There is not much that I enjoy more than combining tasty desserts with elegant, artful designs. So in today’s tutorial, I’m going to show you how to use a palette knife to create beautiful painted royal icing cookies in the style of renowned French painter, Mr. Claude Monet. I’ll also share my technique to create clever little artist’s easels out of cookies, too!
Last summer, I published a watercolor-painted cookie tutorial that expanded upon my popular royal icing decorated cookie recipe. Today, however, instead of using light, edible watercolors, we’ll adorn our palette-knife-painted cookies with thicker royal icing to better imitate Monet’s style of painting. Because of that, the steps for this tutorial are quite simple and uncomplicated. It makes a great craft for bakers of all ages and skill levels!
Claude Monet, born in 1840, pioneered impressionist painting and paved the way for the modernist movement to follow. The unprecedented manner in which Monet portrayed nature’s light and color has always drawn me to his work.
I love the subtle differences in hue that each season brings, and the way that simple light and shadows can appear so differently depending on the time of day — something that Monet captured so, so stunningly. His works of art will be our inspiration today, for the sake of the tutorial, but feel free to paint any design you’d like — original or inspired!
So, let’s begin! First, peruse the materials list and check out my no-spread sugar cookie and royal icing recipes below. Then, read thoroughly through the instructions and tips! As always, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom with any questions or feedback.
How to Make Palette-Knife Painted Royal Icing Art and Artist’s Easel Cookies
Before getting started, make sure that you have the necessary materials. Below is a list of what I recommend. I’ve included links (affiliate) for your easy reference and shopping.
For making the cookies and icing:
- Handheld or stand mixer
- Plastic wrap and parchment paper
- Baking sheet
- Rolling pin
- Silicone baking mat
- Cookie cutters
- Wire cooling rack
- Piping bags
- Small round piping tips (not neccessary, but helpful; I like to use a 1 or 3, which you can find in this set)
- Food coloring gels or edible powdered coloring pigment
- Small, clean plastic paint palettes (don’t use palettes that were ever used with inedible paint — use new ones reserved for food only)
- Clean palette knives (don’t use knives that were ever used with inedible paint — use new ones and reserve them for food only)
- Small, food-safe paint brushes
Painted Royal Icing Cookies — Recipes
Here are my popular, no-spread sugar cookie and royal icing recipes!
Though the cookies are delicious, if you’d like to flavor your cookies differently, you can substitute the extracts (in both cookie or icing) for another — lemon is always a delicious choice! If you have a nut allergy, simply add an additional teaspoon of vanilla in place of the almond.
Before baking, be sure to review the next section (below the recipe) for shaping tips regarding the art and artist’s easel cookies.
Royal Icing Decorated Sugar Cookies
No-Spread Sugar Cookies
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- ¾ tsp salt
- ½ cup room temperature butter (1 stick)
- 4 tbsp room temperature cream cheese
- ¾ cup white sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract
- 1 tsp almond extract
- 8 cups powdered sugar
- ½ tsp cream tartar
- 12 tbsp pasteurized egg whites (make sure the carton indicates "pasteurized")
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
No-Spread Sugar Cookies
- Preheat your oven to 375°F.
- In a medium-sized bowl, sift the flour, corn starch, and salt.
- Cream the butter, cream cheese, and sugar together for 4-5 minutes. Then, add the eggs one at a time, finishing with the vanilla and almond extracts.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix with a spatula until a dough forms.
- Dump the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap, kneading it together a few times into a flattened disc shape. Wrap tightly and let chill in the freeze for 30-45 minutes.
- Roll the dough out on the silicone baking mat to about ½-inch thick. Cut out your cookies with the cookie cutters, placing them onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. If the dough starts to get too soft, put it back in the freezer to firm up for a few minutes.
- Before baking, place the whole cookie sheet into the freezer for 5-10 minutes. Then, bake the cookies for 8-11 minutes. The edges will turn slightly golden when done. Larger cookies may take a little longer than small ones, so watch the cookies carefully.
- Let the cookies cool on the wire rack completely before icing.
- Mix the cream of tartar and powdered sugar together. Add the egg whites, and mix by hand to moisten.
- Then, with the whisk attachment, turn your mixer on low and beat for a minute. Turn the mixer up to high, and continue to beat for 2-3 minutes.
- Add your vanilla, and mix to combine.
- Immediately cover the surface of the icing with plastic wrap any time you aren't using it.
Shaping the Cookie Dough into Art and Artist’s Easels
To ensure your artist’s easels are secure enough to hold the paintings, I’d recommend rolling two thicknesses of dough — one slightly thicker than 1/4-inch, and once slightly thinner. Use the thinner dough to create the art/painting cookies, and use the thicker dough for the easels.
To shape the base cookies for your paintings, use rectangular or square cookie cutters.
