Hello! Today I wanted to share with you my journey in creating a tea set (teacups, saucers, spoons, storage box, and teabags) out of a chai-gingerbread cookie.
My favorite baking show, The Great British Bake-Off, inspired this little experiment. The theme of the latest episode was biscuit week, and, traditionally, the contestants are required to create a beautiful, 3-D display made out of biscuits or cookies! So, naturally, because I’m crazy, I thought I’d try my hand at this little endeavor.
Check out my quick video to see how the 8-hour (!!) process went and then read on for some of the lessons I learned along the way. I’ve also included my chai-gingerbread cookie recipe towards the bottom and a 3-D cookie constructing checklist so you can try this out for yourself!
Cookie Tea Set & Teabags Constructing Prep
To create a Great British Bake-Off-worthy 3-D cookie or “biscuit” creation of your own, you first need to form a plan. I pulled out my trusty notebook and sketched out all of the components I wanted to include.
Then, I compiled multiple lists, detailing the order of construction, how many pieces I would need of each, the order of decorating, the royal icing colors required, and more. With everything written down, you can keep the process organized and make better use of your time and resources.
Next, sketch out any large constructing pieces (like boxes, for instance) onto some cardboard and cut them out to create templates for your cookies. After cutting, double-check that the pieces fit together properly. This would have been extremely helpful in my case for the teabag box. However, I skipped it and opted to trace around another teabag box I had, and, as you saw, the edges came out a bit uneven. It wasn’t a large issue, as the cookies were easy to file down, but next time I’ll definitely take this extra step to ensure the most well-fitting, smooth pieces of cookies.
After creating your templates, select any molds you need for the remaining pieces of your set. In mine, for example, I used mini ramekins to set the saucers and an inverted muffin tin for the teacups. Get creative with oven-safe items, thinking about how they could be used to make the shapes you require.
I also used foil to add some depth and give the saucers a raised lip around the edge. However, it created a super uneven cookie surface. I would probably skip this step next time, and just opt for a smooth, albeit, flat saucer, or utilize rolls of parchment paper instead. Foil is great for forms that won’t be seen, like the insides of a box or underside of a curved lid, for example.
Finally, give some thought to how you are going to use royal icing to cover your pieces. For example, in my case, I knew I wanted the outside of the teacup cookies to have a smooth, poured-over finish. So, I searched my kitchen for items I could use to prop up the cups from the inside, so the icing could drip off and leave a seamless outside. I found some thin dessert shooters that worked great. Other pieces I decided to just let drip on a cooling rack, not minding the small indentations I knew might form on the undersides, like the teabags and spoons. Preparing this in advance ensures a smooth decorating process – pun intended. 🙂
Material Checklist For Constructing 3-D Cookie Models
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Here are just some of the recommended materials and items I found super helpful in creating my cookie tea set and teabags:
- Silicone baking mat (protects your work surface and makes rolling a lot easier)
- Parchment paper, tin foil, and plastic wrap and toothpicks
- Paring knife
- Rolling pin
- Ramekins – these are the exact ones I use!
- Muffin tin
- Fondant tools (for cutting, forming, molding, adding texture – helpful if you have long nails)
- Cooling racks
- Americolor food coloring gels (important to buy gel, not water-based food coloring)
- Gold luster dust
- Food-grade paint brushes
Baking Method For Cookie Tea Set, Teacup, and Teabags
Once you have a solid plan for molding and forming your construction cookies, the next step is to bake! Scroll down to save my chai-gingerbread recipe. The cookies spread very minimally, making them perfect candidates for building. Plus, they’re tasty for cooler weather! My husband said the molasses in them reminded him of gingersnaps he used to eat as a kid.
If you have a favorite sturdy gingerbread or non-spread cookie recipe, you can try it! Though, it may be helpful to first bake a half- or even quarter-batch to test for spreading before creating all of your components. The bakers on the Great British Bake-Off used some really creative and tasty-sounding cookies to create their “biscuit-week” 3-D models – check it out for some inspo!
I used a good amount of parchment paper in this project because it helps in moving your fragile cookie pieces. The less handling of the cookies you can do with your fingers, the better. Bake in batches by size, watching carefully so that smaller pieces don’t burn. If your cookies are overdone, they become brittle and are prone to snapping when you try to construct with them.
While your cookie pieces are cooling, prepare your icing and glue – conveniently, the same thing! My recipe is down below. You want thick, gluey royal icing to start with. Then, portion out, water down, and color smaller amounts to decorate, flood, and pipe your cookies with.
No Spread Chai-Gingerbread Cookie Recipe For Constructing & Royal Icing Glue
No-Spread Chai Gingerbread Cookies
No-Spread Chai Gingerbread Cookies
- 5 cups all-purpose flour
- 2.5 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp ginger
- 1 tsp cardamom
- ½ tsp allspice
- 1½ tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 cup shortening (1 stick)
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 egg
- ¾ cup molasses
- ¼ cup honey
- 2 tbsp white vinegar (tenderizes the dough; you don't taste it!)
