That's right! Burlap is still a hot trend in the home decorating and wedding industries. What we used to call "gunny" back in the day (because gunny sacks were made from this material) has sure come a long way in the last few years. I've been seeing such pretty things made with burlap all over Pinterest, and they got me thinking about how to create burlap texture on fondant. Now, I know there are quite a few options already on the market, like textured mats, sugar lace products, and rollers, but my mission is to improvise. As a hobbyist decorator, I always try to come up with ways to make use of what I already have, instead of buying every single gadget that comes on the market. It's good to invest in things you'll use often, but not in something you'll use for a one-time project. At least that's my opinion!
While trying to find inspiration for a cookie to "wear" my edible burlap, I came across this adorable card on Pinterest. Those cute burlap bows, the dreamy color palette, the butterfly and polka dots . . . (Who doesn't love polka dots?) It was like my dream come true. But, here's the catch: I had my mind set on making a hot air balloon cookie, not a kite cookie. No worries, I'm going to translate all that cuteness into a hanging hot air balloon cookie. Are you with me so far? Do you want to come along for the ride? [EDITOR'S NOTE: Yes! And, yes!] Great! I'm going to walk you through step-by-step instructions for making this cute and rustic hot air balloon cookie.
Here's what you will need:
- Baked cookies according to instructions below (I used a 4-inch circle cutter and Santa head cookie cutter)
- Drinking straw/skewer
- Thick consistency (20-second) flood royal icing, tinted, in prepared piping bags with #2 tips (I mixed light and dark shades of coral and chocolate brown)
- Brown petal dust and soft, dry paint brush to apply dust (I used a round one)
- White gel food coloring (just a drop or two) and toothpick
- Jute twine or ribbon (I used one 12-inch piece and two 7-inch pieces)
- Fondant, tinted in burlap brown (You'll need about a 2-inch ball)
- Fondant mat and rolling pin
- Wilton cutter/embosser
- Small (2-inch wide) star cookie cutter
- Edible glue and small brush
- Fondant buttons and wafer paper butterflies (Sorry, I'm a sucker for these sorts of things)
Phew! I hope I didn't miss anything.
A note about the cookie dough: You can start with cookie dough that has been chilled in the freezer for about 15 minutes prior to rolling, or put your cutout cookies in the freezer for a bit before they go in the oven. Do what you are used to doing. I usually do both of these steps to make sure the cookies keep their shape throughout the process of cutting and baking.
Here's a confession! I don't have a hot air balloon cookie cutter, so I had to improvise, again. I squished a circle cookie cutter until it resembled the basic shape of a balloon. Once you cut out the balloon shape, use the top curve of the cutter and cut off the narrow part of the cookie bottom to give it a slight curve.
After a little squishing, my Santa head cookie cutter was perfect as a basket cutter. Again, use the top curve of the balloon cutter and cut right below Santa's hat. Use the bottom half for the basket. (Refer to the picture below.)
Use a drinking straw or skewer to make holes in the cookies. You need to make two holes at the top of the balloon to hang it. You also need to make two holes at the bottom of the balloon and two holes at the top of the basket. Make sure they align. Bake the cookies.
The cookies are baked and cooled. It's time to decorate. I wanna take a minute and give a shout-out to Rebecca, The Cookie Architect. Thanks for helping me fix my coral icing! Alright, let's get back to decorating these cookies.
Divide the balloon into five panels. I used the darker shade of coral icing to ice the two outer panels and the middle panel, making sure not to cover the holes. Let the icing dry until it crusts. (I don't have a space heater, so at this point, I set my oven on its lowest temperature, which is 100F, and put the cookies in for about 10 minutes.)
Fill in the rest of the panels with the lighter shade of coral icing. Ice the basket with chocolate brown icing. Let the cookies dry completely for at least eight hours or overnight.
A note on coral icing: If you have trouble getting the perfect shade of coral, as I had, refer to this blog post by The Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle. She has a few different options for you.
With the cookies now dry, we are ready to move on to the next stage of decorating. I wanted to give a vintage feel to this hot air balloon. To do this, I used a bit of brown petal dust on a soft, round, and dry paint brush and applied it to the cookie, concentrating mostly on the creases and the outer edge of the cookie. (You can also use a tiny bit of brown gel color on a small damp paint brush to achieve an aged look, but I like the dusting method because it gives me control over how heavy or light I go. I also don't have to worry about damaging the icing with too much water.) I was going for a subtle effect, but if you like the heavily aged look, you can add more color. Be careful with this stuff, a little goes a long way. Add a little at a time until you achieve the desired look.
