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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Royal Icing Monarch Butterfly

The monarch butterfly is the official state butterfly of Vermont (as well as Idaho, Illinois, Minnesota, Texas, and West Virginia; it gets around!). To pipe this butterfly (and probably many others; just switch the colors and the shape as needed), you'll need stiff consistency royal icing in orange and black, petal tip #104, oval tip #55, round tip #3, a flower nail, a Styrofoam block to rest the nail in, parchment paper squares, a glue stick, a dusting pouch filled with a 50/50 mix of cornstarch and powdered sugar, and a black food-safe marker like the AmeriColor Gourmet Writer. Start by sticking a parchment square to the nail with a dab from the glue stick. 
 Pipe a flat, rounded petal shape with the #104 tip. Lie the tip almost flat against the surface while you pipe. I held the tip with the wide end facing outward, which might not have been the smartest idea; no wing is that thick! However, the wings will be sturdier if the narrower edges are all touching and not on the outside. You may find it's helpful to rotate the nail while you pipe.
 Pipe another petal next to this one, as near to identical as you can make it.
 Pipe another, longer flat "petal" for the top part of the wing…
 …and another. When you pipe each one, move the tip in an upside down "U" motion while keeping the tip lying more or less flat.
 Touch your fingertips to the dusting pouch and gently tap the outer edges of the upper half of the wings into wedge-like shapes. They'll look more like a monarch butterfly's wings and less like a generic cookie cutter butterfly's wings. Don't drive yourself crazy with this step; there's only so much "tapping" royal icing will take.
When the icing has firmed up, paint in some black detail with the food-safe marker. You might want to follow these steps, more or less. Start by outlining…
 Thicken up the outer edges of the outline…
 Fill in the lower halves of the wings with some lines…
 …as well as the upper halves. You might want to look at a photo of an actual monarch butterfly for inspiration.
 Pipe a stripe of black icing using the #55 tip for the body.
 Switch to the #3 tip and pipe the antennae. Hold the tip against the end of the body, squeeze briefly, and pull the tip away. Feel free to use a smaller tip, but I've had bad luck with tiny antennae breaking off.

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