Since uploading my picture and idea to create rainbow heart sugar cookies decorated with Jell-O icing (used to both colour AND flavour the icing), the picture has been shared across the internet. Reddit, Facebook, Pinterest, and other blogs are using my picture and sharing the idea. I'm happy to share, but please don't edit my picture or remove the website address from the bottom. Also, if you do share the picture, please give Elgin Harvest the credit. Copyright applies to all creative intellectual property whether it has a little c in a circle or not. Just because you found it on the internet doesn't mean you can use it wherever you like. If you are sharing this image on your commercial page, it's best to ask permission first.If you would like to share this picture on Facebook, here is my post- share away.If you would like to share this picture on Pinterest, here is my pin- pin away.There are also share options at the bottom of the page.
That being said, many people have shared the picture but didn't give instructions on how to prepare the icing. Yes, it is basically white icing (powdered sugar and water) mixed with a little bit of jelly crystals. Keep reading for detailed instructions on how to prepare the icing, make a batch of sugar cookies (FROM SCRATCH) and decorate your cookies for Valentine's Day (or any other day).
Please note: I'm not affiliated with Kraft, I am aware of the artificial colour/flavour controversies, and I know that gelatin is derived from animal carcasses. If you are using Jell-O in your icing and sharing them with others, please be courteous and let your vegan/vegetarian friends know. Many vegetarians avoid consuming gelatin wherever possible.
Rainbow Jell-O Icings
6 c powdered sugar
1/2 c- 1 c hot water
1 T meringue powder (optional)
1-2 T EACH of 6 different jelly powder crystals
Place the icing sugar and meringue powder in a mixing bowl. Using the paddle attachment (yes, you can do this by hand- it's easier with a mixer though), pour in 1/2 c of the hot water and mix until combined. At medium speed, beat the icing until it is smooth, light, and pourable- 5-10 minutes. You may have to adjust the amount of liquid required to get it to the correct consistency. It's better to start with too little of liquid than too much. It's okay if it is a little thin.
Divide the icing into 6 small bowls and cover each with plastic wrap (or the equivalent). The icing will start to dry quickly so keep it covered while you're not using it. Working with one bowl at a time, mix in 1-2 T of one flavour of jelly crystal powder to the icing. Stir well to ensure all the crystals are dissolved. As the icing sits, it will start to thicken and you will most likely need to adjust the consistency with a little more hot water- 1 t at a time. Repeat for each icing colour. * I mixed all my colours at once, then came back and adjusted the consistency right before piping and flooding each individual colour.
Sugar Cookies- Basic Dough
I like this recipe for several reasons. The cookies are tender, quick to make, and the dough is very versatile. It's a great 'basic' recipe, meaning you can adjust the flavours as you like. You can keep it simple and classic by using pure vanilla extract or customize and use almond extract or lemon juice. You can also add 1T of finely grated citrus zest and 1 t of spice to the dough. You can even add 1 T of finely ground herbs or tea! The other reason I like this dough is that the cookies don't overly puff while baking. Some recipes have so much leaveners (baking powder/soda) and eggs added to the dough that the cookies will not hold their shape. Using pastry flour and chilling the cookies after rolling the dough helps ensure the cookies stay tender and bake evenly. As with any cooking or baking, the quality of your cookies really does depend on your ingredients. Garbage in= garbage out. It is a cookie, it is a treat, but try to use local, fresh, quality ingredients wherever possible.
1 c unsalted butter, softened
3/4 c sugar
1 1/2 t pure vanilla extract
3 c pastry flour
1/4 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
In a large bowl, sift flour, salt, and baking powder together. Set aside.
In a mixing bowl, cream the softened butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the egg and vanilla and mix until well combined.
In three steps, mix in the dry ingredients, taking care not to over-mix the dough. Over-mixed cookies will shrink when baking and be tough and chewy to eat.
Scoop out the dough onto plastic wrap and press it into a flattened shape (round or rectangular- doesn't matter) about 1 1/2-inches thick. Wrap the dough in the plastic wrap and set aside for at least 1 hour or overnight in the fridge.
