Swan Cookie Tutorial (and my battle with butter bleed)

One good thing about summer coming to a close is that cooler and dryer weather is on the way, which is perfect for cookie decorating. Warm weather during the summer can bring on butter bleed, which happens when the butter from the cookie stains the royal icing and leaves it looking blotchy. It doesn’t have to be humid for it to happen, just hot (humidity brings on its own set of issues) I was even struck by butter bleed in the winter at one point, when I had my cookies sitting directly under one of the heat vents in my bake shop. Lesson learned!
While butter bleed is preventable for the most part, there are still times when it’s just beyond our control. There’s more information about preventing and covering butter bleed in this post about royal icing.
These brush embroidered swan cookies were a personal gift from me to a family member, so fortunately I had complete control over how they were decorated. My original design just included the swans, but when butter bleed struck, I had to change my plan.
For products used in this and other tutorials, visit the recommended products page.
Swan25This cookie was made using my Orange Vanilla Spice recipe and measures 2×4″. My cookie recipe is available in my tutorial shop. Begin by icing the cookie in flood consistency royal icing and a tip 3. The pink color shown here is Wilton aster mauve and the blue is delphinium blue, both from the garden tone set (you can find these colors on the recommended products page).
Once the cookie is completely dry (8-12 hours of drying time), use a scribe tool to trace a heart template onto the icing. I traced a small heart cookie cutter onto card stock to make this template.
Then, use the scribe tool to sketch the swans, using the heart as a guide for the shape of their necks.  Swan3
Using a tip 1 and flood consistency royal icing, outline and fill in the swans.
Use the scribe tool to help shape the icing.
Let the swans dry for about 4 hours, preferably in front of a fan. Notice the dark areas on the edges of the pink icing. That’s what butter bleed looks like.
Once the swans are dry, add the wings using the brush embroidery technique.
Swan8 Swan9
Swan10 Swan11
Make a beak with a little bit of orange icing and shape it with the scribe tool. A piping bag isn’t really necessary for this step. You could apply a drop of icing using the tip of the scribe tool or with a toothpick.
Swan12 Swan13
This is where I started to improvise. I used the scribe tool to draw some swags and then added a lacy brush embroidered decoration.
This is similar to how I added the curtains in the baby bassinet tutorial.
Swan16  Swan17
I added a bead border with a tip 1 and a medium shade of brown royal icing. I also painted these beads using a mixture of gold luster dust and alcohol, which you can learn all about in this post on painting with gold.
I finished the detail on the swans using an edible ink marker.
Have you ever encountered butter bleed? How did you deal with the situation? Let me know in the comments!
Click on the images below for more cookie decorating tutorials     Royal-Baby-13 Gold-leaf10 Beach-Cookie2

43 thoughts on “Swan Cookie Tutorial (and my battle with butter bleed)

  1. I so much love ❤️ your cookie art work. Your swan cookies do look so vintage. There so beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing your tips on how to make cookies that will keep there shape after there cooked. I’m new at baking cookies. Actually new at baking. Anyway since you put out how to make the swan cookies you’ve inspired me so much. Thank you. When I do I will send you a pic if I can. ?

  2. I found your site because I was looking for information on the brush embroidery technique to use on a Twelfth Night/Birthday Cake. I’m so glad I did! These are so beautiful and do full justice to the delicate elegance of the live swan. I also love how your cookies look as if they come from another century, 18th maybe. They have a artistry and craftsmanship which is hardly seen nowadays in cookery or in fact in anything. All the very best from Normandie, Sue

  3. I have an idea, not sure if it will work but am going to try this on 1 of 2 to see if there is a difference. What if you flood your cookie with a very thin layer (VERY thin), let dry, then do the outline and flooding on top. Would the first layer not lock in the butter bleeds, preventing the layer you see to also butter bleed? Worth a try.

  4. Butter bleed happened to me once with light blue baptism cookies. It had never happened to me before, and because I am a new cookie business, I was absolutely horrified! I didn’t have time to make any more, so I just gave her a partial refund. At least now I know what it is, and that the experts have issues with it too!

    • That was nice of you to offer a partial refund! I hope it doesn’t happen again, but if it does, see if you can find a clever way to cover it up 😉

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