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Sep 24, 2017 12:25pm

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Blog Recipes and Tips From Julia Usher

Easy Spring Flower Transfers

You won’t need much to make these spring-y royal icing transfers, which is the true beauty of them! They’ll also last indefinitely if stored in airtight containers at room temperature, so they’re great make-ahead decorations.

What you’ll need for several transfers:

  • Cookie sheets lined with parchment paper
  • Painters’ tape
  • 1 recipe Royal Icing
  • Soft-gel (aka liqua-gel) food coloring, assorted spring-y colors
  • Parchment paper pastry cones (or substitute disposable plastic piping bags)
  • Scissors

To make:

1 | Prep your pans. Before I start piping anything, I like to line the back of several cookie sheets with parchment paper or acetate (second photo). To keep the paper from slipping around when piping on it, fix it in place with blue painters’ tape in each corner. I prefer this tape to most other types, since it easily peels off without leaving sticky residue on my cookie sheets. If you don’t line the sheets, the transfers probably won’t release without breaking. Also, if you’re wondering why I line the backs of the pans and not the tops: it’s because the sides on my cookie sheets make it harder to pipe neatly on the “right” side.

Aside: I usually line with parchment paper when I intend to pipe the transfers freehand (without any tracing guides), as in this case. But if you have a more complicated pattern to trace, then you’ll want to use clear acetate so you can slip the design underneath and clearly see it while tracing! I also line more trays than you might think, because I prefer to pipe only around the perimeter of each tray (second and third photos). I find that when I reach into the middle of the tray to pipe, I usually can’t see what I’m doing so well and the flowers end up looking less tidy.

2 | For the daisies. Because these flowers are so simple, there’s no need to trace or even put guide marks on the parchment paper. I typically like a variety of flower sizes in my designs, so all the more reason not to confine your piping to particular guide marks. Making these daisies is a quick five-step process (fourth photo) that generally involves two colors of Royal Icing (one for the center and another for the petals) mixed to a relatively loose consistency, i.e., for beadwork. The centers and petals are nothing more than small dots, which are made most perfectly by cutting a tiny (less than 1/8-inch) hole straight across the tip of your parchment cone and piping at a 90-degree angle to the top of the cookie sheet. If you pipe at some other angle, your dots are likely to end up as ovals!

Note: I always pipe these daisies with parchment cones, because they give me better control than standard pastry bags with metal tips. But you can use bags if you’re not yet comfortable with making cones. The size of the tip needed will vary with the size of your daisies. For tips on making parchment cones, check out my tutorial or Lesson 4 in my new cookie decorating video series.

Start by piping all of your centers, filling the entire perimeter of the cookie sheet before you start adding any petals. (If you start adding petals before the centers have crusted, the petals may spread into the centers - or into each other - and you’ll end up with flowers without enough definition.) Next, add the first petal to each center, again working all the way around the cookie sheet before adding more petals to any given flower. Continue in this vein until you’ve piped five petals on each center. Be sure each petal makes contact with the center, or the daisy will fall apart once dried and lifted off the parchment paper. The smallest of my daisies (pictured left, fourth photo) are usually between 1/8 and 1/4 inch in diameter. But if you prefer larger transfers, you can easily alter the size just by piping bigger dots, as pictured in the 3/8-inch daisies to the right (fourth photo).

Let the flowers dry until they easily pop off the parchment paper. Because these flowers are quite small, they dry very fast. I was able to pop off most of them within one half hour on a rather dry day.

3 | For the hyacinths. These flowers are just a touch more complicated, but still quite easy. In this case, work with two colors of icing (periwinkle blue for the flowers and green for the leaves), both mixed to a thicker outlining consistency that holds a tight line when piped. Because the icing is relatively thick, flowers can be piped fully, one at a time, without risk of the icing layers running into each other and losing their shape.

Start by piping a small “trailing beaded border” to form the left (or right) side of the flower (fifth photo). For flowers of this size (about 1/2 inch), I again cut a very small (less than 1/8-inch) hole in the tip of the cone. To pipe this border, hold the cone at a 45-degree angle to the cookie sheet and apply enough pressure to form a small bead. Without lifting the cone and breaking the flow of the icing, release pressure on the cone and pull away from the bead to create a short icing tail; then pipe another bead to overlap the tail and pull back again to form another tail. Repeat this process three or four times to complete the first side of the flower; then do this again on the opposing side, leaving about 1/8 inch between the two rows of icing.

To complete the flower, pipe a “trailing zig-zag border” (aka “two-sided beaded border”) down the center of the flower to connect the two sides. This border is just a slight variation of the previous border. Instead of piping the beads so they all line up with one another, simply rotate the tip of your cone to either side of center so the beads end up piped in a staggered fashion (see Step 3, fifth photo). For more information about piping beaded borders, see my detailed video tutorial (Lesson 16) in my new video series.

Lastly, fill another parchment cone with relatively thick green icing, cut a small (less than 1/8-inch hole) straight across the tip, and pipe small leaves at the base of each flower. These leaves are essentially just upside down trailing beads. Start by pressing out a bead of icing, and then, to form the leaf tip, pull the cone toward the top of the flower while releasing pressure on it.

Dry the hyacinths as instructed for the daisies, though allow a little more time before you attempt to remove them from the parchment paper. Since they’re bigger, they’ll take longer to fully set up.

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I love your spring flower design, Julia, but am curious:  why did you choose the transfer method as opposed to decorating each cookie? I am new to cookie decorating and learning…it just seemed that the design itself was not too intense and the whole transfer step could be skipped.  Like I said…I am learning and would appreciate your feedback.  Thanx! Karen Santora.

By karen santora on March 31, 2015

Hi, Karen, Thanks! Here, the transfers aren’t actually shown on a cookie, but if they were, I think you would see why I chose to make them as transfers. Typically, I use transfers under a couple of conditions: (1) when I want the design flexibility of being able to try different arrangements on the cookie before the items are secured to the cookie (as you know, you can’t change things very easily once you pipe directly on a cookie) and (2) when I am placing the elements vertically or to extend off the cookie. In this case, these elements were stood on end (vertically) inside a 3-D cookie egg where there was no cookie standing behind them for support. Hope this helps.

By Julia M Usher on March 31, 2015

Thanx for clarifying this, Julia!  Makes sense now. I am glad I found your site and look forward to learning more!

By Karen Santora on April 01, 2015

You’re very welcome, Karen! Hope to see you around online!

By Julia M Usher on April 01, 2015

Es muy lindo su trabajo…I love your designs.

By Tatiana on September 23, 2015

Thanks so much, Tatiana!

By Julia M Usher on September 23, 2015