Laser Etching Ginger Snaps for Cookiepocalypse - I Made It at TechShop




Last year I was invited to a Cookiepocalypse "End of the World" cookie party, the icon my friends had used on the invitation was the Mayan calendar with a bite taken out of it.

I immediately thought that it would be awesome to etch the calendar onto some ginger snaps for the party.
But I realized that, shrunk to the size of a cookie, all of the details of the calendar would be lost.

So instead I looked online for some vector versions of the Mayan Calendar or Aztec art to etch onto the cookies instead.

Step 1:

Since I figured that the whole calendar wouldn't fit on the cookie and be legible, I did a search for something that might work better, but still be recognizable as Mayan related art. The above image is what I settled on, since it was round and not too detailed.

Step 2: The Dos and Don'ts of Laser Etching Cookies

So now that I had the design element. I was off to find a cookie that would etch well and not have the taste significantly affected by the etching process. The two types of cookies that popped into my head were Ginger Snaps and Nilla Wafers: they were both circular, yummy and relatively flat. I decided to use store bought cookies to cut down on the baking time and to ensure uniformity.

I ran a test of both types of cookies. Unfortunately, though the pattern wasn't visible enough on the Nilla Wafers to see, the etching did improve the flavor. On the ginger snaps, as you can see above, the image showed up quite well. As to the flavor: well, ginger snaps are strong enough that you can't tell that they were etched.

I thought I might need to cut some holes in acrylic or cardboard to ensure that the cookies didn't drift during the etching process - do not do this - both of these materials off-gas enough scent to affect the final flavor of the cookie.

What I finally figured out is that the cookies don't drift, so I set the laser to a very low power and etched some faint circles into an eighteen by twenty-four piece of cardboard as a layout template. I then placed my cookies on the template and with the laser set to raster only, the settings I used were a Speed of one hundred (because the minimum width of my rastered area was greater than sixteen inches), and a Power of thirty-five.

It took approximately forty-five minutes or so to etch eighty cookies.

Please note, this process takes a while - rastering always does - remember to get your hot tea or milk for dunking the reject cookies in before you hit start on the laser.

I have also included in this step the Illustrator file with the eighty Ginger Snap layout and a vector pattern for etching the template.

Step 3: A Video of the Etching Process

This is almost a seven minute video, it is not nearly as exciting as being here, and you can't eat the results.
If for some reason the video doesn't load, there is a YouTube link in the previous sentence.

Step 4: Because You Can't Display a Sun God's Cookies on Just Any Old Plate

I didn't display the cookies at the party on this plate, but for a future event I did.

I decided to etch a certain Calendar into a wooden plate to display my creations upon. The creation of this plate will be in another Instructable.

Please ignore the baggies of cookies that include my member referral card under the plate...

Step 5: Plans for Future Cookie Etching

Since these worked so well, I was thinking of etching into home made cookies next, perhaps etch a tuxedo onto a gingerbread man.
If anyone tries this or something else creative and fun, please let me know.

This is the second of six(or more) Instructables to be posted as part of the San Jose TechShop's 1st Quarter 2013 Resident Artist Program



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    4 Discussions


    6 years ago on Introduction

    On the video here is some humming in the back.
    If it takes 7 minutes for etching a single cookie, it's gonna take a lot of humming too !...
    As humming a song is a sign of happiness ...
    Nice project !...

    2 replies

    This is true, I had a cup of hot tea, and many deformed cookies to dunk and nom on, I couldn't have been much happier.
    In actuality I was etching a row of cookies, I had removed the cookies from the right and left of the one in the video because they were camera shy.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    When I first got my TechShop membership, I tried cutting 'gingerbread men' out of graham crackers. The idea was to also etch a photograph of a real person face as well.
    The graham crackers etched and cut extremely well, but they tasted horrible. I suspect that the etching was not too bad, but the amount of burning that occurs during the vector cutting makes them inedible!