I’ve been fascinated with the idea of recreating the iridescent effects of beetles or butterfly wings in royal icing for some time, and with the growth of my collection of edible metallic paints (mostly Rainbow Dust) and a commission that would provide the perfect background for some shiny beetles, I finally decided to have a go. I'd like to share the results with you here (the tutorial is mostly contained within the video below), as well as the rather romantic story behind the commission! [EDITOR'S NOTE: Ooh, how timely! It all sounds rather Valentines-y!]
- Thick white flood royal icing (RI), stiff enough to hold its shape, but able to be smoothed with a scribe tool, in piping bag fitted with PME tip #1.5 or equivalent
- Acetate or cellophane, onto which to pipe transfers
- Edible metallic paints in green and blue (I used Rainbow Dust Metallic Paint Click-Twist pens in Midnight Blue, Royal Blue, Holly Green, and Spring Green.)
- Food-use-only paint brush
- Pad of kitchen paper or clean cloth, lightly dampened with water
- Dry lustre dusts in gold, pink, and blue (I used Sugarflair Royal Gold, Dusky Lilac, and Twilight Blue.)
- Fine-tipped edible black marker (I used a Rainbow Dust one.)
- Stiff RI, in piping bag fitted with PME tip #1 or equivalent
I was contacted by a customer who wanted me to create a cookie jigsaw puzzle (aka "cookiesaw") as a birthday gift for his partner, who is rather keen on jigsaws. It was to contain images significant to both of them, and also give nod to the fact that the gift would be presented, on holiday, in a treehouse!
So I came up with a design to make viewers feel high up in the trees, peering out through leaves at the sunset. The background would contain a painted sunset and oak leaves, and I would pipe twigs, more leaves, and two detailed squirrels on top, all of which would be handpainted.
The final details would be royal icing transfers of insects, including iridescent beetles! The whole jigsaw would be packed unassembled, in a gift box, to be put together by the recipient. But there was a rather romantic twist to the whole thing. You’ll have to read on to discover just what! But, first . . .
To pipe the beetles, I simply collected a few photographs of the kind of beetle I was after. (For those photos, see my Pinterest inspiration board here.) I needed something fitting a British landscape, and so focused on Tansy beetles and Mint Leaf beetles, both of which have gorgeous colours. Recalling some ancient biology lessons from my childhood, I simplified those images into three parts: head, thorax, and abdomen (with two wing cases). Then I simply piped each section, by eye, with thick flood icing. To maintain distinct sections, I allowed each section to crust before piping the adjacent one. If you don’t fancy tackling this step by eye, it would also be very easy to trace the outlines of these sections from a photograph, and then pipe over them on transparent cellophane (or acetate).
Now, some tips for applying the metallic paints: I had two shades each of blue and green, and I wanted to work out how to blend them seamlessly. It’s worth having a little practice first on dry royal icing. I initially found these paints a little difficult to handle, a bit like nail varnish – if you go over the same area too thickly when it’s started to dry a little, you can cause the paint to wrinkle up and become a big blobby mess! You can paint quite thickly and quickly, allowing the paint to smooth over and dry with a beautiful shiny look, but it’s difficult to work in different colours this way. Or you can work with much thinner layers and blend as you go, going back over previous layers once they have dried. I found the latter approach, whilst not giving the high shine I might have wanted, was much better for creating the shimmering effect of iridescence. One helpful tip is to use a damp pad as an artist’s palette, to allow a little blending of different shades prior to painting on the icing.
Without further waffle, have a look at the video to see how I made these beetles:
You can see I also made ladybirds (aka ladybugs) and bumble bees. All manner of little extra details for your cookies can be made in this way, because RI transfers keep so well for months. So whenever you’re making flower or leaf cookies and you think they need a little something extra. . . just reach for your box of beetles!
And the final twist on the story! I sent one piece of the cookiesaw separately. Because it didn’t appear in the gift box, there would be a piece missing once the puzzle was pieced together. My customer had a plan. He would hide the last cookie, pretend it had dropped to the floor, and get down on one knee to "find" it . . . and when he lifted it up to his partner, he would see the piped words, "Will you marry me?".
And the answer was ‘"yes"!
[EDITOR'S NOTE: So sweet! I wish everyone reading an equally romantic Valentine's Day!]
Cookie and photo credits: Lucy Samuels
Lucy Samuels is the owner of UK-based Honeycat Cookies. Originally with an art-based career in mind, Lucy attended art college for a year after school but switched to nursing where she spent twenty years specializing in cardiology. After becoming a stay-at-home mom to her daughter Jess, Lucy experimented with a range of crafts, alighting upon decorative cookies almost by accident. In late 2011, she was persuaded to start her business Honeycat Cookies following several requests to place orders. She set about learning the craft from books, the internet, and trial and error. Lucy has a YouTube channel as well as a blog, Honeycat Cookies, that document some of her wider adventures in confectionery.
Photo credit: Lucy Samuels
Note: What's New, Honeycat? is a bimonthly Cookie Connection blog feature written by Lucy Samuels, which pushes the cookie envelope every other month with innovative cookie design ideas and tutorials. Its content expresses the views of the author and not necessarily those of this site, its owners, its administrators, or its employees. To catch up on all of Lucy's past posts, click here.