Although I often confess my love for decorating techniques that involve lots of finicky little steps and time consuming details, there's another category of techniques that I love even more: ones that are easier than they look. Brush embroidery falls squarely into that category, it looks complicated and time consuming, it seems like it requires advanced piping skills and years of practice. But it's not. And it doesn't. In fact, all of these cookies in the photos were my first attempt at brush embroidery. As long as you have the right tools and a bit of time set aside it's a very forgiving technique.
I'd first seen brush embroidery on some cookies on Pinterest. The pin didn't lead anywhere helpful and I wasn't even sure what it was called. Luckily, thanks to the magic of the internet all it took was a bit of poking around on Google and Youtube before I came across this video tutorial. It's such a straightforward technique that the video doesn't even need verbal instructions.
With Valentine's Days approaching I decided to draw up some pink, white, and gold designs to work from to give away as pretty, edible V-day cards. Then I baked up some heart shaped sugar cookies and whipped together a batch of royal icing.
Even though you don't need to be great at piping, you do need to be able to outline and flood your cookies with royal icing. But don't fret! It's not hard and there are helpful tutorials all across the internet.
I let my cookies dry overnight before getting down to the brush embroidery. And when I say "let them dry" I mean I poked at one cookie over and over every hour to see if it was dry yet until it was thoroughly ruined and was getting too late to start decorating anyways. I am a portrait of restraint and patience.
Once the cookies are dry the next step is to put royal icing is in icing bags fitted with a number 2 tip (or in a freezer bag filled with icing and a very small hole cut in the corner). Then you need a glass of water, a piece or two of paper towel, and a small square tipped brush to do the actual brushing with.
Then, just like in the video (I highly suggest that you watch the video), you pipe a wiggly outline of a flower. I find that it looks nicer if you place the flowers so that all of them go off the sides of the cookies. It's tempting to place one squarely in the middle of the cookie but trust me, they look better as a half flower or a petal or two on the sides.
Dampen the square brush in water, tap it on your paper towel and then use it to pull the icing down in short small strokes. Clean the brush off after to prevent it from getting all gummed up with royal icing.
Next pipe another outline of petals inside the first set and repeat the brushing step. Rotate the cookie and start piping a whole new flower along that edge. I found it helpful to play around with whether I used the flat part or the edge of the brush to get a nicer looking brush stroke.
You can play around with colour combination; I like the pink on the white the best. The result is so lacey and beautiful...
.. but I couldn't resist trying painting a few with a bit of gold and pink luster dust. It looked nice, but not as nice as just the plain icing. Isn't it great when simpler looks better? Saves everyone a lot of work.
The cookies are perfect for Valentine's day and I actually find it easier to do this than to pipe and fill the outlines of flowers on cookies. I'm also thinking that it would look great on fondant covered cakes or cupcakes to add a layer of texture and visual interest. Here's to decorating more cakes and cookies in the coming year!
Brush Embroidery Sugar Cookies