Whimsical Decorated Owl Cookies with Royal Icing

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These owl cookies are absolutely stunning, made using a few royal icing techniques, but nothing that the beginning baker can’t figure out. The sugar cookie dough and royal icing combination makes for a firm, but soft cookie that is as good to eat as it is to look at.

These owl cookies are precious.

You can choose to make them more whimsical, like I have here, or you go with more browns and earth tones to make them more true to life.

The beauty of making owl cookies or any animal cookies like flamingo cookies, duck cookies or lizard cookies is that this choice is up to you, and the process will be the same no matter what colors you use.

You do want to make sure you have time to dedicate to these cookies, as the layers that includes the wings will require a completely dry base cookie, which is best left overnight.

In this owl cookie recipe, I’ll teach you how to decorate owl cookies, how to make owl cookies, and how to use royal icing on these owl cookies.

Ingredients You’ll Want for Owl Cookies

The owl cookies are made from a cut-out sugar cookie dough and royal icing, so all of the ingredients you’ll need to gather up are for either the base or the icing.

Luckily, there aren’t any crazy ingredients in the sugar cookies, and the royal icing does require meringue powder, which not all bakers will have on hand, but it is easy to find online or you can buy royal icing mix in the grocery store if you don’t feel like making your own (though it’s really easy to make your own using meringue powder so don’t worry about it).

For the sugar cookie dough, follow the cut-out sugar cookie recipe and make sure you have: butter, powdered sugar, granulated sugar, flour, eggs, vanilla extract, baking powder, and salt.

To make the royal icing using meringue powder, all you need is the meringue powder, water, more powdered sugar, and vanilla extract or lemon juice for a bit of extra flavor.

If you want your royal icing to be even softer to the bite, you can add corn syrup.

Tools You’ll Need for Owl Cookies

Once you’ve got all of the edible ingredients you’ll need for the owl cookies, you’ll want to think about what tools you need to gather up.

Not all are necessary, for instance, if you don’t have a toothpick or scribe, it’s not the end of the world, but royal icing does require that you put it in some type of piping bag or ziploc bag with the end cut off, so you aren’t able to just scoop out the icing onto the cookie.

  • a baking sheet
  • baking paper or a reusable silicone baking mat
  • any food coloring you want
  • edible black sprinkle or pearl for the eye
  • piping bags for the icing (I don’t use tips, just disposable icing bags)
  • a scribe or toothpick (this is for adjusting the icing or popping air bubbles)

Why Do You Use Cut-Out Sugar Cookie Dough?

These owl cookies are made using a cut-out sugar cookie dough, which is different from a “regular” sugar cookie dough that you might expect to be fluffy or to spread out into a circle.

In fact, cut-out sugar cookie dough is because you want to retain the shape of the cut-out you have made with the cookie cutter, as well as keeping the depth the same throughout the cookie and not having craters.

Part of the instructions in the cut-out sugar cookie recipe involves chilling the dough, chilling it after it is rolled out, and chilling the shapes after you’ve cut them.

This might seem like a lot of extra work, but it will really help make sure that the owls stay the shape you want them and don’t turn into blobs.

Other things to keep in mind when making the sugar cookies are to combine the ingredients in the right order, as baking is a science and requires certain ingredients to go together, like the butter and sugar, before you add in other ingredients like the flour.

If you find that your dough is too wet or too crumbly, you can alter it slightly by adding a bit of olive oil if it’s too crumbly, or adding a bit more flour if it’s too wet.

Whatever you do, though, make changes slowly and mix it all in before adding more of anything.

How to Use Royal Icing to Decorate Owl Cookies

A lot of people haven’t used royal icing before, instead sticking to cookies without icing or maybe cookies with buttercream that you can just slap on the cookie.

But don’t be intimidated – royal icing is easy to make and easy to use if you just have some patience and practice a bit on a piece of saran wrap or paper plate with it.

Use the royal icing recipe to make the royal icing for the owl cookies.

These cookies were decorated with the same consistency of royal icing, which means that I didn’t create a stiffer icing for the outline and a thinner icing for the main owl.

Instead, I created the royal icing to be the same consistency, about 12 seconds – this is measured by the amount of time it takes for the line to disappear if you drag a knife through it.

I find that this creates a nicer edge to the cookie, and it means you have fewer piping bags you need to use.

When you go to cut the tip off the piping bag, make sure to cut it small at first and then get bigger if you need to. If you cut a big tip, you’ll find that you lose control.

For using food coloring, I prefer gel food coloring instead of liquid food coloring as it doesn’t add extra liquid to your icing and creates deeper colors.

Can You Freeze Owl Cookies?

People often want to know about storing these cookies, and you’ll be happy to know that you can freeze the bases for up to 3 months in an airtight container.

However, the cookies themselves, once decorated, can stay at room temperature for up to 2 weeks, so there’s no need to put them in the refrigerator or freezer.

It is possible to freeze decorated cookies if you heat seal them in a food safe bag, but I wouldn’t recommend this for the home baker and would instead say to freeze the bases if you want to decorate at a later date, then decorate using fresh royal icing.

How to Decorate Owl Cookies

Start by outlining the entire cookie in the coloring of your choosing.

Then, fill in the center with the same color.

While still wet, draw straight lines across the body of the owl with two different colors, alternating.

Using a toothpick or scribe, start at the bottom of the pattern and drag up all the way through the rest of the lines.

Repeat this about a centimeter apart until you’ve finished.

Then, let the entire cookie dry for 8 to 10 hours before embarking on the next step, the wings.

Using the same color as the base of the cookie, draw a wing/half circle on each side of the owl.

Fill it in with the same color, and then use two alternating colors to draw horizonatal lines across the entire wing.

Using the same technique, use your scribe to pull it through the lines, starting at the bottom and going to the top.

You can then add 3 orange dots at the bottom of each foot, as well as an upside down small triangle to be the nose.

Finally, pipe on a dot of icing to attach the eye and your whimsical owls are done!

Yield: 24 cookies

Decorated Owl Cookies

Decorated Owl Cookies

These adorable decorated owl cookies are fun to make with sugar cookies and royal icing.

Prep Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour

Ingredients

  • 24 cookies using cut-out sugar cookie dough
  • 1 batch of royal icing, separated in the colors you want to decorate

Instructions

    1. Bake the owl cookies using the sugar cut-out cookie recipe
    2. Make a batch of royal icing using the royal icing recipe
    3. Separate out the royal icing into as many colors as you want to decorate with and put into piping bags
    4. Start by outlining the entire cookie in the coloring of your choosing.
    5. Then, fill in the center with the same color.
    6. While still wet, draw straight lines across the body of the owl with two different colors, alternating.
    7. Using a toothpick or scribe, start at the bottom of the pattern and drag up all the way through the rest of the lines. Repeat this about a centimeter apart until you've finished.
    8. Then, let the entire cookie dry for 8 to 10 hours before embarking on the next step, the wings. Using the same color as the base of the cookie, draw a wing/half circle on each side of the owl.
    9. Fill it in with the same color, and then use two alternating colors to draw horizonatal lines across the entire wing.
    10. Using the same technique, use your scribe to pull it through the lines, starting at the bottom and going to the top.
    11. You can then add 3 orange dots at the bottom of each foot, as well as an upside down small triangle to be the nose.
    12. Finally, pipe on a dot of icing to attach the eye and your whimsical owls are done!

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