Dressed-Up Holly-day Sugar Cubes

Greetings from the other side of finals! This marks my second-to-last preclinical semester of school and I could NOT be happier to have it done. This means only one more semester of sitting in class every day and then we get to be on the wards! We just finished our unit called CRR--circulation, respiration and regulation aka, heart, lungs, and kidneys--ya know, nothing too important. Lungs was by far my least favorite part--wayyyyy too much chemistry and gas laws. I thought I was done with that stuff when I took my mcat but nope, P1V1 = P2V2 continues to haunt my life!

Anyways, these sugar cubes mark my first post-finals baking project! I have a list of like 10 things I want to make this break but I wanted to do these first since they are super simple! I made a batch as a gift for a family friend. They look great in a sugar bowl (the SUCRE one I used is from Anthropologie and makes a lovely gift) or in a cellophane bag, and you could give someone some coffee or tea to go with it. 

All you need to make these is the following: powdered sugar, meringue powder, water, food coloring (preferably gel), sugar cubes, corn syrup (optional), and some sort of piping device. Over the years I've accumulated some real piping bags, tips, and connectors but honestly this is a simple enough design that you could use a ziplock baggie and it would probably work out just fine with some patience and practice. 

There is so much to be found on the internet about royal icing, but basically this is what it comes down to: it is an icing that drys really hard and is therefore great for decorating. It dries hard because of the meringue powder. Sometimes meringue powder can be hard to find in stores, even baking stores, so I order it from amazon. If you're in a pinch and feel good about your eggs, you can always use an egg white in a pinch and just decrease the amount of water used. My royal icing is loosely based on this recipe but with a much smaller quantity. I used about 3 cups powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon meringue powder, 1 tsp of corn syrup and added water slowly until it looked like the right consistency. The corn syrup is just so it dries shiny. You definitely want to air on the side of thicker icing because you don't want it to spread when you pipe it. A good test is this: lift up a spoon of icing and let the icing fall like a ribbon back into the bowl. It should keep it's shape for 5-6 seconds before melting. Split the icing into two groups (keep in mind you will need less red than green icing) and add food coloring. Mix very well and squeeze into piping bags. To keep the icing from spilling when you aren't using the bags place them upright in a water glass. 

It's hard to get used to working on such a small surface, but the below photos show how I made the holly leaf shape. The trick is you want to have both ends end in a point and you want the leaf to be slightly to one side so there is room for the holly berries. 

Let the cubes dry for about 15 minutes and then they are ready to be eaten, given away, or placed in a bowl for morning coffee!