I have been living in Southeast Asia for almost two years now. The flowers and plants here are really fascinating in their shapes and vibrant colors, and have often inspired my tutorials. Moreover, flowers and plants are arranged in many ways in hotels, airports, malls, and even hospitals. In my picture below, you can see the source of the inspiration for this tutorial, framed in a collection of my various flower photos.
- Cookie dough of your choice
- 1 medium (7.5 x 10-cm/3 x 4-in) egg-shaped cookie cutter
- 1 small (4 x 4.5-cm/1 1/2 x 1 3/4-in) heart cookie cutter (the largest from this set of three)
- Templates (in "Files" under "Attachments" at the end of this post)
- Parchment paper, for tracing templates
- Scissors, for cutting templates
- Sharp paring knives, small and large, for hand-cutting cookies
- Small sugar craft knife, for hand-cutting cookies
- Microplane or equivalent filing tool (optional)
- Royal icing:
- Piping-consistency light green, in pastry bags with PME #1 and PME #25 tips (or equivalents, such as PME #3 in lieu of #25)
- Flooding-consistency brown and dark green, in tip-less pastry bags with openings equivalent to PME #2 tip
- Piping-consistency brown, in pastry bag with PME #25 tip (or equivalent)
- Thick flooding-consistency yellow and orange, in tip-less pastry bags with openings equivalent to PME #2 tip
- Scribe tool or equivalent
- Stencil Genie or equivalent (optional)
- White gel food coloring
- Small flat paint brush
- 1 vase (Group a): egg-shaped cookie cutter, small paring knife, and vase template; see Steps 1a to 1d, below
- 2 Monstera leaves and 2 half-leaves (Group b): heart cookie cutter, small paring knife, and leaf templates; see Steps 1e to 1f, below
- 5 leaves (Group c) and 5 Heliconia flowers (Group d): heart cookie cutter and sugar craft knife; see Steps 1g to 1i, below
- 5 branches (Group e): large paring knife; see Steps 1j to 1k, below
Step 1: Cut and bake cookies
Roll your dough to a thickness of about 6 millimeters or 1/4 inch.
a. Cut out an egg using the medium egg-shaped cookie cutter. Trace the vase template (just the outline) onto a piece of parchment paper, and cut it out with scissors. (Again, all of my templates can be found in "Files" under "Attachments" at the end of this post.)
b. Remove the excess dough from around the egg shape, and place the vase template over the dough so its left side conforms to the egg shape.
c. Use the egg cutter to trim the dough along the (right) long side of the vase template (i.e., the part not covered by the template in the b photo, above).
d. With the template as a cutting guide, use the egg cutter and a small paring knife to trim the top (opening) and bottom of the vase. With that, the vase (Group a) is fully cut!
e. Now, using the small heart cutter noted above, cut out three hearts, and then cut one of them in half using a small paring knife.
f. Make a heart template out of parchment paper (just as you made the vase template in Step 1a), and place it on one of the remaining heart cutouts. Use a sugar craft knife to cut around it, and then repeat this step on the last heart. These pieces will become the Monstera leaves (Group b).
g. Cut out five more hearts using the same small heart cookie cutter used in Step 1e. Alternatively, use a small (4.5 x 2.5-cm/1 3/4 x 1-in) teardrop cookie cutter, cut out ten cookies, and skip to Step 1j.
h. Use the side of the heart cutter to cut out a drop shape from one of the hearts. (Reserve the other portion of the heart for use in Step 1i). Repeat this step for the remaining four hearts. The five drop cutouts will become the Heliconia flowers (Group d).
i. Using a sugar craft knife, remove the small bit of excess dough at the top of each heart-half remaining from Step 1h. You will end up with five irregular drop shapes, which will become another set of leaves (Group c).
j. Now, make sure the rolled cookie dough is very firm (i.e., cold from the fridge). Use a paring knife to cut out five long, thin (0.6 x 20-cm/1/4 x 8-in) sticks of dough. You don’t need a ruler, as a long paring knife will do. Be sure to cut directly on parchment paper to avoid having to directly handle the sticks later.
k. Roll each stick to smooth its edges, making a sort of breadstick (like the Italian grissini). Again, roll on parchment paper so you can move the sticks onto a baking sheet without directly touching and misshaping them. Bake as directed in your recipe, but watch the sticks carefully, as these thin pieces can bake quite rapidly.
Once the sticks are out of the oven and still warm, trim them to the length you need. (In my case, I cut different lengths depending on the plates I used; those lengths ranged between 12 to 15 centimeters, or 4 3/4 to 6 inches.) After trimming, gently file the cookie ends with a Microplane tool, if desired.
Bake the other cookies (cut in Steps 1a to 1i) as directed in your recipe, putting like-size cookies on the same sheet to ensure uniform baking times.
Let the cookies cool completely before decorating them in the next step.
