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sweet techniques: your tricks and a MEGA-giveway from Wilton

Thank you to every single one of you for your fantastic comments to enter the mega-giveaway from Wilton! For those that haven’t entered yet, you have until midnight tonight.

 

To enter to win the 101-piece tool caddy from Wilton, a $145 value, CLICK HERE.

 

I received so many more comments than expected (900 and counting!), so it will be impossible to list every single one here, but I encourage you to scroll through what everyone is saying.  I’ve gone over them all thoroughly and tried to consolidate as many as I could. Today is all about the TIPS you gave me, and tomorrow is all about your (and my) favorite TOOLS.

 

What thrilled me the most was that reading your comments was like reading Sugarlicious. I kept saying  (to my cat, who was the only one listening), “Yes! Yes! I put that in the book!” or “Me, too!” and “Totally agree!” It made me have even more faith that this book is for YOU. So many of the topics brought up are in the pages of Sugarlicious!!! Phew.  Even better? The gems of advice that I didn’t know. I thank YOU for teaching me!

 

 

First, what treats do you like to decorate??

 

Overwhelmingly, you said cookies and cakes and cupcakes. Without a doubt these three treats are the most popular, especially cookies. Cake pops made a respectable showing, as did truffles and marshmallows and petits fours and little cakes and chocolate and candy. I got one for sugar cubes (Cathy, love this idea!) and surprisingly only a couple for brownies, one  for Rice Krispies treats (Shari), one for donuts(Jory) and only one for pie (Laci Jamison). Cristy Smith decorates strawberries! And we even had a soapmaker (Kelly Croasmun) and  glass fuser (Dianne Van de Carr).

 

 

What are YOUR tips and tricks for decorating sweets?

 

What came through most strikingly was your passion for decorating cookies, cakes, cupcakes and other treats. It’s a hobby–and in many of your cases, career–shared by so many, not to mention passed along generations, as there was lots of talk of grandparents and grandchildren!

 

Some of the best tips speak to this passion and to a general approach to difficult tasks. Such as Lindsey’s advice to “create what you love,” and “with Love and calm” (Vania).  Patience and practice and imaginationwere three oft-used and important words. And as Tracy Turner says, “Make it fun, otherwise it becomes a drudge, and who wants that??” I love Cindy Schriver’s advice, too, to think outside the box like decorating the “back of chocolate bars and putting flowers on Andes mints.” And Indiana Feliz-Delacruz writes,  “One of my favorite tips would be to be creative – incorporate nonedibles into your decorating (fabric bunting, use wine glasses to hold the cupcakes, etc.)”.

 

And of course, the practical, such as cleaning as you go (Elizabeth from Lone Stars and Stripes). Or, from Inez, “decorate when you’re not exhausted, on a major time constraint, and most of all have a plan. Don’t forget to have fun.” And being prepared is key: From Susan (Oliepants): “have everything ready to go by the time you are ready to decorate – i.e. toothpicks, glasses with water to store your icing, icings, tissue for clean up, etc. It helps so much instead of frantically looking for something when you’ve already started.” And give yourself time! As Linda from Bubble and Sweet says, “make sure you have a couple of days up your sleeve.”

And I couldn’t agree more with Barb Ann Cline that  you should “Always use a coupon when going to Michaels, AC Moore, Hobby Lobby etc. You can get them in the sunday paper and if you have a smartphone get the geopons ap.”

 

Hee hee, from Tracy, “make sure the toddler is sleeping before starting the project!!” Yes. I hear you. Also this one from ColleenBF to keep your “husband out of the kitchen when decorating.”

 

Lisa from Sweet2EatBaking is so right on when she said what matters most is “consistency. It matters from cake batter, cookie dough and clearly royal, and butter icing. If consistency is wrong, it just won’t work.” I say that over and over, too.

 

And some of your tricks for decorating specific sweets:

 

 

COOKIE DECORATING:

Make ahead tips: Taysha makes her royal icing the day before. (YES! definitely, I make mine even up to a week before! Saves your sanity.)  And Brittany bakes her cookies the night before. I do, too. This is the beauty of cookie decorating, so much is done ahead of time, it’s very party-friendly.

 

One I’ve never tried, Rachelle Dimm rolls dough in a ziplock bag, so no flour needed!

 

Royal icing tips: Many of you pointed to this fabulous technique created by Karen’s Cookies. As described by Susan Nienhuis, “using saran wrap to encase the frosting before putting it in the disposable pastry bag.” Leah, Barb and Janiece mentioned the same technique! Gail uses this technique, and uses “two different wraps with 2 colors for more fun; just thread them together through the tip.” To see this technique in action, CLICK HERE to visit Karen’s Cookies.

 

I’ve never tried this, but I love this yummy idea from Jini P. to “add a little extra flavor to Royal Icing and also thin it at the same time, is to use heavy cream instead of water. It works beautifully.”

 

Marie keeps “my frosting on the stove at low heat to liquefy it, which makes for much smoother lines.”

 

Kaitlin folds the bag over the edge of the glass to keep it open while filling it with frosting or icing. (Absolutely!! I do this too, only I use my daughter’s Backyardigans cup.)

 

The decorating: Jen uses Sweet Sugarbelle’s trick of tracing a picture on your cookie with a food marker first. I love this tip. Why don’t I do this?  (Find an example from Sweet Sugarbelle HERE).

 

And how beautiful does this sound? Ryan Alice Piccine embellishes her cookies with “white chocolate that I have infused luster and disco dust inside.”

 

 

CUPCAKES

Tiffany at Fizzy party store buys store-bought cake mix mix so “I can use my time to really jazz up the cupcake tops.” Amen. So do I! And I say this about a jillion times in Sugarlicious.

 

Rikki Dee scoops the batter with an ice cream scoop.

