Elmo, Dorothy, and the Heat Gun

Posted by Anne Yorks on Sunday, October 23, 2011

I know I've said this before, but character cookies are a challenge for me. They actually stress me out. I think it's because everyone knows what the popular characters look like and expect the cookies to be an exact replica. So these cookies are not like an animal or a onesie that can be decorated any way. But my little buddy Logan was turning 2 and really wanted cookies for his Elmo party. Thankfully, Elmo and Dorothy the Fish are characters I know well. Not like the Star Wars characters I did a few months ago. 

Elmo was the easier cookie of the two. 

I enjoyed making Elmo, especially since I got to experiment with my newest cookie tool - a heat gun (You have to read below how this new tool aids in my cookie decorating.)

I used my circle cookie cutter and outlined Elmo's head and mouth.

Next I filled his head with red icing.

I blasted his head with the heat gun and then flooded the black mouth. I added his orange nose and let him dry for a few hours.

Then I added his eyes and outlined his mouth. But he didn't seem furry and lovable enough.

So I outlined his head and added a little fur detail. I think that extra step made a big difference.

Dorothy's cookie was a little more detailed.

I outlined the fish bowl and dorothy.

I flooded the fish bowl blue, but then decided it needed a little more detail.

So I added the white stripes at the bottom for the bowl and a few white dots for bubbles. 

Then I blasted the cookies with the heat gun. It's a super cool flash-dry method. I only had to do it a few minutes and the blue was dry enough that I could flood the orange. Normally I would wait a little while so that the colors would not bleed together.

I did another quick blast on the orange icing and was able to add the yellow right away.

I added the fish outline and the fin detail. The eyes were last and Dorothy was complete.

Here are the benefits of using a Heat Gun:

1. The icing dries faster so that neighboring icing colors can be applied sooner. 

2. The icing dries quickly and creates a beautiful sheen on the cookie surface. I prefer this look to the matte look. Take a look at these number cookies. 

They were iced using the same icing consistency. They were done in the same room, but the orange two was blasted and flash-dried with the heat gun, where as the red two dried naturally. Even though we have a dehumidifier, it's still tough to control the humidity on an extremely rainy day. The heat gun seems to make this a non-issue.

3. In my opinion, the best benefit of using a heat gun is the impact it has on the 'small' icing areas like Dorothy's three small fins. I always have issues with the small areas cracking. Look at this pumpkin cookie - total disaster.

I can never figure out why this happens and how to prevent it. I have played with the icing consistency. I have applied the icing in different ways. But, with the heat gun, the icing seems to dry fast enough to eliminate the cracks. I didn't have one fin on Dorothy crack. 

I will continue to test this theory and report my findings. But this could really give me more confidence to tackle cookie designs with small detail. Normally I design around small icing areas to avoid the stress of a cracked cookie.

I purchased my heat gun at Wal-mart for $19.99. It is a Wagner Heat Gun HT 1000 and has two speeds (hi and lo).

A few heat gun tips:

Don't hold it too close to the cookie. 

Don't linger over the cookie for too long. Keep the gun moving (like a blow dryer) to avoid overheating the icing.

The surface behind the cookie will become hot. I decorate my cookies on a metal cookie sheet - so it was a little hot to the touch after I was done using the heat gun. Just use a little caution.

Good luck with decorating. If you use a heat gun, please feel free to leave a comment with your findings. I'd be curious to know if other cookiers find this tool useful. I'm always looking for new tips on how to improve my cookies.

Have a sweet day,