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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Royal Icing Pine Needles

I think I'm finally in the home stretch for making woodsy accoutrements for the Stump de Noel cake. After putting together the meringue toadstools and the royal icing pine cones, I realized what this cake will need are some pine needles; there were a few actually stuck in one of the sugar pine cones I was using for inspiration when I piped the pine cones out of icing. Bear in mind, if you follow these directions to the letter and sugar pine trees aren't native to your area, folks who see your cake might snarkily say "Pine needles don't look like that." So, you might need to adapt your method a bit, regionally. 

First, I spread out a piece of parchment paper on the glass stovetop and anchored the corners with tape. Any flat surface that's not going anywhere anytime soon would work:
Then I piped a couple of mediocre pine needles (the upper two, as I'm sure you've guessed). I used a Wilton #3 round tip on a bag loaded with the same medium-brown royal icing I made the pine cones out of:
I started by piping the bud at the bottom by squeezing the bag hard and shaking it slightly to get those ridges on the sides. I moved the bag slowly along the parchment paper about half an inch, allowing it to build up to be about 3 times the width of the #3 tip:
With the first couple of attempts, I piped the needles really close together from beginning to end because I imagined them breaking easily. Then I remembered how extremely tough royal icing is; I'm sure people have broken teeth on it. So I started to spread the needles out a little bit. I piped them by burying the tip in the bud a little to get it good and anchored, and then piped out along the parchment paper about 3 inches. I piped two individual needles…
…and then piped a third on top and in between them. Each one ultimately had 5; I just filled them in wherever seemed most aesthetically pleasing:
I let them dry overnight and in the morning carefully removed them from the parchment paper. I nudged them gently from one side of the thickest part at the bud, and they popped off easily. 
Then I mixed up some edible paint; just a tiny amount of vanilla extract mixed with a dab of brown paste food coloring off a toothpick. I used a small, squared-off brush…
…to paint just the bud. 
I propped them up off the paper to dry; it seemed appropriate to lay them across the original pine needles:
I'm hoping to finish this cake tomorrow! I've got my fingers crossed that it will look more like a still-life in the forest and less like an out-of-season Yule log. It's all about presentation! 

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