Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Porcelain Sugar Cookies

You know when you see something really cool and you think to yourself, 'I have to try that some time!', but then you end up forgetting all about it, or, even more likely, you remember it every once in awhile but you just never make the time to do it? Well, these painted cookies could have easily ended up on my personal list of 'super awesome things to do' that I never get around to actually doing. I came across the instructions last Christmas in a holiday magazine; I think the recipe was for gingerbread cookies that you frost and then paint and hang on the tree as intricate and beautiful homemade decorations. Upon reading the article, I was excited about the concept of painting cookies, and all the possibilities this could lead to (so many cookie possibilities!). 

Anyway, I didn't create any painted holiday cookies; things moved on and I quickly forgot all about my new idea. It wasn't until this summer when we arrived on Prince Edward Island and began work at the Inn, that I remembered my little inspiration. In July, the Inn began offering a daily afternoon tea, consisting of scones, tea sandwiches and lots of sweets. I've always loved high tea, and so I was more than thrilled when they let me help out, making my marshmallows and other candies. I had loads of fun working in the kitchen (now Chris and I were truly working together!), but my favourite part was coming up with new ideas for our tea tray. The sweets that we sent out to our customers needed to be dainty, beautiful and out of the ordinary. And the painted cookies were a perfect fit! 

The method for creating and using the paints is simple. After two practice cookies, I was off and running, painting little flowers, wreaths and laurels. If you have a knack for drawing and painting I think you'll find this quite easy (although it is time consuming). If your not so confident with a paint brush, don't be discouraged from this project. Try abstracted water colour-esque designs, or basic symbols like moons and stars. Even lines, dots or borders can really elevate an otherwise plain cookie. Here's how to get started:

Vodka, Gel Food Colouring, Small Paint Brush(es), Iced Sugar Cookies

To get painting some cookies, you'll obviously need cookies! Gingerbread, sugar cookies, or any other cut-out cookies work well. For all the cookies pictured, I used my sugar cookie recipe. You can find it on the blog, and it makes a very moist and tasty cookie. 

Once the cookies are baked and cooled, frost them using a royal icing that contains egg whites (this will result in a very hard icing, a perfect surface for painting on).  My 'recipe' is approximately 3 cups icing sugar, 2 large egg whites and a spoonful of water (or more if icing is too dry). Mix with a spoon and you're good to go! If you don't want to fuss around with piping the icing, just dip each cookie into the bowl of icing, face down. Shake off excess icing, or use a small spatula to pull off the excess, then set on a cooling rack and let the icing harden. 

Allow the iced cookies to sit for at least 36 hours before you paint them. The icing needs to be very hard, or the paint may run and bleed.

To make the paint, combine equal parts vodka and gel food colouring in a small dish. Try using about a 3/4 tsp of vodka to a pea-sized lump of food colouring, this should give you an ample amount of vibrant paint.

 Mix them well (use a small spoon or a toothpick). Then let the mixture sit. Leave it for at least 15 minutes. I found that it takes time for the colour to dissolve into the vodka, and after an hour of painting cookies, my paint was much better than when I had started. So plan to prepare your paint anywhere from 15-60 minutes before you begin.

When your paint is ready, grab a small paint brush (I find the synthetic orange bristle brushes work well) and start painting! I had fun doing pretty little designs like flowers and leaves. I love laurels and wreaths, so I did lots of those as well.

For my first attempt at cookie painting, I kept it simple by only mixing up one colour of paint. I used royal blue to create 'porcelain sugar cookies' that were meant to emulate fine tea china. I think the result was quite lovely and the process was uncomplicated. 

After that first batch of blue cookies, I became more confidant and I mixed up a whole rainbow of paints (using just vodka and gel colour). I painted pansies because they are the edible flowers that we grow at the Inn and use on many of the desserts. I've candied a lot of pansies over the past few months, so they've kind of become a bit of a theme this summer! 

Here are a few more photos of the cookies... I hope you'll give this little baking project a try. The result could be a sophisticated treat or just an afternoon spent getting creative! 


  1. Those cookies are a work of art! One question, is there any non-alcoholic substitute for the vodka? Thanks :)

  2. Hi Ananda, as of right now I can't think of any substitute for the vodka. The reason that I use vodka is this- at first it is a liquid medium that helps the food colouing to soften and become more paint like, but then once on the cookie, it starts to evaporate, which helps the design to dry quickly. For a batch of 50 cookies you need less than 1 tsp of vodka, and then most of that will evaporate. I would feel comfortable giving these cookies to children, as once finished, there is really no alcohol present. But your question has certainly got me thinking and I will absolutely let you know if I come up with a non-alcoholic substitute! Thanks for you kind words!

  3. I wonder if you could use almond extract rather than vodka?