The recent Practice Bakes Perfect Challenge #21 about lace was the source of my inspiration for this project. Each challenge is a wonderful experience because it focuses participants on a certain technique, tool, or material, and the ideas keep developing even after the challenge is closed.
The main idea behind this tutorial is an embroidery hoop, which came to me while I was decorating the cookie spools for my challenge entry by cross-stitching a SugarVeil® edible lace grid. That lace led my mind to Aida cloth, a fabric used for cross-stitch embroidery that doesn't actually require an embroidery hoop, and then I got thinking about those hoops!
I like needlepoint on cookies, because it allows so many patterns and possibilities, but I am not yet able to pipe perfect grids, so I used SugarVeil® in this tutorial. If you're a newbie and want to try this project, I suggest you also use SugarVeil®, as it will make this project very easy. If, on the other hand, you already have strong handpiping skills, this project can suit you too - just pipe a royal icing grid and skip the edible lace!
- Large plain round cookie cutter (about 10 cm or 4 in)
- Smaller fluted round cookie cutter (about 8 cm or 3 1/4 in, i.e., 2 cm smaller than large one), ideally ovenproof
- Cookie dough of choice (However, a non-spreading, well chilled dough is a must.)
- White royal icing, piping and flooding consistencies
- Pastry bags fitted with PME #1 and #3 round tips, or equivalents, for outlining and flooding, respectively
- SugarVeil® Needlepoint Mat and White Confectionery Icing, for lace grid
- Flower-shaped fondant cutters in three different sizes (or any small flower molds of choice)
- Pink, yellow, and lilac fondant
- Scribe tool or toothpick
- Yellow and lilac nonpareils
- Corn syrup, for "glue"
- Small paint brush
- Green royal icing, medium consistency, for dots in grid
Step 1: Cut and bake cookies
There are only two cookies in this project: a round and a ring. This time I kept things simple . . . and skipped the design of the tightening device (metal screw) on the ring . My first embroidery hoop was blue and made of plastic, and it didn't have a screw anyway!
- Be sure to use a dough recipe that spreads very little, and that your dough is well chilled before rolling to minimize spreading and misshaping while handling and baking. These steps are very important; otherwise the round and the ring may not fit well together in the end. Roll out your dough on parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Arrange the two round cutters on the dough so they fit inside each other and are the same distance apart all the way around (concentric circles). Now cut the dough, and you will end up with a round and a ring (the embroidery hoop).
- Get rid of the excess dough without touching the cut shapes. Carefully lift up the cut round, ideally while still in the cutter; let it drop onto another piece of parchment paper (or mat); and place the parchment paper (or mat) directly on a baking sheet. Likewise, lift up the ring, while still on the parchment paper (or mat), and place it on another cookie sheet. The goal here is to avoid direct handling of the cut cookies to keep them from misshaping.
- Bake the round and the ring separately, as they have different baking times. Hint: Bake the ring with the small cutter sitting inside it. This way, the ring is less likely to shrink and not fit around the circle in the end.
- Once baked and cooled, the two cookies should fit perfectly together, provided you followed the various tips in Steps a through c!
Step 2: Ice round, and make lace grid and flowers
Outline the round cookie with white royal icing (piping consistency) using a pastry bag fitted with a #1 round tip (or equivalent); then flood with white royal icing (flooding consistency) in a bag fitted with a larger #3 round tip. Let the icing dry completely. I didn't flood the ring because, in my opinion, it already resembles a wooden embroidery hoop. Hint: Flooding the ring will make it sturdier and minimize the risk of breakage, as it is fragile. However, think about flooding it on the back side if you would like to keep the bare finish on the front.
Once the edible lace has set and been unmolded, place it on parchment paper in a large resealable plastic bag to prevent it from drying out while you make the fondant flowers. (Containing SugarVeil® lace is especially important to do if you make it ahead and don't plan to decorate these cookies right way. SugarVeil® lace will also get brittle more quickly if quick-dried in the oven or if your room is very cold and dry.)
Many beautiful molds are sold nowadays, which result in beautiful flowers just by pressing fondant into them; but I used the "old" tools I had at home.
- Cut out fondant of various colors with the flower-shaped cutters. I cut out three flowers in each of three sizes, for each of three colors.
- Press a vein into each flower petal with a scribe tool or toothpick.
- Glue a nonpareil (or two or three) in the center of each flower with some corn syrup.
Step 3: Assemble cookies with lace grid
Now that the icing is dry and the lace grid and flowers are all made, we can assemble the pieces.