Then, to create an artist’s easel cookie, use the long edge of a rectangular cookie cutter to make three long “legs,” as the photo below depicts. Place one aside — this will become the back “bracing” leg, which we will attach after baking.
Then, set two of the legs next to each other like an upside-down letter “V.” Make an angular cut at the top of one of the legs, holding the knife parallel to the other leg. Finally, slide both pieces of cookie together and press gently to connect the top angle intersection (where you made the cut.) You don’t have to worry about this frame being too secure, yet; as the cookies bake, they’ll join together perfectly.
Rotate the cookie-cutter one-quarter of a turn (about 90*) and use the shorter edge to cut another piece of cookie — this one will eventually create the cross-piece that holds the painting onto the easel. However, we will attach this piece after baking so that it remains perfectly flat.
Place the cross-piece, the back brace, and the upside-down “V” frame onto your baking sheet, and repeat as many times as desired. I always like to make a few more than I think I want, just in case some break during decorating. However, the cookies do hold their structure quite well, as long as you’re careful.
Since the easel cookies are slightly thicker than the painting cookies, you should be able to bake all of the cookie dough at the same time. Just watch the cookies carefully and remove any as they begin to turn golden around the bottom edges.
How to Assemble Your Edible Artist’s Easels
First, use a toothpick to color a small amount of royal icing with a warm, woody brown shade. If the royal icing is too thick to mix comfortably, you can thin it with a teaspoon or so of water. Then, use a thicker, flat paintbrush to apply the royal icing to the top of the frame and back brace. Set the back piece aside.
Then, quickly, before the icing dries, place the center cross-piece on top of the frame — as if you are adding the third, horizontal stroke to the letter “A.” Press the cross-piece down to secure it, and let it dry. Then, paint this piece, too. You can even drag a toothpick through the icing to create a wood-grain effect.
Once the cross-brace has thoroughly dried onto the frame, you can add the final piece: dip the top of the inside of the back brace in royal icing, and connect it to the backside of the top of the frame piece.
Hold it steady for a minute or so until the icing begins to dry. Then, let the icing harden fully — don’t touch or move the easel until it has fully dried for a few hours or so. I let mine sit overnight before I attempted to place my cookie art on it, but when I did, they were very secure.
Pro-Tip: If your easels are top-heavy once you place an art cookie on them, use a very sharp knife to gently trim off a 1/4-inch piece from the bottom of the back-brace/leg. By shortening this leg, you shift back the center of gravity and your easel should stay upright. I only had to use this trick on one out of three of my easels, but it worked perfectly!
Now, let’s move on to the painting!
How to Paint Your Royal Icing Cookie Palette-Knife Paintings
First, flood your cookies with a white base coat of royal icing. Using icing thinned with water, pipe a border around each cookie, and fill it with icing. For more information on royal icing consistencies and flooding, review the tips in this post. Let dry thoroughly (overnight, if possible.)
When you’re ready to paint, put a few dollops of thick royal icing into the wells of the painter’s palette. Your icing should be about the consistency of oil paint — it shouldn’t be too loose. Use your food coloring gels or pigment to create the main colors in your painting.
Next, start “color-blocking” your cookie with the main background colors of your painting. Use the flat, backside of the palette knife to smooth on a nice, thin base layer.
Then, slowly add larger details of the art with the tip of the palette knife. If you let your royal icing dry in between layers, you can add “paint” with more differentiation between the colors. However, if you add wet icing onto wet icing, you can blend the colors. Use a combination of both techniques as your piece of art requires.
To apply the smallest, darkest details, let your royal icing dry. Then, dip your paintbrush into the food coloring gel (or pigment mixed with clear, food-grade alcohol), dab some off onto a paper towel or extra cookie, and paint.
Food coloring gel straight out of the bottle is very pigmented, so it will appear very dark (which is why I recommend blotting it a bit on a towel.) However, you can also thin it out with some clear, food-grade alcohol to lessen the impact and saturation of the color, especially when working with dark shades.
Enjoy Your Palette-Knife Painted Royal Icing Cookies
Here are some storage tips to keep in mind for your painted royal icing cookies:
- Royal icing made with egg whites (like our recipe above) can be stored in the refrigerator safely for about a week — let it sit at room temp to warm up a bit before using.
- Decorated and undecorated cookies can be stored at room temperature for about a week, sealed in an airtight container. However, let decorated cookies dry fully, uncovered, before stacking, storing, and sealing.
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial as much as I enjoyed sharing it with you! For other painting inspiration, please check out my Watercolor-Painted Royal Icing Tutorial, or my Palette-Knife Cake Tutorial, using these links:
As always, please leave me a comment below if you try this recipe, or with any questions you may have! I’m happy to help in any way possible!
And, don’t forget to connect with me on Instagram, and tag me in any photos you post of your culinary creations — I love to see what you’re working on in the kitchen!
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Thanks again for reading!