Fall and its vibrant colors are a joy for the heart and a great source of inspiration to me. Mums, pumpkins, and wagons surely have been my favorite things to “cookie” in past years! (Links to some of these projects are at the end of this tutorial.)
The inspiration for this year is not very different. I upgraded 2-D wagons in previous tutorials to a 3-D cookie project, just to have another display for my mum and pumpkin cookies.
There are two food-safe, but non-edible elements in this project: paper straws. They aren’t visible, but they can easily be removed before eating the cookies. Besides serving as axles, they play an important role in making the assembly easier and in keeping all of the pieces together without the use of any props. They're kind of like having two additional hands! I used a paper straw for the first time in my 3-D Swing Cookie, and I was very happy I did. Lollipop sticks could also be used, but I prefer paper straws for several reasons: they are light yet sturdy; they don’t bend easily; they are easy to cut; they cut nicely through raw cookie dough without misshaping it (as the excess dough gets pushed into the straw); and, last but not least, they can be securely fit into cookies without using icing “glue”. That all said, let's see how I used them in this project - but, remember, the technique can be applied to many 3-D projects.
- Cookie dough of your choice
- Sharp knife
- Templates and measurements (in "Attachments" under "Files" at the end of this post)
- 1 (4-cm/1 9/16-in) round cookie cutter
- 2 paper straws
- Zester or Microplane tool
- Royal icing:
- Brown very thick-consistency royal icing (@Julia M Usher calls it “glue”; see her video for reference) in parchment cone
- Sky blue medium thick-consistency (to spread over wagon sides)
- White piping-consistency in pastry bag with PME #1 tip (or equivalent)
- White flood-consistency in pastry bag with PME #2 tip (or equivalent; I used a tip-less bag)
- Brown flood-consistency in pastry bag with PME #2 tip (or equivalent; I used a tip-less bag)
- Paint brushes: round and fine liner
- Offset spatula
- Scribe tool
- Bench scraper (or palette knife)
- Acetate or parchment paper
- Orange and black gel food coloring, diluted with vodka
Step 1: Roll, cut, bake, and miter cookies
You'll need nine cookies and two paper straws to build the wagon, basically a box with four wheels. Below is a list of the cookies that make up the wagon, along with their measurements. (Also see "Attachments" for the templates and the photo below with the baked cookies.)
- Bottom (A): 1 (6.5 x 9.5-cm/2 1/2 x 3 3/4-in) rectangle cookie
- Short sides (B): 2 (4 x 7.5-cm/1 9/16 x 3-in) rectangle cookies
- Long sides with holes (C): 2 (4 x 10.5-cm/1 9/16 x 4 1/8-in) rectangle cookies; each cookie has two holes at a distance of 1 centimeter (3/8 inch) from the same long edge and 1.5 centimeters (5/8 inch) from each short edge
- Wheels (D): 4 (4-cm/1 9/16-in) round cookies with holes in their centers
Roll your favorite cookie dough to a thickness of 0.6 centimeter (1/4 inch). Cut the cookies using my templates, a sharp knife, and the round cookie cutter (for the wheels only) indicated in the list above. Use the paper straw to cut out a little circle in the center of each wheel and two little circles on each of the long side cookies (C). Bake according to your recipe. Once the cookies are out of the oven and still warm, insert the straw into all of the holes to make sure it can still pass through them. Let the cookies cool completely.
a. If you are familiar with my 3-D cookie box projects, you know that before assembling them, I like to miter the edges that meet at corners. By "mitering", I mean filing the edges to a 45-degree angle using a zester or Microplane tool. Mitering ensures that the sides of the box will fit more closely together at the corners.
b. Here, marked with the green check, are two properly mitered edges that fit nicely together to make a tight corner.
c. In this photo, the red "X" marks another possible way to assemble the sides. As I said, this option is not my favorite, but it isn't wrong, and it can surely be used in this particular project if you would rather avoid mitering. If you choose this option, be sure to adjust the measurements of the wagon bottom cookie (A) before cutting and baking it, as it will otherwise not fit inside. You'll need to add roughly 1 centimeter (3/8 inch) to its longer side (or to its shorter side). So, for instance, the bottom would go from 6.5 x 9.5 centimeters (2 1/2 x 3 3/4 inches) to 6.5 x 10.5 centimeters (2 1/2 x 4 1/8 inches), if you adjusted the longer side.
