I‘m bringing a little more Hawaii-fied flare to the blog this week with a post to celebrate a special day in Hawaii, May Day! No matter the day of the week it falls on, the first of May is always celebrated with hula dances, live music, and lots and lots of leis. It’s a celebration I hold dear to my heart, and one that always reminds me of home despite being 2000 miles away.
May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii
Garlands of flowers everywhere
All of the colors in the rainbow
Maidens with blossoms in their hair
Throwing aside a load of care
Oh, May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii
May Day is happy days out there
In Hawaii, Holoku is a hula pageant held every year at my school. In third grade, we cut and sanded our own ipus and performed with them. Holoku was especially a big deal during our middle school years when girls and boys were paired up for the “couples dance” – think the Hawaii equivalent of square dancing. I remember watching the Holoku court walk in, a prince and princess to represent each island and feeling mesmerized every year by the Queen’s solo hula dance around the auditorium. At the end of every pageant, with the bleachers packed with friends, family, and students, we’d join hands and sing Hawaii Aloha. Goosebumps always climbed up my skin as the music stopped and we sang the last chorus out loud and proud, raising our clasped hands together in unison. That’s one of the things I love most about Hawaii, the sense of family and togetherness. It’s also one of the reasons I love sharing food and stories on here too.
So, I don’t know if you’ve noticed but I’m kind of obsessed with Rilakkuma. He’s my favorite San-X character. I have stationary, stickers, pencils, instax film, and bento containers with his little face all over it. When my mom sends me care packages, there’s always a little Rilakkuma trinket sitting inside. I’ve been practicing my hand at cookie decorating and when choosing a subject out of my messy cookie-cutter drawer, I always find myself picking out the Rilakkuma and Kiiroitori cutters. A few months ago I’d done sleepy-time Rilakkuma cookies, but with May Day around the corner I was immediately drawn to the Aloha Rilakkuma series. If you’ve never seen the designs for the series then you may want to google it or click this link or this one because it’s absolutely adorable and your heart will squeal!
So after all the sugar cookies had been baked and the icing was all colored and portioned out into piping bags, I started playing a few Keali’i Reichel songs, which always remind me of growing up in our Kailua home, and got to work decorating these little bears and duck with grass hula skirts, muumuus, and leis.
I hope you enjoy these cookies and that your day feels just a little bit sunnier after taking a peek at them. Happy May Day, dear reader! I’m virtually sending all of you leis and a few cookies!!!
Notes: I usually make two batches of cookies from this recipe, one with cocoa powder for chocolate sugar cookies and one without for regular sugar cookies. I also only use half of each batch and store the other half in the freezer until the next time I bake cookies.
for the cookies:
• 3 cups all purpose flour
• 3 tbsp cocoa powder* (for chocolate sugar cookies, eliminate if making regular sugar cookies)
• 1 tsp baking powder
• 1/4 tsp salt
• 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
• 1 cup granulated sugar
• 1 egg, room temperature
• 1 tbsp vanilla extract
1. Sift together flour, (cocoa powder if using), baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
2. In a small bowl, lightly whisk together the egg and vanilla extract.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl when needed. Add in the egg mixture slowly, beating for 30 seconds to 1 minute until full incorporated.
4. Add the flour to the wet ingredients in three additions, mix on low speed. Beat until just combined but the dough has not come together yet.
5. Dump the dough out onto a work surface, making sure to get any left over bits still in the bowl. Use your hands to lightly knead the dough until it comes together.
6. Split the dough in half. Shape both into a round disk and wrap with plastic. Refrigerate one half of the dough overnight or for a minimum of 4 hours. Store the other half in the freezer until needed.
7. The following day, let the chilled dough sit at room temperature for a few minutes until workable. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
8. Separate the cookie dough in half. Between two sheets of parchment, roll one half of the dough to about 1/4 inch of thickness. I used my Rilakkuma and Kiiroitori cookie cutters to cut out the cookies. You can find them online at Amazon, eBay, and Etsy. I recommend searching “san-x rilakkuma cookie cutter” and you should easily be able to find your own! After the first round of cookie cutting, re-roll the scraps and cut out more cookies.
9. After cutting the cookies and transferring to a baking tray lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper (I suggest using a silicone mat), freeze the uncooked cookies for 10-15 minutes. Bake for 9 minutes. Let the cookies cool to room temperature. They will harden and be ready to decorate.
for the royal icing:
• 1 lb powdered sugar (453g), sifted
• 2 1/4 tbsp meringue powder
• 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
• 1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
• 1/2 c warm water
• red, orange, yellow, green, pink, and black food coloring
10. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the meringue powder and warm water together until foamy. Add in the cream of tartar and vanilla and mix until combined.
11. Add in all of the powdered sugar at once. