Stamping Cookies

Date June 18, 2012

I love stamping cookies. It has what I refer to as the easy instant gratification factor in cookie decorating, and seriously, is it even necessary to admit easy instant gratification is an underlying theme of my life? I’m not proud of this. Just honest. Give me a point for that.

So here are a few examples.

Stamping is great for minis. Then all it takes is a little cookie bling and it changes a one color cookie into something a little more unique.

At Christmas I found these three stamps and after stamping the design on the cookie, I traced the lines with black icing for dimension. You can also see that I lightly brushed gold airbrush paint over the icing lines on the purple cookie for pizazz!

The only stamp on these baby onesies are the safety pins. The rest was done free hand or in the case of the frog prince, using my KopyKake.

The woman on the back oval was a huge stamp of a woman from head to toe. I just painted the top portion I wanted to use and then pressed that on the cookie before coloring in with edible markers.

And then,  there were these.

My sister asked me to make about a hundred bike cookies for an upcoming ALS bike ride fundraiser in Portland and once they were done I was really happy with the results. It was my first time to take my airbrush machine out of the box and while I made a mess of things in part due to the lack of any type of written directions (not that I would have read them had directions been included), after a few dozen cookies I started getting the hang of things, and really, what’s the best way to practice airbrushing but with sky and grass?

Once the background was done I stamped on the bike in black and then highlighted the bike frame with a piped line of red glaze. With the cookies completed I individually bagged them and sent them off.

Now. This is where the story turns ugly. This may be triggering for some cookie decorators and small children should leave the room now.

Three days later my sister sent me this photo in a text with the message “I don’t want to tell you this but all but 20 of the cookies look like this.”

When I saw the photo with smeared black ink everywhere I can’t remember if I started sobbing before I threw up in a mouth a little or if it was the other way around. The trauma of it all has blocked the details from my memory.

Why did this happen? What have I learned? How can you avoid this cookie nightmare?

I believe my egregious gaft was using the thicker Gel Paste Food Coloring for stamping rather than the thinner Air Brush Food Coloring. While the bike stamps were completely dry when I sealed the cookies in the bags, my best guess is that the moisture from the  cookie ended up re-dampening the gel just enough to make it tacky and more prone to smearing as well as bleeding its color through the red glaze detail on top of it.

The following week after I’d had enough time to work through my emotional healing from the trauma of the bikes I did these bumble bee cookies using the Air Brush Food Coloring for my stamped lettering.

Aside from using the Air Brush Food Coloring  instead of the Gel Paste Food Coloring, everything else was the same. The cookies were just as fresh as the bikes. Every cookie was heart-sealed individually and packaged for shipping identically. Both orders were delivered in the same amount of time to destinations less than 20 miles apart and yet one set was a train wreck when it arrived and the other arrived in perfect condition. This leads me to think that when the Air Brush Food Coloring dries it dries into the surface of the cookie while some of the thick gel paste ends up sitting on top of the surface and can become damp again when exposed to moisture from the cookie or air temperature.

Whatever the actual reason is, my suggestion is to stay with the Air Brush Food Coloring when stamping, and just to check things out I ran a test and thought as long as I was at it I’d show you my process for stamping cookies.

Begin by putting a generous squish of coloring on your blank ink pad and spreading it out with a brush. Here’s where I got my un-inked felt stamp pads but you can make a DIY ink pad with a stack of paper towels on a paper plate which is definitely cheaper and easier to clean up. I use a felt pad because it seems to coat the stamp more evenly with the paint than I get when using the more porous, rough surface of a paper towel, but admittedly, we buy the cheap generic paper towels consisting of ground tree bark and wood splinters so that might be a factor to consider.

Before moving onto the cookie I like to do a few test prints on paper to be sure I’m getting the full pattern inked sufficiently. Every time I stamp another cookie, I press the stamp onto the ink pad and then make a first impression on paper to remove any excess ink.

I’ve found that the best way to get a clean, complete stamp impression on my cookie is to begin by placing the bottom edge of the stamp pattern onto the cookie and slowly rolling the stamp down until it’s laying flat on the surface. With the full stamp on the cookie I then roll it to the left and over to the right, never completely lifting the stamp from the cookie. Finally, I roll the stamp forward to the top of the stamp design and remove it from the surface of the cookie. All this rolling allows me to get the full image onto the less than perfectly flat cookie.

For my test I stamped cookies using the coloring gel paste, the air brush paint, and an edible marker and then I ran my finger across each two minutes after stamping. Here are the results.

As you can see there’s no smudge or smear marks using the air brush paint and edible marker. There are a number of breaks in the image using the edible marker but when that happens I just use the marker to do a little touch up.

But bummer of bummers, there’s significant smudging with the gel paste stamped image. You may also notice that even though I first blotched the stamp on paper before applying it to the cookie I ended up with an area on her right sleeve and in the loops of her dress that lost the clean definition of the lines and filled in what should have been white space because of the globby thick nature of the gel.

So there you have it. Stamping cookies. And while I’d love to conclude this post by showing you a completed princess cookie, colored in with edible markers and edged with confetti sprinkles, I only took it this far because on the day I put this together I had 3 dozen Angry Birds waiting in the wings to be completed so I’m going to leave you now to finish decorating the cookie in your imagination. Make it pretty!

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed! Also, now that I have your attention, I invite you to learn more about ALS and The ALS Association, and to make a donation to help us defeat ALS. Together we will defeat it!

44 Responses to “Stamping Cookies”

  1. Jill FCS said:

    Great, great post! I never, ever even thought about using airbrush color for anything but … airbrushing. You have opened up a whole new world for me!

  2. Donna said:

    Great results using stamps!

  3. Andrea @Cupookie said:

    Hmmm who would of thought. Thanks for sharing your experiment. I have not stamped cookies yet but you have just saved me a huge headache ;) I know I would of went straight for the gel. Great post Anita.

  4. Maria said:

    Fabulous! As a collector (hoarder) of nativity scenes, I go bonkers over anything related to them. LOVE LOVE LOVE the nativity cookies!

    I saw a post quite a while back on stamping cookies. The author used a brayer and it really helped get the airbrush ink om the stamp evenly. I'll post a link if I can find it.

  5. Debbie said:

    That's a great tutorial on stamping on cookies! I'll have to try it sometime.

  6. anita said:

    Just remember Debbie, once you do and you love it then along with cookie cutters you're going to start going crazy collecting stamps! It's just an extension of the addiction :)

  7. Maria said:

    Well, can't find the link. But basically they used a brayer, ran it over the ink pad and then over the stamp, and then stamped the cookie. I think they're less than $10 at the craft store.

  8. Lorraine said:

    Genius – I am so happy I read this today. I have stamped a handful of times and it always ends up like your example of the smeared version. I usually have to have several extra cookies on hand because it never comes out as cleanly as I'd like to. I wonder is Julia Usher has seen your post?

  9. Paula said:

    Wow! I love your ALS air brushed cookies. They did look wonderful and such a shame that after shipping only twenty remained as beautiful as your group picture of them. I think I would have cried too and then wiped it out of my memory. Your technique is very, very, good, just as it is with stamping. I have never tried air-brushing cookies but I have tried stamping and my results were not near as good as yours. You did provide a lot of great tips and lessons learned in this post and perhaps I may re-visit stamped cookies again sometime in the future.

  10. Donna B. said:

    I've shied away from trying the stamped cookies because of too many "what-ifs" in my head……so thanking you so much for such detail in your explanation and your results, both good and bad. I think I can be braver now and try some. After all we can EAT the "train wrecks"!!! lol

    Blessings, Donna B.

  11. Jodi/Serendipitous S said:

    I've always wanted to try stamping cookies. This is great information to know! Thanks! :)

  12. Georganne (LilaLoa) said:

    I LOVE that you figured it out!! And then shared it with the world! THANK YOU!!! (Umm…do you know if they make white airbrush color?)

  13. Chris W said:

    This is a great post and extremely helpful! I've wanted to try stamping on cookies but was a wee bit scared! Thank you for figuring it all out!

  14. Haniela said:

    This is wonderful, thanks for sharing, your cookies are beautiful. I don't have an airbrush but that doesn't mean I can buy airbrush color right.;-)

  15. Chris' Creative said:

    What a great tutorial! Thanks for sharing all your tips! I used to stamp on paper a LONG time ago, and loved it-this has opened a whole new world to me, YAY!!

    One question though, what is the best type of stamps to use? I couldn't tell from the picture what you used, are there specific stamps for cookies? Or can you use new rubber stamps?

    Thanks again for all your great info ;)

  16. Susan said:

    OMGsh – thank you for this. I'm so excited to try this. Have been wanting to try stamping, but would never have thought of using the airbrush paint. You have saved all of us a lot of grief!

  17. anita said:

    Susan, you're welcome! If my suggestion helps then it makes the pain of 80 smeared bike cookies a little less painful. A little, as in a teeny, weeny smidge.

