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,



  • Giselle@baking in heels

    Oct 24, 2011

    I have the same problem with small areas and wondered the same thing. It’s just a thought, but I think it’s because the icing touches the outline but doesn’t fall to touch the cookie in the middle. Try running a toothpick through the small area when the icing is wet. I’ve only tried it twice and it seemed to work, but could have totally been coincidence. Great tutorial. I must pick up a heat gun. Living in New Orleans it’s very humid and this would be great for me to have.

  • Hanna

    Oct 24, 2011

    Anne, thanks so much the cookies were awesome and delicous as always. Logan loved them and all the guests raved about it. You put in so much work and we appericate it!!!!

  • sharon @the plaid cookie

    Oct 24, 2011

    I love the sheen of the wet cookie…and so now I can use the dryer, and still keep the sheen. I’ve wondered about the heat gun before, and now you have answered the question for me. Thank you so much for the tutorial as well. Love what you do with cookies. Sharon

  • Susan

    Oct 23, 2011

    I love this idea! I hate having to wait till overnight to do another color. Just any heat gun will do? What did you get?

  • Kim J.

    Oct 23, 2011

    What an awesome idea! I’m new to cookie decorating…just learning so I can make some fun cookies for my 2 little guys. One thing holding me back from being able to do some of these elaborate, layers on layers on layers, cookies is that I have 2 toddlers running around and no real place to hold cookies while they dry. Speeding up that process could allow me to decorate in the evening hours after they’ve gone to bed and have completed cookies by morning. Thanks for sharing your findings and I love, love, love your cookies.

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