How to Make Colored Sugar

With the holidays fast approaching, everyone seems to be getting ready in one way or another.  My kids’ school already had its annual Christmas fair and is getting ready for gingerbread house decorating for the elementary and middle school students.

One of the easiest way to dress up baked goods is to use sprinkles and colored sugars.  These days there are a gazillion different sprinkles in all kinds of shapes and colors imaginable.  Kids especially LOVE sprinkles and tend to go a little bit overboard with them whether it is decorating cookies or sprinkling them on ice cream, but who can blame them?  They are so much fun to use.

Another great resource is sanding sugar, which is basically colored sugar which is a bit coarser than regular table sugar.  Now these sanding sugars go for $4~6 for a 4 oz bottle.  Kinda ridiculous when you consider the fact that the cost of regular sugar is a fraction of that.  So a few years ago, I decided to see if I could make my own colored sugar and searched the web.  I found out that not only is it cheap to make your own colored sugar but it is REALLY easy!  An added bonus is that you can also make any color you want.

Well, I guess it is only cheap if you already have the gel paste colors that are used in cake decorating, but I already had tons of those so it wasn’t a problem.  You can use just regular sugar or coarse sugar, or any kind of sugar for that matter, as long as it is white.

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The process could not be simpler.  You put some sugar in a Ziploc bag, add a bit of coloring using a toothpick, close the bag, rub away until all the sugar in the bag is uniformly colored and tada!  You have your colored sugar!  Told you this was easy!

Now that you know this little secret, you can create all the different colored sugar you want!  Have fun using these to coat the exterior of ice box cookies, sprinkle on cupcakes, decorate cookies – the possibilities are endless!

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Christmas Cookies

Now that Thanksgiving if officially over, we can start thinking about Christmas!

For this year’s Christmas cookies, I’ve been meaning to try out Sugarbelle’s sugar cookie recipe because she mentioned that the dough did not need to be refrigerated which would be huge plus!  The reason why I have been less than enthusiastic about baking and decorating roll out cookies until recently is that the process is a royal pain in the you-know-where.  The recipe I had been using previously is a almond sugar recipe with lots of butter and powdered sugar which tastes absolutely divine.  In fact, I would get frequent requests for the recipe because it tasted so good.  However, all that butter which makes it so good also makes it very soft and difficult to handle.  I have to make the dough, refrigerate it for a few hours, roll it out, refrigerate again until the rolled out dough is firm enough, cut out the shapes, peel away the excess dough around the shapes, refrigerate until the shapes are firm enough, then and only then, can the shapes be transferred to a baking sheet to be baked.  On top of that you have to color the icing all the different colors in stiff AND flooding consistencies….  You can see why I had rolloutcookie-phobia!

So I really had high hopes for this recipe.  It started out just like any other sugar cookie dough, with the butter and icing sugar  creamed together to which you add the eggs and then the dry ingredients.  I found that I needed to add a little more flour because the dough was still quite sticky even after I added all the flour.  Finally, I had to go against Sugarbelle’s word and stick the dough in the fridge.  I must say that ten minutes in the fridge really helped.  The dough was quite easy to handle, although I did have to put it back in the fridge after cutting out the shapes since they were not quite firm enough to be transferred onto the baking sheet.

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Although the dough did need to be refrigerated, it was still easier to handle than the almond cookie recipe, plus it did not spread out so much and did not puff up as much.  It also tasted good, and you can always experiment with different flavorings.  I added almond and lemon this time which worked well.  Funnily enough, the cookies tasted a little salty, so I think I will halve the salt next time.

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I cut out some Christmas shapes and decorated the them with fondant and royal icing.  I also tried a new technique, namely the quilting (or tufting) technique which really required a lot of patience!  Basically you draw the little squares on the cookie (with edible markers, of course!) and fill in alternate squares, let them dry for 10 minutes, then fill in the rest.  I first used a number 5 tip (with the pink cookie) which I found was too big for a job like this.  It was difficult to get into the little corners with this number 5 tip and I ended up having to use a toothpick to get into all the corners.  So then I tried the number 3 tip (the blue cookie) which worked a lot better.  I dusted the blue cookie with luster dust which gave it a nice pearly sheen.  I think the most challenging part of the quilting technique and one that will take a lot of practice is to get the icing to stay just on the lines as much as possible without going over into the adjacent square.  You don’t want the icing to go over but also don’t want it to be too “contained” which will create gaps between the squares.  This is also important for the outline which can look all crooked if you’re not careful.

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All in all, it was a fun “experiment”, and I can’t wait to try other cookie/cake decorating techniques.

I just discovered Arty McGoo’s blog yesterday which just made me speechless.  Can you believe her attention to detail?  Really, there are just so many amazing cookiers out there!

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How are YOU getting ready for Christmas?

Experimenting with Color

Fascinated by the use of colors in cookie decorating blogs, I’ve been experimenting with making/mixing colors of late.  When I received a last minute order for a baby boy’s 1st birthday cake yesterday, I set out to use this opportunity to try making different colors.