Step 2: Decorate vase
a. Use light green piping-consistency royal icing and a PME #1 tip (or equivalent) to outline the vase cookie.
b. Use brown flooding-consistency royal icing and a PME #2 tip (or equivalent) to flood the cookie. Let the icing dry completely before moving to the next step.
c. Once again, print out my vase template, but, this time, trace the entire design (including the interior stripes) onto a piece of parchment paper. Lay the paper on the cookie, and lightly trace over the stripes with a scribe tool. This way, you'll score the stripes into the icing, which can then be used as a piping guide in the next step. (Optional: Use a Stencil Genie, aka stencil frame, to hold the parchment paper in place on the cookie while tracing.)
d. Now, pipe stripes over the scored marks. Use brown piping-consistency royal icing and a PME #25 tip. (I find it easiest to pipe the stripes in a consistent shape when the vase is upside down.) Let the icing dry completely.
e. The vase now has some texture, but it looks a bit dull. To add interest, highlight the stripes with white gel food coloring applied with a small flat paint brush.
Step 3: Decorate leaves
Let’s start with the Monstera leaves (Group b). Remember, I cut one of them in half, just because doing so adds interest and dimension to the final composition.
a. Using light green piping-consistency royal icing and a PME #1 tip (or equivalent), outline one half-section of each full leaf cookie. Starting from the bottom point of the heart, pipe a curved line along the middle of the cookie to the lowest point between the two lobes (the heart apex). From there, pipe the classic Monstera split-leaf design along the perimeter of the cookie until you once again reach the bottom point of the heart. Repeat the same process for the two half-leaf cookies.
b. Now, outline the remaining half of each full leaf. Starting from the heart apex, follow the curve of the lobe and then again pipe a split-leaf pattern along the edge until you reach the bottom point of the heart.
c. To form the typical holes in Monstera leaves, pipe a few tiny ovals, here and there, on each leaf and half-leaf cookie.
Now, let's move on to another leaf type.
d. Using the same green icing and piping tip, outline the five drop cookies (Group c) in the same fashion used for the Monstera leaves, except, this time, pipe a continuous line (no split-leaf edges or holes inside).
e. Use dark green flooding-consistency royal icing and a PME #2 tip (or equivalent) to flood the smaller sections of each leaf (and also the two half-leaves). Use a scribe tool to tease the icing into the tiny corners. Let the icing set before piping the other half of each leaf. This way, there's no chance of the icing from one half merging with that in the other half, and the leaf sections will remain completely distinct.
f. Now, flood the remaining half of each leaf, and let the icing dry completely.
g. Back to light green piping-consistency royal icing (with a PME #1 tip or equivalent)! Let’s pipe some details on the Monstera leaves! Pipe short arches in some of the sections of each leaf.
h. For the Group c leaves, use the same icing and tip to pipe little arches (about five) on the smaller half of each leaf. Start at the center of the leaf, and end at the leaf's edge. Then, move to the larger leaf section, and do the same, staggering the lines so that they start in between those piped on the smaller half.
Step 4: Decorate Heliconia flowers
I have seen many different kinds of Heliconia flowers since I started living here. I stuck to their typical vibrant colors, but, since their design needed to fit the small Group d cookies, I piped something that recalls the typical flower without being 100-percent botanically correct.
a. In the picture below, I show the piping sequence of the five flower parts. (The end result looks a bit like an ear of wheat!) From here on out (just for my convenience), I will refer to the five parts of each flower as “petals”. Using light green piping-consistency royal icing and a PME #1 tip (or equivalent), pipe all five petals on each of the five cookies.
b/c. Now divide the top petal (#5) in three parts by piping two segments as shown in the pictures below. After piping the second little segment, you will end up with a small lowercase “y” within the top petal. Repeat these steps on the remaining four cookies.
d. Working on one cookie at a time, use yellow thick flooding-consistency royal icing and a PME #2 tip (or equivalent) to pipe a line along the upper inside edge of each petal, and a drop at the tip of the top petal.
e. Immediately fill in all of the petals, using orange thick flooding-consistency royal icing and a PME #2 tip (or equivalent). The yellow and the orange icings should merge together into a flat and seamless wet-by-wet effect. Repeat Steps 4d and 4e for the remaining four cookies.
Step 5: Decorate sticks
And last, use light green piping-consistency royal icing and a PME #25 tip (alternatively, a PME #3 tip) to pipe a line along the length of each cookie stick. The lines will make the sticks look thinner than they actually are and give the final composition a lighter look and feel.
Now that all of the cookies have been decorated, here’s a visual recap, from inspiration to decorated cookies:
And now the fun part. Let’s assemble them!
The arrangement above is tall and dramatic, but, with a little bit of cookie-shuffling, you can get a more compact composition, shown below. Either approach would make a great Mother’s Day gift!
And, last but not least, the usual just-for-fun video. Enjoy!
That’s all for this month!
Ciao, Manu 🌺
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 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.