- 8 cups powdered sugar
- ½ tsp cream of tartar
- 5 egg whites (or 12 tbsp pasturized egg whites)
- 2½ tbsp vanilla
No-Spread Chai Gingerbread Cookies
- In a large bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking soda, and spices.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the shortening and sugar with the paddle attachment. Then, add the egg and combine for another minute or so.
- Next, add the molasses, honey, and vinegar to the bowl. Mix on medium until combined.
- On low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the mixer. Don't over combine the ingredients, just mix until everything is wet.
- Wrap the dough into two discs, covered in plastic wrap, and let it chill in the refrigerator for three hours. This gives the dough time to rest and come together, making the cutting process easier, as well as letting the flavors soak into the dough.
- Once your dough is chilled and easily manageable, roll it out on a piece of parchment paper or a silicone mat to no thicker than 3/16". Cut as needed using cookie cutters or a pastry knife, and transfer carefully to a baking sheet.
- Traditional cookie-sized pieces will take about 8-10 minutes to bake in an oven preheated to 375°F. Adjust the time accordingly for smaller or larger pieces, watching carefully for doneness. Let cool on the baking sheet until you can remove them to a cooling rack.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, use a spatula to combine all ingredients. Once the powdered sugar is wet, turn your mixer on with the whisk attachment, starting with low, then moving to high speed. Combine for two minutes or until shiny, taking care not to over whip and incorporate too much air into the icing.
- Add your vanilla to the icing and mix until, just until combined.
- Immediately cover royal icing with plastic wrap, and keep it covered at all times unless you are using it directly. Make sure, when covering, to press the plastic wrap down onto the surface of the icing.
How To Build 3D Objects With Cookies
With your “mise en place,” or, everything in place, start to assemble and decorate! Have some towels handy for cleaning in case anything gets too out of control. However, a little mess never hurt anyone. 😉
Start with your more integral pieces, especially the larger ones that may take longer to dry. I began by dipping the teacups, then spooning royal icing over top, and letting them drip dry, which was great because they ended up needing two coats. Add 2 tbsp of water to 1 cup of royal icing for proper dipping consistency, adding more if need be. You want the dip to be just thick enough to coat smoothly, but not so runny that it slides off and leaves a thin, translucent covering. Use a toothpick or paring knife as the royal icing dries to smooth out any drip marks.
While your large pieces dry, move on to smaller details. Next, I used the same royal icing to dip the top half of my teabags white, since my cookies are dark in color. Insert another toothpick through the hole in the teabag to clean out some of the royal icing. I also dipped the spoons and some of the teacup handles.
On smaller cookie pieces, you may choose not to dip them in royal icing to preserve the intricate textures. The handles I dipped lost some detail, so I left some of them free of royal icing and used my gold luster dust (mixing with a bit of clear drinking alcohol) to paint a pretty, thin coat on instead. As you see in the photo below, painting the cookie pieces without any royal icing results in the rougher texture showing through, but for such a small piece, it really wasn’t too noticeable.
I used paintbrushes to give the wooden box cookie pieces a realistic texture, instead of flooding them with icing. I layered two royal icing colors over each other and then ran a toothpick through to enhance the “woodgrain” look. It is easier to paint and decorate before constructing your 3-D pieces, however, you may choose to leave some delicate, final details until last.
As your royal icing dries to the touch, move on to construction. Without using any icing at first, place your pieces together to make sure they fit snugly. Use a paring knife to shave off some cookie if you need.
Then, place some of the thickest royal icing you have into a piping bag or plastic baggie. Snip off the end, and use it just as you would glue. Spread a good amount onto one of your cookie pieces, and then press the other cookie gently, but firmly, to it. Use kitchen utensils or foil to create props to hold your cookies up until they dry. I started with the box, then used the same method to adhere the handles to the teacups.
Once your pieces are formed and stable, use a piping bag or a paintbrush to add any final details. Here is where you can really get creative. Utilize your favorite piping methods to add some delicate texture and design. Alternatively, you can use a paintbrush with coloring gels or luster dust for a more artistic look. Have fun with the process!
And The Star-Baker Of The Week Is… YOU!
So, what do you think: how does it feel to be crowned Star Baker?!
With this guide to creating cookie tea set, teacup, and teabags, you can become the Star Baker of your very own kitchen. I’m definitely looking forward to trying this again and evening out some of the tricky parts that I navigated through the first time around.
That’s one of the best parts about baking – trying and learning something new! Though, I didn’t always feel that way. You see, I can be a bit of a perfectionist, so at first, when my cookie teacup and tea set didn’t turn out exactly how I’d imagined, I was a little disappointed. However, my wonderful friends over on Instagram gave me some good advice: it’s not all about attaining perfect results, but finishing a project out of your comfort zone to a satisfactory completion.
If you want to get in on the behind-the-scenes action, join me on Instagram here! Feel free to tag me in any photos you post of your baking! I love to see what you’re doing in the kitchen.
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Take care guys! Until next time…
Addicted to Pinterest, like me? Pin the image below to save this recipe for later or show it to your friends. After all, sharing is caring. 😉