For Lulu's second birthday, I knew that we didn't want to schlep a birthday cake out to the beach. So I decided to bake cookies instead. I knew I wanted to make whale cookies but having never baked anything that required serious icing skills, I turned to my sisters Kiki and Kaly for help. I showed them the cookie I liked, that I found online for $10 a piece. That's right. $10 per cookie (who the hell pays for that anyway)?!
The Hong sisters decided to bake our own cookies to save money. In the end, it took five adults and half a day to make 100 cookies for our guests. While labor intensive, the cookies turned out super cute and very tasty (says our guests). Following are the recipes we used to create our own whale cookies for much, much less than $10 a pop. Good luck making your own.
Warning: royal icing and flooding is a pain in the ass!
Joy of Baking's Shortbread Cookie Recipe:
2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon (2 grams) salt
1 cup (2 sticks) (226 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup (60 grams) powdered (confectioners or icing) sugar
1 teaspoon (4 grams) pure vanilla extract
Shortbreads: In a separate bowl whisk the flour with the salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the butter until smooth and creamy (about 1 minute). Add the sugar and beat until smooth (about 2 minutes). Beat in the vanilla extract. Gently stir in the flour mixture just until incorporated. Flatten the dough into a disk shape, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill the dough for at least an hour or until firm.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) with the rack in the middle of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough into a 1/4 inch (.6 cm) thick circle. Cut into rounds or other shapes using a lightly floured cookie cutter. Place on the prepared baking sheets and place in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes. (This will firm up the dough so the cookies will maintain their shape when baked.) Bake for 8 - 10 minutes, or until cookies are very lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack.
Shortbread cookies with keep in an airtight container for about a week or they can be frozen.
Makes about 20 shortbread cookies.
Kiki / A Blithe Palate's Royal Icing Recipe:
3 1/2 cups of powdered sugar, sifted so lumps are removed
2 large egg whites (or equivalent with pasteurized egg whites)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Beat the sugar with the egg whites until it gets thick. Add sugar to thicken if it still sems too thin. Add in the lemon juice and blend well. The finished icing should be shiny and thick - separate into different bowls and color, adding one drop at a time to get desired colors.
This recipe makes icing that hardens fast; cover when you're not using the icing.
Also very helpful was Cake Journal's How to Flood Cookies With Royal Icing instructions. Her beautiful photographs and simple tips are brilliant. While flooding royal icing is much harder and labor intensive than it seems, I'm sure with a lot of practice every cookie can eventually look as perfect as Cake Journal's.