  18. anita said:

    Hey Chris! Good question! My favorite stamps to use are the clear ones that you can temporary mount on an clear acrylic block. I prefer those over the rubber stamps that are permanently mounted on wood blocks for a few reasons: They take up less storage space which reserves more room in the house for cookie cutters of course, they feel more "food friendly" even though they aren't labeled as such, they're easier to clean, and I feel like I have better control because I can see more of what's happening. By that I mean I can actually see the contact points as the stamp touches the cookie surface which helps me be sure that the stamp has been in full contact with the cookie before I lift up the stamp.

  19. anita said:

    Haniela, you can do more with a plain cookie and one piping bag than I can do with a garage full of cookie equipment! And at this time there is no law requiring that you own an air brush prior to buying air brush paint, however that could all change so hurry and order now!

  20. anita said:

    Chris, Oh Girl, I'm still figuring. My learning curve is looooooong and bumpy :)

  21. anita said:

    Georganne, there is indeed white air brush paint. Long before I had an air brush there was a bottle of black, white, gold, silver, and pearl paint in my cabinet. With the metallic and pearl air brush paints I rarely use luster dust anymore which is good since most of it ended up on the dining room table anyway.

  22. anita said:

    Jodi, you're welcome! ::::curtseying in your direction:::

  23. anita said:

    Donna, WHEN you try stamping (not IF), I want pictures!

  24. anita said:

    Paula, thanks so much! The funny thing (as in painfully funny) is that my two ginormous cookie fails have been involving orders of more than 100 cookies and both times they were cookies my sister ordered. I'm not sure what that's about but the next time she places a big order I'll end up shaking in my boots!

  25. anita said:

    Lorraine, Oh yeh, I'm just sure Julie Usher is following my blog! I think I remember she has a section on stamped cookies in her book though I don't remember what she uses in terms of paint, but I believe that's where I learned that there were foam and felt un-inked stamp pads available.

  26. anita said:

    Maria, wow! I LOVE nativity scenes but I can't begin to imagine the space they take to collect! To this point I haven't had a problem getting the ink on the stamp evenly, especially with the air brush paint but I would imagine a brayer would be really helpful with a stamp that had a larger design. I so appreciate the suggestion! Thank you!

  27. anita said:

    Andrea, the other problem I had with gel is that when I tried to stamp with colors the intensity of the color straight out of the bottle was just too much. For instance, leaf green gel directly on the stamp will give such a dark green result. I tried thinning the gel to lighten the color with water and then with alcohol but neither worked. The watered gel beaded on my glaze and the alcohol wasn't much better. If I remember correctly, Arty McGoo paints on her cookies using gel with incredible results but a) I use glaze rather than royal icing and b) I'm not Arty McGoo!

  28. Jaclyns Cookies said:

    Thank you for the great tutorial! I've never thought to use a stamp on a cookie, but love the idea. Those bike cookies were adorable! Even if they got smudged during shipment, I'm sure everyone still loved them!

  29. Julia M Usher said:

    Hi, Julia Usher here. Michelle Posey pointed me your way. I love rubber-stamping too – my ultimate cheater technique! What a great post on stamping – I particularly love all of your painting embellishments! There are always a billion ways to approach a cookie and a particular technique; sometimes it's more a matter of what you're accustomed to. So take this for what it's worth, just what I do: I use strictly liqua-gel food coloring (Chefmaster; same brand I use to tint the icing) to stamp and rarely have the drying troubles mentioned here, or any bleeding of the ink through into lighter royal icing embellishments on top. I wonder if the stamp just didn't have an excess of food coloring on it, so an excess landed on the cookie and it took an inordinate amount of time to dry? Obviously it's dangerous to seal anything when the coloring or icing is not completely dry, because it never dries, bleeding runs rampant, and the cookies soften. I always blot the ink pad first with paper towels so there is no excess on the pad to start. This also prevent blobs of color on the cookie and allows me to get some really fine, detailed stamped patterns (see link below). You might try the heat gun approach to accelerate the stamp drying before you bag, though I never have needed to.

    I also prefer a foam pad; it seems that more ink settles into the foam (and so I have to re-ink less often than with a felt pad), but the felt pad will work just as well, as long as you blot it first. I also strictly press straight down, and relatively hard in the center of the cookie where there is usually a divot. Any side-to-side motions lead to more blurring of the pattern – or at least that's what I've found. Lastly, I've found that some stamps don't take to the food coloring as well; the coloring just beads up on them and you get a much more spotty transfer – usually these are the clear, self-adhesive craft stamps that have a pungent (no joke) odor to them, and are probably coated with something not very edible. I tend to use mostly (sanitized) natural rubber stamps, often wood mounted. Downside of these is that they're harder to center or place precisely where you want on the cookie, because you can't see through the mount. Sweetstampen.com also swears you must use food-grade stamps, but that's another story . . .

