"There are two ways to go about it. You can take a compass and draw a perfect circle and make two perfect eyes as neat as can be. Or you can do it freehand and have some fun with it. Like I did. Give it character." - Harvey Ball (Graphic artist and creator of the original smiley face)
Look, I KNOW how hard it is to pipe a perfect circle. And I know that YOU know how hard it is too. Seriously, we could start the Circle Dreaders Support Group. And yet, so many of you fearlessly tackled Challenge #27. I honestly have nothing but R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Undaunted by misbehaving icing, unseasonal humidity, circle cookies that baked into ovals, and a host of other problems, you all pressed on, some of you making literally dozens and dozens of cookies and multiple challenge entries. Truly, if ever a challenge captured the spirit of "practice bakes perfect," it was this one.
I have a lot to say about all of the entries, and the many, many different techniques that you employed in creating all of those circles, but, first, let's talk about the winner of the PRIZE for this challenge. As always, our prize winner was chosen, entirely at random, from among all of the entries (and those who entered multiple times got more chances to win). And just what will the lucky winner of Practice Bakes Perfect Challenge #27 win? Well, how about this:
A HUGE grab bag of cookie decorating supplies (valued at over $150 and donated by Cookie Connection founder and owner, @Julia M. Usher), including: two @LilaLoa cutters (a rose and a plaque), a set of three bakery-themed cutters from @Anne Yorks of Flour Box Bakery, a “Live. Love. Cookie." dish towel, the @SugarVeil “Burlap” mat with mini spreader tool, and @Creative Cookier’s INNOPINK Sealing System for tying up piping bags, all presented in a fancy-schmancy Cookie Connection tote bag! (Plus, Julia just informed me that she's throwing in a few more things: some sugar beads, a couple of her stencil sets, and wafer paper butterflies from one of her favorite Argentine suppliers, MMT Productos!)
And the winner of this spectacular grab bag is . . . @Nikki Carriere! Nikki had a whopping FOUR entries in this challenge, more than any other entrant, and those odds really paid off! I love that Nikki won our random prize because our judges uniformly commented about how much Nikki had improved with each challenge entry. Here is her fourth entry, including some pretty fabulously flooded circles. Practice really does make perfect!
Golden Touch by Nikki Carriere
Well done, Nikki! Enjoy that fabulous grab bag of prizes, and we hope you will be equally enthusiastic about participating in future challenges! While Nikki dreams of what she will create next with all of her new cookie supplies, let's take a look at our other spotlighted artists. In no particular order, they are . . .
I Love Music by Alison Friedli There are so many great things going on here. To start with, Alison baked up some pretty . . . er . . . "circular" circles. Then she did a beautiful job of flooding those beautifully baked rounds. (She followed the method in this video tutorial by Paula Kelly-Bourque, where Paula draws an outline of a circle using an overturned drinking glass as a template, pipes over the outline, and then floods.) We also thought that Alison went the extra distance in this entry by creating some very impressively circular royal icing transfers in her design. Finally, I must comment on the amazing job Alison did handpainting all of those staffs and musical notes. At first, I thought they were stamped because they were so perfectly consistent!
Wiosenne Kwiaty by Teresa Pękul Just look at these beautiful, crisp white circles! Teresa did an admirable job of piping her outlines all the way up to the very edge of the cookies, which can be tricky, because sometimes when you flood cookies after piping way to the edge, the flood icing will literally slip off the cookie (or so I have been told *wink, wink*). I was extra impressed that Teresa piped all of these fabulous circles freehand, without any template or guide other than the edge of the cookie itself.
Fast Food Icons by Le Monnier du BiscuitAnd speaking of beautifully baked, flooded-to-the-edge circles . . . Le Monnier du Biscuit really nailed these cookies. I found Le Monnier du Biscuit's process for flooding her circles intriguing, particularly her use of a double-circle outline. Describing her method, she said: "I start at the edge of the cookie, as close as possible to the edge. I secure my first circle with another circle right next to it and then I flood the entire cookie. I also use a thicker icing to make sure the icing doesn't fall over the edge, and I use the same consistency for the outline and the flooding."
