This weekend, whilst baking a birthday treat for my Brother's 30th, I realized a slab of brownies could be decorated just like a cake or a batch of sugar cookies. Perhaps this fact was already obvious to everyone else seeing as it IS a flat, frostable surface.. but I thought I'd share the revalation just in case it wasn't. Think about it! Who wouldn't welcome a platter of fudgy, chocolate frosted brownies adorned with adorable decorations at their next party? Why should sugar cookies get all the decoration glory?
Since these particular brownies were for my brother, I made a design partly inspired by the hilarious doge meme (because my brother is my go-to technology guru and enjoys all things internet), partly by some cute cartoons of shibas, but it was mostly inspired by.....
.. my brother and his wife's new Shiba, Laika. They adopted her shortly before my brother's bday and oh.my.god THE CUTENESS.. how can so much cuteness exist within one tiny animal?
I'll be sharing how to make the brownies, but first: more Laika photos. Feel free to scroll past them to get to the brownie instructions (if your heart is made of stone..)
Ok. Puppy quota filled. Brownie time!
The process began by drawing out the icing design along with some doge inspired captions. The best part about making royal icing transfers is you don't need to have mad piping skills to make a cute design. If you're good at drawing, draw a design out, then trace over it with icing. If you're NOT good at drawing simply print out a design or have someone else draw one for you. It's the poor-bakers version of a kopykake projector.
Then, I use a wilton #1 tip to outline the drawing in black royal icing, and a #2 to fill in first the white details followed by the tan and red details. Once the transfers have dried I use a food colouring marker to add eyes, although a #1 tip and black royal icing works well too.
Two tips for royal icing transfers:
1. Make extra. These babies are delicate and it's better to have a few left over than is it to break a bunch and come up short. I often pipe out 4 - 5 extras because I'm clumsy and tend to snap them in half.
2. Give them day or two (or more if they are bigger/thicker) to dry completely. If you can, set up on a surface where you can leave them untouched for an entire day. If I know I'll be needing my table, I usually pipe them onto cookie trays that can be easily moved.
For the brownies, I made a double batch of the fudgiest of brownie recipes and once it was cool, spread a thick, even layer of chocolate frosting made with unsalted Stirling butter.
To decorate, I carefully peeled the Shiba transfers from the wax paper and placed them gently onto the frosting. Next, I piped out the doge captions then stuck the pan in the fridge to firm up the frosting.
And by "sliced up the brownies" I mean "was hopelessly distracted by Laika", it was a miracle that they came out even remotely square shaped.
Happy 30th Chris!
(I've included recipes/instructions for the brownies and the royal icing transfers, but not for the chocolate icing. I like to make my icing free-hand/to taste and this one was a combo of salted butter, cocoa powder, icing sugar, and a splash of cream. Just mix butter, cocoa powder, and icing sugar and adjust to taste to find the right balance of chocolaty and sweet. Then (if it needs it) add a splash of cream or milk to smooth it out.)
1 cup unsalted Stirling butter
1 cup cocoa powder, sifted
2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line an 9x13 baking pan with parchment paper
2. Melt the butter in a medium pot, then stir in the cocoa powder until smooth. Stir in the sugar and salt, followed by the flour, milk, egg, and vanilla. The batter will be very thick. Use a spatula to spread the batter in an even layer in the baking pan.
3. Bake at 350 for 25 - 30 minutes until the center is just set and the edges are starting to pull away from the pan. Use the parchment paper to pull the slab of brownies out of the pan and cool on a wire rack. I like mine to be slightly underbaked and served chilled for maximum fudginess. If you want them to be more chewy and firm, bake an additonal 5 minutes or so.
Royal icing for icing transfers
4 cups icing sugar (powdered sugar)
3 tbsp meringue powder (available at stores that sell decorating supplies)
½ tsp lemon juice
½ cup warm water
1. In mixer bowl, stir icing sugar and meringue power until combined. Add lemon juice and warm water. Using the whisk attachment, mix on low to dissolve the sugar. Turn the mixer on high and whip until thick and glossy. Continue to whip on high until icing holds stiff peaks when you lift the whisk up. This should take about 3-5 minutes.
2. Tint the icing using gel food colouring (available at most craft/cake supply stores) then transfer them into piping bags fitted with a #1 tip for the black outline and any small coloured details and #2 tips for the larger areas of colour.
3. Carefully outline each drawing with royal icing.. Keep the piping tip a few centimetres higher than the cookie to prevent squished or smudged borders. Allow to dry 15-20 minutes. Then fill in the drawings with the appropriate colours. Allow the transfers to dry completely (1 - 3 days depending on how big/thick they are) before moving.