The Daring Bakers’ Challenge: Decorated Sugar Cookies


The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of “What the Fruitcake?!” Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking.

Download the printable .pdf of the challenge.

Evelle: [buying a package of balloons] These blow up into funny shapes and all?

Grocer: Well no… unless round is funny.
– from Raising Arizona

cookies2I started collecting cookie cutters almost 20 years ago. Wouldn’t you expect that I’d be really excited to use them all in this challenge? Unfortunately, I still carry the emotional scars of the trauma of using these cutters in the early years.

Picture a cozy kitchen on a cold winter day. Mom is excited to make rolled sugar cookies with her 5-year-old for the first time using the fun cookie cutters she’s been collecting. Mom rolling out the dough; rolling it thinner and thinner; trying to use intricate cookie cutters on the now warm and sticky dough. The 5-year old wants to know when they’ll be ready to decorate and finally telling mom he’s going to watch Beauty and the Beast and to call him when it gets more interesting. Dad helplessly patting a teary dough and sprinkles covered mom on the back as he stares in shock at the wreck that has become of the kitchen. Oh happy days!

I used to think that cutting out sugar cookies was really hard. That’s because I thought that you had to roll the dough out really thin before you cut them out. I don’t know where I got this idea.

My baking mentor, Marcy Goldman, years later kindly suggested to roll the dough thicker and chill frequently during a frantic email exchange when I was testing a sugar cookie recipe for her. Thanks Marcy!

So now I roll my dough nice and thick, chilling it when needed, including after cutting and before baking. Although I still play it safe and choose simple shapes . . . like round.

unbaked cookies baked cookies

I also used to think that making those beautifully smooth, decorated cookies was something I would totally mess up. Flooding the cookie with icing? Flooding the kitchen with royal icing was my more likely scenario. And yet it worked just like the directions said it would.

cookies tools

I found using a disher worked well for moving royal icing around into containers and pastry bags. Oh, I still made a mess, just less of a mess.

Decorating the cookies with royal icing was like decorating the glass beads I make. It was fun for me to compare the differences between working in royal icing, vs. molten glass. It’s easier to drag a tool through royal icing, but twisting the design is easier in glass. Zero chance of burning myself on royal icing too, which is another plus. Whatever the differences, I enjoyed decorating the cookies way more than I thought I would.

So, for the first time, I made a batch of decorated sugar cookies that did not involve a total melt down of either me or the dough!

6 responses to “The Daring Bakers’ Challenge: Decorated Sugar Cookies”

  1. Those are stunningly beautiful! I love all the swirled colors and designs. Great job on this month’s challenge.

  2. I think your cookies look great!

  3. LOL at the story of the little girl. I love the colors you used for your cookies. And I agree that this cookie recipe is so much better than the others, I used to have sugar cookie meltdown too. Good job!

  4. Very pretty–you did a good job!

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