My great friend Jenny is expecting her first baby in March, and her baby shower was yesterday. She and her husband Jeff have decided not to find out the sex of the baby, so she's tried to design her nursery around a gender-neutral theme - monkeys! All of the things for the nursery are so adorable! Unfortunately I couldn't make it to town for her shower, but I wanted to do something special, so I decided to make some sugar cookies with royal icing in the shapes of monkey faces.
I started by finding a cute cartoon picture of a monkey face (although he kind of makes my cookies look less cute!):
I needed a monkey-face shaped cookie cutter, but the only ones I could find were online and wouldn't get here in time. I decided to wing it and use a series of shapes to build the monkey face.
Although I've worked with royal icing once before, I looked to a great tutorial Annie recently posted. Since I don't have a particular sugar cookie recipe I always use, I used her favorite one. Bake at 350 has also been posting some FAQ's on royal icing and helpful hints.
This ended up being a long, long, and did I mention LONG day! Over 18 hours to be exact. My problem was that I wasn't sure how many cookies I would get out 1 batch of dough and instead of erring on the side of caution and making 2, I just made 1, and 1 batch of royal icing. I then discovered I would need more of each, so I had to make them again separately. That combined with the fact that I'm new to piping and the drying time makes for a very long day. I did take 1 break for dinner and to go to Target. I know it would NOT take this long next time (or if any of you decide to make these) - because I have the steps down and know how much it makes. I was kind of making up how to do it as I went along. Plus, you can always make the royal icing, dough, or even bake the cookies ahead of time instead of cramming it all into 1 day.
Knowing that I was sending these cookie to my parents' house, I knew I needed to include a cookie for my dad. He has this idea that he should get to try any dessert that comes through their doors :) Since my dad is a huge Cardinals fan - the baseball team and the birds themselves - I bought this Cardinal cookie cutter this past fall with the intent of making him Cardinal cookies...I decided to just make him 1 since I needed the rest of the dough for the monkeys. I think it turned out pretty good, except my flooding icing was not thin enough so it was a little clumpy in some spots (I didn't care at that point because I had been making and decorating cookies for almost 18 hours!)
Monkey Face Cookies
Yield: 28 large cookies
Ingredients & equipment:
2 batches sugar cookie dough of choice
1 large and 1 small round biscuit cutters
Gel icing colors: black, brown, and ivory
2 squirt bottles
Disposable pastry bag fitted with a #3 tip
1. Roll dough out on well-floured surface to a thickness of 1/4-inch. I used two wooden dowel rods set up like this to guide my rolling and it worked so well! I am SO glad I bought these rods because I always have trouble rolling evenly, especially on the edges.
2. Use the large and small round biscuit cutters to cut out circles and transfer to a cold cooking sheet lined with parchment paper. Use a knife to slice the smaller circles in half as shown:
Then overlap the half circles onto the large circle to create the appearance of ears on the monkey face as shown above.
3. When all of the ears have been secured, give them an extra press to make sure they are attached, and bake the cookies according to recipe directions. When you remove them from the oven, let them sit on the cookie sheet for about 2 minutes, then carefully transfer to cooling racks. Cool completely. (Ignore that the ears in the picture below are underneath the face - it worked much better with them on top!)
4. Meanwhile, color your outlining icing: Take about 1/2 cup royal icing into a fresh bowl and color first with brown icing gel, then add black icing gel to achieve a deep, black color. Fill a disposable pastry bag fitted with a #3 tip. Set in a glass filled with a few millimeters of water so that the tip contacts the water (this prevents the icing from drying out).
5. Using the cooled cookies, carefully pipe the black icing as shown (or with an even steadier hand!):
6. Set cookies aside to dry for 1 hour. Meanwhile, prepare your flooding icing: Take about 3/4 cup of royal icing into each of 2 bowls. Add water by the teaspoon to achieve a thin consistency. You want the icing to run off the back of the spoon and the drips to disappear back into the icing below within 5 to 10 seconds. Once you have achieved the right consistency, add brown coloring gel to one of the bowls. This may take quite a bit of gel to get a nice, dark color. Then add the beige to the next bowl - this will take much less so add it slowly.
7. Once you are satisfied with your colors, add each of them to one of two plastic squirt bottles. Use a small piece of plastic wrap to cover the opening if your bottles aren't equipped with a cap. The bottles are now ready to flood.
8. After the outlining has dried for at least 1 hour, flood the sections as shown:
Use a toothpick to help guide the icing to the edges if necessary.
9. Let cookies dry for several hours or overnight (I did overnight). You can just let them sit out at room temperature, uncovered. You may also leave the black piping icing in the bag as long as there is enough water in the bottom of the glass it's in (maybe a quarter-inch).
10. After the cookies have sufficiently dried, use the black frosting to pipe a face onto the monkey as shown:
11. Allow icing to dry for at least an hour, if not more. I did my face piping in the morning and let them sit out all day before packaging them up for mailing.
Source: Sugar cookie and icing recipes, as well as many helpful tips, from Annie's Eats, cookie design by You're Gonna Bake It After All