Introduction: How to Bake, Decorate, and Ship Vegan Watercolor Sugar Cookies
You can use this recipe to make any shape of vegan sugar cookie and decorate however you choose. The watercolor effect is just an easy way to quickly decorate a bunch of cookies. To clarify, the decorating is quick not the drying process!
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Step 1: Gather Your Baking Ingredients and Tools
- 1 cup margarine* (room temp)
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1/4 cup cream cheese** (room temp)
- 2 whole egg replacements***
- 3 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- stand mixer (hand mixer will also suffice)
- rolling pin
- parchment paper
- silpat (optional)
- baking pan
- measuring cups
All of these vegan items should be available at your local grocery store.
*Earth Balance is my favorite vegan margarine. I prefer the sticks because they're easier to work with but the tubs are just about everywhere.
**Tofutti is the best cream cheese to bake with but now I have to go to Whole Foods to get it and I'm lazy. I've been using Miyoko's lately because it's what my local store carries.
***This is the only item that may be a little harder to find. Ener-G Egg Replacer is usually near the flour in the baking aisle. Bob's Red Mill Egg Replacer is usually in the specialty section with gluten-free and health-conscious items.
Step 2: Make Your Cookie Dough
- Cream together the margarine, sugar, and cream cheese.
- Stir in the egg replacement and vanilla.
- Gradually add the flour and baking powder.
- Once it has all come together, knead* into a ball.
*I use the term "knead" very loosely. Squish might actually be a better word. This isn't about activating the gluten or anything, you just want to squish it all together so that it's not crumbly anymore
I like to separate my dough into two parts so it's easier to work with. Cover half in plastic wrap and place in the fridge.
Step 3: Cut Your Cookies
- Roll out to 1/4" thick sheet between 2 pieces of parchment paper.*
- Cut shapes and place them on a pan lined with parchment paper or silpat.**
- Place pan in freezer or fridge while you preheat the oven to 350°.***
*If you don't roll the dough between parchment paper it will stick to your roller and I don't recommend adding more flour to the dough so just avoid this and get yourself some parchment paper!
**Don't fret about rolling out your dough too many times. I've re-rolled mine over and over because I'm bad at strategically cutting and it hasn't affected my cookies at all.
***I cut out all my shapes and lay them out on parchment paper or silpat and use 2 pans. While one is cooking, I put the other one lined with cookies in the freezer or fridge.
If you need to bake and decorate a lot of cookies at once I recommend making the dough ahead of time. Roll out the dough and cut your shapes. Freeze for 20-30 minutes between layers of parchment paper. Once they're frozen stack same sized shapes and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. When you're ready to bake, just place on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper or silpat and bake. No need to thaw.
Step 4: Bake Your Cookies
- Once preheated, bake for 12-15 minutes. If they're brown on top, they're probably overcooked. But it also depends how soft or crunchy you want your cookie.
- Let the cookies cool on the pan for 2 minutes (or less, just until they harden enough for you to remove them) and move to cooling rack or anything that's not hot. I place mine on leftover parchment paper from the cutting process.
Step 5: Gather Your Royal Icing Ingredients and Tools
- 5 cups confectioner’s sugar
- 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
- 1/2 cup aquafaba*
- 3 tablespoons corn syrup
- 1 tsp vanilla** or other flavoring (optional)
*Aquafaba is the juice from a can of chickpeas (sometimes labeled garbanzo beans). You should only need one can to get 1/2 cup of aquafaba. Use a sieve to strain the juice before measuring.
**Be sure to use clear vanilla so your icing stays white.
- stand mixer
- gel food coloring (optional)
Step 6: Make Your Royal Icing
- Mix confectioner’s sugar and cream of tarter in your mixer bowl.
- With mixer on low speed, add the aquafaba and the corn syrup.
- When it has all come together as a big lump in the bottom of your bowl, turn the speed up to high and beat for about 2 minutes.
Step 7: Prep Your Icing
As is, your icing should be medium consistency which is good for piping edges and flooding. This is as far as you need to go to continue this tutorial. Fill piping bags with icing and secure with open end with clips or tie in a knot. Cut a tiny bit off of the tip. If you cut too much, just place the whole bag inside of a new bag and try again.
If you would like to do more with your icing you'll want to divide your icing to add gel food coloring and change the consistency for your needs. When you're not working with the icing be sure to cover it in an airtight container so it doesn't dry out.
