Tag Archives: Cutout cookies

Halloween Cookies and Cupcakes

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This Halloween, beside the cake pops that I made, I also made the witch cupcakes again, and spider cookies. The cupcakes were to test if I had learned anything from last year; I think I did. The cookies are because both daughters sent me pointers to them, so I felt I should try them. Interesting enough, the article does not specify a cookie, but only the decorations- use any cookie.

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The biggest problem I seemed to have last year with the witch cupcakes was I thought the buttercream frosting sagged, and the witch face went into the cupcake. So I took an idea from the Christmas Tree cupcakes, and made the buttercream frosting much thicker so that it wouldn’t sag. I added 3/4 cup extra powdered sugar for 1 pound of powdered sugar in the recipe for The Decorette Shop’s Butter Cream Frosting. I think that did the trick. In fact, the frosting was thick enough that I was able to make long noses on the witches.

And of course, now that I know where to buy eyes (The Decorette Shop), I gave my witches buggy eyes. The eyes have imperfections where the pupils are not always centered; this gives the witches a wandering eye look where sometimes the eyes don’t look in the same direction.

For a cupcake, I chose to use the Black and White Irish Cream Cupcake recipe but to make it all chocolate. The only difference was that I added 6 ounces of bittersweet chocolate to the entire batter rather than dividing the batter in half and only adding 3 ounces to one half of the batter. And I didn’t have the problem of filling the cupcake papers since I wasn’t trying to keep the black and white theme.

I had leftover ganache from when I had made the original cupcakes, and so after cutting the cone out of the cupcake for the hat, I frosted the cupcakes with the ganache to minimize their drying out. Then I piped the extra stiff green Butter Cream Frosting into the hollow and let it build up to create the head. I gave the buttercream a 24 hour wait to allow it to dry and crust before I tried decorating it. Meanwhile, I made the witches’ hats, including piping the orange band to fill in around the edge of the cone. Both the orange band and the black mouth are colored Royal Icing made from the Decorette Shop recipe; I like working with the Royal Icing for decorations as it drys quickly and hard. I also used it as the glue for fastening the cone to the chocolate wafer, and later for fastening the hat to the head.

When I attached the hats to the heads, I needed to flatten a spot on top of the head so the hat had an area of contact. After piping the heads, the top was left most often as a point. It turned out easy to cut off a small amount of the green buttercream to make the flat spot.

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For the spider cookies, I started by making a batch of Ethel’s Sugar Cookies as cutout cookies, rolling the dough out and cutting it with a 2 3/4 inch biscuit cutter. I like the results of that recipe for keeping its shape with little spread. Then I used brown Royal Icing to pipe the spider’s legs.

While I was making certain the legs were drying, I unwrapped my Mini Reese’s Peanut Butter cups and used the brown Royal Icing to attach the eyes. Then a little Royal Icing on the top of the peanut butter cup and invert it onto the center of the legs for the spider.

Here is The Decorette Shop’s Butter Cream Frosting recipe:

BUTTERCREAM

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup Hi-Ration Shortening (a Decorette Shop product)
  • Pinch of salt (optional)
  • 2 to 3 drops Butter FLavor (also available at the Decorette Shop)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp. vanila
  • 1/4 tsp. Almond Flavor
  • 1 Tbsp. meringue powder (also available at the Decorette Shop)
  • 1 lb. powder sugar

Directions

Put all ingredients in bowl and beat at medium speed for 10 minutes.

Kammerjunkere (Groom’s Cookies)

I received this recipe from my sister Ann; she had it labeled as Groom’s Cookies. I have since learned that its name is Kammerjunkere. The cookie is rolled out paper thin and cut with cookie cutters. At first I was nervous about trying the recipe; it seemed to be weird in that it called for 4 cups of molasses, and 15 cups of flour. That was just too much in my way of thinking.

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So, I cut the recipe in half to try it, and it still makes a lot of dough. I am trying something different in cookie cutters- going very small, and so I could have nicely done with just one fourth of the original recipe. But, it doesn’t seem to divide directly into that smaller portion. Ann says that she has used cookie cutters as large as 4 x 5 inches to make these cookies. She also warned me not to ice the entire cookie, but to just use a few highlights on them. The molasses tends to draw moisture and that would interact with the icing to keep it from drying completely. (The hearts in the photo measure about 1.5 x 1.75 inches).

Before I got started making the recipe, I decided to do a web search to see what others might have done for Groom’s Cookies. Most of what I found were regular old sugar cookies cut into hearts, and then frosted like a black tuxedo- nothing near for what I was looking. Then I found a site with Danish cooking recipes, and there with the title Kammerjunkere was the exact same recipe my sister had sent.

