I recently overheard people talking about a dessert I’d baked, and they said something to effect that probably anyone could do something like that with the right equipment. I mostly agree with them; there are no sneaky tricks up my sleeve. I followed a recipe, with a few tweaks to get the flavors I wanted and with the experience to know what pitfalls I might encounter. (Not that that ever stops me from finding new mistakes to make.)
But they are wrong in one important aspect, and that is that what sets some bakers apart is a high capacity for tedium. Sugar cookies decorated with royal icing are the best example. The whole process takes forever.
I prefer to divide the work up between four different days, mixing up the dough on one, rolling the dough and cutting shapes on another, then the big day of baking, outlining, and flooding, and finally adding the details after the flooded icing has dried. This time, I only had a few days between receiving these Star Wars cutters as a gift and having dinner with a couple of young Star Wars fans.
I’ve used royal icing a handful of times previously, but so intermittently that I wasn’t learning from my mistakes. I have found that it’s imperative that I draw a map of my plan for each shape – first the outline color, then the flooding, then each layer of detail. Maybe more experienced decorators don’t need this, but for a newbie like me, it makes the process less intimidating. (Each photo set shows essentially what my hand-drawings do, as far as the steps to decorate each cookie.)
This was probably my most successful attempt at royal icing – and the most time-consuming, because there was a lot of detail in these designs. I did learn a few things along the way, and I can only hope that it will make me better at this in the future. Still, I suspect that this is one of those baking endeavors that will always require a generous tolerance for tedium – and that, for better or worse, is something I have.
I used the first recipe listed in my sugar cookie comparison. I’m not confident enough in my royal icing skills to offer any sort of tutorial. At this stage, I’m still referencing Annie’s tutorial for instructions.