I stopped by Tu-Lu’s Gluten-Free Bakery’s New York shop to learn how to decorate eyeball sugar cookies for Halloween. The shop’s cookie and cake decorator taught me how to transform plain round gluten-free cookies into spooky eyeballs.
A lesson on making royal icing was the first step, followed by instructions on how to use the icing to create the “eyeball.” Follow along and you’ll be able to make these gluten-free Halloween cookies, and any other design you have in mind, for kids of all ages this Halloween, too.
About Royal Icing
While many of us grew up decorating cookies with a store bought buttercream icing, it’s not the best icing for decorating sugar cookies. “If you look at sugar cookies you can tell which is a basic buttercream and which is royal icing,” Tu Lu’s decorator explained. “The difference comes down to thickness. Royal icing creates a thinner icing base to decorate than buttercream. It’s the key to creating complex designs.”
Royal icing can be made with egg whites or meringue powder, confectioners’ sugar and water. For those who have not made royal icing before or who don’t feel comfortable using raw egg whites, meringue powder is a great option. Royal icing can be tinted any color. My Tu Lu’s teacher recommended using gel coloring because it works better than the more typical liquid food coloring, which changes the consistency of the icing.
I learned you have to do two things to use royal icing successfully. First, you have to create a “dam” on the cookies using royal icing with a slightly thicker consistency. It will serve as a boundary for the next round of icing. After the dam has hardened, the next step is to add flood icing, known as flooding the cookie, which creates a smooth plane. The flood icing can be thought of as the cookie’s canvas.
What You Will Need:
Pre-made plain round sugar cookies
Royal icing (recipe here)
Gel dyes (colors including: blue, red, and black)
Pastry bags or plastic bags for icing (one for dam, one for flood and one extra)
Prepare royal icing
Follow the directions for making royal icing. Make sure to sift the confectioners’ sugar as its being added so that it will not clog the pastry tips when decorating. Since the icing for the dam requires a little extra confectioners’ sugar, split the icing into two bowls or containers – one for the dam and one for flooding. Place a damp towel over the flood icing to prevent it from drying out.
Add the extra confectioners’ sugar to the icing for the dam. When it’s ready, pour into a pastry bag and add a tip. If using plastic bag, cut a small hole in one corner. Make sure to squeeze out any visible bubbles in the bag.
Make the dam
Outline the cookie’s border to create the dam. Let the icing sit for a few minutes to harden.
Once the dam hardens, take the flood icing, which has less confectioners’ sugar, and place in a pastry bag with a tip or plastic bag with a small hole. Once the icing is ready for use, spread the white icing over the surface of the cookie. This is called flooding the icing. Use a toothpick to help smooth out any bumps or bubbles on the icing. Once smooth, let the cookies sit to harden.
Add the details
While the flood icing is hardening, add blue gel to some of the royal icing and mix.
Start by creating a circular dam with the blue icing. Give the icing a few minutes to harden and then fill in the circle with the blue icing and let sit.
While icing is hardening, place a few drops of red gel on a surface. Using either a paintbrush, Q-tip or toothpick, make lines to create veins in the eyes.
Once the icing for the eyeball has hardened, place a few drops of black gel on a surface and add in a circle for the pupil and lines around it. Allow this icing to harden. Wait up to 10 hours before bagging the cookies to be sure the icing is hard and the cookies don’t stick to each other.
Susan Cohen is a regular contributor to Gluten-Free Living.