Alice in Wonderland Cookies
Yesterday one of my moms co-workers (and friend) had an Alice in Wonderland themed baby shower and I was asked to make the cookies. The shower was wonderful… her mother, mother-in-law and friends put so much thought and detail into the tea party idea that it felt straight out of the movie! I had originally planned on doing a cake or cupcakes, but what I love about sugar cookies is that you can work on them at your leisure so far ahead of time, freeze them and then just take them out the day of the party. These were a little more tricky than normal just because I didn’t have character shaped cookie cutters so I had to design my own. I hadn’t seen the movie in years so when I watched it I made a list of who I wanted to make cookies of, took screen shots of them on my computer and then used those to sketched out the characters and come up with a plan. The key to making really impressive looking sugar cookies is to build up with two layers of icing: the bottom layer is the foundation that lays out the key parts of the character and then the second layer adds on detailing and outlines. This was a fun project because the characters are so silly they had me cracking up while working on them and it was nice to be able to add a special touch to such a great day!
Start off by making the sugar cookie dough. I used my great-grandmother’s recipe, which I’ve already done a post on here, and doubled the recipe. My cookies were fairly big and I made six of each character and then 18 of the “taste me, try me, eat me” cookies so it made about 4 dozen cookies and I had some dough leftover.
Since I didn’t have character shaped cutters (I do believe you can find some online but I’ve never seen any like this) I made my own. Basically you just have to take shapes of cutters that you already have and adapt them slightly. Trace these new shapes onto card stock and use those as your templates to cut your cookies. The queen of hearts is a circle cutter with an added shape at the top for her crown, the rabbit is a rabbit’s head cutter with an added shape at the bottom for his collar and a change to one ear, twiddle dee/dum is a wider circle cutter with an added shape at the top for their head/hat and Alice is just a gingerbread woman’s cutter that I changed slightly. The cheshire cat (not pictured below) is a pumpkin cutter that I changed the top part to accommodate his ears.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats. Roll out the sugar cookie dough and cut out the characters using your templates as the guide. If there’s not too much detail I use a pastry wheel and if there’s a more intricate design I use a paring knife that’s tip has been dipped in flour. Be sure to put the sheets with the characters on them in the freezer for a few minutes before baking, this will ensure they hold their shape while in the oven. All these will differ in baking times based on their size, start to keep an eye on them after 5 minutes.
There are many ways to make royal icing but I always prefer to use a recipe with meringue powder. Even though it’s more expensive than some alternatives, I find it allows the icing to set up harder and faster which makes things much easier. Combine 1 lb sifted confectioner’s sugar, 5 tbsp meringue powder and scant 1/2 cup water in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed for 7 minutes and then assess the icing’s consistency. This is a really important step… for the first layer of icing on the cookies you are “flooding” sections so you want the icing thin enough that it all blends together without clumping but thick enough that it will hold shape. For the second layer you need it thick enough to make detailed lines but not so thick that you can’t push it out of the bottles. If the icing you’ve made is too thick, add more water a very little bit at a time. If the icing is to thin, add a little bit more meringue powder and beat for at least a minute before adding more. One batch of icing will typically be enough to ice both laters of a dozen cookies.
Now you’ll need to tint your icing the correct colors and put them into bottles to ice. I always use Wilton’s gel food coloring because it has no water and will not change the consistency of the icing. I use Wilton’s candy melting bottles to ice the cookies because they’re easy to work with, they have a perfect tip size and they’re really easy to clean. They also have stoppers for the tips so you can keep icing in them for a few hours while working.
For the Queen of Hearts: Flood a heart-shape for her face in white icing and then add in black eyebrows, eyes and lashes and a mouth line. The easiest way to do the eyelashes is to dot in the eyes and then drag a toothpick from their center for each lash. Flood in the eyeshadow in a teal color. I made the hair color a bright red and left it a little thicker than the other icing so that after I flooded the area I could swirl a toothpick through it and it would hold its shape to look like curls. Pipe Individual lines coming from the face ending at the edge of the cookie in white for her collar. At the end of each of these lines drop a white pearl sprinkle to look like real pearls. Once this layer has COMPLETELY dried a couple hours at room temperature uncovered (seriously, don’t rush things or your cookies will be a mess) then you can start the final layer. Accentuate the eyes with two more dots of black icing and outline the face shape in black. Give her lips by making a heart shape in red over the mouth line. Add ears and a nose in white and give her earrings with the pearl sprinkles. Make a swirl pattern in red to give her curls and add a crown with yellow icing and pearl sprinkles.
For Tweedle Dee and Dum: Flood in a collar and eye shape in white, then add pants and a hat in red and a shirt in yellow. Finish by flooding in an orange face. For the second layer, add a blue bow tie and outline everything in black. Add in eyeballs and made the mouth with two curved shapes that are broken up by a pinkish nose and tongue.
For the White Rabbit: Flood in a collar shape in a bright blue and then add in light pink eyes and inner ears. Use a darker pink to dot the eyes and add a tongue then flood the rest of the cookie in white. Draw in a mouth shape with black. Once that is completely dry then make a figure 8 design on the collar and outline the whole thing in black. Add in black eyebrows, blue circles for the glasses and a dark pink nose.
For Alice: Flood in yellow hair, flesh colored face and arms, blue for the dress and a white apron and stockings. Once this is all completely dry outline the whole thing in black, add a black bow in her hair and draw in shoes. Give her a black smile and blue eyes and buttons.
For the Cheshire Cat: Flood in a white mouth, a pink nose and yellow eyeballs. Use a light purple color to flood the area around the mouth and tips of the ears, and a dark purple for the upper face. Once this is completely dry, outline everything in black, making a design in the cheeks and by the ears to look like fur. Add in teeth, dimples, nostrils, whiskers, eyebrows and eyeballs.
For the Taste Me, Try Me, Eat Me Cookies: I just used different shaped cutters that I already had for these (stars, hearts, scalloped-edge circles, etc). Flood them with bright colors and then quickly outline them with the pearl sprinkles. Once this is completely dry use a thick white icing to pipe “eat me” “taste me” and “try me” onto them.
I let each character sit overnight uncovered before freezing them. You want them to be completely set up before you freeze them otherwise you run the risk of them smudging or falling in once you take them out of the freezer. When you’re ready to freeze them, place them in a single layer in a plastic container. Cover completely with a piece of parchment and then add another layer until you’re container is full. Freeze until the day of your event, remove from freezer but leave in the containers separated by parchment until you’re ready to plate. For the shower, we had four different trays that we put all different characters around the edge of each and piled the taste me cookies in the middle.