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Aug 20, 2014 10:28pm

Julia Usher baking in her home kitchen
Blog Recipes and Tips From Julia Usher

Rubber-Stamped Springtime Cookies

I call rubber stamping my ultimate cheater technique, because it allows anyone - even those without God-given artistic talent - to create show-stopping cookies with very little work. Simply choose a lovely stamp and grab some soft-gel food coloring, and you’re good to go! Don’t think it’s that easy? Well then, just take a gander at this stunning rubber-stamped cookie set - it says it’s so.

What you’ll need for several cookies:

  • Several medium to large (2- to 4-inch) cookies, topcoated with Royal Icing
  • Assorted rubber stamps, sized to fit the cookie topcoats with at least 1/4 inch to spare
  • Un-inked felt or foam ink pad (Note: I prefer foam pads; or substitute paper towels as described in Step 2, below.)
  • Soft-gel (aka liqua-gel) food coloring, black and assorted spring-y colors
  • About 3/4 cup Royal Icing, for detailing (allow at least 1/4 cup per color)
  • Parchment paper pastry cones (or substitute disposable plastic piping bags)
  • Scissors
  • Extra powdered sugar, as needed to thicken icing
  • Small (about 1/2-inch) readymade royal icing roses for additional decoration (optional)
  • Pastry bag fitted with a small (#352) leaf tip (optional)

To make:

1 | Air-dry the topcoated cookies. After you’ve smoothly topcoated the cookies with Royal Icing in colors of your choice, let them air-dry, uncovered at room temperature, until the icing has dried all the way through. Usually this means drying overnight, sometimes longer if it’s particularly humid. Since stamping in the next step requires the application of pressure to the cookie tops, don’t shortchange the drying time. If you do, you can crack the icing when stamping. Note: For best results, I usually topcoat with a pale color, so that the stamped pattern shows very clearly against it. Also, don’t stamp naked - meaning un-iced - cookies. The food coloring won’t stick to the cookie; it will only lift cookie crumbs off the top.

2 | Assemble your stamping tools (second photo from top). First, gather your stamps, making sure they fit the topcoats with some room to spare, as noted above. If the stamps are too large for your cookie topcoat, you won’t get a complete imprint, of course. I use thoroughly cleaned craft stamps made of natural rubber, that have never touched any inedible ink. For me, this is food-safe enough, since the stamp makes contact with the cookie for a split-second. If you’re more finicky than me, no worries: you can also find some very cute food-safe stamps here.

Next, choose an un-inked ink pad - or don’t! I prefer a foam pad, as indicated above. Foam pads hold ink longer than felt pads, meaning you have to re-ink much less frequently as you work. Again, I don’t worry myself with the fact that the ink pads may not be guaranteed, FDA-approved “food-safe,” but if you do, simply use folded paper towels to blot the stamp with food coloring.

3 | Stamp yourself silly! If using an ink pad, apply a generous squeeze or two of coloring to the pad. (I often use black coloring for best contrast, as shown in the third photo from top.) Because soft-gel coloring is viscous, it will sit on top of either foam or felt pad, even though the former is more absorbent. To avoid getting an excess of ink on your stamp, blot the pad with paper towels to remove any pooled coloring; then press your stamp onto the pad, taking care to evenly coat it. (Or skip the pad altogether, and blot the coloring directly onto the stamp with paper towels. Though take note: the advantage to using a pad is that, when you’re done, you simply close the lid, pop the pad in a plastic baggy, and seal the baggy. A foam pad can stay moist up to a week or more if contained this way, thereby minimizing your use of food coloring.)

Stamping a cookie isn’t much different than stamping a piece of paper except that you must apply extra pressure in the middle of the cookie where the icing tends to dry with a divot. And as you firmly press, avoid moving the stamp from side to side, or you’ll end up with a blurry imprint. Re-ink the stamp between cookies, and repeat this step until all of your cookies are stamped. If you want to stamp in different colors, be sure to have a separate pad for each color.

When you’re through, store the ink pad(s), if used, as indicated above, and wash and dry your stamps before storing them in baggies or other sealed containers.

4 | Add borders and details. Divide the Royal Icing into as many portions as you want border or detailing colors, using no less than 1/4 cup icing per color. Tint the icing accordingly and then thin to the proper consistency for your task, i.e., to beadwork consistency for dots or outlining consistency for thin lines. Fill parchment pastry cones with the icings, and proceed to pipe borders of your choice.

I often use icing at beadwork consistency to embellish the cookie tops with dots as well. Thicker icing can also be used to glue readymade roses to cookies (see last photo) and to pipe small leaves with a pastry bag fitted with a #352 leaf tip. This said, there’s no reason to go crazy with the detailing. Depending on the intricacy of the stamp, less is often more.

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Julia, I so wish you had gotten in touch with us before writing this… We are the experts on rubber stamping on cookies, cakes and candy….

First of all, while a foam pad is much easier to work with… it has a tendency to harbor bacteria… you have no idea what is down deep in that pad. Whereas, if a felt pad starts to go bad, you can see it on TOP of the pad.

Secondly, we are the only manufacturer of FOOD grade rubber stamps. Not all rubber is equal. Many are coated with diatomaceous earth - essentially a ground glass - as a release agent. Many others have petroleum based chemicals in them. Either can make someone REALLY sick.

Please be very careful stamping on your food…

By Holly Dare on May 12, 2012

Thanks, Holly. I appreciate your remarks! Everyone should certainly take whatever precautions they deem necessary when putting anything into their mouths and bodies! And be educated when making those choices.

As noted above, I clearly indicate that the stamps and pads that I use are not always food-grade, and that people should make the choices that are right for them when choosing to stamp their food. I also offer up alternatives to non-food-grade stamps (your site) and pads (a piece of paper towel).

Before writing this post, I researched the issue and found no FDA-related studies, or others generated by health care professionals, that suggest there are any risks associated with stamping food with sanitized, natural rubber stamps, or any stamps for that matter. But that is not to say there are not (there are many risks in life that we don’t know about until trouble arises). So, again, I encourage people to make the choices that are right for them based on the facts they have available to them.

Perhaps I am too lax in my own personal intake, but I’d worry more about the wooden spoon I use everyday harboring bacteria . . . or the Teflon that creeps into my food off my nonstick pan . . . or the artificial dyes that are in the food coloring used on these cookies . . . or the food I eat that sits on my non-food-grade kitchen table for a few seconds before I eat it . . . But, I don’t. But, again, that’s just me and I make that distinction very clear here.

P.S. I should add that I never use stamps that smell of chemicals, as some of the clear self-adhesive ones definitely do, even if sanitized. That’s not to say that smell is any indicator that there’s something on stamps that would be harmful (or not harmful) if ingested. (I have seen no documentation to support this one way or the other.) It’s just that I don’t like the smell and the stamps don’t take to food coloring; it beads right up. So, I don’t treat all stamps completely equally, but it’s not based on documented, scientific evidence that’s told me one type is more safe than the other.

By Julia M Usher on May 17, 2012

beautiful!!

By Nancy Schultz-Cannon on September 08, 2013

Thanks, Nancy!

By Julia M Usher on September 08, 2013

Julia, can you please tell me where you got the cute springtime stamps.  I have looked all over the internet and cannot find any quite as cute as those.  Thanks!

By Lori Baggerly on March 08, 2014

Hi, Lori, You know, I’m not 100 percent sure, as I got them so long ago. Perhaps either Michaels or Hobby Lobby. I was careful to sanitize them, as they are craft stamps and not certified food-safe. Proceed at your own risk.

By Julia M Usher on March 08, 2014