A Fairy's Friends by GinkgoWerkstatt There's nothing "wonky" about this gorgeous fairy-themed set of cookies! I think the handpainted backgrounds create gorgeous texture and nicely contrast the other stark white backgrounds. GinkgoWerkstatt went to the trouble of videotaping herself using two different methods for flooding circles. The video is short and excellent, and I highly encourage you to check it out. Basically, she floods the circles by piping spirals starting from the outside-in, or the inside-out, and then cleaning up the outer edges by moving a toothpick in small circular motions around the edge of the cookie. Actually, just watch the video!
Cobalt and White by Sweet Prodigy When one floods a vanilla cookie with cobalt icing, there is zero room for error. Zero. I applaud Sweet Prodigy for this brave, perfectly executed entry! Perhaps the secret to Christine's success here is that she actually flipped over her baked cookies and piped/flooded on the flatter backside. Genius.
Birthday Horses by Annelise Annelise may have been "disappointed" with this set of cookies, but I think it is absolutely delightful, and a wonderful addition to the challenge! Most impressive to me is that Annelise was able to maintain the perfect shape of her flooded circles, even after adding the wet-on-wet dots. Typically, the addition of extra icing on top can make the flooded base go all wonky (as the extra volume of icing spills over the piped circular border), but no such thing happened here. I say Annelise deserves a trip to the winner's circle!
Magical Mushrooms by MariaP Usually the most beautiful mushrooms are also the most poisonous, but not so with these beautiful AND delicious cookie-shrooms! To obtain her near-perfect circles, Maria used the next-size-down circle cookie cutter to trace the circle with her scribe tool. This is a great technique, especially if you use a dough recipe that does not spread much when baked. However, if you do have dough that spreads a bit more when baking, or if you want to flood closer to the edge of your cookies, I would suggest tracing the same cutter that you used for cutting out your cookies.
Bubbles by Ryoko ~Cookie Ave. Many of the people who entered Challenge #27 made multiple entries, and tried different techniques, but I think that no one tried as many different techniques as Ryoko, and with such fabulous results! In this set alone (her second of two for this challenge), she used different techniques for flooding her circles (made a paper circle template; scribed on cookies; piped an outline, then flooded), created wet-on-wet circular bubbles (using a pico projector), and then made royal icing transfer bubbles (using an old-school geometric template ruler). I encourage you to take a look at Ryoko's excellent pictorial description of her process in the first comment to her entry here. Equally informative is her process discussion and pictorial description in the comments to her first entry, "Crochet," here. (And while you are at it, do check out the crochet work in that entry, because you will be amazed!).
Bulgarian Martenitsa by Cookieland by ZorniZZa I was floored to learn that these outstanding circles were drawn freehand, a process often fraught with peril, but when you bake nice symmetrical circles, such as these, freehand piping is possible for those with a keen eye and very steady hand! Perhaps the more intriguing aspect of this entry is the inspirational story behind it. The decorations are based on yarn adornments ("martenitsi") worn as part of a Bulgarian tradition related to the welcoming of spring. You can read all about this lovely tradition from ZorniZZa herself in the comments to her entry. I feel like I learn something new every day here on Cookie Connection! And so, with tales of martenitsi and the Bulgarian "Grandma March", Practice Bakes Perfect Challenge #27 comes to an end.
However, just because our challenge has ended does not mean that you should stop practicing your circles! As anyone who entered this challenge will tell you, mastering the piped and flooded circle is a process. Find the technique that best suits you, take a few deep breaths, and then practice, practice, practice. You may not end up with perfect circles every single time, but remember, as Harvey Ball said, "have some fun with it!" Even wonky circles have "character." Our next challenge will post on or about April 15, 2018!
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.