- Using a tiny paint brush, apply a small amount of corn syrup on the back side of the lace grid (a Julia M. Usher tip) in the area that will rest directly on the cookie. To help guide where to put the corn syrup, first test-assemble the cookies and lace by slipping the lace between the two cookies. Center and trim the lace as you would like it on the finished cookie; then remove the lace from between the two cookies. As you can see in the picture below, an impression will be left on the lace from the two cookies. You only need to apply corn syrup within the area bounded by the impression. But apply it very sparingly, as you do not want any excess to show.
- Now turn the lace over, corn syrup-side down, and stick it to the cookie.
- Put the ring over the lace-covered round, and gently push it down like you would do with a real embroidery hoop to keep fabric taut in it. Push very carefully to avoid breaking the ring or ripping the lace. While doing so, you will see some pleats appear in the lace all around the edge of the ring, just as happens with real fabric.
- Our cookie is now ready to be decorated with flowers and piping, but I have something to point out first. The fluted edges of the cookies usually provide enough "grip" to keep the lace and cookies in place without actually gluing the cookies together. However, if you feel that the final result is too loose, then pipe some beads of royal icing (Julia M. Usher's "glue" consistency) all around the side of the round cookie before fitting the ring around it.
Step 4: Decorate with flowers and piping
- Do a test-arrangement of the fondant flowers on the cookie round, leaving enough space on the top right to write the word "mom", and on the bottom to pipe some flower stems. Take a picture for use in Step b.
- Now, with the help of photo editing software, "draw" the words and stems directly on the "virtual cookie" image by filling in squares of the grid. This approach makes it quick and easy to decide the shape, size, and color of the letters needed to fill the spaces around the flowers, and to get a good idea of how the cookie will look once finished. (Alternatively, you could print out one or more images of the photo, and draw the words and stems with pencil.) As you can see below, the flowers in my test-image interfered with the last "m" in "mom", so I made some adjustments to my flower arrangement to fit the letters. For more complicated patterns, a pico projector could also be very helpful in guiding the piping of the pattern.
- With green royal icing (medium consistency), pipe small dots in the grid to "write" the word "mom". Hint: In order to keep the dots from merging into one another, do not immediately pipe adjacent squares one after the other. Instead, fill every other square, and allow a little drying time before filling the squares in between. (Option: For glossy dots, pipe with SugarVeil® icing following Julia M. Usher's tips in this video.)
- Pipe some dots into the grid to form the flower stems, again piping every other square at first, as described in Step c.
Glue the fondant flowers in place with some corn syrup, and the cookie is ready!
But that's not all! The sky's the limit with embroidery hoop art, as I discovered while working on this tutorial. Just google it to see what I mean, and check out some of the cookie variations I made below!
Here, I turned the embroidery hoop into a crackled frame, and cut off the excess lace all the way around. My mom's first initial and some royal icing roses make it the perfect cookie for Mother's Day!
We can keep playing and expand the embroidery hoop concept by changing its shape.
For instance, the hoop could morph into a heart for Valentine's Day.
Or the embroidery hoop could change into a cake for sweet birthday wishes to a cookie friend . . .
Or into a dainty onesie for a baby shower . . .
Or into whatever comes to your mind!
- @Julia M. Usher uses edible lace grids in some of her projects and video tutorials. I learned to use this lace and got inspired by watching Julia here and here.
- If you like fondant, have a look at the work of fellow cookier @Lorena Rodriguez, and prepare to be amazed by the way she uses molds.
- Read @Dolce Sentire's tutorial for information about the crackle effect that I used on the monogram frame.
- Placing the lace grid over a handpainted background, as I did on the heart and cake cookies, is an idea that I borrowed from @Teri Pringle Wood's latest featured challenge entry.
- And, last but not least, don't forget Christine Donnelly of @Bakerloo Station, who hosts the Practice Bakes Perfect challenges on this site every other month. Be sure to participate! Christine's challenges are a great way to master new techniques, think outside the box . . . and get inspired.
Manuela Pezzopane, affectionately called Manu by her friends and family, is a fan of everything handmade, Manu professes to have tried every possible hobby. However, it wasn’t until the end of 2014, when an American friend invited her to a Christmas cookie exchange, that she first discovered decorated cookies. In 2015, after watching Julia M. Usher's videos and signing up on Cookie Connection, Manu finally attempted her own. Since then, cookie decorating has become Manu’s passion – one that she continues to develop by actively participating in the challenges hosted by fellow Cookie Connection contributor Bakerloo Station. You follow Manu on Facebook and Instagram, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo and cookie credits: Manuela Pezzopane
Note: Made by Manu is a Cookie Connection blog feature written by Manuela Pezzopane, where each month she shares the method behind a magical cookie of her own making. This article expresses the views of the author, and not necessarily those of this site, its owners, its administrators, or its employees. To read all of Manuela's past Made by Manu tutorials, click here. And to see all of Cookie Connection's tutorials, click here.