Need a fun project this fall? Make and decorate these bright and cheery Sunflower Sugar Cookies!
Simple sugar cookies are transformed into an edible orchard of sunflowers with the help of a leaf piping tip and some chocolate sprinkles. It might take a couple practice cookies to perfect your piping, but once you get the feel of it, the repetitive motion should come with ease.
The hardest part is getting the center to stay round. That being said, once you find your piping rhythm, these sunflower cookies are relatively easy to make. Don’t worry if the petals aren’t perfectly uniform – a little variation is good for texture and interest!
How to Decorate Sunflower Cookies:
Bake and cool 3 to 4-inch round sugar cookies (recipe to follow).
Prepare a batch of American buttercream (recipe to follow). Thin with 1 to 2 tablespoons of light corn syrup for the perfect piping consistency.
Tint about ⅔ of the icing yellow (we like Egg Yellow from Americolor). Tint a portion of the remaining icing green (we like a mix of mostly Leaf Green with a touch of Egg Yellow and a tiny bit of Black). Tint the remaining icing brown by stirring in a couple tablespoons of Dutch-processed cocoa powder and a splash of milk (as needed for the correct consistency).
Fill a piping bag fitted with a medium round tip with the brown icing. Pipe a circle of flat icing in the center of the cookie (1.5 to 2-inches in diameter).
Flip the cookie upside down and dip in a shallow bowl of chocolate sprinkles. Gently press down so that the sprinkles adhere to the icing. Invert the cookie so that it is right-side up and nudge any stray sprinkles back into place the back of a spoon.
Fill a piping bag fitted with a leaf tip (#352) with the yellow icing. Keeping the piping bag nearly straight down, begin piping small petals around the center of the cookie. Apply pressure to the piping bag until the icing begins to flow, then gradually decrease the pressure as you lift the piping bag straight up. Completely release all pressure before pulling the bag away and starting on the next petal.
Continue with the second ring of petals. There will be two inner rows of small petals and two outer rows of larger petals.
For the third ring, begin to angle out the piping bag away from the center of the flower so that the petals fan out. The “V” shape of the piping tip should be facing sideways and not looking back up at you as you pipe. Increase the size of the petals in this row.
Stagger the petals in the fourth and final row between the petals of the previous row, but save a few places in the final row of petals to pipe green leaves.
Fill a piping bag fitted with a leaf tip (#67) with the green icing. Pipe a few leaves where the last row of petals should be. Keep the opening fairly horizontal to the surface of the cookies as you pipe and release.
Sugar Cookie Recipe
adapted from Alton Brown
yields 2 to 3 dozen cookies
3 cups all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
splash milk or cream, as needed
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
Using a stand or hand mixer, beat together the softened butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. With the mixer on low, add in the egg and vanilla bean paste. Mix until combined. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour mixture in two additions. Mix the dough until combined. If the dough appears dry, add a splash of milk or cream (no more than a tablespoon) and mix until the dough begins to ball together.
Stop the mix and divide the dough in half. Form the dough into disks and wrap well is plastic. Refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours or overnight.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375°F and remove one disk of dough from the refrigerator. Allow the dough to come to room temperature (about 10 minutes) before rolling. Line two baking sheets with parchment and set aside.
Loosen the plastic around the dough and begin to roll it out (within the plastic) to get things started. Lightly dust your work surface with flour, unwrap the dough completely, and roll out until ¼-inch thick. Cut out cookies and move them to the lined baking sheets.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or just until the cookies start to brown around the edges. Place the baking sheet on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes, then remove the cookies. Repeat with the remaining dough.
American Buttercream Recipe
1 ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
3 ½ to 4 ½ cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste, or vanilla extract
1 to 2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
Beat the butter at medium-low speed with an electric or hand mixer until smooth and creamy, 2 to 3 minutes.
Gradually add 3 ½ cups powdered sugar, the vanilla bean paste or extract, and 1 tablespoon of milk with mixer at low speed, scraping bowl occasionally. Mix until blended.
Beat at medium-high speed 3 to 5 minutes, until buttercream is light and airy and nearly white. If needed, add the additional powered sugar or milk until desired consistency. For piping consistency, mix in the the light corn syrup.
The sugar cookie recipes yields 2 the 3 dozen cookies. You will need to double the buttercream recipe to decorate them all as sunflowers. Alternatively, place extra cookies in a zip-top bag or freezer-safe container and freeze for up to a couple months.
Store decorated cookies in a single layer in an air-tight container for about 5 days. The frosting will crust once dry, but still treat with care (or very carefully stack between layers of parchment paper). Unfrosted cookies may be stored in a zip-top bag at room temperature for about a week.
As you pipe, the buttercream will likely softened and the petals may start to loose their shape. At this point, empty the piping bag of the buttercream, place it in the refrigerator for about 5 minutes, remix and refill the piping bag before starting again.
Use the same sunflower piping techniques to decorate the make sunflower cupcakes!