Groom’s Cookies (Danish Kammerjunkere)

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbs. baking soda
  • 4 Tbs. water or milk
  • 3/4 lbs. butter, softened
  • 3/4 lbs. brown sugar
  • 2 Tbs. ground cloves
  • 2 Tbs. ground cinnamon
  • 4 cups molasses
  • 15 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. lemon zest
  • 8 oz. brandy

Directions

Soak the baking soda in the water or milk.

Cream the butter and sugar. Add the spices and molasses to the creamed mix and mix them in. Stir in the flour using a large wooden spoon, and then the lemon zest and the brandy. The dough should be very stiff; add more flour if necessary but cautiously. Then add the soda and water/milk.

Divide the dough into manageable units, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Roll the dough very thin- less than 1/8 inch in thickness and cut. Bake on greased cookie sheets, or on silicon mats until brown

Decorate with icing


Before I give you the ingredients for a half-size batch, let me give you some hints about what I learned.

I used milk instead of water for soaking the baking soda. When I finished the dough, I made it into 4 packets wrapped and flattened into disks; those packets still contain a lot of dough, and I probably would have been better served to make 8 packets. I ended up cutting the packet in half before putting it on my board to roll it out. (And my recommendation for 8 packets is for a half-recipe of cookie dough).

And I also caution you to use the large wooden spoon to stir in the flour; I started to use a hand mixer, and I nearly killed the motor of the mixer. There was smoke! So I saved the mixer and got out my big wooden spoon.

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HALF_RECIPE

Groom’s Cookies (Danish Kammerjunkere)

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbs. baking soda
  • 2 Tbs. water or milk
  • 12 Tbs. butter, softened
  • 6 oz. brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs. ground cloves
  • 1 Tbs. ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups molasses
  • 7.5 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • 4 oz. brandy


If you would rather work in volume instead of weight, the 6 ounces of brown sugar is 12 Tablespoons. I looked up some volume/weight equivalences for interest, and the 15 cups of flour is about 4 pounds, and thus the 7.5 cups of flour is about 2 pounds.

My experience in rolling out the dough to paper thin is that the dough is very sticky, and needs lots of flour on both the rolling pin and the work board. I even experienced that the flour was all absorbed, or moved from under the center of the piece as I rolled, and would be stuck when I went to cutout the cookies and move them. I learned quickly to only cut the cookies from the edge of the dough after I had rolled it, and to scrape the center part back up to start again with more flour on the board.

The direction to cook until brown is not the type of a direction that the nerd in me likes. I quickly learned on the first pan of cookies that “until brown” was about 5 minutes; much longer than that and you could start to smell burning.

Cutout Cookies

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I have written about cutout cookies before, so I will try to bring everything together in this article. Cutout Cookies are fun for either the little ones, or even older kids-at-heart. It was a ritual in our house for the girls to decorate cookies; I have a blurry picture of when they were just 6 and 8 years old sitting up at the kitchen counter decorating cookies. And a few years ago, we had an adult decorating party where all of us were over 65 years of age.

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Over the Christmas Holidays, I took all my cookie decorating supplies to Seattle; Mindy wanted to learn about decorating cookies like I showed in my article about the cookie decorating class. While my results are in that article, these snowflakes are what she created.

About a year ago, I spent considerable time trying to find a recipe that would allow me to make cutout cookies that didn’t spread when cooked. I wanted to make two identical hearts such that I could stack them. I wanted to cut a small heart out of the top cookie so that I could fill it with red for a different valentine cookie. I never did solve the spread problem, but I found that Short Bread cookies seemed to spread the least. So, I initially said that we should use Short Bread cookies for cutout cookies.

Then, I took the Decorette Shop‘s cookie decorating class; they were using Sugar Cookies for cutouts! So after class, I came home and pulled out several recipes and started testing them as the basis for my cutout cookies. I had also learned between the class and one of the recipes I found that I should freeze the cookies before cooking them to reduce the spread. So I am putting all that new knowledge into this article and recipe for cutout cookies.