I also wanted to add some polka dots to the darker panels. Put a couple of drops of white gel color into a small container. Load one pointy end of the toothpick with the gel color and place a dot on the cookie. Repeat this process until the whole thing is covered with polka dots and you feel dizzy, LOL. (Another option is to do wet-on-wet polka dots with white icing right after you ice the darker panels, but I prefer this method because I think those tiny dots are cuter.)
I'm trying to take a close-up to show the shading, but my camera is acting up. Grrr!
It's time to tie the twine. (Try saying that five times fast!) Take the 12-inch piece and run each end through the top two holes of the balloon. Tie the ends at the back and trim off the excess. Take one 7-inch piece and run one end through one hole on the bottom of the balloon and the other end through one hole in the basket, making sure the holes align. Do the same to the other side with the remaining piece of twine. Tie the ends at the back and trim off the excess.
It should look something like this!
The next step is to roll out the fondant. As I said earlier, I tinted my fondant to burlap brown. If you're not sure how to achieve this color, be sure to check out this Country Christmas Color Palette blog post by The Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle. I highly recommend it!
A note on the burlap fondant technique: I came up with this technique on my own. I haven't seen any other tutorial for this same technique. But, I know from experience that just because I haven't seen it does not mean it's not there. It's really hard to search every nook and cranny of the Internet.
Roll out the fondant with a silicone rolling pin on a fondant rolling mat. You need to roll it to a little less than 1/8-inch thickness. (Looking back at the cookie now, I think I should have rolled it even thinner.)
A note on the Wilton cutter/embosser tool: You should be able to find this tool at your local craft store. If not, check online cake decorating stores. It's inexpensive and it's one of the first tools I purchased when I first started cake decorating. Even though I don't decorate cakes anymore, it's nice to make use of this tool once in a while.
Take the cutter/embosser tool, and change the wheel to the one that has ridges and looks like a quilting tool. Run this over the fondant in a straight line, making sure not to apply too much pressure. You don't want to cut through the fondant. Repeat this process without leaving any space in between the lines, until you've covered enough area for your project. I only went in one direction (vertical lines) with the wheel, but it you prefer a tight weave, run the wheel in the other direction (horizontal lines) as well. You could also brush on a bit of brown petal dust to add depth and age.
What's a hot air balloon without some bunting, right? I'm going to use this burlap-textured fondant to cut out some rustic bunting. If you don't have a mini triangle cutter or a mini diamond cutter, here's a neat little trick I picked up from bake-a-boo. Use the star cookie cutter to cut a star shape out of the fondant. Cut the five triangular parts off the star, and use them as bunting. It's that simple! Arrange the bunting across the balloon to see how many can fit without any overhang. Once you're happy with the arrangement, stick them in place with a bit of edible glue or piping gel.
I also made a bow out of the leftover fondant to put on the basket. You all know how to make a simple fondant bow, don't you? I made mine with a 3-inch long, 1/2-inch wide fondant strip. Bring the two ends to meet in the middle and apply a bit of edible glue or water to stick the ends in place. Pinch the middle to give it shape. Stick the bow to the basket. Let dry.
You could add a couple of fondant buttons to each end of the bunting and one on the bow as well. To make fondant buttons, simply use a button mold or cut out the shape you like using mini fondant or cookie cutters; then use a toothpick to make button holes. That's what I did!
That's it! Oh, wait! Not quite! I forgot the butterflies. [EDITOR'S NOTE: How dare you?! ] Stick on a couple of wafer paper butterflies to up the cute factor.
How do you like this rustic-chic hanging hot air balloon cookie? I hope you'll give my burlap-textured fondant technique a try. I'd love to see what cookie designs you invent with this technique.
Be creative! Let your inspiration guide you, and let your imagination run wild!
And don't forget, please send me your sparks of ideas (photos, notes, doodles, or whatever) to help fuel my future posts! Thanks!
Pamoda Vanderwert is a hobbyist cookie decorator who found her passion for decorating cookies while being a cake decorator. She started decorating cookies in early 2013 and hasn’t looked back since. She launched her Facebook page Sugar Pearls Cakes & Bakes around the same time as a way to connect with other cookiers, and also to share her creativity with the rest of the world. When she is not decorating cookies, she keeps herself busy as a mother of two young children.
Photo credit: Pamoda Vanderwert
Note: Get Inspired with Sugar Pearls is a monthly Cookie Connection blog feature written by Pamoda Vanderwert, which explores how to go from source inspiration to artful cookie design through creative cookie tutorials. Its content expresses the views of the author and not necessarily those of this site, its owners, its administrators, or its employees. To catch up on all of Pamoda's past posts, click here.