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Saturday, March 3, 2012

Royal Icing Pansies

I was blown away by an item in a Williams-Sonoma catalog recently: 9 cupcakes for $69.95! When all is said and done with shipping, that's got to be about $10 per cake! I'm assuming the price has something to do with the royal icing pansies on the cupcakes, because otherwise they look pretty pedestrian: 
So, tell you what I'm going to do: I'm going to teach you how to pipe pansies and then you can buy a box of Duncan Hines cake mix for $1.99, and take all that money you saved on top-shelf cupcakes to see whatever hot flick is in theaters at the time you read this. Or spend that wad on a luxurious book about royal icing, like I would. Let's get started…you'll need a flower nail, a non-toxic glue stick, parchment paper squares, a Styrofoam block (to act as a third hand when you need to set down the flower nail), a dusting pouch filled with a 50/50 mix of powdered sugar and cornstarch, a piping bag filled with yellow royal icing and fitted with a #1 round tip, and a piping bag filled with purple icing and fitted with a #101 rose tip (of course, you can use any colors you want when piping pansies; I used Violet and Lemon Yellow by AmeriColor). 
Stick a parchment paper square to the rose nail with a dab from the glue stick. 
 This is the position you'll be holding the purple bag; I'll do my best to explain what to do with it. Place the wide end of the teardrop-shaped tip in the middle of the nail with the narrow end of the tip aiming outward to 9:00. The motion you'll make is basically piping a half circle to 3:00 while moving the outer narrow end up and down to form 3 peaks.
 Ideally, the shape will be something like this. I sure ate a lot of mistakes getting this right. If the shape is slightly off, tap any unruly peaks into place with a fingertip that you've touched against your dusting pouch.
 Pipe all of your triple-petals at the same time, then wash the #101 tip and switch it to the yellow bag (if you're making traditional purple-and-yellow pansies). Better yet, own a second #101 tip! I prefer allowing the large lower petal to firm up for a bit before piping the next 4 petals. First, with the wide end of the tip in the middle and the narrow end pointing out to about 10 o'clock, squeeze out a petal about half the width of the large triple-petal below. Use firm, steady pressure; your hand may move in a slight upside-down U motion to achieve this shape:
 Pipe a second petal in the same size to the right of it:
 Using the same tip, pipe 2 smaller petals of the same shape right on top of the two petals beneath:
 Switch to a round Tip #1 and pipe a tiny loop in the center. In retrospect, this step probably should have been saved until the very end (post paint), but I needed to hang up my royal icing for the night and let the flowers get good and dry.
 If you want to paint some detail on the petals, mix a small amount of gel color and a tiny splash of clear vanilla extract in a small container.
 For this project I preferred a small, squared-off brush (I usually use a flat, angled brush for everything).
 Just dab around the center until you think it looks right, and set your flowers aside to dry. I can't wait to serve these up to see if anyone asks if I've sprung for the $10 cupcakes from Williams-Sonoma!

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