The first step was to decide on a color palette.  I have always had difficulty with trying to come up with a cohesive and harmonious color palette and secretly wished I had majored in art. So I was overjoyed to discover via Sweet Hope Cookie‘s blog that there are websites and blogs that have recommendations for thousands of different palettes.  One such site is Design Seeds which is full of gorgeous palettes that one can browse for inspiration.  Another is Angie Sandy‘s site where she posts a series of palettes almost everyday under the “Color Crush” title.  I researched my colors on Colour Lovers by typing in “baby blue” and decided on a palette.

The only problem is that, although the above sites are excellent references for inspiration, I don’t know how to make the colors that are suggested in these beautiful palettes.  What’s a girl to do?  Using Sweet Hope Cookie’s post and Sugarbelle’s color chart as a guide, I proceeded to muddle through the color mixing process.

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Dusky Pink (Sugarflair Gel Paste), Gooseberry (Sugarflair Gel Paste), Golden Yellow + Ivory (Wilton Gel Paste), Delphinium Blue (Wilton Gel Paste)

To make a long story short, the picture on the left is what I ended up with.  However, I decided to only use the ones in the photo on the right as I felt the dull lavender and green did not quite go with the palette.  I was kinda on the fence about the dark brown and reserved that for accent, maybe.  I did have a lot of fun making the dark brown and dull green, though.  Dark brown was golden yellow + regal purple + ivory + a touch of black and it was fascinating to watch the color slowly transform as I kneaded the gumpaste.  You wouldn’t normally think that brown would have purple in it, would you?  For the dull green, I first mixed leaf green with royal blue and went on to test how ivory changes colors a bit “vintage-y” (inspired by Sugarbelle’s post).  I think the photo speaks for itself.

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Dull green, dull green + ivory, gooseberry, gooseberry + ivory

The last challenge was coloring the butter cream.  I like to use Italian meringue butter cream because I just love how sturdy and stable it is.  It holds its shape beautifully when I pipe flower decorations on my cupcakes and is sturdy enough to withstand the equatorial Singapore weather!  The only downside is that due to its natural yellow hue from butter, it is difficult to achieve colors that stay true to the color that the gel paste is intended to give.  I would add more color than I would have liked to to mask the yellow tone.  So if I wanted to get baby blue, I would add a little bit of gel paste which would give me a kind of turquoise / greenish blue, then add a little more to get baby blue.  However, this way, the butter cream ended up with too vibrant a color due to the relatively large dosage of gel paste color.  Since I was on a self-imposed color challenge, I googled “color wheel” to find out the complementary color of yellow, thinking it would off-set the yellow tone.  There were several excellent tutorials on mixing colors on YouTube by Will Kemp Art School which I watched.  The takeaway was that the complementary color of yellow is purple/lavender.  Aha!  So I can add a touch of purple to get the blue I want?

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I was a little nervous about how the gum paste decorations would look on this baby blue background, but I am stoked to see that it turned out pretty good!

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You can see that I considered doing the name in dark brown, but decided against it.  Instead, I decorated a cookie with it for the birthday boy!

I had a lot of fun studying and making colors, but there’s still a long way to go….

Spices for Christmas Baking Plus Mustafa

In preparation for Christmas baking workshops that I will be conducting in early December, I ventured out to Mustafa (“If you can’t find it in Mustafa, it doesn’t exist”) on a quest to gather holiday spices.

I always get a kick out of visiting ethnic markets and salivate at the sight of exotic foods and products with never-heard-of names.  Not only is Mustafa open 24 hours, it is also humongous and sells everything you can ever imagine.  Kinda like Target or Walmart but ten times bigger.  I headed up to the 2nd floor where the market is located and proceeded to peruse the aisles.

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I was greeted by what must have been at least 100 different kinds of rice, albeit mainly basmati.  Wading through the vast space, I ran into the baking section.  Joy!

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But I”m not here to get baking supplies.  I’m here to get spices!  Did I find them?  You bet I did.  A whole aisleful of them!

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Oh, I wish I had a better picture!  The best part is that, on the whole, you can get ingredients for much cheaper than at your neighborhood grocery store.  In fact, Betty Crocker Super Moist cake mixes were $2.50 here as opposed to $4.50 at Fair Price!

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The result of today’s trip 🙂

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I have a feeling that I will be returning to Mustafa very soon….!

Latest Inspiration

My latest inspiration in cake decorating is actually from cookie decorating sites that I discovered on YouTube by accident.  I spent the past few days voraciously absorbing information from posts of super talented “cookiers” (as they are known in the cookie decorating world).

I love how SweetAmbs’ decorated cookies are very classical and feminine in design.  Her soft and muted color palette perfectly complements her style.  I can’t wait to try out the new techniques and designs I have gleaned from her site.  There are so many lovely cookies that I would like to try out, I don’t know where to begin!

One of the first that I would like to try my hands on is this cameo cookie, replacing the cameo with a flower since I do not have a cameo mold yet, although I have ordered one from an Etsy vendor and am eagerly awaiting its arrival!

Another favorite is the amazing Sugar Belle.  What I love about her site is that her posts are packed with really useful information, from recipes to where to buy the tools she uses to tutorials by other great cookiers.  She really is very generous with her information which is nice to see.  Of course, her creativity and amazing talent are beyond words.  Here is a handy color chart that she has put together and has graciously shared with her readers.

All this cookie decorating has inspired me to try out some new rolled sugar cookie recipes and new techniques which I will post in future blog posts.