To roll the cookies: unwrap the dough and divide in half. On a flour dusted board (or counter), roll the dough evenly to 1/8-inch thickness (1/4-inch if you prefer thicker cookies). Using a cookie cutter (hearts for Valentine's Day!), cut the cookies out pressing straight down into the dough, dipping the cutter in flour every couple of presses. Place the cut dough onto a parchment paper or silpat lined cookie sheet and allow the cookies to chill for at least 15 minutes in the fridge. Continue to cut out remaining cookies with the other half of dough, re-rolling the scraps once more. (You can re-roll more than once if you're frugal, but the texture of the cookies really will suffer.)
* At this point, you can also freeze the cookie dough. It's nice to have rolled cookies ready-to-bake prepared in the freezer so you can pull them out whenever you feel like a treat. It's also great if time is an issue- make the dough ahead of time and bake the day-of for fresh cookies.
In a 325°F preheated oven, bake the cookies for 7-10 minutes, rotating halfway, on the middle and upper racks until the edges are just beginning to lightly brown and the tops are set. If you rolled thicker cookies, you may have to adjust your timing. Sugar cookies are suppose to be pale in colour and will crisp up once cooled.
Remove cookies from oven and allow to rest for five minutes on the cookie sheet. Carefully remove cookies to baking racks to cool completely. Store in a covered container.
Decorating the Heart-Shaped Cookies with Jell-O Icing
With the prepared icing and baked cookies ready to go, it's easy to ice the cookies with a simple method that makes the cookies stay neat and tidy. We did our best to keep the cookie edges sharp while baking, so it makes sense to want to continue on with that look for decorating. It is incredibly easy and economical to make your own small piping bags when decorating cookies, cakes or for wanting to write custom messages. You don't have to use icing for decorating either- using these cones is the preferred method by many chefs for piping melted chocolate in restaurants and bakeries. The disposable plastic bags from cake decorating suppliers have their uses, but this is so much easier when dealing with small amounts or if you're on a budget.
You will need:
Sheets of parchment paper or wax paper to create quick and easy piping bags
Small glass or container to hold the piping bags while filling
It may seem like a lengthy process to complete, but these piping bags are incredibly quick & easy to make once you practice a few times. You can make them any size that you like.
1. Gather your supplies and tools. Stapler optional.
2. With the sheet of parchment, fold the paper over to form a triangle shape. Cut off the excess edge. Once opened, the paper will now form a perfect square. (Keep it folded for now.)
3. Using a sharp blade, carefully slice along the folded square. Keep the edge as straight and neat as possible.
4. Once cut, you will now have two right-angled triangles.
5. With the right-angled corner at the top, take one of the bottom corners and roll it over towards the opposite side, holding it with your fingers on the inside and thumb on the outside.
6. While holding the first rolled corner in place, roll the other bottom corner up towards to opposite side to create a cone shape.
7. Using your thumbs, slide the outer-most corner (the last one you rolled over) around the cone and gently pull & slide until all three corners meet.
8. Gently adjust the corners until the point of the cone is tight and there isn't a hole there any longer.
9. Fold the top edge over twice to secure the cone in its shape. Use a stapler and staple the folded edge for extra security (optional).
10. With the cone in a small jar or cup to hold it upright, spoon in the icing to about 1/3 or 1/2 full. Do not fill any more than this or it will overflow. Fold each corner of the open top towards the middle, then fold the middle over to squeeze the icing towards the tip and to seal it closed. Using a pair of scissors, cut off about 2-3 mm from the tip to create a small opening to pipe the icing from.
11. With steady pressure, carefully squeeze the icing out of the piping bag while slowly moving to create an outline of the cookie. This is called "making a dam". Allow the dam to sit for about 45 seconds to partially dry. This will ensure the icing poured inside remains contained and doesn't overflow the edges of your cookies.
12. Once the dam has lightly set, use the piping bag to squeeze out more icing to fill the interior of the heart. Just like when you coloured pictures as a kid, stay in the lines! Use the tip of the piping bag to push the icing to the edges of the dam. If your icing is the proper consistency, gravity will ensure the cookies have a smooth layer of icing. If your icing is too thick, use the tip and try to smooth it is best you can.
Allow the cookies to dry for at least 4 hours (or overnight). Once dried, use more piping bags filled with icing or melted chocolate to create messages or designs on the cookies in contrasting colours. The Jell-O Icing Cookies were first published on an earlier blog post.