How To Make The Best Cookies for Decorating

Decorated cookies will always be popular.Star Cookies

They can match any theme and be as simple or as complicated as you like.

The way they’re iced is important of course (and I’ll do a post about that very soon) but I also really want them to taste great when they’re eaten too.

I’ve tried heaps of recipes over the years and, in the end, this is the one I’ve found tastes best and holds together well.

Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Cookies for Icing & Eating

  • 100g caster sugar
  • 85g unsalted butter (soften first)
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 200g plain flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt

Equipment

  • mixer, paddle attachment & bowl
  • another mixing bowl
  • metal spoon
  • baking paper
  • cookie tray

Method

  • Using the mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until very pale and mousse like. This can take 10 minutes plus.
  • Next add the egg, all in one go and beat really well.
  • Add the vanilla and beat again to combine.
  • In the other mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt.
  • Add the flour mix to the butter, sugar & eggs and combine gently using a metal spoon. Do not use the mixer at this point or you will over mix the dough and make your cookies tough instead of soft and buttery.
  • Use a piece of baking paper to cover your cookie tray and place the dough on the baking paper.
  • Use another piece of baking paper the same size over the top of the dough and then gently flatten the dough out by smoothing the top of the paper. It doesn’t have to be even.
  • Set the oven for 180°C.
  • Put the tray, baking paper & dough in the fridge for at least 30 mins.
  • Remove the dough including both layers of baking paper from the cookie tray.
  • With the baking paper still attached, roll the dough out to about 5mm thick.
  • Remove the top layer of baking paper and cut out your cookie shapes.  If the dough sticks to the cutters dip them in flour first.
  • You can either peel the extra dough away from around the cookies and put the baking paper with the cookie shapes left onto the cookie tray or you can place the cut out cookies onto another piece of baking paper on the cookie tray.
  • Reroll the extra dough in the same way by placing it between two layers of baking paper.
  • Bake for 10 minutes until light golden colour then place on a rack to cool.
  • If you are icing them for presentation leave them at least 4 hours to cool completely.

Notes

Letter & Number CookiesRolling the dough out between layers of baking paper means you don’t have to add more flour, or handle the dough so much which means they will be lighter cookies with a lovely melting texture.

How to Make a Sour Dough Starter

I know this is a cake website but I love baking anything and everything and there’s something truly satisfying about a loaf of bread.

Sour DoughAnd sour dough bread especially.

Sour dough is different because it uses the wild yeasts from the air to make the bread rise & give flavour.

This means it’s a little unpredictable and that bread made in one place tastes different from bread made in another.

I think that’s pretty amazing!

As usual, I’ve tried several ways of making a starter over the years, and this is the method I’ve ended up with. It takes 7 to 10 days to produce the first batch of starter, but after that you just keep it in the fridge and feed it every week or every time you make a batch of bread.

Sour Dough Starter

  • 100g strong flour (organic is good and wholemeal even better)
  • 200ml warm water
  • 1kg strong flour

Equipment

  • Large mixing bowl
  • Fork
  • Tea towel

Method

  • Mix the 100g of flour & warm water together in the large mixing bowl. You’re aiming for a consistency like house paint. Add some more flour if you need it.
  • Cover with the tea towel and leave somewhere warm for 24 hours.
  • Check for signs of fermentation (bubbles & a acrid smell).
  • If there’s no sign of fermentation after 3 days discard the mixture and start again.
  • Once fermentation begins you need to feed your starter every 24 hours by adding 2 tablespoons of flour and some more water then beating it with the fork to mix everything in and bring the batter back to the same consistency.
  • Repeat this routine for between 7 and 10 days until you have something that smells sweeter & almost alcoholic.
  • You can now use some of this starter to bake bread with.
  • Put the rest in the fridge and feed it 2 tablespoons of flour & some water every week or every time you use it.

How To Change Your Cakes Up

Cup CakesHere’s a tip I learnt from a women’s magazine a long time ago.

If you want to bake a cake that tastes really special replace some of the sugar in the cake with jam.

Sounds crazy I know.

But it really works!

Chocolate Orange Cake

  • 185g butter
  • 150g dark chocolate broken into pieces
  • 450g orange marmalade
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 225g self-raising flour

Equipment

  • 25cm cake tin, bottom lined with baking paper
  • Large saucepan
  • Wooden spoon
  • Small bowl
  • Fork

Method

  • Set the oven to 180ºC.
  • Melt the butter over a low heat in the saucepan.
  • Stir in the chocolate until it just starts to melt then take it off the heat.
  • Stir the chocolate and butter until mixed and melted.
  • Crack the 3 eggs into the bowl and beat them together with the fork.
  • Add the marmalade, sugar and eggs to the chocolate and butter mix the saucepan.
  • Stir with the wooden spoon until well mixed.
  • Gradually add the flour, in 3 or 4 additions, beating well between each one.
  • Stir thoroughly until the flour is fully mixed.
  • Pour/spoon the mix into your cake tin and bake for an hour and 2o mins.
  • Start testing with a wooden skewer in the centre of the cake (which will come out clean with no mixture on it if the cake is done) at about an hour and 10 mins.