 

And there’s a lot of cake and cupcake freezing going on, something I must try more of, as a huge fan of anything make-ahead. Rebecca L. writes “my trick for cupcakes is to always freeze them at least overnight. Put them in as soon as they cool. It makes a huge difference in how long they stay moist.”

 

EmmaS decorates cupcakes and makes papercraft little picks to match.

 

Sophie Potter writes “A fun tip for cupcakes: make a small batch of sugar cookies and cut them into fun shapes – they are perfect to put on top of an otherwise uninteresting frosted cupcake! Easy and fun!”

 

 

CAKES

 

Micupoftea uses Meringue Powder in cake batters. Gotta try that!

 

Some frosting tips… Amy Nguyen always uses a “shortening-based buttercream as it is more stable under warm weather.”  Megan writes, “When decorating with butter cream, if the buttercream is getting too soft, toss it back in the fridge for 10-15 minutes to let the frosting set a bit, which makes smoothing out designs easier.” Terri Gottberg “swears by using a 3/1 mixture of apricot preserves and water to brush on my miniature cakes before icing them. It makes them so moist and the icing, whether buttercream or fondant adheres beautifully.” Shannon says “My mom taught me to put a piece of paper underneath the bottom of the cake before I frost it so no frosting gets on the display tray. Then once you’re done, just pull the paper out!”

 

For smooth frosting, Susie uses an “Italian Meringue buttercream, ices the cake, chills, then scrapes.”  Julie Riley smooths  buttercream with “water and my dough scraper.” Karissa uses a fondant roller to “smooth my buttercream to look like fondant.” (I’m so going to try this!!!)

 

And the freezing continues. Catherine and Daniele Smith both freeze before decorating, as it avoids crumbs from the cake in the frosting. Shelley Kervel, too, says “always freeze your cake the night before you have to decorate it so that you have plenty of time to work on it without your buttercream getting soft or your layers budging!” Sandy says “My tip is to freeze the cake after decorating to keep it moist.”

 

CAKE POPS

 

Claudia is exactly right when she says that for cake pops, the right consistency of candy melts is key. She adds a teaspoon of Crisco (so do I!!). Leslie advises “to make sure the cake warms up a little before dipping in chocolate, or else they crack.” I had no idea that’s why they cracked! That happens to me… so good to know. Jenn uses the container from Toffifee to rest them in after dipping them in chocolate. “They stay round and don’t stick.”

 

 

CANDY MELTS

Beth at Hungry Happenings, as many know, is a master at modeling chocolate. “My tip would be to heat water in an electric skillet set on the lowest setting, set glass jars filled with candy melts down into the water, and allow them to slowly melt. You can work with them all day long.” Bah-rilliant. I’m going to do this next time I work with candy melts.

 

Stephanie writes, “Honestly, I can’t live without my two plastic forks with the two inside prongs broken off for dipping candy. I’ve tried everything else and they are by far the best!!” Definitely a trick I’ve never tried and now must! Thanks, Stephanie!

 

GENERAL ICING AND FONDANT

For fluffy icing, Pamela writes  “put your bowl in the freezer for an hour before adding everything to be mixed. The coldness of the bowl will help the icing be more fluffy!” Another trick that I have to try!

 

Jenny uses a “50:50 of gum paste and fondant to make decorations.” Sheesh, why didn’t I think of that? I stay away from gum paste since it’s so hard, but adding fondant is a brilliant trick.

 

I agree with Dora: “Using cookie cutters makes nice fondant shapes and you can dust them with edible colours to give them more sparkle!”

 

Fabulous tips, everybody, thank you!!!

Come back tomorrow when I talk about the TOOLS we all use!

 

For now, I’ll leave you with this poem left in the comments, by Lina:

All year round we like to bake
the sweetest is to decorate
then one year, we made it clear
cupcakes are reason to celebrate

For Cupcake Day we say Hooray!
and to our friends we give away
our Wilton products we could not do with out
but our tools could use more help

Bottles, bags, tips, and dyes
glitters, jimmies, up to our eyes
the finest cakes we do create
because we love to decorate

Pick us please,
these tools we need
to frost away
on Cupcake Day!

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5 Comments

  1. Posted February 20, 2012 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    Thank you SO MUCH for compiling this! As a novice baker this is a goldmine of information!

  2. Posted February 20, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    I make wedding cakes. I’ve recently joined the cookie decorating world. My favorite tool is a 6 inch wall paper/paint knife/tool. It has a nice easy to hold handle and an edge that helps me make straight edges on my cakes. It will also pick up and move cookies. Favorite decorating tip is to push royal icing throught a new clean knee high panty hose to remove any grit that would clog your tiny pme ( love these) decorating tips. Thanks to cookie bloggers for wonderful ideas they share.

  3. Michele Furry
    Posted February 20, 2012 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    I decorate cookies and the one tool I couldn’t do without is my marble rolling pin. It’s super heavy which is a lifesaver. There is a huge difference in how my hands feel when I’m done for the day from when I was using a regular rolling pin. Also something I use that may have already been mentioned is a medicine dropper to add water to my icing as I’m working to get it to just the right consistency.
    Thanks for this wonderful opportunity!

  4. Katie
    Posted February 20, 2012 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    i decorate cakes and i love it :) i could really use more tools so i can go farther in the cake decorating. i am so looking forward to decorate cakes for my son that i had this past year. thanks for letting me share.

  5. Posted February 21, 2012 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    What great tips! I love both candy melt tips to break off the middle prongs on a plastic fork for dipping and to put your candy melt glasses in warm water. BRILLIANT!!

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  1. [...] today, Meaghen posted a startling compilation of tips from her readers — you can find it here.  Some highlights include mess-free ways to handle the frosting mixing and piping (from [...]

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