I’m completely and totally confident in the kitchen, but baking has always intimidated me. When I signed up for Frosting for the Cause I planned to make cupcakes – that’s something I can handle. I’ve only used royal icing three times in my life so I didn’t want to embarrass myself by showing off my lack of skills among so many talented others. But as my assigned day started getting closer and I began thinking about what I wanted to post I just couldn’t get cookies out of my head. I wanted to make my contribution meaningful, and to honor the people in my life who have been touched by cancer. So at the last minute I changed my mind, made a late night run to the grocery store and decided that no matter how the cookies turned out, at least they would come from my heart. I’m glad I made that last minute decision because as I sat at the table working on them I had time to think about each and every person who inspired me to join this cause. There were some who were fortunate enough to have won their fight, and some who were not, but in either case the lives of an untold number of people were changed forever by their diagnosis. It reminded me of how evil cancer can be, stealing mothers from their young children and best friends from so many others. It reminded me of how fragile life is and that each day should be lived with wild abandon, because it truly is a gift. And most of all it reminded me of how important it is to do whatever you can to fight against cancer. Whether it’s a donation of money or time or both, it does help and it does count.
My cookies will go to the hospital where my Mom was recently treated (successfully) for lymphoma. For two years my mom had complained of aches and pains and was feeling generally awful each and every day. She went from doctor to doctor looking for answers but no one ever mentioned the possibility of cancer. They told her the pain in her abdomen was her gall bladder, then her ovaries, one doctor even told her nothing was wrong with her. But there was no doubt something wasn’t right. In all this time none of the doctors she saw even did a blood test. She was diligent, even argumentative with the doctors she saw, and refused to stop looking for an answer. Finally after two years of this she was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, stage 4. It was everywhere, including her bone marrow and there was a mass in her hip the size of a cantaloupe. She began chemotherapy immediately and endured everything those treatments can bring for six long months. She just finished her last treatment two months ago. Although the cancer isn’t in remission, it is thankfully under control. Her prognosis looks good as long as she maintains twice yearly chemo sessions, but the mass in her hip remains, and is a painful reminder of what’s lurking inside. Please stop what you’re doing for a minute and pay attention to this – if you think something is wrong, don’t give up. Don’t take no for an answer and don’t wait for someone to give you an answer. Stand up for yourself, do your own research, and don’t be afraid to question the doctors if what you’re hearing doesn’t make sense.
Now, for my somewhat questionable cookie technique:
Sugar Cookie recipe:
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat over to 350 degrees. Combine flour and baking powder in a mixing bowl and stir with a whisk to combine. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer combine sugar and butter. Mix on medium speed until fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined. Slowly add the flour, about 1/2 cup at a time, and mix until well combined. Scrape down the sides as needed.
Lightly flour the worksurface, the rolling pin, and your hands. Place about 1/3 of the dough in the center of your worksurface and roll out until about 1/4″ thick. Cut into shapes and transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (preferred method, but I was all out, so I just a non-stick baking spray). Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer to wire cooling racks using a thin spatula until completely cooled.
Royal Icing recipe:
4 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons meringue powder
5-6 tablespoons water
Sift the powdered sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer. This will eliminate any lumps from the icing. Add meringue powder and water. Mix on medium speed until the shininess is gone, usually about 8-10 minutes for me. You want the icing at this point to be thick enough that it piles up on itself when dripped, as shown in the picture below.
At this point I transfer the icing I will use for piping (about 1/2 cup) into airtight bowl (the disposable kind work great for this) and add the color. Cover the remaining icing in the mixing bowl tightly.
Add water to the colored icing if necessary, a few drops a a time, to get the desired consistency for piping, which should still be fairly thick. Transfer icing into a pastry bag fitted with a tip for piping – I like to use a #2 tip. Pipe the outline you want onto each cookie. Set aside to dry for at least 30 minutes.
Place about 1 cup of the remaining icing into another small bowl and add the color. This icing will be used for flooding, so it will need to be thinned with a few more drops of water. Place the flood icing into a squeeze bottle, or you can use a zip top bag with the corner snipped off. Gently flood the area inside the piping, using a toothpick to spread it out to the edges. Let dry at least 30 minutes or more, depending on the thickness of the icing.
Once it’s dry you can go back and repeat the steps for piping the icing to add details to the designs, or leave as is.
The cookies with the initials on them have only piped icing, no flooding. Let everything dry overnight before packing into containers or bags.
Share and enjoy!
**Here’s a list of the people who inspired me to join Frosting for the Cause, and whose initials are on these cookies**:
Alison, my childhood best friend, diagnosed with breast cancer at age 33.
Pat, Alison’s mother, died of breast cancer at age 33
Ed, my Grandfather, diagnosed with lung cancer at age 82
Ruby, my Grandmother, died of melanoma at age 75
Brenda, my mother, diagnosed with lymphoma at age 63
Elaine, my mother-in-law, died of pancreatic cancer at age 62
Tommy, my uncle, died of colon cancer at age 52
Robin, my dear friend, diagnosed with ovarian cancer at age 28
Susan, me, diagnosed with cervical cancer at age 23
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