    This post on my site isn't done, but the roses and birds were stamped, some of them had small pink and white embellishments on top: http://www.juliausher.com/kitchen_and_studio/more
    I also have a rubber-stamping tutorial on my site, under Projects, which is basically a repeat of all of this.

  30. Anita said:

    Hi Julia,

    Thanks so much for stopping by my blog and leaving your input, which is far more experienced than mine, on stamping cookies. Your book is at this moment glimmering brightly 10 feet away on my cookbook shelf, top right corner :)

    Since I go through much of the same technique as you, and not a coincidence since I read the section in your book on stamping, I'm not sure if the main difference is simply that you use royal icing and I use glaze. My impression is that due to the high volume of corn syrup in glaze it tends to take embellishment color less easily than royal icing when using techniques such as stamping, airbrushing, or painting with brush on the dry surface. That's my best guess since I make sure the color is absorbed in the pad prior to use, apply the stamp to paper prior to the cookie, and then leave more than ample time (as one must do with glaze) to be certain the flooded cookie along with the stamp are completely dry. This is definitely a technique I'm going to continue to experiment with but for the time being when it comes to someone else's cookies I'm sticking with what works for me as in the airbrush paint.

    Again, soooo nice of you to drop on by and thanks for the links to your resources!

  31. Julia M Usher said:

    Oh, yes, it definitely could be the type of underlying icing you use. Royal icing dries much more quickly (due to protein in the egg white), and is less prone to bleeding in general.

  32. Samantha said:

    What a wonderful post!! And I can't believe how many beautiful cookies are here that I haven't seen yet!! Those bees are adorable!! Thanks for all the info Anita, hopefully you'll save me a headache if I ever try the stamping!! Sooooo CUTE!

  33. Katie said:

    This a great tutorial!! I have wanted to try stamping cookies but had no clue where to begin prior to reading your blog.

  34. Abby said:

    Hi there, stumbled across your blog while trying to learn how to stamp on cookies :-) Heaps of great advice as I too would've gone straight for the gel. Just wondering, why do you use glaze instead of royal icing? I am wanting to make simple cookies as individual favours for my sister's wedding, and thought something like your round ones with an appropriate stamp would be great. I'm not experienced enough to do anything fancier! I'd have to do 150 minimum so need all the upskilling I can get :-) Thanks.

  35. anita said:

    Abby, I use glaze because I not only love the taste and the shine but I just find it easier to use. I think it would work wonderfully for the wedding cookies you're thinking about doing for your sister!

  36. Abby said:

    It's been a while but would you mind sharing your glaze recipe? I got distracted with other wedding things but now it's time to try out the cookies (baked by a friend). If the stamping doesn't happen they'll just be iced. But I'd love to try the glaze out, especially as you used the phrase 'easier to use' which is right up my alley. Thanks.

  37. anita said:

    Abby, no problem! Just go to http://www.sweethopecookies.com/glaze-glorious-gl… and you're find it toward the bottom of the post.

  38. Heather Hanson said:

    So generous of you to share this information really enjoyed reading it thanks heaps

  39. judy said:

    Hi, mix the colour with flavorless Vodka. It will evaporate.

  40. SWEETHOPE said:

    Judy,Thank you! This post is from some time ago and since then I've been using almond extract (rather than vodka) and it's working great!

  41. Melissa said:

    Hi, I am a novice :) Can you please tell me how I go about using Amerigel with vodka to brush onto my stamps.Thank you!

  42. SWEETHOPE said:

    Melissa, you mean aside from pour yourself a glass of vodka, sip and get to stamping? How about this…. when you want to thin down Americolor gel for something like stamping, it's best to use an alcohol-based thinner like vodka or almond extract as it will dry much quicker than thinning with water.

  43. Holli said:

    this is the best, I can not wait to try this. Darn San Fran girl's weekend is prohibiting me from starting any sooner than Tuesday! Thank you for sharing your hard earned secrets!!!!

  44. Painter Ava said:

    I have never thought of stamping cookies this way specifically involving the airbrush. The idea you used for your sister regarding the bike related fundraiser completely took me. I might use that for the next birthday of my daughter. I bet her friends would love such cool funky cookies. Thank you!

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