What could be more simple than a circle? Nothing, unless, of course, you are trying to pipe one! Few skills have proven more universally elusive to cookiers than the ability to pipe a perfectly round circle. That's why, in this challenge, I am going to ask you to face your circle-piping demons and master the "simple" circle once and for all!
Of course, you will be handsomely rewarded for your efforts, as you will not only acquire an essential cookie decorating skill, but you will also have the chance to win an incredible prize! That's right, one lucky challenge entrant will be chosen at random from among all of the entrants to win a grab bag of cookie decorating supplies (valued at about $150), donated by Cookie Connection founder and owner, @Julia M. Usher. Grab bag goodies include 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! [EDITOR'S NOTE: I may even throw in a few extra treats at the eleventh hour! Perhaps a compass or two?! ]
Now that we have you all fired up about the prize for this challenge, let's talk about those pesky circles . . .
We've all imagined it: a perfectly round, perfectly puffy layer of royal icing sitting atop a perfectly cut and baked circle-shaped cookie. The reality, however, is often a wonky amoeba-shaped blob of royal icing atop what was a perfectly baked circle-shaped cookie. (The struggle is real, people!) The question is: how do we make those perfect circles in our mind a reality?
The answer lies in two things: finding the technique that works best for you, and then committing your newly acquired circle-piping skills to "muscle memory."
There are several techniques that people have found to be successful in piping circles, but there are a few techniques that stand out. Most people recommend starting with a template of a true circle, such as a circle cookie cutter or a drinking glass turned upside down, and then tracing that circle onto a naked cookie with either a scribe tool or an edible marker. This way, you merely have to carefully pipe along the line. The next thing that many people recommend is keeping your piping tip raised well above the surface of the cookie, like 1 to 2 inches (2 to 3 centimeters), and letting the piping line fall gently and naturally around the edge of the cookie. After the outline is piped, instantly flood the circle, cleaning up the curves with a scribe tool or back of a spoon. Piece of cake, right?!
- Pine Branch Bauble video tutorial by @Lucy (Honeycat Cookies) (This technique is the one I use as well.)
- Spaghetti and Meatball Cookies video tutorial by @Emma's Sweets
- Piping a Circle pictorial tutorial (including video) by @Tami Rena's Cookies
- Piping Circles on Sugar Cookies video tutorial by Paula Kelly-Bourque
Now, everyone has different issues with circles, and different questions about how to improve. There was a great discussion here in one of the forums on Cookie Connection on exactly this topic, and I encourage you to take a look. Perhaps your specific circle-drawing problem is discussed.
Finally, after you have figured out which circle-making technique works for you, the next thing you need to do is practice, practice, practice. The key to creating perfect circles every time is to create "muscle memory." Your hands need to practice, and ultimately "memorize" the proper angles, height, and speed for piping circles to make sure you can execute every. single. time. Perhaps you might even try practicing your flooded circles on something like a Notta Cookie or a printed-circle template placed under a piece of wax or parchment paper. And so, with that goal in mind, let's talk about the rules for this challenge.
1. Create a set of at least 12 circle cookies. The cookies must be circles of at least two inches (or five centimeters) in diameter, but can be of various sizes.
2. The circle cookies must have fully flooded circular bases, AND must be completely unadorned around their edges. No ruffles, dots, or other decorations can be used to obscure the edges! And by "fully flooded circular bases", I mean icing piped continuously in a circle that covers the entire round cookie - no icing of the circles in sections or parts. Here are some examples:
Simple Silly Snowman Platter by Bakerloo Station
Elegant Monogram Cookies by Coastal Cookies
Wings and Flowers by Teri Pringle Wood (NOTE: Your cookies cannot have dots or any borders around their edges; this example is here primarily to demonstrate what is meant by a fully flooded round base.)
Grill Cookies by SweetAmbs
Autumn Leaves and Acorns by Aproned Artist
3. Your set of 12 cookies must be a coherent set, where the cookies relate to one another in some way. They can be based on any theme or style that you choose, however, simple, solid-colored flooded cookies will not be accepted for purposes of this challenge. "Bonus points" for creating a circle-based design on top of your flooded circles!
4. Your main photo for your entry must be taken from directly overhead, like my Simple Silly Snowman Platter example above. Additional pictures of your set that are taken at different angles may be included as attachments in the comments to your entry. In the comments to your entry, please also describe the technique(s) you used for getting your circles as perfect as you did in your photo , or any challenges you encountered. We always love to hear about lessons learned and new techniques!
5. As always, we ask that you make a brand new set of cookies for this challenge.
6. Think outside the box, take some healthy risks, and HAVE SOME FUN.
- Please post an image of your cookie set to the site under the Practice Bakes Perfect clip set no later than April 1, 2018 at 5 pm central.
- Because these challenges are ongoing, we ask that you put "Practice Bakes Perfect Challenge #27" in your photo caption 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 cookies as you normally would.
- Please also assign other relevant clip sets and tags to your images, as you normally would. (Meaning don't just use the Practice Bakes Perfect clip set and leave it at that, or your photos 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 set. Multiple clips of the same entry/cookie set are not allowed unless added in a comment beneath the one primary clip.
After the challenge has closed on April 1, we will announce the winner in the Saturday Spotlight the following weekend (April 7). The next challenge will be announced after that Spotlight.
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, are having trouble getting started, need help bringing an idea to life, or want technical advice, please leave a comment below or send me a Cookie Connection private message.
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.