If you want to do lettering and fine details, stir in more powdered sugar.
If you want a quicker flood, add some water. Unless it's a large amount of icing, I recommend using a water bottle to achieve your ideal consistency.
This part takes practice. Here is a helpful guide to aid you in determining the right consistency of your icing.
Step 8: Ice Your Cookies
- Outline the cookie with icing.
- Fill the inside starting from the outside edge and working your way towards the center.
- Use a scriber needle or toothpick to fill in gaps, pop air bubbles, fix edges, etc.
- Let icing dry.
I let my icing dry overnight (6-8 hours) to be safe. If you're in a hurry you can maybe make it work after 2-3 if you didn't add a lot of water to the mix.
If you're not doing the watercolor method of decorating in this tutorial and you're just filling your shapes with different colors you only need to wait about 15-30 minutes between each color to prevent running.
Step 9: Gather Your Decorating Tools and Prep Your Colors
- gel food coloring
- 1 small paint brush
- 1 medium paint brush
- small bowls and/or paint trays
- paper towel
- edible gold leaf
Prepping your colors
- You should have 2 bowls of water, 1 drop of gel coloring, and one empty bowl or tray.
- Dip your small paint brush in the gel and then mix into one of the bowls of water.
Step 10: Decorate Your Cookies
The Watercolor Effect
- Using your large brush, dip in the colored water and brush onto your cookies. You can do several at a time but not too many because you don't want it to dry before the next step.
- Using the large brush, put some water into you empty bowl or tray. Just a few dabs should be good.
- Using your small brush, dip in the gel, and then mix into this new bit of water making a more concentrated color mixture.
- With the small brush use the concentrated mixture and add dots to the wet areas of your cookies.
- Dip the small brush into the diluted color (from step 1) and paint over the dots.
- You can repeat steps 3-4 as needed to build the watercolor effect on your cookies but don't go too crazy because the water will melt your icing.
- Repeat steps 1-6 until all of your cookies are decorated.
- Don't let your cookies dry completely before adding the gold leaf.
Edible Gold Leaf
- You'll want to prep your gold leaf before starting by tearing off lots of tiny pieces. It's not the easiest to work with because it sticks to everything and is very light so the slightest breath can send it flying.
- Using culinary, cosmetic, or medical tweezers (basically anything except your fingers) place small pieces of foil on your cookies.
- Be careful not to dent your icing. You can use a paint brush to help lay the foil flat if you need to.
- Let dry overnight.
Step 11: Your Cookie Timeline
I'm sure you've done the math and you're thinking to yourself "I've had to let my cookies set out two nights, won't they be stale?" Well, the answer is no. It seems as though sugar cookies are very resilient! I've taken three nights to decorate my cookies before and they tasted just as good! But if you're worried about time because you need the space or you have a cat there are a few options.
Option 1: one day and night
- bake in the morning
- let dry 4-6 hours
- decorate in the evening
- let dry overnight
- package the next morning
Option 2: one day and night
- decorate with icing only, no watercolor effect
- let dry overnight
- package the next morning
Option 3: one day using fondant
- cover in fondant
- decorate with watercolor
- let dry 4-6 hours
Step 12: Gather Your Packaging Supplies
- heat sealer*
- cellophane bags
- bubble wrap
- packing paper or scrap paper
*Using a heat sealer and cello bags ensure your cookies stay fresh for 3-4 weeks. I use this one from Amazon.
Step 13: Package Your Cookies
- Place cookies flat in a cello bag. How many depends on the size of your bag and the size and shape of your cookies.
- Adjust the setting on the heat sealer so that it seals the bag but doesn't completely melt through it. I set mine between 2 and 3. You may need to experiment to find the best setting.
- Lay your bag over the sealer.
- Press the lever down and hold until it beeps. I like to seal twice for good measure because I have had mine open on me depending on the type of bag I'm using.
- Place a sheet of bubble wrap in the bottom of your box and layer your cookies flat between additional sheets of bubble wrap. If you have intricate designs or shapes you might want to use more than one sheet between each later of cookies. Be sure to end with bubble wrap on top.
- Fill in any excess space with crumpled up packing paper.
- Close your box and give a good shake to ensure everything is snug.
- Use packing tape to securely seal the box.
- You're ready to ship! Write the address on the box or get a label at the shipping store.
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