place the paper with the outlines under a piece of acetate (or parchment paper), and trace over the eggs with icing. I used white stiff-consistency royal icing so that the eggs would hold their shape and have dimension.
- Once the eggs are dry but still stuck to the acetate, paint them with bright gel food coloring extended with alcohol. (If you remove the eggs from the acetate prior to painting, you'll have more trouble painting, as the eggs will move around!)
Step 8: Decorate and assemble Easter egg hunt sign
The sign cookies get painted like those for the bench.
- Paint the square cookie and the other two sign cookies (hand-cut rectangle and triangle) with a thin layer of medium-consistency white royal icing, making sure to paint the edges as well. Once the icing has set, paint on another coat of royal icing.
- While the second coat of icing is still wet, use a knife to draw some lines on the square cookie to mimic wood planks.
- Once the icing on the square cookie is completely dry, write "Easter Egg Hunt" on the sign with a food marker. (Alternatively, paint the words.)
- Glue the sign onto the rectangular cookie with white thick-consistency icing.
- Now glue the little rabbit, decorated in Step 2, on top of the sign. Let the "glue" dry.
- Flip over the sign, and glue the triangle on the back of the rectangle bottom. This piece will allow the sign to stand upright.
- Glue the sign onto the egg base, also decorated in Step 2. Add daffodil and hyacinth transfers to the sides of the base, and some eggs transfers in front of the sign.
Step 9: Pipe and assemble Easter egg basket
- For tracing guides, draw a little (3 x 1-cm or about 1 x 1/2-in) oval and a little (2 x 2-cm or about 3/4 x 3/4-in) arch on a piece of paper. Place this paper under a piece of acetate (or parchment paper).
- Using a PME #3 tip (or equivalent) and brown piping-consistency icing, trace over the arch outline, directly onto the acetate. Also pipe over the oval outline, but don't pipe into the interior of the oval. Let the icing dry, or at least crust.
- Pipe another oval on top of the first oval. Again, let the icing dry or crust.
- Pipe a third oval on top of the second one, and dry.
- Repeat Step d a fourth time. Let the icing dry completely.
- Glue some daffodil flowers to the outside of the basket.
- Glue an egg transfer onto each end of the arch (the handle of our tiny basket). Once the icing is dry, flip over the arch, and glue another egg transfer in the middle, facing the same direction as the other eggs (i.e., like the green one in the picture). Let the "glue" dry.
- Now, lift the handle, with the three eggs attached, and gently insert it into the basket. I found that pre-assembling the eggs and handle was the easiest way to arrange these tiny pieces in the basket.
Step 10: Assemble everything!
Now that we have decorated all of the cookies and transfers, let's put them together!
Using green thick-consistency royal icing, glue the tree, the bird bath, and the flower transfers, one by one, to the edge of the plaque base, leaving space in the middle for the bench. Prop each element in an upright position with any object you can find (I used glasses and an espresso cup), and let the whole piece dry a few hours.
Our little yard is almost ready. Here's an easy way to hide some eggs here and there before finishing the scene . . .
- Glue some of the egg transfers together, side by side in clusters, and then pipe some grass blades at their bases using the green piping-consistency icing and a PME #1 tip (or equivalent). Also glue together the hyacinth transfers in the same manner.
- Now glue the royal icing transfers wherever you wish.
- Don't forget to glue some around the legs of the bench! Let the icing dry completely before gluing the bench in the center of the plaque.
And now, let the Easter egg hunt begin!
* Can you find all of the eggs? How many did you spot? [EDITOR'S NOTE: Is there a prize for the first person to get the right answer? Like this cookie scene, perhaps? ]
This little yard scene could be used as a cake topper or as a hostess gift. It could even be the grand prize at your Easter egg hunt!
Cookie and photo credits: Manu
I started decorating cookies in November 2015 and am mostly self-taught, thanks to the techniques, tips, and tricks kindly shared by veteran cookiers on the internet and here on Cookie Connection, long before I even knew about decorated cookies. Here are my sources for this project, some of which have been referenced above:
Wood plank technique: Belleissimo Cookies
Royal icing basket and flowers: Evelindecora, because her royal icing miniatures are truly inspiring.
3-D assembly: Last but not least, Julia M. Usher. I have a passion for building things and, when I found Julia's videos, it was natural for me to watch them tirelessly. She opened this "little door" in my mind and inspired me to also express my creativity with 3-D cookies.