Live Chat with Jacinda Baynes Harper of Ali's Sweet Tooth
Next up in our Cookie'sCool series, we chat with Cookie'sCool instructor Jacinda Baynes Harper (aka Jaci) of Ali's Sweet Tooth. Known widely for her distinctive shabby chic style, Jaci will offer up tips for achieving her romantic look and and answer any other cookie decorating questions you might have. We'll also be doing an in-depth Cookier Closeup with Jaci in a few weeks, so stay tuned for that.
As always, you're encouraged to log advance questions starting now! (It's super helpful for questions to be logged early, so our guests are able to prepare answers in advance and to field more questions on the day of the chat.) But note that these questions will reveal one at a time, in the order received, only after the chat goes live. Please don't expect questions or answers to appear immediately.
Before we get started, just a few housekeeping notes for newbies to our chats: questions are answered in the order received, but they will not post to the public/viewable area of the chat until Jaci reads and answers them. We'll work through questions that were logged in advance first; then start working on questions asked live during the chat. That said, please be patient and do not re-post the same question. It may take some time to answer your question, depending on where it sits in the queue. But I will personally make sure every question gets answered before we're through!
Hello and thank you for the questions.;o)
I have found that bleeding has a lot to do with your environment. If it's moist in your area, your icing will not set up quickly and you risk bleed. The same can be true for warm weather. What works best for me is, I put them under a fan as soon as possible. Getting that top layer to crust over is key and a fan will speed up the process. When using black, I make it the night before and use as little food coloring as possible. You're wanting a dark gray. The color will deepen by
morning without having to use a lot of food coloring which reduces your risk of bleeding. I've also found a small amount of corn syrup helps with dark colors as it almost seals the color in. I use about 1/2 tsp per cup of icing. Hope this helps.
I have tried several brands of meringue powder and found Americolor
works best for me and would like to share why. When I am making my
icing, I let the MP dissolve in warm water for a few minutes prior to
adding my other ingredients. This has reduced my tips getting clogged
to almost nothing. I also make it a bit thicker than normal if I know
it will not all all be used right away. The best part about this is, it
does not separate. It's the only MP I've tried that doesn't separate
after a day. I've had my thick batches last up to a week with no
separation. Adding an extra cup of icing sugar really helps and you
thin as needed. Any leftovers are put in the freezer and when thawed,
look like a fresh batch of icing. Another perk is, it's one of the most
affordable meringue powders on the market. You can buy a 20 oz container
on Amazon for about $15.00.
This is a great question. When I started baking, I bought a Kopykake,
airbrush and an edible printer. They all sat for about a year.;o) It
really comes down to what look you are trying to achieve. If you are
wanting matching sets or character cookies, a Kopykake certainly helps.
I found I liked sets
that were a little different and could get those looks without needing
all the fun gadgets. I can honestly say the one item I can't live
without is my fan. It speeds up your drying process, which allows you
to add layers and be creative, without having to stop and wait twelve
Another item most of us have, but don't often use, is our tips. You can
achieve some breathtaking looks by using different tips. Flowers and
borders are just a few. There are several charts online and on Youtube
that will show you what you can create with your different tips. It's
affordable, we usually have them on hand and you can create beautiful
cookies without having to purchase all the expensive gadgets right
away. So aside from practice, I would say it really depends on the look
that calls to you and go from there.
Thank you again for all the wonderful questions.
Thank you so much! I find most of my inspiration from vintage items
Grandmothers teacups, linens and cards. I've also taken modern cookies
given them a vintage spin. I adore the florals, colors and era. I love
the look on
cookies as well as the endless possibilities you can create with pretty
and a touch of whimsy.
I do love vintage china and have a large teacup collection which
inspires my work
to this day. In fact, my first cookies were inspired by an antique
serving tray with a
gilded edge. There was a lot of trial and error using gold, but I
found what works for
me is a gold based icing and applying the gold paint after it has
dried. You can mix your
own gold icing by adding yellow with a touch of brown. The closer your
icing base comes
to the color of gold paint you use will really help hide any missed
areas or piped areas
that are too close to the cookie to paint. Letting your icing sit
overnight really helps deepen
the color. Once my icing has dried, I take a very short brush to paint
the luster on. If you don't
have a short brush, you can cut a flat based brush shorter. Just enough
that you can grab the
paint, without it being so long that it touches the cookie. You end up
with a pretty gold trim
and very few smudges.
Thank you for the questions.
No prob! The questions will only appear to us in PENDING until I post them into the central area. So best to wait to post 'til they hit the central area or your answers will appear before the question.
