Lessons I learned after decorating cookies for a bake sale

royal icing sugar cookies

My rolling pin has been working overtime lately; we always seem to do a lot of cookie decorating over the holidays, what with all the holiday parties and classmate presents (and of course, cookies for Santa).  Today The Pea's school band had a winter concert with a bake sale table, so of course I volunteered to bake cookies.  I already had a couple of batches of cookie dough in the freezer, and I was itching to try a new cookie icing technique that I had discovered on the web.  I found cookie cutters shaped like a guitar, treble clef and eighth note, and got to work.

royal icing sugar cookies

After five hours of painstaking labor, spread out over two days, I had four dozen beautifully decorated sugar cookies -- and more than a few lessons learned about making cookies for a bake sale.  Here's what I learned:

Royal icing keeps for up to a month!  To keep it from drying out, cover your icing bowl with a damp kitchen towel and put a plate on top of it.  If you have icing left over in piping bags, stick them in a ziploc plastic bag.

Toothpicks are your friend.  They are perfect for transferring gel food coloring to icing and for unclogging icing tips, so keeps lots of them handy.

Air bubbles are your enemy.  If you're piping icing from a bag, make sure you've pushed out all excess air before you start to pipe.

Save a few cookies for your kids -- they'll be so busy decorating their own cookies to "help" you decorate yours (unless you want fanged demon snowmen).

Practice truly does make perfect.  Warm up by piping your design on parchment paper, and expect to get better as you go along (you'll probably perfect your technique just as you're decorating your very last cookie).

Kids love it when you (or they) make mistakes, because they get to eat the rejects.

Leave your cookies to dry overnight before packing them into plastic bags.

Don't plan on factoring labor costs when pricing your cookies.  Even at $20 per hour, I'd have to charge $2 per cookie to break even!  When you factor in production costs -- especially pricey ingredients like butter, powdered sugar, meringue powder and gel food coloring -- you realize you're much better off buying cookies at the supermarket.

And finally...

Be prepared to have your kids ask you to buy your cookies at the bake sale -- even though you've already kept a few extra cookies at home.
royal icing sugar cookies

royal icing sugar cookies

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