In my last tutorial, I lauded rice paper as an incredibly versatile medium and listed off some of the different ways I've put it to use. Here, I have yet another example for you. This jellyfish design plays to all of rice paper’s strengths - translucency, moldability, a tendency to curl when drying, lightweight rigidity, and ease of painting. These traits all combine to create a unique and dimensional jellyfish that appears to be floating languidly with the current.
- Kitchen shears
- Rice paper
- 2 1/2-inch (6.4-cm) fluted round cookie cutter
- 2-inch (5.1-cm) silicone hemisphere mold
- Medium flat angled paint brush
- White gel paste coloring or white petal dust
- 1 1/2-inch (3.8-cm) round cookie cutter
- 1-inch (2.5-cm) silicone hemisphere mold
- Materials to create “T”-shaped drying rack such as sculpture wire and heavy pot lid with handle
- Paper towel
- Glass noodles
- AmeriColor (or equivalent) gel paste colorings for painting: Copper, Crimson
- Tiny liner paint brush
- 1 (7 x 4 1/2-in/17.8 x 11.4-cm) baked rectangular cookie flooded with blue royal icing (2 parts AmeriColor Regal Purple/2 parts Royal Blue/1 part Sky Blue)
- 1 isomalt nib
- Microwaveable cup
- Small trowel (or equivalent)
- Scribe tool (or equivalent)
Step 1: Mold outer bell and inner bell of jellyfish
a. To mold the outer bell, use kitchen shears to cut out a piece of rice paper that is large enough to accommodate a 2 1/2-inch (6.4-centimeter) circle (i). Submerge the rice paper in room temperature water for about a minute or until it is completely soft (ii). Use a 2 1/2-inch (6.4-centimeter) fluted round cookie cutter to cut out the shape of the bell (iii). It may take considerable downward pressure to cut through the rice paper. Remove the excess rice paper, and place the rice paper cutout into the concave side of a 2-inch (5.1-centimeter) silicone hemisphere mold. Use a very wet flat angled paint brush to brush out any air bubbles and reposition the pleats of the rice paper so that they are more evenly spaced (iv). You may want to mold a couple extra outer bells just in case one cracks when you remove it from the mold. Allow the rice paper to dry completely (I let mine dry overnight) before gently depressing the convex side of the mold to remove the bell.
b. To mold the inner bell, use kitchen shears to cut out a piece of rice paper that is large enough to accommodate a 1 1/2-inch (3.8-centimeter) circle. Mix a drop of white gel paste coloring (or 1/8 teaspoon white petal dust) with 1/2 cup room temperature water. Submerge the rice paper in the colored water for about a minute or until it is completely soft. Use a 1 1/2-inch (3.8-centimeter) round cookie cutter to cut out the shape of the bell. Remove the excess rice paper, and place the rice paper cutout into the concave side of a 1-inch (2.5-centimeter) silicone hemisphere mold. Use a very wet flat angled paint brush to brush out any air bubbles and reposition the pleats of the rice paper so that they are more evenly spaced (i). Cut away any excess rice paper with kitchen shears. Allow the rice paper to dry completely (I let mine dry overnight) before gently depressing the convex side of the mold to remove the bell (ii).
Step 2: Mold arms and select tentacles
a. You will need to create a “T”-shaped drying rack for the rice paper arms. I attached a length of sculpture wire to the handle of a heavy saucepot lid, but there are many household materials you could combine to create a suitable replacement. The goal of this contraption is to have a horizontal pole from which to hang the arms with enough height that the arms hang freely. As an example, you could tape a chopstick horizontally over the mouth of a tall drinking glass. Or you could compact aluminum foil in a “T” shape, and insert the stem of the “T” into a narrow bottle.
Cut several strips of rice paper that are about 1/2 inch (1.3 centimeters) wide and vary in length from 2 1/2 to 4 inches (6.4 to 10.2 centimeters). You will only need about three arms, however, it’s nice to have a few extra so that you can pick your favorites. Soak one strip of rice paper in clear room temperature water for about 20 seconds or until no longer brittle. Use kitchen shears to cut a few tiny notches from the long edges of the strip at random intervals (i). Press a paper towel against the wet strip of rice paper to dry it slightly so that it will stick to the drying rack. Curl one end of the strip over the drying rack so that the strip hangs freely. Repeat with the other strips (ii).
