Anyway, I was really excited about this project from the moment I was asked to do it. A cookie set for a jigsaw and gardening enthusiast, to take the place of a cake at his birthday party. All the design elements were requested: greenhouse, favourite plants and ducks, gardening tools, I just had to figure out how to put it all together.
As usual, when something like this comes my way, I do most of my planning as I'm falling asleep, until by the time I have to start making it, I really only do a few small sketches. In fact for this project I scribbled two thumbnails. This sort of design kind of forms itself as I'm piping to be honest.
One other aspect kept me occupied as much as the design though, and that was how to create a jigsaw with enough intricacy, where the pieces fit together tightly. My cookie recipe is a light, crisp shortbread style biscuit (recipe here and cookie baking tips here) but does spread just a little. Not enough to worry about usually but when the shapes need to fit tightly it can be a problem. With this dinosaur cookiesaw I used my microplane, but its flat surface meant I had to keep the curves fairly shallow. So after a little googling I came up with a six inch, coarse 'bastard cut' file much like this one, though searching on ebay will throw up much cheaper options.
It's a small, round, coarse file presumably intended for metal or woodwork. It was cheap and very rough, and perfect. (I did of course give it a long soapy soak, a thorough scrub, and dried off in a hot oven to ensure it was safe for food use first!). In fact it worked even better than I hoped. I simply used it to 'carve' the curves here and there, constantly adjusting and testing until all the pieces fit as tightly as I could make it.
A plain base of white flood, carefully piped right to the edges of the cookies, and I was ready to go.
I didn't take a photograph of the painted base layer unfortunately, but I came to do it just as Sugar Pearls Bakes and Cakes published her final Cookie Connection tutorial, and it was the techniques in her tutorial I used to create the background colour, including the small drops of vodka, which is really effective! I simply used a large brush and moved from light blue down to dark green, dabbing and mottling, and adding further layers where necessary.
I only had to mix two colours of icing - light green and orange! The behind the scenes moments when I'm most proud of my planning skills usually involve keeping mixing to an absolute minimum. I reckoned I could get all the greens I wanted with that one base plus handpainting on top, and the whole variety of tomato colour starting with the orange icing.
I used a pico projector to pipe the greenhouse shape, but everything else was done by eye. I had a collection of photographs of the specified plants and ducks to refer to, and an idea for where I wanted the actual flowers, trusting that the foliage could be piped around to draw the whole design together.
When it came to painting, again I referred to the photographs of flowers, but I tried to ensure that each colour would complement the ones on either side. So obviously starting with red and orange tomatoes, I followed with yellow irises, then peachy-pink roses, deep rose pink camellias with violet aquilegias sprouting through them. The magnolias I kept pale against the sky.
I used the same painting technique as in my Robin cookie video: starting with basic blocks of pale colour, blending and adding darker, finer elements on top. I finished with a few garden tools here and there, subtle, blending into the background.
And then came the best bit - I had made royal icing transfers of bees, ladybirds and butterflies which I attached with enough RI 'glue' to give a little 'lift' so these elements were slightly raised. I usually ship my cookies so have to avoid doing this, so it was lovely to be able to add a third dimension to this set. A simple border of gold rectangular cookies, with one or two stray insects finished off the project.