Step 2: Assemble wagon cookie
a. Insert the paper straws into the holes of the long side cookies (C). The sides should stand upright and be parallel to one another.
b. Using a parchment cone (or equivalent), pipe brown very thick-consistency royal icing (aka "glue") along the long edges of the bottom cookie (A).
c. Place the cookie over the paper straws and make sure to align it with the two upright side cookies.
d. Push the side cookies along the paper straws to attach them to the edges of the bottom cookie.
e. Pipe brown “glue” along the short edges of the bottom cookie and the mitered edges of the two long side cookies.
f. To close the two ends of the wagon, press the mitered edges of the short side cookies onto the iced, mitered edges of the long cookies.
g. Press the sides and the corners of the wagon together to make sure all of the pieces are firmly attached to one another along the seams.
h. Use a damp round paint brush to smooth any excess brown "glue" along the inner wagon seams. Pipe more "glue" along the mitered edges if necessary, and smooth the excess icing in the same fashion.
i. Before letting the wagon dry completely, rotate the straws to make sure that they aren't stuck to the bottom cookie. (You'll need them inside the cookie while the icing is drying, as they serve as props, but they need to be removed at the start of the next step.)
Step 3: Decorate wagon and wheels
a. Once the wagon has dried completely, remove the paper straws, and use an offset spatula to spread sky blue medium thick-consistency royal icing over each side.
b. Use a scribe tool to clear any icing from the holes on each side. They need to be free of any icing, so the straws can be reinserted in Step 4a.
c. Let the icing set for a couple of minutes, and then press the edge of a bench scraper (or a spatula or palette knife) against the icing until it touches the cookie surface. You will be left with a line. Make two lines on each side of the box, spacing them evenly to get a wood plank effect.
d. Use a scribe tool to make a couple of "nail holes" at the end of each plank.
e. Now, on to decorating the wheels! Let’s start with piping the flower royal icing transfers that will cover the straw holes. (Note: Royal icing transfers are nothing more than royal icing piped on parchment paper or acetate that is allowed to dry and then moved off that surface onto a cookie.) First, draw at least four circles with the same diameter as your straws (about 6 millimeters or 1/4 inch) on paper; then place the paper under acetate or parchment paper. Using white piping-consistency royal icing with a PME #1 tip (or equivalent), pipe six dots around each traced circle. (Only four flowers are needed for this project; I piped more just in case.) Let the dots dry completely.
f. Using a fine liner brush, paint the dots with orange gel food coloring diluted with vodka.
g. When the coloring is dry, pipe a large white dot in the middle of each flower using the same icing and pastry tip used in Step 3e. Let the icing dry completely.
h. Once again using the same icing and tip, outline each wheel cookie about 3 millimeters (or 1/8 inch) from the cookie edge (to leave space for brown icing to be applied in Step 3j). Outline each hole; then use white flood-consistency royal icing and a PME #2 tip (or equivalent) to flood between the outlines just piped. Let the icing dry completely.
i. Dilute black gel food coloring with vodka, and use a clean, fine liner paint brush to paint six spokes on each wheel. Envision them as three long lines spanning the wheel diameter, intersecting at the hole, and connecting two opposite vertices of a hexagon.
j. Outline each circle cookie once again with white piping-consistency royal icing and a PME #1 tip (or equivalent), but, this time, outline very close to the cookie edge. Thin down the brown “glue” to flood-consistency, and flood the ring around each cookie edge.
k. Last, using a small amount of white piping-consistency royal icing, attach a flower transfer to the center of each cookie to cover the hole.
Step 4: Finish wagon assembly
a. Reinsert the two straws through the holes in the wagon, as shown below.
b. Cut each straw so that it sticks out about 1 centimeter (3/8 inch) from the cookie on each side. This way, there will be some space between each wheel cookie and its adjacent wagon side.
c. Place the wagon on a cup, or on anything that will keep it elevated while you attach the four wheels in the next step.
d. Slide a wheel onto each straw end or "axle". I didn’t use any icing "glue", because the wheels were not loose. (If you find that your wheels are less secure, then attach each with a dab of icing.)
Our 3-D wagon cookie is ready!
Now, let’s fill it with mum and pumpkin cookies (or other fall-themed cookies of your design)!
If you made it to this point and are interested in more fall-themed cookie projects, here are the links to my past tutorials on Cookie Connection:
- Made by Manu: Royal Icing Place Cards (October 2019)
- Made by Manu: 3-D Display Shelf Cookie (September 2019)
- Made by Manu: November Cookie Platter (October 2018)
- Made by Manu: Fall Cookie Platter Surprise (September 2018)
- Made by Manu: 3-D Cookie Lantern (October 2017)
- Made by Manu: Fall Cookie Platter (September 2017)
Happy fall! 🍁🍄🍂
Manuela Pezzopane, affectionately called Manu by her friends and family, is a fan of everything handmade, and 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. You can follow Manu on Facebook and Instagram, or email her at email@example.com.
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.