As the strips dry, they will naturally twist and curl (iii). Monitor them for the first hour of drying time to make sure they don’t stick to each other. If they do, gently separate them with a wet paint brush.
b. Open a package of thin glass noodles, and separate several long strands from the block of dried noodles. If necessary, cut any excessively curled ends with kitchen shears so that the noodles look like tentacles. (Note: I tried soaking and shaping the noodles but, once they dried, they looked just the same as the noodles straight from the package.) Set the tentacles aside for now.
Step 3: Paint outer bell
a. I used Chrysaora colorata jellyfish as my inspiration. Their patterns (and even their color) can vary substantially, so you may want to have examples to reference while painting. To paint the pattern, use undiluted Copper gel paste coloring (or equivalent) and a tiny liner paint brush. Flip the outer bell (molded in Step 1a) so that the concave side is facing up like a bowl. Paint an outline of a circle about 1/2 inch (1.3 centimeters) in diameter in the center of the bell. Use a dabbing motion when you paint, and allow the outline to widen and narrow at points so that it looks more irregular.
b. Paint eight evenly-spaced, long teardrops extending from the inner circle. The teardrops should end about 1/8 inch (0.3 centimeter) from the edge of the bell.
c. Centered in the space between the wide end of each teardrop, paint a small arrowhead pointing toward the circle.
d. Paint a small dab on either side of each arrowhead. On the outside of those dabs (next to the nearest teardrop), paint a smaller arrowhead pointing toward the edge of the bell.
e. Add a few little random dots in the empty spaces below the dabs and arrowheads (toward the center circle). Leave the center circle empty.
f. Finally, use undiluted Crimson gel paste coloring (or equivalent) to pipe irregular “U”s around the edge of the bell. The “U”s should point toward the circle.
Step 4: Assemble jellyfish
a. Before attaching the rice paper components, lay the arms and some tentacles out on the flooded cookie to get an idea of the composition and where it makes sense to attach the jellyfish’s bell (i). Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to melt one nib of isomalt in a small microwaveable cup. (Don’t worry about air bubbles as the isomalt will not be visible. As you attach the different components, you may need to reheat the isomalt if it becomes too thick.) Use a small trowel (or equivalent) to transfer a bead of isomalt to the cookie where you intend to place the outer bell (this should be just above the top of the arms) (ii). The isomalt should not come in contact with the arms at this point; they are strictly there to help you position the bell. Insert the bell into the hot isomalt and hold it in the desired position until the isomalt hardens. The bell should now stand independently on the cookie (iii). Remove the arms and tentacles.
b. Hold your inner bell in place beneath the outer bell, and use a scribe tool (or equivalent) to mark where its edge contacts the cookie. Transfer a dab of isomalt to the marked location, and hold the inner bell against the hot isomalt until it hardens.
c. Dip the end of an arm (the part that attaches to the bell) into the hot isomalt, and insert the arm into the inner bell (i). Hold the arm in place until the isomalt hardens. Repeat with the other arms (ii).
d. Dip the end of a tentacle (the part that attaches to the bell) into the hot isomalt, and hold the tentacle against the inside of one of the outer bell’s pleats until the isomalt hardens. Repeat with the other tentacles.
Finished! Once again, rice paper adds a unique, eye-catching translucency that really makes this jellyfish come alive.
Samantha Yacovetta began cookie decorating in 2013. While working at a local bakery, Samantha became captivated by cookie art when a customer requested princess-themed cookies. Attracted initially to the precision of cookie decorating, Samantha soon found that the limitless design opportunities turned it into her artistic passion. Samantha began regularly stocking the bakery case with decorated cookies and for several years sold cookies through her own company, Aproned Artist, a cottage food operation. Having retired from the business life, Samantha now enjoys making cookies just for fun from her home in San Jose, California, USA. To learn more about Samantha, please check out her Cookie Connection portfolio, her Facebook page, and her past Every Little Detail tutorials here.
Photo and cookie credits: Samantha Yacovetta
Note: Every Little Detail with Aproned Artist is a monthly Cookie Connection blog feature written by Samantha Yacovetta focused on the special little details that make big statements in cookie design. 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 Samantha's past Every Little Detail tutorials, click here. And to see all of Cookie Connection's tutorials, click here.