Notes

I prefer unsalted butter for cakes, but use what you have.

If you use thin cut marmalade it will ‘disappear’ into the cake. I prefer thick cut because I like the orangey chunks.

Other jams I’ve used and loved include black cherry & apricot.  I’m also thinking those ginger conserves would be lovely too.  I’ll add it to my list to try and let you know!

This is a cake for eating not decorating. It would work as a single layer cake or as cupcakes but doesn’t have enough structure to be tiered.

Easter Nests

Easter NestsI love these simple, no bake cakes SO much.

Everything about them reminds me of being a kid and Cadbury’s chocolate eggs are my favourite confectionery. Ever.

They weren’t always available here in Australia so I used to send urgent messages to my parents back in the UK requesting they send them over.

I’m really glad to see them in the shops this year.

Because the Easter Nests no bake they’re perfect for making with children.

The recipe makes 12. Double it if you love them as much as I do. :-)

Ingredients

  • 225g plain chocolate
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup
  • 50g butter
  • 75g cornflakes
  • 12 cupcake cases
  • 36 chocolate mini eggs

Equipment

  • 12 cupcake baking tin
  • medium glass bowl
  • saucepan
  • scales
  • tablespoon

Method

  1. Place the cupcake cases in a 12 hole cupcake baking tin.
  2. Break the chocolate into small pieces and place in a glass bowl along with the golden syrup and butter.
  3. Place the bowl over a pan of gently simmering water and gently stir while the chocolate and butter melt.
  4. Once melted, take the bowl off the pan and heat and stir until smooth.
  5. Stir in the cornflakes until they are covered in the chocolate mix.
  6. Divide the mixture evenly between the 12 cases.
  7. Gently press 3 chocolate eggs into the top of each nest.
  8. Place in the fridge for an hour until completely set.

Your FREE copy of this Easter Nests Recipe

Simple to make. Great to do with kids. Taste delicious. Look super cute.

Click here to access your PDF version for printing!

Notes

You can use any chocolate eggs you like of course.

And you can replace the cornflakes with other things too… shredded wheat works well as does shredded (not dessicated) coconut.

Carrot Cake

Carrot Cake

This moist, dense cake is an oldie but a goodie.

It goes down well with adults as it’s not too sweet and it’s a great way to get the kids to eat some veggies too.

I like to be able to see the carrot pieces so I use quite a coarse grater. Use a smaller one if you’d like them hidden!

Ingredients

  • 450g grated carrot
  • 150g plain flour
  • 150g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ¾ tsp bicarb of soda
  • 175 ml vegetable oil
  • 200g brown sugar
  • 50ml golden syrup
  • 4 eggs

Equipment

  • 20cm round baking tins
  • baking paper
  • sieve
  • mixing bowls
  • scales
  • teaspoon (tsp)
  • measuring jug
  • grater
Nutmeg
I <3 nutmeg. I think it’s my favourite spice.

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 170˚C (gas mark 3) & grease and line the base of a 20cm round baking tin.
  2. Grate the carrot and put aside.
  3. Sift the flours, spices and bicarbonate of soda together in a large bowl.
  4. Whisk the vegetable oil, sugar, syrup and eggs together in a separate bowl.
  5. Gradually add the egg, sugar & oil mix to the flour, stirring well until completely combined. There should be no flour visible.
  6. Stir in the carrot, again until completely combined. All the carrot should be covered in cake mixture.
  7. Scrape the mixture into the tin and roughly level the surface.
  8. Bake for 1 hour and test for doneness with a wooden skewer which should come out clean.
  9. Remove from the oven, leave to cool in the tin for 15 mins, then turn out onto a rack.

Notes

Use either Brown Sugar Fudge Frosting or Swiss Meringue Buttercream to fill and cover the cake. If you’re covering the cake with fondant the Swiss Meringue Buttercream is best because it’s more stable.

Sometimes I leave the golden syrup out all together. It makes it less sweet but that’s not a bad thing if you’re using the Brown Sugar Fudge Frosting.

Brown Sugar Fudge Frosting

Perfect as a soft filling for carrot cake or chocolate mud cake.Brown Sugar Fudge Frosting

Not stable enough to use with a shaped or tiered cake, but, if you add another 100g of icing sugar you could use it for a single layer under fondant.

Also yummy piped on cupcakes, again with the extra icing sugar added for stability.

Ingredients

  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 150g brown sugar
  • 60ml milk
  • 300g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Equipment

  • sieve
  • electric mixer with bowl
  • saucepan

Method

  1. Melt the butter in a pan over a low heat.
  2. Add the sugar and stir until fully dissolved.
  3. Add the milk and bring to the boil.
  4. Pour into the bowl of a standing mixer and leave to cool for 15 mins.
  5. When the butter sugar mix is cool, stir in the icing sugar and vanilla then beat for 10 mins.
  6. Leave the icing for another 30 mins then beat again before using to ice your cake.

This makes enough to cover and fill a 20cm cake.

Notes

Wrap a tea towel round the top of your mixer (over the bowl) to stop all the icing sugar going everywhere. :-)

The longer you leave your icing between steps 5 and 6 the ‘fudgier’ it will be.