1. Put the golden syrup, orange juice, muscavado sugar, ginger and cinnamon into a saucepan and heat until it has melted. Don’t let the mixture boil or it will make your cookies tough. Stir constantly.
2. Once the sugar has dissolved, add the butter and vanilla paste. Stir gently until melted and incorporated into the warm sugar mix.
3. Add the bicarbonate of soda and whisk it in to the warm sugar and butter mix with a metal whisk until fluffy and paler in colour.
4. Tip the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer or a mixing bowl and, when cooled, gradually add the flour and beat on a slow speed or mix with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes together and resembles an oily dough.
5. Turn out onto two large pieces of cling film laid out in a cross formation and wrap up to seal the block of dough. Chill for at least two hours before rolling, and cutting into shapes, or leave overnight in the fridge and roll out the next day. The dough can be frozen for up to one month. To defrost, place in the fridge overnight then leave out at room temperature for 1 hour and knead the dough until pliable.
1. Pipe a line of white soft-peak icing around the edge of each cookie shape, starting at the top, furthest away from you, and working towards the bottom of each cookie, lifting the piping bag up and allowing the icing to flow out slowly so that it falls around the edge, just within the shape. Pipe in a continuous motion around each shape. Once you get back to the starting point, bring the nozzle towards the cookie and push the royal icing onto the starting point. Stop squeezing and pull the nozzle away. You may get a pointy bit sticking up when you do this if you are new to piping. It’s not the end of the world, especially if you make sure your starting point is an area which you’ll be piping over with the furry icing trim, but if you want to neaten it off use a small damp paintbrush to gently push down the little icing tail.
2. Once each shape is outlined, you can now ‘flood’ the inside of the shape with runnier icing. Be creative and use different colours. To make polka-dot cookies, flood with one base colour, then, using a different icing colour, work above the cookie and allow little blobs to drop into the background colour. Space them out as equally as you can. Decorate one at a time, because if you leave the background colour for a few minutes, it will begin to ‘skin over’ so your cookies will look cracked when you drop in another colour. For stripy argyle-style cookies, flood the whole background colour, e.g. green, then drop over horizontal lines with red runny icing, then white to create stripes. To create a marbled pattern effect, starting on one side of the cookie, sweep the cocktail stick through the runny icing in one motion, up and down in vertical lines through the horizontal lines, until you get to the other side of the cookie.
3. Once you’ve finished all the main flooded patterned parts, pipe stiff royal icing along the base of the hats and mittens to create the sugary fur trim and top the hats off with bobbles. Using a small starshaped nozzle will create a ruffle effect. Begin on one side of the mitten or hat along the base and, using a firm and steady pressure, keeping the nozzle close to the cookie, pipe a slightly wavy line to fill up the bottom of the cookie. For the hat bobbles, pipe close into the cookie with a firm pressure to create a pompom effect, squeeze the icing in one spot until the bobble is the size you want. Leave to dry overnight and then wrap or serve as required.
CAKEOLOGY: Over 20 sensational step-by-step cake decorating projects by Juliet Sear (Hardie Grant, £20.00) Photography: Helen Cathcart