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Hello Sunshine! A thoughtful Anniversary Sweet(ft Queen color chart and royal icing recipe/tutorial)

Updated: Nov 2, 2023

A while back I got a DM from a friend John, who I've known since grade school. He was looking for a sweet edible gift for his lovely wife. I was absolutely thrilled to work on this order for John and Maria. With their anniversary approaching in the next few weeks, there were two initial criteria 1. That the dessert would be Sunflower themed and 2. that it incorporate dark chocolate covered espresso beans (a treat he'd remembered her mentioning craving). Whether it was a happy accident or intentional, I loved the symbolism behind the sunflower motif. Known across the world as an emblem for long life, lasting happiness and loyalty, the sunflower was a perfect choice for an anniversary sweet. After toying around with the idea of a box of custom candies, we quickly settled on something more binge-able: iced sugar cookies!

The first thing I like to do with custom orders that have a colorful motif is to find as many hex codes in my desired color family as possible. This massive roll-a-dex of color options lets me work backwards, by process of elimination of all the shades that are just not quite what the client wants. After some time of hue searching, I settled upon a marigold yellow for the cookie icing, a toupe/brown for the inner lining of the design and a toasty golden color for accents. (pictured below) After all, a neon yellow or muddy corn-silk would ruin the sunflower illusion. The main yellow shade needed to be deep enough to register as a sunflower, warm enough to play off the deep brown in of the espresso bean and supplementary colors yet bright enough not to fade as my royal icing dries. Once I've got my Hex codes I head over to Queen to use their food color mixing chart that I have been swearing by for years now. If you're not familiar with Queen, they're a pastry brand out of NZ that's has some primo vanilla bean paste that I LOVE using for gelato.

The choice of food dye is crucial in the world of pastry and baking. Gel dyes are the preferred option for many pastry chefs for several reasons:

  1. Concentration and Pigmentation: Gel dyes are highly concentrated and pigmented. This means you need to use much less of them to achieve the desired color, resulting in vibrant and intense hues. In contrast, liquid food coloring is far more diluted, requiring larger quantities to achieve the same level of color saturation.

  2. Color Consistency: Gel dyes maintain their color match even after drying. This is especially important in recipes like royal icing and cookie batter, where the final appearance of the product matters. Liquid food coloring, when used in baking, often dries to a dull or faded color, which can be disappointing.

  3. Viscosity: Gel dyes have a thicker viscosity, making them easier to control and mix into your recipes without altering the consistency of the batter or icing significantly. Liquid food coloring, on the other hand, can add unwanted moisture to your recipes, potentially affecting the texture and structure.

  4. Taste: Liquid food coloring can sometimes impart a chemical aftertaste when used in larger measurements. Gel dyes are typically formulated to be taste-neutral, meaning they won't alter the flavor of your creations, even if you need to use a larger quantity to achieve the desired color.

The Chefmaster brand is often the kind of dye professional kitchens use. They come in a variety of sizes, so whether you need a little or a lot of dye, you'll be covered. Chefmaster is my favorite brand of die to use for royal icing. I have heard more than a few horror stories from my home baking buddies about using liquid dye in their royals and having them become a big bowl of soup due to the moisture content. I've even gotten some panic texts from family members who struggle with getting the riht icing consistency BEFORE they color it. If its your first time making a royal icing, don't worry you got this! There are a ton of recipes floating round on the internet swearing by corn syrup or meringue powder as an absolute necessity in your recipe. BUT, if you're like me and don't see the point in spending an arm and a leg on powders and additives for a simple icing, good ole egg white and powdered sugar will get you by just fine. There is a youtuber Taro Room Cafe who has an incredible recipe that is simple enough for any first time frosting makers and only requires a hand held electric mixer.

First Time Royal Icer Top 3 Tips

  1. Give yourself more time than you think you need. Patience is key as baking is mostly a game of NOT rushing through projects to ensure they come out perfect.

  2. Organization is a must- making sure that you have all the tools your need at a fingers reach is great when piping is unfamiliar to you. Need to unclog your piping tip? -have toothpicks nearby, you ricing is getting a little messy?-have some wet wipes on the ready.

  3. Work on as flat of a surface as you can find- there's no greater pain than piping a gorgeous sugar cookie only to have mistakenly left it to dry on a slanted surface ,returning to a design that has slid or shifted from its intended place.

Okay, back to these custom cookies. All in all I am thrilled with how they turned out. My buddy's wife was super happy with her bespoke treats. And so here are the glamour shots both I and the happy couple took.

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