Sharon, The first Blog I followed was Sweetopia. She has the patients of a saint. I know I asked questions she had heard hundreds of times before and she always replied with kindness. She also offers several tutorials that are a huge help to a new decorator. The other would be Julia Usher. I remember the day I found her cookies and knew that is what I wanted to create one day. She has a wonderful blog as well as videos and cookbooks that are a huge help.
I always find that I'm really good at some techniques and some that I'm terrible at no matter how much practice I give myself! Are there any techniques that you shy away from because you can't ever seem to get it "just right?"
Cookie Meister, I have a large family and one of our favorite things to do is watch a movie and enjoy a meal together. We tend to like hearty foods. Things like a thick stew, or pot pies. My children still expects those dishes when they come home.
Eileen, I tried them all and find bags work best for me. I have more control. I am also a tip user. I tend to be a perfectionist and need those tips for perfect lines. I envy those who can create cookies without them. That might be another style I should practice.;o)
Danny Thomas. he was the founder of St Judes. I know he has passed on, but he has always been an inspiration to me. He took his fame and created something beautiful, that saves childrens lives with it. He is number one on my list.
This is a bit of a repeat, but mastering your tips and getting comfortable with how they work and the looks you can create with them. Even your simple round tips, so that you can create a beautiful surface with a seamless flood.
Cookie Meister, I have been working with Cookie's Cool on the techniques I will be teaching and the cookies we will use. I liked my Spring set because there are several techniques and styles I can share, including the use of different tips for different looks. With that set alone, I covered tufting, basket weave, aging your icing, painting with gold, wet on wet and brush embroidery. We have also picked out two of my Winter sets that I like because you can keep them simple or make them really detailed depending on your skill level. I also tried to choose cookies that can be done freehand, without a lot of gadgets, so they are user friendly for everyone. I know a lot of the items we use in the states can't be found in Italy, so I am geared towards cookies anyone can create.
Sharon, this is a bit of trivia, but I was a dental assistant at one time. When making molds, you vibrate the bubbles out with a vibrating table. This method is also used for chocolate. I tried it with royal icing and have done it since. I will make a large batch of flood and vibrate while baking my cookies. If you carefully add your color, you have almost no bubbles to pop.
Julia, you can buy a dental vibrator on Ebay or use your airbrush compressor. It really doesn't take much to get them to float up. I glued a lid to my vibrator and it will hold my Kitchen Aid bowl perfectly.
Julia, I always make my icing first. Depending on how many cookies I will be flooding, I base it on that. You can't make too much because your leftovers can be frozen and used later. I have made a full batch of flood and let it sit on the vibrator for a half hour. You want to go over the top with your spatula every few minutes to pop the ones that rise. Really though, there's no amount too small or large to vibrate. The smaller the batch, the less time needed.
Dorana, Thank you so much. I tend to lean towards florals and have made them in several colors and styles. I would love to try them again soon and maybe try some of the things I have learned since creating them last year.
The tip on getting air bubbles to surface in royal icing, using a dental vibrator, is a brilliant idea, I love it! And i'm so happy I did not miss this valuable tip! Thank you for sharing this Jacinda!
Dorana, That set was actually easier than it looks. I used edible markers and drew my flowers and the blue bird. I then painted the inside with airbrush shimmers. Like I said earlier, I still need practice painting, but going over your images with the gold icing hides most imperfections. A quick tip, when painting with gold, clip your brush shorter so it only touches the icing and not the base of the cookie
No, I think you answered Delightful's question. She asked about your favorite cookie. Here's one you may have missed though: Dorana ~ Dana's Daydreaming Cookies 12:44 PM
Do you have a favorite cookie and royal icing recipe that you use, and don't mind sharing?
Debbie, thank you so much. I often wondered why my icing did not look like others even though I followed their recipe. Years later and I now know it's our weather. You have to find what works well for you and your area. Moisture can be a tricky one that's solved with a fan.;o)
Julia, not at all. Again, weather played a big part in what worked for me. I find Sugarbelles cookie recipe is very humidity friendly and requires no chilling. It also takes flavors really well. I started with Sweetopias icing recipe and tweaked it a bit for my area. Mainly a little extra whipping and icing sugar.
Jill, I did fall in love with gold.;o) It really depends on what I am making. I love rainbow paints for most cookies. It's a pre-mixed luster paint that has amazing coverage. I like their Old Gold color. The only issue is, you have to order from the UK. I like Partyanimalonline for all my luster dusts and paints.
No question- just wanted to say I had stopped in and Jaci's cookies with the marbled background and the flowers on top (blue squares) has always been a favorite and an inspiration for several of my later sets! Glad to follow along on the chat!
Julia, if you use a thicker, flat brush and cut it shorter, it will still hold a lot of paint, but isn't so long that it touches the base of the cookie. You are mainly painting the top of the gold piping. It also goes really fast when done this way.
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