I am so not a girly-girl. I don’t care about fashion, my day-to-day hairstyle is a very chic French look called a “bun” (maybe you’ve heard of it?), and I’m pretty sure most of the products in my makeup drawer date back to my college days. I don’t normally care for overly frilly or feminine decorations, in my home or on my food. That’s why I was a little surprised when these delicate watercolor cookies emerged from my kitchen last week, and was even more surprised by how much I loved them.
It doesn’t get much more girly than rose-flavored sugar cookies, containing bits of real rose petals, decorated with a pink and purple watercolor pattern and accented with sparkles of gold leaf, but I don’t care! I’m totally smitten with these gorgeous Valentine’s Day cookies. Who am I? What have you done with the real Elizabeth? Why am I suddenly curling my eyelashes and putting on fake nails? Where are my 4-inch stilettos? What’s going on?!
These cookies start with a basic sugar cookie dough, with two major additions: a big splash of rose water, and a big handful of finely chopped rose petals. (From an unsprayed or organically gardened rose, please!) The rose petals don’t actually contribute much flavor, so you can omit them if you can’t find the right type of rose to use…but if you have one, I think the streaks of pink or red petals in the dough make these cookies extra-beautiful.
The real star of the show, of course, is the fondant layer on top. I’ve talked about my love for fondant-topped cookies before. (Check out these ombre Valentine’s Day heart cookies from two years ago!) While I don’t think fondant on cake is the tastiest thing there is, I actually like a very thin layer of fondant on top of sugar cookies—it gives the cookies a nice texture and sweetness, and does a great job of extending their soft texture by protecting the tops from air. Plus, it’s just so much fun to decorate!
I used my marshmallow fondant recipe for these cookies. It’s easy to make and cheaper than buying a tub of fondant, plus it tastes like sweet vanilla marshmallows—what’s not to love? You can, of course, use any regular fondant you have on hand.
The watercolor painting part was surprisingly easy. I wasn’t sure how well it would work out, or if I would end up with a sodden, splotchy mess on my fondant. Fortunately, since it’s such an abstract pattern, having splotches and random drips of color actually adds to the look! I basically watered down two colors of food coloring (Americolor Deep Pink and Regal Purple) and splashed and brushed these two colors, in varying strengths, on top of the fondant hearts before they were added to the cookies. Sometimes I dipped a brush in water and just painted the water across the top, and other times I dipped it in pure food coloring and added strong patches of pigment to the fondant. Add a few extra splatters, or remove some coloring by pressing a paper towel to the top—the more varied and random, the better!
After gluing the hearts onto the cookies with corn syrup, I let the tops dry overnight, then added some flecks of real gold leaf to a few of the cookies. (Here are some instructions for working with gold leaf, if you’re new to the process.) I didn’t want to go crazy and gild everything, but I’m a sucker for a little pop of gold here and there. It’s just one of the many things Donald Trump and I have in common. (Donny, pal, call me and I’ll give you some pointers on rocking a bun. It’s not so hard to do.)
There you have it. The so-girly-it-hurts cookie that won over even the staunchest anti-pink person. If you give this technique a try, I’d love to see your results! Shoot me an email, post it on my facebook page, or tag me on Instagram. xoxo, lovelies!
- 17 oz (4 cups) all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp salt
- 8 oz cold unsalted butter, cubed
- 12¼ oz (1¾ cups) granulated sugar
- 2 tbsp rose water or 1 tsp concentrated rose flavor
- 2 large eggs
- 1 unsprayed/organic rose
- 1 lb white fondant (I like homemade marshmallow fondant)
- Assorted food coloring gel (I used Americolor Deep Pink and Regal Purple)
- Corn syrup
- In a bowl, whisk together the flour and salt and set aside for now.
- Combine the cold cubed butter and the sugar in the bowl of a large stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat them on medium speed just until they're mixed together and there are no longer any chunks of butter. The key is to get a homogenous texture, but not beat until it's light and fluffy—we don't want to beat too much air into the dough, because that will cause the cookies to spread!
- Add the rose water or rose flavoring, and one egg, and beat to combine. Add the second egg and beat until it's incorporated.
- Stop the mixer and add the flour, and mix on low speed until most of the flour is incorporated and just a few streaks remain. Pull the petals off the rose and finely chop them into small pieces. Add the rose petals to the bowl, and finish mixing the dough with a spatula, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for an hour in the refrigerator.
- Dust your work surface and rolling pin with a light layear of. Roll the dough out until it's a bit more than ¼-inch thick. Cut heart shapes out of the dough, dusting the cutter with flour when necessary to ensure clean cuts. Re-roll the scraps and cut out more hearts, until you've used all the dough. This recipe yields about 34 3-inch hearts.
- Place the cookies on parchment-covered baking sheets. Chill the sheets in the freezer while you preheat the oven to 350 F. Bake at 350 for about 10-12 minutes, rotating halfway through, until the cookies lose the raw shine in the middle and just start to take on color along the very edges—they shouldn't have much color at all! Cool the cookies completely before decorating.
- Dust your work surface and rolling pin with powdered sugar, and roll the fondant out until it is very thin, less than ⅛-inch thick. Use the same cookie cutter that you used before, and cut out the same number of hearts as you have cookies. (Or make an extra one or two in case of breakage!)
- Transfer the cookies to sheets of waxed paper or parchment, since this next part can get a bit messy. Put a drop of pink color in a small bowl and a drop of purple color in a separate small bowl. Fill a third small bowl with water. Add a bit of water to the pink and purple bowl, and mix them up so you have diluted colors. Now it's time to experiment!
- Use food-safe paintbrushes to decorate the fondant hearts. Try brushing them all over with a layer of light pink or purple, then going back and adding additional color to saturate certain areas. You can also paint just parts of the hearts with streaks of light color, or dip the paintbrush in straight food coloring and touch that to the fondant to get bright patches of color. You can dab a paper towel on portions of the fondant to remove the color, letting some of the white underneath show through. Finally, you can flick some color onto the hearts to give it a speckled, painterly appearance. If you want to experiment, try mixing some food coloring with vodka and use the same painting techniques—I found that water was best for thin washes of color, but vodka was great for blending the colors and having them bleed out a little bit. Just experiment and have fun!
- After you paint the hearts, the tops will be quite wet and will need an overnight period to dry before you can eat them. However, they should be transferred onto the cookies before they harden, so paint the tops of your cookies with a thin layer of light corn syrup, then carefully place a heart on top of each cookie. Let them sit at room temperature overnight, until the fondant is dry and not sticky to the touch. Once they are fully dry, these cookies can be stored in an airtight container between sheets of waxed paper or parchment paper at room temperature.
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