Reality TV baking shows & why I hate royal icing sugar cookies

Updated: Jan 29, 2021

This weekend I made sugar cookies with royal icing.

I set out to make the cookies and icing because I thought to myself: "Fancy shmancy cookie decorating is a skill you haven't perfected yet... might wanna get on that!".

Ok, ok, I may have watched one too many episodes of the Christmas Cookie Challenge on The Food Network over the holidays. This was definitely the motivator behind the cookies. I saw these amazing artists and what they could do and it made me aspire to do the same.

Did it all go to plan? HECK NO!

I made the sugar cookies - that's a no brainer. I found a fantastic recipe online, adapted it to the fact that I wanted to make lemon sugar cookies - and off I went.

42 perfect cookies later, it was time to decorate.

So I did more research, about all the science and intricacies of royal icing for cookies. Already I was saying to myself: "This seems like more trouble than it's worth."

You have to make different consistencies for different types of decorations.

If you want to make actual designs, you'll have to prepare a bunch of colors, which means dirtying a large number of piping couplers, tips, bowls, bags.....

Can you see this wasn't my cup of tea? But still I forged on!

I made 3 different colors, got my equipment ready and off I went. And after one cookie, which looked nothing like what I had envisioned, and then another, and then another, I put everything down and raised my hands. This part of baking was not for me!

I ended up using my white royal icing to flood most of my cookies and used some blue sprinkles I had on hand to pretty them up.

And you know what?

They were still amazing cookies!

Did they taste fantastic? Yes!

Did the icing work and dry correctly? Yes!

But I was being so hard on myself for not reaching cookie decorating greatness.

And then, I had a real good talking to myself and realized that,


I think part of my frustration comes from all these television shows around baking that make it in to a competition. That ask extremely talented bakers to master EVERYTHING. To be just as good at forming marzipan into a freakin' teddy bear than they are at perfectly laminating croissant dough.

It's simply not realistic!

Do we ask musicians to master every instrument? No!

Do we ask athletes to excel in every discipline or sport? No!

So why do we expect the same of bakers?

I personally love creating flavors. I love when a request comes in for a cake or pastry and the person doesn't know exactly what they want and they give me carte blanche. I love experimenting with infusing flavors into cakes by using extracts, alcohols, fresh produce versus dry, and so on! I adore working with new ingredients or tweaking variables an already good recipe and seeing if I can make it spectacular.

On the flipside: I HATE decorating cookies with extravagant designs, I HATE spending hours molding fondant and gumpaste like they are PlayDoh to make ridiculous figurines and shapes that are inedible in the end and take away from the baking, I HATE building or trimming cakes to make them into crazy objects (why did I bake the cake if half of it gets destroyed?)... You see where I am goin with this?

That's just me! And I have to be true to myself.

I have a style of baking I enjoy and although I'm willing to try other techniques and media, I can't be good at all of them. So why ask me to be? Or any baker for that matter?

All that to say.. I love you GBBO and all The Food Network competition games...

But how about giving your poor contestants a chance?

On that note! Since I've made my position about sugar cookies and royal icing decorating very clear, I still want to give a shoutout to these 2 recipes and bloggers.

Although I have ZERO patience for this type of stuff, both these recipes were FABULOUS and if I had to do it all over again, they would be my go-to's for certain.

Perfect Sugar Cookie Recipe by Lila Loa

Everything you need to know about royal icing from Sally's Baking Addiction.

Happy baking!

#sugarcookies #cookiedecorating #royalicing #bakingfail #bakersgonnabake


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