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I always loved those old fashioned candy buttons—remember the ones with the brightly colored blobs stuck to strips of white paper? I loved them even when they tore the paper and I got a mouth full of it.

Back when I only had my son, and had a lot more time to be creative, I used to make iced sugar cookies. Since they took an entire day to complete, they were a pure labor of love. But it was satisfying when I flooded the royal icing just right, and ended up with a cookie with a perfectly smooth, silky surface.

I don’t know why I never made the connection, but I finally discovered that the same royal icing I used to flood my cookies was the same thing they used to make candy buttons. Naturally, I had to give them a try.

Last week, when I was done making sugar cookies for my cookbook, I had some extra royal icing in two squeeze bottles: one pink, and one lavender. They were the perfect colors to try out some candy buttons, and the perfect colors for Valentine’s Day.

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The trick of using squeeze bottles for royal icing is an idea I got from watching a special segment on Martha Stewart Living. They did a little story on Elani’s, a New York based cookie bakery that seems to have started the trend of making those flooded iced cookies. In the little video, they were using the clear squeeze bottles for all their frosting, whether it was for piping or filling, so I’ve used the same technique ever since. You can get them in the cake decorating supply section of most craft stores, and they’re readily available from Wilton cake supplies. I love them, and highly recommend them for decorating.

royal icing

If you are making this icing for frosting cookies, double it.

I’m always a little hesitant to use fresh egg whites in this recipe, since they aren’t cooked, and I don’t like using meringue powder since it’s loaded with all sorts of ingredients I can’t pronounce. But I recently discovered all natural powdered egg whites (which you can purchase here). They’re ideal for this recipe, though liquid pasteurized egg whites are alright, too. They just don’t set up as well as when you use the powdered egg whites.

2 cups powdered sugar, plus more if necessary
3 tablespoons warm water
1 egg white, or 2 teaspoons of powdered egg white plus 2 tablespoons of additional water
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Place all ingredients in a bowl, and beat with an electric mixer on medium high speed for 5-6 minutes until thick and glossy. Icing should fall in ribbons when you lift it with a spoon and let it fall back into the bowl. The ribbon should sit on the surface for about 3-4 seconds before “melting” back into the bowl.

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2. Divide icing, tint with desired colors, and pour into food safe squeeze bottles. Cut strips of parchment paper or copy paper. Squeeze little drops of icing in rows along the strips of paper. Allow to dry for 6 hours, or overnight.

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