Birthday-palooza

In my family, the beginning of the year means a slew of birthdays, from mid-January through to mid-March. This coming off of the holida rush—no rest for the wicked. My eldest and my wife have birthdays back to back, one day only a day after the first. So as much as I love baking, two cakes back to back isn’t happening. What we’ve done for the past couple of years is the kiddo picks the design or decoration, and the wife chooses the flavor.

This year, the birthdays are falling in the midst of an extra busy time. The way we’re dealing with that by buying a cake (Hello, Costco!). But I can’t just leave it at that…I feel the need to add a little something to make it special and memorable for the kiddo turning 4. We’re deep in a dinosaur phase, so I wanted to decorate the sheet cake with some frosted dino cookies.

I’ve toyed with a few different sugar cookie recipes, with varied results. Knowing that the dinosaur cutters are relatively small, and have some nooks and crannies, I wanted to make sure there would be no spreading and that the corners stayed crisp. To this end I tried The Best Sugar Cookie Recipe Ever from In Katrina’s Kitchen, as well as her Christmas Cookie Frosting recipe. What appealed were the promise of perfect edges, and frosting that will stand up to being stacked (after ample drying time) and the biggest factor, no need to chill the dough before rolling and cutting the cookies! My one nap window for baking off the cookies had a chance…

Softening butter.

Thinking I had all my ducks in a row, I realized I’d need to return to my trusty tip for butter softening—heating water in a glass in the microwave, emptying it, at inverting it over a cold stick of butter. Once the butter was ready, the cookie dough came together very quickly. Mine wasn’t quite as stiff as the recipe said it would be, but knowing more flour would be incorporated as I rolled out and cut the cookies, I didn’t worry about it.

The dough is ready to roll.
Cutting the cookies.

Rolling and cutting went well—and as promised I could re-roll the scraps without any issue. Rolling thicker was indeed better, so I tried to keep everything closer to a quarter inch thick. I also used my small, off-set spatula to help move the cut cookies onto the baking sheets. With small cutters, the recipe yielded about 4 ½ dozen cookies. Since some of the cookies would be put onto a frosted cake, I opted for the longer end of the bake times listed, around 8 minutes in a 350 degree oven. After letting the cookies cool for a few minutes on the cookie sheet, I transferred them to wire racks to cool completely.

The cookies in the oven.

Decoration time didn’t arrive until after all littles were down for the night. I’d never really frosted cookies before (I tend to avoid fussier baking tasks, as I can get easily frustrated). However, I really wanted a special touch for the occasion. I received some piping bags and decorating tips for Christmas so I thought we would give them a try. The set was meant for cupcake decorating but I was confident that they’d work somehow. I had plenty of cookies baked, so there was some room for experimentation.

If you're not making a mess, you're not having any fun.

While mixing up the frosting, I found I just couldn’t add as much sugar as the recipe called for. Not only was it just a LOT of sugar, but I didn’t need that much. So I think I stopped at about 4 cups of powdered sugar. Then I divided the frosting into 3 bowls, and stirred in red, blue, and green food coloring. With my colors mixed, it was piping time! I used a different tip for each color so I didn’t have to bother with cleaning tips between colors. I used the star tip with red, a petal-like tip with blue, and the round tip with green. The petal tip wasn’t great for cookie application, but the star and round tips yielded pleasing results for the most part. The little candy eyes we bought brought it all together. Frankly, without the eyes, I’m not sure the shapes would have really read “dinosaur.”

Getting ready to frost the cookies.

What I learned:

  • Some days you can bake and decorate 4 dozen cookies AND take your kids out for a walk and to play in the park
  • Cupcake decorating tools aren’t ideal for decorating cookies
  • Sometimes the fussy can be fun
  • Going above and beyond for your kids is worth it
The finished cookies.

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