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Butterfly Sugar Cookies

April 14, 2017

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These butterfly sugar cookies are stunning to look at but deceiving easy to create. They feature basic royal icing techniques that you’re probably already familiar with.

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Look at that beautiful blank canvas–doesn’t it make you a little giddy?

The supplies you’ll need are incredibly basic: cookie, royal icing, and a scriber tool of some sort. If you don’t have a scriber needle, you can use a toothpick or a cake tester. I’ve used both and they work just as well (even if they aren’t as fancy). I am using bags and tips today because I didn’t feel like making parchment bags. But I usually prefer parchment bags for royal icing because I can get a much smaller tip. If you have never used a parchment bag, then I seriously suggest you try it a few times. It can be tricky folding them, but once you get the hang of it, it will save you money in the long run. Plus, they’re just as easy to use as piping bags, but you don’t have to wash tips and couplers after you’re finished.

What I’m using is a basic royal icing made with meringue powder. (I use egg whites when I don’t have any meringue powder on hand, but egg white royal icing always seems to take longer to dry. Keep that in mind if you decide to go that route.) I have a consistency somewhere between flooding and outlining, mostly because I’m lazy and don’t want to mix up two different consistencies. Now, when it comes to icing colors, many butterflies in nature feature a lot of black. But, anyone who has eaten black icing can tell you, it can taste bad and stains your mouth. For these butterflies, I decided to use navy blue instead. I also mixed up royal blue, turquoise, orange, and yellow. Contrasting colors add to the beauty of these butterflies, but obviously, any color combo will work. You’ll still need a little black and white for the bodies, but that won’t be too overwhelming.

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The first step is to outline and flood the bottom wings. This doesn’t need to be perfect as you’ll be dragging your scriber through the icing.

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We’re using a wet-on-wet technique. So, pipe some lines. Look at pictures of butterflies for inspiration. Play around with thick and thin lines. Don’t be afraid to overlap them. It takes trial and error to find out what works for you.

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Next, drag your scriber from the center of the butterfly out toward the edges. Make sure to include the ends of your lines, keeping your segments evenly spaced. Wipe your scriber tool clean between each swipe. Shake and tap the cookie to even out the icing.

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Finally, it’s time to add dots. Many butterflies have “eyes” on their wings to psyche out predators. To mimic this effect, make a large dot. Then, use a contrasting color to add a slightly smaller dot inside the larger one.

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Let your bottom wings dry a bit while you work on other butterflies, repeating the process for each one.

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By letting the bottom wings set, you create definition between the wings. After your bottom wings have dried a little, you can repeat the entire process for the top wings. I like to use a different color as the base color. I also mimic similar lines to what I piped on the bottom wing. Feel free to experiment and see what suits you.

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Ignore the really fat butterfly. He’s trying to lay off the sweets, but life is hard, man.

As you can see in the above photo, my technique has improved a bit with practice and experimentation. These butterflies look pretty, but the wings lack definition. I was too impatient to wait between piping the bottom and top wings. Which, really is fine. I simply prefer defined wings. It’s all up to personal preference.

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It’s important to let the wings dry for an hour or so before you begin piping the body. This is also a two-step process. If you look at butterfly pictures, you’ll notice they have segmented bodies with specks or lines on them. I pipe every other segment, adding white details, and let it dry before repeating the process for the remaining segments.

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Let the cookies dry thoroughly before storing them in an airtight container.  That’s all there is to it! Below, you’ll see cookies I made to represent actual butterflies found in my area. They were a gift to a science teacher. I used reference photos to copy the markings, but ultimately I used the same techniques (or slight variations) that I explained above.

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