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A BFA Painting and Drawing graduate gone cookie designer and decorator.  I bring my knowledge of art, composition, and color to pastries to create the perfect cookies and cakes for your events or occasions.
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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sugar Skull Owls for Halloween

This year for Halloween I wanted to do a cookie that was a little less traditional.  I've done skulls and spiders and mummies and things like that in the past.  At first I wanted to do a whole bunch of decorative owls, almost look like they were made of cut paper possibly in Halloween colors like oranges and purples.  Then I really wanted to do sugar skulls, but I feel like everybody is doing sugar skulls now.  Then the thought came to me to do a very decorative sugar skull inspired owl design.  I used a chocolate sugar cookie base to really make the design pop on the cookie and I couldn't be happier with the results.  They're something a little different than what I normally see for Halloween cookies and that's exactly what I was going for.  And like always, they're gluten free.  If you want to make these too, here's what you're going to need.

Sugar Skull Owls for Halloween
Decorating level: Advanced
Concept, design, and execution by Jesika Rose
  • Gluten Free Chocolate Sugar Dough Recipe
  • Royal Icing Recipe
  • 4" round cookie cutter
  • 12 Decorating bags, couplers, tips, and rubber bands
  • Two #3 round tips
  • Nine #2 round tips
  • Two #1 round tips 
  • Toothpicks
  • Gel food coloring:
    • Regal purple (or Violet with a dash of Fushia)
    • Lemon Yellow
    • Leaf or Neon Green
    • Sky Blue
    • Deep Pink
    • Orange
I like to start off with a sketch first when doing completely custom designs.  After a few sketches this was my final copy.  Keep in mind that some things will not translate when you try to do them in icing (for instance I decided to leave the pupils of the eyes just solid blue in my completed cookies and changed the number of petals in a few places).
After you roll out and cut all your dough, chill it.  I created a stencil out of parchment to trace the outline of my design onto every cookie with a toothpick before it was baked.  While you're baking all your cookies make all your royal icing.  I needed about 1 1/2 batches of royal icing and I did almost 5 dozen cookies.  Depending on your amount of cookies you'll need different amounts of icing.  Since you'll be flooding every base white, the safest way to do it is do all the white first.  This way if you run out you'll still have plain royal without any dye.

For the first stage, prepare a small bag of thick white royal icing, and a large bag of flood white royal icing.  Use #3 round tips on both.
Using the thick royal, outline the entire cookie except for the belly.  Once the outline is slightly dry, fill the cookie with the loose royal icing.  Pop any bubbles with a toothpick.

Allow this layer to dry completely, overnight if possible.  White is very susceptible to other colors, especially very saturated bright colors, bleeding into it.

Once the white is finished you can make your other colors.  I held off on making the green though because I turned my leftover loose yellow into thick green.  But that's up to you.  I just like to be as economic as possible with my icing and have as little leftover as I can.  For the rest of the cookie you'll need:
  • Small bag of Thick purple with a #2 round tip
  • Small bag of Fill purple with a #2 round tip
  • Small bag of Thick yellow with a #2 round tip (also have a #1 for later)
  • Small bag of Fill yellow with #2 round tip
  • Small bag of Thick sky blue with a #1 round tip
  • Extremely small bag of Fill sky blue with #2 round tip (or can just use the thick if you don't mind the pupils not being completely flush with the surface of the rest of the eye)
  • Small bag of Thick orange with a #2 round tip
  • Small bag of Fill orange with a #2 round tip
  • Small bag of Thick green with a #2 round tip
  • Small bag of Thick pink with a #2 round tip
Outline the rest of the belly with the thick purple, and fill it in with the loose.  Do this only one of two cookies at a time because the details in the purple need the purple to be very fresh when you do them.
With the thick yellow, pipe three lines the curve with the belly.  Then using the toothpick, trace a line from the bottom up to the center to get the affect of feathers.
Outline the top of the brow and the belly.  I also placed a tiny dot to mark where the center of the eyes will be.  The reason I do the top of the brow before the eyes is to get an idea for placement so the eyes aren't floating around the center of the cookie.
I place a small line of yellow marking where the beak will go to better understand the placement for the eyes.  Then pipe two circles for the eyes.
Finish outlining the brow, using the outline for the eyes as a guide.  This way the eyes perfectly fit the shape of the brow.  Then using the loose purple, fill in the brow.  Allow this part a little time to dry so when you fill the eyes the purple doesn't bleed into the yellow.
Switch the thick yellow to a #1 round tip.  Outline the centers of the eyes.  Immediately fill with the flood yellow.  If you allow the inside circle to harden completely, sometimes the loose icing will cling to the lines and not touch the surface of the cookies.  As it dries you'll get holes in your flat surface from air pockets.  Which is also why you need to immediately fill the centers with the loose (or if you chose to just make thick blue use that) sky blue.

*Also I didn't take a photo of this, but while you're using the thick yellow, also put a small oval on the center of the top of the head for the center of the flower.  Look below for photo references*
With the thick sky blue, outline the purple belly with petal like curved lines.
Using the thick orange outline the wings and make the beak.  While doing the shape of the beak I put a final line through the center of it to give it that kind of three dimensional look.  Then fill in the wings with the loose orange.

Now it's time to let these dry for a while.  At least an hour, more if you can spare it.  The 2nd layer of icing should be completely smooth and dry to the touch before moving on to the details.

Detailing is my favourite part of decorating.  So I went a little crazy with it.  But since they're sugar skull inspired they should be as decorative as possible. For all details use the thick icing.
GREEN DETAILS: Do green lines following the contour of the purple but stopping before the center to leave room for the flower.  Also use the green to do four petals around the eyes.
BLUE DETAILS: Do 8 dots around each eye.  Do three large dots on either side of the owls body above the wings.  Do a line of blue from the center of the eyes to almost, but not quite, the top of the purple.
PINK DETAILS: Do three pink lines lining up with the three blue dots.  Do the 6 petals on the flower.  Do two lines, the top longer than the short, stemming from the blue line.  Follow the contours of the purple brow.

YELLOW DETAILS: Do 5 petals on the orange wings.  I start with the center one and go out so they're as even as possible.

 And that's it!  Allow them to dry completely and they'll be ready for their close ups!

After a lot of hard work and a lot of hours your owls will be done!  And at this point you probably deserve to taste one of them, and the great thing about these recipes is not only will your cookies be beautiful but they will taste amazing as well!!

If anyone has any questions let me know.  I know this was a very complex tutorial, but hopefully not confusing.  This design is advanced but of course you could simplify it and if you need any suggestions for that I'd be glad to help.

For more detail photos, check out the entire set in the Halloween Owl Tutorial set.  And of course have a happy and safe Halloween!!


  1. These are an adorable alternative to spooky cookies at Halloween. Love it!

  2. These are incredible, I don't think I could ever bring myself to eat one!

    1. Thanks...that's why you make extras! This way you don't feel so badly eating them. Admittedly, I almost always save a cookie when I make ones I really like. I have a box of my favourites.

  3. These are so beautiful -- whoever gets one of your cookies is seriously lucky!

    1. Thank you so much! I have about 3 dozen of these sitting around my apartment because the Halloween party they were for was canceled due to the hurricane. I'm not quite sure who's going to be getting these now!

  4. This design is amazing. What a wonderful artist you are! Thank you for the tutorial.

  5. Hello! These are soooo freaking amazing!!! I would love to do these for a baby shower but she is going to have a boy. Any suggestions on what colors to use?


    1. Thanks so much Silvana!! Maybe replace the purples and pinks with teal or another shade or blue? Or just go for a palette of all shades of greens, blues, and some yellow where you want things to pop.