Welcome to the latest Practice Bakes Perfect challenge! This time around we are going to work on a specific, and very versatile and useful technique - stenciling. And, I must confess, this challenge is challenging for ME! I currently own only about half a dozen stencils, and have used them on precisely ONE project EVER - my mixed media set for Practice Bake Perfect Challenge #15. I have lots of reasons (ahem, excuses) for not using stencils more often, but I think the time has come for me and YOU all to overcome our stenciling hang-ups; raise our airbrushes, paint brushes, and offset spatulas; and kick our cookie games up a notch!
Not only will challenge entrants gain some mad stenciling skills, but they will also have a chance to win a FABULOUS prize! Specifically, one lucky, randomly chosen entrant will receive a gift certificate (retail value $50 USD) to the amazing stencil company, Stencibelle, which has been generously donated by Stencibelle owner and fellow Cookie Connection member, Belle Harris aka Belleissimo Cookies.
And, if you can't wait until the end of this challenge for the chance to own some of these gorgeous stencils, you can purchase them directly from Stencibelle online TODAY.
Now, back to our challenge . . .
For Challenge #17, I would like you to use multiple stencils and stenciling techniques together on a single cookie to create a scene, such as this underwater scene by Belleissimo Cookies:
Here, Belle used four different stencils for the water, seaweed, bubbles, and scales. She also used four different stenciling techniques (which we will discuss in further detail below): airbrushing (the water), spreading royal icing (bubbles and seaweed), sponging (seaweed), and dusting with petal/luster dusts (scales).
Don't own any stencils, you say? No problem! If you don't want to buy them, you can make your own out of paper, as Sweet Sugarbelle does in this tutorial, or using blank stencil sheets, as Haniela's does in this tutorial. Julia M. Usher even makes her own stencils using frosting sheets and craft punches, which are especially useful for curved cookies. You can see Julia's frosting sheet stencil tutorial here. If you are aware of other helpful tutorials for making your own stencils, or have a different technique of your own, we would love to hear about it, so please feel free to post links and tips in the comments to this post!
After you have bought or made your own stencils, you can start to think about some of the many ways those stencils can be used. Let's call these "stenciling techniques":
- Stenciling with an Airbrush or Aerosol Can Color Sprays - This is probably the most frequently used stenciling technique, where you lay the stencil flat against the cookie and spray color with an airbrush. The trick with this technique is not to get any "underspray." For more tips on stenciling with an airbrush, you can checkout this tutorial by Sweet Sugarbelle. And for a super-helpful tip on how to prevent the smudges that can occur when excess airbrush color collects on the stencil, you can watch this amusing video by Sweet Hope Cookies.
- Stenciling with Royal Icing - This is where you lay the stencil atop the cookie and spread thick royal icing over the stencil, and then lift the stencil, leaving a dimensional stencil pattern. To see how it's done, Julia M. Usher has a great blog post on how to stencil with royal icing.
- Stenciling with Petal/Luster Dusts - This is where you lay the stencil flush against the cookie, and using a dry paint brush, brush dry petal or luster dusts over the stencil openings.
- Stenciling with Sponges - This is where you place the stencil directly onto a cookie, and literally dab food coloring or royal icing on with a sponge or sponge brush. Here is a tutorial on this technique (and some of the others) by Sweet Art Factory.
- Transfers Made with a Stencil - You can use a stencil to create a template for piped royal icing transfers, as the Bearfoot Baker does here. Or, you can make royal icing transfers by using royal icing to stencil an object or pattern onto a silicone mat or acetate sheet, allowing the transfer to dry, and then transferring onto a cookie.
Now that you know all about how to make stencils and the various techniques that can be used with them, let's discuss the rules for this challenge. Please read and follow them CAREFULLY.
1. Create a stenciled "scene" on a single cookie. Merriam-Webster defines a scene as "a view or sight that looks like a picture." A scene is like the backdrop of a theatrical production, which may or may not include other objects or people. In my mind, a scene is a particular place or setting, real or imagined. In our example above, the "scene" is an underwater place/location with a mermaid. (July 12, 2016 update: This rule is NO longer required, though all others are still required.)
