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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Royal Icing Cherry Blossoms

I’ve been spending more time lately with the incredible book “The Art of Royal Icing” by Eddie Spence. I’m not delusional; some of his projects will probably always be beyond my abilities (like his royal icing gazebo), but there’s a beautiful section of the book called “Piped Flowers Using an Icing Nail” that seems pretty achievable. San Francisco has an annual Cherry Blossom Festival for two weekends in April (which we’re right in the middle of), so today’s post is inspired by that (based on Eddie Spence’s directions for royal icing cherry blossoms). You’ll need royal icing in two shades of pink. I made the darker one first, using Deep Pink by AmeriColor
…then I mixed some of that one into a container of white icing to make the lighter shade. You could also use straight white edged with dark or light pink.
 You’ll also need a piping bag fitted with a #101 petal tip, a cap and a bag tie, a parchment square for each cherry blossom, a Styrofoam block, a flower nail, a non-toxic glue stick, a small craft brush (that is dedicated solely to the purpose of working with icing), and a dusting pouch filled with a 50/50 mix of powdered sugar and cornstarch. You'll also need a bag of yellow royal icing fitted with a round #1 or #2 tip.
 Make sure the narrow end of the petal tip is lined up with one of the bag’s seams.
 Cuff half the length of the bag over your hand.
 Use the brush to paint a stripe of the deep pink icing along the seam of the bag; paint it as far down into the tip as possible.
 Gently add the light pink icing; try not to disturb the stripe more than necessary.
 I haven't really mentioned bag ties before; they're much more than "cake gadgetry." They're essential for keeping your icing from drying out. Twist the bag as tightly as you can above the icing, lay the tie flat behind it…
…and slip the pointy end through the loop. 
 Also, when you're not actively piping, you should always cap the tip. Tip covers come in two sizes that I'm aware of (and they cover most tips).
 Stick a parchment square to the nail with a dab from the glue stick.
 You'll be piping five equal petals. Creating the ruffled edge may take some practice; it's formed by vibrating your hand back-and-forth while piping each petal in an upside-down "U" motion. Start by holding the petal tip flat on the nail with the wide end at the center. Aim the first petal toward one of the corners of the square.
 The second petal is identical to the first, but you should aim it toward one of the square's sides, in between two of the corners. At this point, you have a very darling little heart; why not just stop here? Continuing on…
 …pipe the third petal toward the next corner of the square…
 …and the fourth toward the next straight side…
 …and the fifth toward the final corner of the square. With practice, the five petals will be close in size.
 You may need to touch your finger to the dusting pouch, then tap out any uneven ridges in the center of the petals.
 Squeeze a cluster of small pull-up stamens with the yellow icing. Barely touch the tip to the center of the blossom at a perpendicular angle, squeeze, and pull away the bag at the same angle. Stop pressure after less than a quarter-inch.

 As the dark pink runs out, the cherry blossoms will start to vary in appearance (which is fine, because that's pretty much what happens in nature!). My plan for these is to use them to decorate pink lemonade cupcakes; who's inviting me over? ;)

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