Ethel’s Sugar Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Directions

  • Sift together dry ingredients and set aside.
  • Cream the shortening, butter and sugar for 2-3 minutes.
  • Add eggs and flavoring and mix until creamy.
  • Add dry ingredients and mix until combined.
  • Divide the dough into two parts; put each part in a sheet of plastic wrap.
  • Chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • On a lightly floured surface, unwrap one package of dough and roll to 1/4 inch thick.
  • Cut out the desired figures with cookie cutters and place on an un-greased baking sheet. If NOT icing the cookies, sprinkle with sugar before cooking.
  • Put the baking sheet with the cutout cookies in the freezer for 10 minutes.
  • Reshape the leftover dough into a disk and re-wrap it in the plastic wrap and put it back in the refrigerator to cool.
  • Bake the cookies from the freezer for 8-10 minutes; let the cookies cool on the baking sheet elevated on a cooling rack for 3 minutes before moving the cookies off the baking sheet onto a cooling rack.
  • While baking the first batch of cutout cookies, use the second package of cooled dough and repeat the above directions for rolling, cutting and freezing.
  • Keep the cookies perfectly float from the time they come from the oven until they are completely cooled on the racks; otherwise they will break. If they do break, try to fit them together again immediately. If that doesn’t work, you will be able to glue them together with icing later.


I originally thought that Royal Icing was just powdered sugar and water. That was what we used when the group of “over 65 years” decorated cookies. The problem is that the icing is too thin, and you can not pipe it into dams to stop the slow bleeding of colors into each other. Again, I learned that you need to thicken the icing and pipe dams around each color when I attended the cookie decorating class.

Decorette Shop Royal Icing

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup meringue powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 5 1/2 Tablespoons water
  • 1 lb. powdered sugar

Directions:

Place in grease-free bowl and beat until stiff peaks form.

Now the trick is to use this Royal Icing. The recipe gives you a version of icing that can be piped. Two things are now necessary. First, take some of the icing and place it in a clean bowl and add the food coloring you want to use. I actually decided that the Decorette Shop was correct and bought the “gel paste” food colors as they do not add a lot of moisture into the icing. but you can use the more liquid food colors available at food stores; just remember you may need to add more powdered sugar to take up the extra moisture and keep the icing pipe-able.

Once the icing is colored, you will want to thin out part of it so that it self-levels when put on the cookie. So first load some of the colored icing into your piping bag with a small(#3 or #4) tip. This will be used to build dams around the areas you want to color. Thin the rest of the icing with a very small amount of water; like a teaspoon amount at a time, and then mix it in real well. You are trying to thin the icing to the point that when you drop some of it back into the dish, it self levels in about 5 seconds.

Hints and Suggestions

  • Don’t try to cut out cookies with the plastic cutters that are only 1/8 to 1/4 inch deep, and have all the interesting markings that are suppose to transfer to the cookie. They are not worth the money. They sash the dough and it ends up stuck in the cutter. After trying to use them, I have settled on using only outline shaped cutters that are at least as deep as the dough is rolled out.
  • To measure 1/4 inch thick for rolling out the dough, I made a couple sticks that I place on either side of the dough, close enough so the rolling pin stays at that height. I know you can buy bands that fit on the ends of your rolling pin to keep the correct thickness, too. I have also used a section of clothes closet dowel as a longer rolling pin so the dough can be rolled out wider, and more cookies can be cut at one time.
  • If you break a cookie, you can use Royal Icing as glue to put it back together.
  • At some point, the two packages of dough in the refrigerator will need to be brought together.

If you want to get more decorating ideas beyond just colored icing, you might look at the article I wrote after attending the cookie decorating class. You will find it here.