2. Create your stenciled scene using a minimum of three different stencils AND three different techniques, choosing from the list of techniques above. All of these stencils and techniques must be used on your one cookie. You MUST also state which stencils and techniques you used in the first comment under your entry. Please note: Using multiple shapes on the same stencil does not count as using more than one stencil. For instance, if you use a dog and a cat shape that are both on one larger pet stencil, then this counts as the use of one stencil, not two. You must use three distinct stencils.
3. Although a scene created entirely with stencils is preferred in this challenge, you may include one, and only one, additional medium, such as the fondant mermaid tail in our example.
4. As always, we ask that you make a brand new cookie for this challenge.
5. Think outside the box, take some healthy risks, and HAVE SOME FUN.
- Please post an image of your cookie to the site under the Practice Bakes Perfect clip set no later than July 17, 2016 at 5 pm central. (July 12, 2016 update: The challenge will now close on July 24, 2016 at 5:00 pm central time, with the winner and challenge highlights posted in the Saturday Spotlight on July 30.)
- Please state which stencils and techniques you used in your entry in the first comment under the photo. This information is a requirement of the challenge; photos without it will be disqualified.
- Because these challenges will be ongoing, we ask that you put "Practice Bakes Perfect Challenge #17" in your photo caption field AND in a tag, so that we can tell the challenges apart from month to month. Please use the main title field to uniquely name your cookie as you normally would.
- Please also assign other relevant clip sets and tags to your image, as you normally would. (Meaning don't just use the Practice Bakes Perfect clip set and leave it at that, or your photo won't easily be found with keyword searches.)
- You can enter more than once, but please post only one clip of each distinct entry/cookie. Multiple clips of the same entry/cookie are not allowed unless added in a comment beneath the one primary clip. Please also use different stencils in different ways on each entry.
After the challenge has closed on July 17, we will announce the winner in the Saturday Spotlight the following weekend (July 23). The next challenge will be announced after that Spotlight. (July 12, 2016 update: Again, the challenge will now close on July 24, 2016 at 5:00 pm central time, with the winner and challenge highlights posted in the Saturday Spotlight on July 30.)
And one last thing . . . This is NOT meant to be a competition. The only person you should be competing against is yourself. Period. These challenges are intended to inspire the artist in you and push you to be the best cookie artist YOU can be at this snapshot in time. Remember, the whole point of this exercise is to get you out of your comfort zone - to "take healthy risks," as my wise-beyond-his-years son always reminds me. Plus, prizes are given entirely at random, so healthy risk-taking has its own rewards!
I would love to chat with you as you journey through this process, so if you have any questions about the challenge (other than, "How do I get my airbrush out of the box?"), are having trouble getting started, need help bringing an idea to life, or want technical advice, please leave a comment below.
*** IMPORTANT UPDATE TO RULES ON JULY 12, 2016 ***
After monitoring the latest challenge for the last few weeks, and noting your collective struggles with it, I have decided to revise the latest challenge in the following ways:
- The requirement that the entry specifically depict a "scene" has been eliminated.
- Entries previously submitted, but removed from the challenge for failing to meet the "scene" requirement, will be reconsidered. In order to have an entry reconsidered, please edit your clip to re-include "Practice Bakes Perfect Challenges" in your clip sets.
- In light of these modifications, the deadline for the challenge will be extended. The challenge will now close on July 24, 2016 at 5:00 pm central time, with the winner and challenge highlights posted in the Saturday Spotlight on July 30.
If anyone has questions about these changes, please feel free to post comments below.
P.S. For the other contest guidelines, please refer to the original post, directly above. All other rules still apply.
Christine Donnelly began her professional baking career at 16, when she was hired on the spot at her local bakery to work the counter and decorate cakes. After detours to college and law school, she worked as a trial lawyer in Chicago for many years, ultimately leaving that career to become a stay-at-home mother to her two children. In her “retirement,” she continued to bake at home, at last finding her preferred artistic medium in decorated cookies. In February 2013, Bakerloo Station was born with a presence on both Facebook and Instagram. Christine makes cookies to balance her left brain, to inspire and share creative ideas, and to feed those needs that only art can satisfy.
Photo credit: Christine Donnelly
Note: Practice Bakes Perfect is a bimonthly Cookie Connection blog feature written by Christine Donnelly that poses inspiration or challenges to get you to stretch as a cookie artist - for practice, for prizes, and for fun! Its content expresses the views of the author and not necessarily those of this site, its owners, its administrators, or its employees. Catch up on all of Christine's past Cookie Connection posts here.