Cookies, community-style

Sunflower cookies

Cupcakes and dessert buffets are two popular alternatives to wedding cakes right now. Two of my friends decided for their wedding that they wanted to have a cookie buffet, stocked with cookies made my friends and family.

This is fitting for our friends. We have a community dinner group of about 15 of our friends that tries to eat together Monday through Thursday. We rotate homes and cooking for each other. It’s amazing. Sharing our lives with food is important to us, and the bride and groom wanted to portray this in their wedding.

The cookie buffet was a huge success. There were so many delicious varieties. And at the end of the night, they brought out to-go bags, so everyone could take leftovers home. Such a cute idea.

I volunteered to make four dozen cookies. I wanted to make sugar cookies that were personal to the couple and their wedding day. After talking to them, I decided to make sunflower and blue monogram cookies — the main flower and color in the wedding.

The couple just moved to the Dominican Republic to teach, so I thought about flag cookies. Then I Googled the Dominican Republic’s flag. Not quite as simple as the stripes of the Dutch flag. Never mind.

I chose to make royal icing to top the regular and chocolate sugar cookies. I’ve made it a few times before — conversation heart cookies for Valentine’s Day, star and maple leaf cookies for the U.S.-Canada hockey game and the Dutch flag cookies for the World Cup.

Royal icing, often used as culinary glue, is supposed to be runny enough to flood the cookies, that is, for it to fill into the empty spots when you pipe it on. Then it dries with a smooth, hard finish. The first two times I made it, I used a Martha Stewart recipe, which uses meringue powder. For the Dutch flag cookies, I used a different recipe that used egg whites. I don’t know if I overbeat it or what, but it wouldn’t flood. So I had to spread it. This gave the icing a wavy texture, which seemed appropriate for a flag. Not so much for sunflowers.

So I went back to the Martha Stewart recipe, but this time I made my own flavor addition. I think royal icing can be a bit blah. I apologize if you are royal icing’s biggest fan. It just meringuey and that’s about it. So I added a couple of teaspoons of almond extract to spice things up a bit, and I got several compliments on the icing.

Here’s the Martha Stewart recipe and directions with my addition:


2 pounds of powered sugar

10 tablespoons meringue powder

1 cup of water

2 teaspoons of almond extract

Mix the powdered sugar and meringue powder on low speed for about 1 minute. Gradually add water and extract and mix on low speed until smooth and the consistency of honey, about 5 minutes.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no royal icing expert. But you probably already figured that out by actually looking at my cookies. I think it’s tricky. You want it to be runny enough to flood, but that means that it’s runny enough to just run right off the cookie. This is what happens to me most of the time.

Most royal icing instructions I’ve read have said to pipe — with a pastry bag and tip — an outline on the cookies first and then go back and fill them in. That way the outline will keep the icing from spilling out. I kind of started doing that, and then by the end, I was in such hurry that I was just piping as fast as I could.

For the sunflowers, I used a circle cookie cutter to trace an outline for the center of the flower. They still weren’t perfect, but it was better than the one I tried to do free-hand.

As a finishing touch for the sunflowers, I added a few chocolate-covered sunflower seeds, a suggestion of a co-worker. I finally tracked them at World Market, but they only came in multi-colored. I was hoping for brown. But at the suggestion of another co-worker, I sorted them out by color, choosing a single color for each cookie. I liked the punch of color they added.

I was pretty happy with how the cookies turned out, even though they kind of looked like I can’t color in the lines.

And speaking of wedding-cake alternatives, my cousin has decided she wants pies at her reception. This means I will only be making one wedding cake this summer. And about 10 wedding pies.