Hedgehog Cookies

I try not to mislead people and take credit where the idea is really someone elses. So, I have to start by pointing to the website of “SixInTheSuburbsBlog”. One of the authors made these cute hedgehog cookies; Mindy saw the blog about them and sent me a pointer. I was taken with the image, and decided I would try them. I also read all the comments that had been added to the blog to see what problems existed.
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It would appear that once you have the cookies, there is little problem in finishing the decorations. But, a lot of the comments on the blog had to do with making the cookies; some even said their cookies looked more like road-kill. Having tried to make the cookies, I too was making a lot of road-kill; but I think I finally got the knack- the little guys have a narrow shape and their noses are lifted in the air.
So, here is how I did it.
1. I made my dough using the Ethel’s Sugar Cookie recipe that is on my website. That dough is a Sugar Cookie dough and not a Short Bread dough since it contains egg and leavening.
2. I rolled the dough to 1/4 inch thick, and then used a shot glass to cut out small circles. The shot glass is about 1 1/2 in diameter on the inside, which is the size the circles will be.
3. To form the elongated body, I turned the two sides of the circle of dough under until they met. Now I worked my way up the body to the nose, doing a partial turn-under until I had the little point for the nose. Now we have to get the nose up off the flat of the baking sheet.
4 With a strip of aluminum foil, create a V shaped trough. Start with a wide enough piece of foil (6 inches) so that the continuing folding creates a fairly robust V. I turned each long edge into the center, then did it a couple more times until the V is only about 3/4 of an inch across the top of the V. Turn the V over so that the point is up, and place it down the center of the cookie sheet.
5. Place the shaped dough of the hedgehogs on alternate sides of the foil so that their little noses are resting near the point of the inverted trough. This will hold their noses up while they bake and cool.
6. Before baking, freeze the shaped dough in the freezer for 10 minutes.
7. Bake the frozen shaped dough for about 8 minutes at 400 degrees.
8. Cool the baked dough on the cookie sheet elevated on a cooling rack for 3 minutes before moving them in any way. I cook on silicon mats on my cookie sheets; once the initial cooling on the cookie sheet is finished, I pull the mat onto the cooling rack eliminating the cookie sheet that was between the mat and the rack, and cool for an additional 1 1/2 minutes before lifting the little guys from the mat and placing them on a cooling rack to finish cooling.
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To do the decorating of the little guys, I melted 6 ounces of SemiSweet chocolate chips (using the bain-marie method). The chocolate has to be in a bowl wide enough for your hand to reach in, but narrow enough to allow the chocolate to have some volume. I found that if I held the hedgehog by the nose, and then stroked it through the chocolate back first, that I could get good coverage. As you stroke, the chocolate moves up the side of the bowl and allows you to get the coating up to the critter’s neck. I used a spoon to over cover the dipped hedgehog with chopped up walnut.
While someone said to do the nose and eyes with a toothpick, I am into pastry bags, and so I used a bag with a #3 tip to dot the features. I will admit that I am still somewhat an amateur when it comes to baking. I seem to lift the bag too soon without waiting for the chocolate to stop flowing.

I hope this discussion of the technique helps you have some success with making these cute little guys.

Ethel’s Sugar Cookies

In a previous article, I explained how I came to the conclusion that this recipe that I received from the Decorette Shop gave me the best cutout cookies. After testing all six recipes, I concluded that I got the best results from this one. I want you to have it, and my hints for getting the best cutouts so you can move forward with decorated cookies and get the oh and ah I have with mine.
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Ethel’s Sugar Cookies

(slightly modified by Errol)

  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp lemon flavoring
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt

Sift together dry ingredients and set aside.
Cream together shortening, butter and sugar for 2-3 minutes. Add eggs and flavoring and mix until creamy. Add dry ingredients and mix til combined.
Chill dough for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out dough to 1/4 inch thick on lightly floured board. Cut with cookie cutters to desired shapes and place on cookie sheet.
Put cookie sheet with cutout cookies in the freezer for 10 minutes.
Bake cookies for 8-12 minutes depending upon size and thickness.
Let cookies cool on baking sheet elevated on cooling rack for 3 minutes before moving cookies from baking sheet to cooling rack to completely cool.

I found the key to minimizing spread is the freezing of the shapes just before baking as well as this recipe. I tried the 6 recipes and only two kept the initial cookie cutter shape to the degree that I felt the recipe was usable, and I settled on this recipe for my cutout cookies. This is a change since I first tried to learn how to control spread and chose a Short Bread cookie recipe; I think with the directions on freezing the dough before baking, you will like this recipe too.
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Decorating Cookies Class

Recently, I took a Cookie Decorating Class at the Decorette Shop. I thought it would be interesting to talk about what I learned. The idea of the class was to prepare us to decorate Holiday Season cutout cookies. The Shop provided everything.

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On the table when we sat down were several piping bags with different color Royal Icing in them. And with each color, there was a squeeze-bottle of the same color Royal Icing. Notice the twist-em on the piping bag; a neat trick to keep the content from coming back up to the top and out onto your hand.

I asked about the formula for Royal Icing; it was listed on a paper each student received. Since I learned to ice cookies using a mixture of powder sugar and water, I was curious as to why people add egg white or meringue powder. The recipe also had some cream of tartar listed. The answer I got didn’t satisfy me- I was told the meringue or egg white was necessary for drying. I knew that couldn’t be completely correct since the icing I have used dried. I wondered if it defined the amount of time it took for the icing to dry. Later, at home, I decided I had to experiment. (Searching the internet, I found at least one other cookie decorator that used just moist powder sugar as the icing, but almost everyone uses meringue powder).

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My experiment was to use three recipes for the icing; the Royal Icing recipe I received in the class using meringue powder, the same recipe but substituting egg white for the meringue powder, and then my old recipe of just powder sugar and water. They all dried, and the time it took seemed to be as much a function of the depth of the icing on the cookie as anything else.

