When I first posted this "Crystal Clear" challenge, I knew that it would be a doozy. Believe me, I know that sugar and isomalt are not the easiest materials to work with and that mastery of these materials requires practice, practice, practice. But I also know that one can do amazing things with sugar (how cool is food science, really?!), and was excited by the idea of what you might do with this medium. Well, I can honestly say that not only did you all rise to the challenge, but you really just blew me away! The entries we received for Practice Bakes Perfect Challenge #30 were some of the most amazing and beautiful works of cookie art that I have ever seen. Truly. So, whether your challenge entry represented your first attempt to work with sugar or you were already an isomalt pro, you all deserve to give yourself a huge round of applause! Well done, you.
Now, before I get to the insane entries that we will be highlighting here today, I would like to talk about the prize for this challenge and who the lucky winner is! (Remember: Our winner is chosen at random from among all the entries, and the more times you enter, the more chances you have to win.) For Challenge #30, our big prize is a grab bag of goodies (estimated value: well over $300 USD) donated by Cookie Connection host @Julia M. Usher, which includes isomalt in various forms, a candy thermometer, assorted silicone molds and mats, a SugarVeil® Air Pen, piping bags, cookie cutters, wafer paper, a stencil or two, a Cookie Connection t-shirt, and other decorating tools.
And the winner of Practice Bakes Perfect Challenge #30 is . . . @swissophie, aka Sonja Galmad. Sonja made three amazing entries for this challenge, earning her the title, "Queen of Isomalt"! I was swooning over @swissophie's first two entries, but the one that really blew me away was her final entry, a Tiffany-style lamp.
Tiffany-Style Table Lamp by swissophieWhat can I say about this entry? It is a fully edible and fully functioning replica of a Tiffany lamp! I am truly at a loss to think of another piece of cookie art as incredible as this one. Every single panel of the lampshade was individually made using royal icing and colored isomalt, and then carefully connected. The base of the lamp is a hollow cookie and stable enough to support the weight of the isomalt shade. Real electric wiring runs up through the base to actually illuminate the lamp. You simply MUST see the process pictures and descriptions in the comments to this entry to witness firsthand the effort that went into creating this masterpiece. This is a mike-drop moment in cookie art. Brava, Sonja!
These were Sonja's other two stunning challenge entries. (I thought it was particularly interesting to learn how Sonja goes about creating her intricate patterns using the Mirrograph app, which you can read about in the comments to these entries.)
Mirrograph Cookie by swissophie
Mirrograph Cookie 2 by swissophie
As if that weren't enough eye candy for you, let's get to the rest of the amazing challenge entries that we are spotlighting . . .
Magnifying Glass by Ryoko ~Cookie Ave.The first of two entries by @Ryoko ~Cookie Ave., this one really caught the judges' eyes. Showcasing the versatility of isomalt, Ryoko uses it in three different ways: melted and colored to make the "maple syrup", poured into tiny royal icing-outlined sections on the bee's wings, and melted and formed into a convex shape for the magnifying glass. I really love how Ryoko supersized the bee under the magnifying glass to make it look as if it was a real magnifying glass! Finally, I just want to give Ryoko a shout-out for that fantastic hand cookie - I thought it was a real hand at first glance!
Koi Pond by Kim DamonIn this entry, @Kim Damon made her own boiled sugar candy to create the "water" in this koi pond. One of the most interesting things about this entry is how Kim suspended her sheet of clear candy water about 1/4 inch above the koi that she painted on the base cookie, which gives the water and the whole scene extra depth. The overall feel of this cookie is so realistic. I swear we could watch one of those little fishies leap right out of the pond!
Got Ya, Fishy! by Ryoko ~Cookie Ave.And speaking of fishies . . . This entry (@Ryoko ~Cookie Ave.'s second) is so playful that you may miss the very serious design and isomalt skills needed to execute it. To create that extremely realistically textured block of "ice," Ryoko made a mold of aluminum foil lined with parchment paper and poured her melted isomalt over the cookie fish so that the fish was suspended in the ice block. Our judges were all impressed with the creativity and originality of this cookie. (And, if you want to see exactly how Ryoko made that ice block, check out her magnificent instructions in the comments to her entry here.)
Away in the Manger by Alison Friedli
We thought this entry was an excellent example of how isomalt can be used to create a stained glass effect. Here, @Alison Friedli made the stained glass holy family as a transfer. She piped the outlines with black royal icing and then filled the outlines with colored isomalt. Alison then positioned the transfer a couple of inches in front of the large backdrop manger cookie and placed a light source in the space between. The effect is a glowing stained glass scene! (You can see a wonderful pictorial description of how Alison put this cookie together in the first comment to her entry here.)
Dragonfly Pendant by GinkgoWerkstattOne of FIVE (!!!) entries from @GinkgoWerkstatt, this dragonfly pendant was a standout. I love the effect of the copper-colored dragonfly against the clear isomalt drop pendant, and the beautifully piped necklace links. But what most impressed me was the fact that GinkgoWerkstatt used this challenge to acquire a new skill (working with isomalt), and then tried again and again with different entries to gain proficiency. If you look at her five entries in the order they were created, you can definitely see some serious skill progression. Check out all five entries and see for yourself: Heart of Glass, Christmas Ornament, Dragonfly Pendant, Crystal Dragonfly, and Enchanted Fountain.
Dragonfly by Annelise (Le bois meslé)To create the dragonfly's wings in this entry, @Annelise (Le bois meslé) used crushed and melted hard candy, which she said was a very difficult material to work with. She explained that the melted candy was thick and sticky and tended to break the delicately piped royal icing veins of the wings whenever she tried to pour the melted candy on top of them. And yet, despite all of her difficulties, I would say Annelise created a really gorgeous cookie here! I would love to see Annelise try to recreate this cookie with isomalt so that she could compare and contrast her experiences for us!
Blowing Bubbles by Kim Damon
This bubble-blowing little girl is the sweetest! In this entry (@Kim Damon's second in this Spotlight), Kim again used homemade boiled sugar. As one judge put it: "The dimension, shine, and transparency of the sugar bring those bubbles to life. Such a great and unique idea!"
Vintage 3-D Baby Rattle by Andrea Costoya
This cookie is a lovely, functioning baby rattle. But what most intrigues me about this entry is the convex isomalt hemispheres, which @Andrea Costoya made with silicone molds - a great idea!
And with that, Practice Bakes Perfect Challenge #30 is a wrap! Again, I cannot emphasize enough how much I was wowed by everyone's entries. I was also mightily impressed by how fearless many of you were in working with sugar and isomalt for the first time. Now that's what these challenges are all about!
Our next Practice Bakes Perfect Challenge will post on or about October 14, 2018, so stay tuned! [EDITOR'S NOTE: Actually, it will likely post after October 14, as I will be traveling to Japan that day to teach! Internet connection and jet lag willing, I will post as soon as possible after I arrive.]
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.