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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. 


    Thank you! Hope to "see" you at this chat!

Welcome, Jaci! It's so great to have you with us today. I am eager to learn more about you and your signature vintage cookie style!
Julia, Good afternoon. Thank you so much for having me. I am thrilled to be here.
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!
Also, please ask just one question at a time. It's easier/quicker for the guest to answer that way, and easier for those reading the transcript later to follow the flow. THANKS!
Ready, Jaci?
Some times if I work wet on wet, the darkest color kind of bleeds on the other color. What do you recommend so this doesn`t happen? I see that you use this technique very often.
CarolinaGM, 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.
What brand of meringue powder do you use?
CarolinaGM, 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.
As a newcomer to the profession, what are the best tips you have besides practicing?  Should I get an airbrush system, KopyKake, etc., or try free-handing it?  Thanks!  Your cookies are amazing!
SweetGraceBakes, 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 hours. 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.
Hi Jaci, I love your work; it is always so cute. Where do you find your inspiration?
Maria, Thank you so much! I find most of my inspiration from vintage items like my Grandmothers teacups, linens and cards. I've also taken modern cookies and 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 little flowers and a touch of whimsy.
I love your style and find your cookies often remind me of old china. Can you tell me what product and procedure you use to get the antique look for your cookies and is the gold applied last?
Delightful Bitefuls, 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.
My grandbaby, Ali, was having her first Birthday and I decided to make everything. I am happy to say I began to practice months in advance.;o)
Hey, Jaci, Please wait to answer until I post the question! Loretta's question has not posted yet.
Here it is.
How did you get started with cookies and what made you want to do shabby chic?
I have always loved all things vintage. There is a timeless beauty that has lasted through the years and I know I will always be drawn to it. It does make for beautiful cookies.
We're onto live questions now! First, is Loretta's.
Any questions from anyone watching live?
Sorry about that. I hit enter too soon.
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.
is there a technique that you really want to try, but haven't yet?
She's busy typing . . .
Cookie Meister, The technique I most want to work on is, painting on cookies. I have tried it in the past, but will need to continue practicing.
What are some of your favorite blogs to follow for inspiration?
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.
Thanks for the shout-out, Jaci!
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?"
It's actually very true.;o)
Eileen, Character cookies and the Kopykake. I don't enjoy them, so it's hard to perfect something that doesn't motivate you. I still swear I will master them one day.
Besides cookies, is there anything else you really like to bake or cook?
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.
What is your preferred type of icing method? (Bottle, bag, tipless bag...)
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)
If you could make cookies for someone famous, who would that be?
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.
as a beginner cookie maker what do you suggest would be the simplest technique but with the most impressive results?
Good question!
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.
Do you sell your cookies or are they treats for family and friends?
Delightful, I sold at one time and it proved to be too much for me. Now I bake to donate or for family and friends. At this time I would like to focus more on creating rather than selling cookies.
I know that you are going to Italy to teach, can you tell us more about that, and what techniques are you teaching?
Yes, I'd love to know more about your Italy plans too.
For those who don't know, Jaci will be appearing at Cookie'sCool, Europe's first cookie decorating convention, from Nov 14 -16.
More info about the event can be found here:
Though they still have some site updating to do - several instructors have yet to be added.
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.
Dorana - Just re-type your question and enter it again. And I will delete the first. Best to put one question in at a time.
Speaking of seamless flood icing, yours is always perfect with no bubbles. Here's a question that I have also been dying to ask you . . .
I have bubbles in every single batch of icing I make, what is the best way to avoid this?
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.
Can you explain how you vibrate the icing, Jaci?
I think it's a novel approach that many would love to know about!
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.
It sounds like extra work, but saves a lot of time popping and gives you a flawless finish.
How long do you typically vibrate and how much at a time? Do you additionally let the icing sit for any period of time, or do you use it right after vibrating?
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.
Hi jacinda! All of your cookies are wonderful! But I especially like your secret garden cookies! Will you be creating other cookies, using those same techniques?
Also, Jaci, can you tell us what techniques were used on those cookies, for those not familiar with them? Thanks!
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.
Are they posted on Cookie Connection, Jaci? If so, I will try to find them and post the link into this chat.
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!
That would really help Julia. Thank you.
Do you have a favorite cookie that you have created?
Dorana, you are so welcome! Thank you for stopping over.;o)
Here's the link - looks to be a combination of handpainting; then outlining and gilding: http://cookieconnection.juliau...ecret-garden-cookies
Link to secret garden cookies..
Thanks, Dorana! We're on the same wavelength.
Jaci, did you see Delightful Bitefuls question about 5 comments up? Thought you might have missed it with so much posting at the same time.
Delightful, I think my favorite would be the shabby chic Hotair Balloons. I liked the whimsical look of them.
OK, now we need the link for that one too!
Do you have a favorite cookie and royal icing recipe that you use, and don't mind sharing?
Ha! The site's search engine works well! Here's the link to the hot air balloon image: http://cookieconnection.juliau...hic-hot-air-balloons
Hi Jaci - just wanted to pop in and say hello - can't stay but I will read the chat when I come back.  Your RI has saved my life.  Perfect for high humidity.  Big hugs!
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
Julia, I am sorry and must have missed it.
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.
I love your sets that you have painted with gold. What's your favorite gold color that you use with your shabby chic designs?
I just added a few minutes to make sure we can get through the questions still in the queue. Anyone, if you have any others, now's the time to get them in. Thanks!
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.
I just had an "Ah Ha moment when you told us to clip the brush!  What type of brushes do you normally use!
Cookie Meister, I only use food safe brushes and like them with plastic handles so the wood doesn't chip off from washing. The Duff brand is my favorite.
I'm not actually envisioning how you clip the brush? Can't you just work with the tip of a fine brush?
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.
Thank you for the hot tip on ever present bubble issue. Did you say you could use an air brush compressor?
She did - but Jaci, do you have anything to add?
Thank you so much Rebecca. You are a huge inspiration to me and so many others. You push the envelope with cookies and they are true works of art.
Is using the airbrush compressor an easy thing to do? Any easier or harder than dental vibrator?
Luv, Yes. I found that my compressor bounced a bit, so I put a towel over it and set it next to my bowl. Worked like a charm.
Hi Jaci!!
I'm a big fan of your amazing cookies!! I was wondering if you are planning any tutorials and sharing some of your techniques
It's what I use to this day. It was a spare and works really well. My husband said he would make me one....and I am still waiting.;o)
We've got one last question from Ornella, above. But time for one or two more if anyone has one.
Ornella, I have done some tutorials in the past and would like to work on more when time allows. I know that's how I learned and love that we all share with each other.
Link to the blue square cookies Rebecca Architect refered to http://cookieconnection.juliau...-tooth-hombre-marble
Thanks so much, Dorana!
Well, if there are no more questions, we'll call it a wrap.
Thanks so much, Jaci! There were at least two very hot tips that you shared here today!
Dorana, thank you. Those were a little different for me. I made each petal as a transfer and added one at a time. I likes the look of the flowers "growing" off the cookies.
It's not typical to get two or more ah-ha moments in one chat!
Thank you Julia and Jaci
Thank you Julia and Jaci for this great chat!!
Thank you so much Jacinda for chatting with us today! I really enjoyed it and learned so much!
Thank you so much for having me Julia. This has been wonderful and I really enjoyed it.
Indeed- Now I *really* need an airbrush
Thank you all for the questions.;o)
I going to buy a dental vibrator!!!!
Thanks, again! Closing the chat! Have a great rest of the weekend, everyone!
You will love it.
This chat has ended.
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