These sweet crystals, made from sugar cookie dough and topped with royal icing, are the ultimate rock collection—beautiful, colorful, and totally delicious. As a professional cookie decorator, dreaming up unique designs with a hint of realism is my favorite part of the baking process. These edible gems also embody the whimsy of natural shape and pattern, so don’t be intimidated—the process embraces imperfection, making them the perfect project for a first-time cookie decorator. Give them as gifts, add playfulness to any party platter, or use them as customizable place settings for your holiday table.
Makes approximately 25 cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated cane sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 large egg
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. baking powder
3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1?3 cup meringue powder
32 oz. (4 cups) powdered sugar 1 Tbsp. clear corn syrup
1?2 cup room temperature water, plus more as needed
MATERIALS: In addition to the above ingredients, you will need parchment paper, a toothpick, tipless piping bags, and gel food color (I used teal, pink, purple, orange, and white). For additional finishing touches, you can also use edible gold dust and a paint brush for application.
1. Cream butter and sugar in a stand mixer at medium speed for 3 minutes. Add salt, egg, and vanilla, and mix at medium speed until combined. In a large bowl, combine flour and baking powder. Add flour mixture 1 cup at a time to wet ingredients and mix at low speed until combined. Repeat until dough comes together and pulls away from sides of bowl. Roll dough until approximately ¼" thickness on a floured surface or between two sheets of parchment paper (if you prefer a thicker cookie, you can roll out to ?"). Chill before cutting.
2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Cut out varied irregular circular and donut shapes from the chilled dough with a small knife (A) and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. You really can’t go wrong with these natural rock shapes. Chill the unbaked cookies for an additional 30 minutes before baking to minimize spreading. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until the bottom edges are slightly golden.
3. While your cookies are cooling, prep the royal icing. Hand whisk the meringue powder with ½ cup of water in the bowl of a stand mixer until dissolved and foamy. Add powdered sugar and mix on low speed with paddle attachment until combined (add more water if mixture is too dry) then add corn syrup. Mix all ingredients on medium speed for 3 minutes. The finished icing should be firm and hold stiff peaks. Reserve and bag roughly 1 cup of firm consistency white icing for outlines. Thin the remaining royal icing with small amounts of water until it reaches a runny flood consistency. Icing is ready when you can cut it with a spatula and it comes back together in roughly 8 seconds. Divide icing into 3 or more bowls and mix in gel color (start with just a drop. Color will develop with time). This is your chance to get creative with color, but I suggest creating varied shades from light to dark using 1 or 2 main colors. Bag all colors in separate tipless piping bags.
4. Time to decorate! Cut a small hole in the tip of your firm consistency white icing bag. Outline your geode cookie by applying moderate pressure to your piping bag as you move around the exterior and interior edges of your cookie. Inconsistencies and lumpiness in your outline give the cookie natural character, just make sure the line completely surrounds the cookie edges to prevent your flood icing from spilling out. Next, fill the interior of the cookie using your colorful flood icing. Cut small holes in all tipless bags. Work from the outside of the cookie in, piping circular patterns. Vary thickness by applying more or less pressure when piping and vary color as you work your way inwards (B). While still wet, use a toothpick to swirl icing, creating thin, wispy lines (C).
5. When the cookie is fully flooded, cut a piece of parchment paper (I like unbleached parchment) slightly larger than the size of your cookie. Lay the parchment over the top of the newly iced cookie and gently press the parchment into the cookie surface making full contact with the icing. Let the cookie dry for 6 to 8 hours with the parchment overlay in place. Once dry, slowly peel the parchment away, leaving behind a smooth matte finish. You may find air bubbles trapped beneath the parchment and that’s OK! Imperfections make the cookie crystals shine.
6. To finish, I like to dilute a small drop of gel color with water and splatter paint the cookies by flicking the color across the cookie surface with a brush. Finish with edible gold luster dust.
–Maya Frenklach, @paintedladiespastry
Photos by Maya Frenklach
This article originally appeared in BUST's Winter 2021/2022 print edition. Subscribe today!