On another trip to the Decorette Shop, I was able to talk about Royal Icing with another customer who seemed quite knowledgeable. I had come to believe that the meringue powder was used to give body to the icing, and that was confirmed. In addition, the lady volunteered that the cream of tartar does help the drying and makes the dry icing stronger.

When I mentioned to daughter Mindy that I was looking to suggest that you could avoid buying meringue powder and just use egg white which you probably already have, she got upset and said that there are too many problems with raw egg, and at least she would go out of her way to find meringue powder rather than take any chance on using egg white. There is another problem in substituting egg white for the meringue powder; the egg white is moisture, and so the recipe is wrong for trying to do a straight substitution of a couple egg whites for 4-5 Tablespoons of meringue powder. You end up needing to increase the amount of powder sugar. To keep things simple, I will always use the recipe with meringue powder.

The recipe makes the Royal Icing stiff enough to be piped; the squeeze bottles have the same color thinned to the point that it just flows. We were told that you add water a little at a time until when you drop a spoonful into the dish, it settles and self-levels in about 5 seconds.

Decorating cookies starts with making the cookies. We were also given the recipe for Ethel’s Sugar Cookies. This was interesting since the cookies that were passed out to us for practice were well shaped. I had trouble using Sugar Cookies as the basis for cutouts, and finally went to a Shortbread cookie since it spread less while cooking. So again, when I went home, I started an experiment. With Ethel’s recipe, I found 3 more Sugar Cookie recipes in Marlys’s Recipe Book and two Shortbread Cookie recipes for a total of 6 recipes that I wanted to try and compare. I convinced myself that a crisp Sugar Cookie, when cooked right, is the best cutout cookie.

So what is the cooking trick. First, the dough has to be refrigerated and cooled completely through before rolling it out and die-cutting it. This works best if you divide the dough into two packets so that you are only working with half at a time, and the other half is cooling. It can take up to 45 minutes to cool, and it is best if the packet is wrapped as a thin disk so as much surface area receives the cooling as possible. Second, after rolling out the dough (to 1/4 inch thick) and die-cutting the shapes, the shapes need to be frozen for 10 minutes before being cooked. Place the pan right in the freezer for 10 minutes. (I had trouble with this- my air-bake pans are 15 inches wide and my freezer is 12 inches wide. I was lucky that I use silicon mats on the air-bake pans so I was able to slide the whole mat into the freezer for the 10 minutes. Finally, the temperature of the oven needs to be higher than for normal baking, and the time reduce so the cookies don’t burn. I found the temperature needed to be at least 400 degrees and the cooking time was less than 10 minutes- more like 8 minutes for some recipes.

The final comparison came down to two recipes to be considered; Ethel’s and one of Marlys’s that was labelled Crisp Sugar Cookies and talks about cutouts. Marlys’s recipe tasted sweeter, but was also more complex than Ethel’s; but since we are talking about coating the cookie with sugar, the sweet taste doesn’t seem important, and so I will stick with Ethel’s Sugar Cookie recipe for my cutouts.

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The first thing we learned about decorating was to flood a color. To do this, you pipe a dam around the area to be flooded, then you squeeze out icing into the area. The icing self-levels and you have nice looking color on the cookie. Now we started using some of the other items on the tray on our table. First, we had the circular cookie to be transformed into a snow globe. Here, as soon as we had finished the white flooding, we sprinkled it with very small non-pariels to give it texture. (Almost all the decorating is a combination of color and texture.) The blue was added later after the white had dried for several minutes and we had worked on several other cookies. And even later, we added the snowman and trees; these are bought as pre-made figures.

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For the mitten, after doing the white flooding, we textured the white with a product known as “sanding sugar”. It, like the non-pariels, comes in a multitude of colors.

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Other items on our trays include products known as disco dust and luster dust. We had a stencil that we used on the ornament cookie, and painted through the stencil with a dry water-color brush and the disco dust. The luster dust I used on the snowflake.

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The snowflake shows piping on top of the flooded color. And in the center of the snowflake is a small snowflake that we die-cut from rolled fondant. Then I sprinkled it all with luster dust.

We also used different tips on the piping bags to get other effects. For example, the top of the acorn was given texture using a “leaf”tip on the piping bag.

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We used the “star” tip both to give raised points like on the snowman hat, and to give flowing ridges like on the mustache.

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The green leaf on the hat is another piece of die-cut rolled fondant.

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While there were several other techniques and product about which we learned. I think they will need to wait for another day. Most importantly, from the class, I took away that decorating is using a few techniques with products that combine to develop color and texture. An artist (I’m not) can have real fun starting from these few basics.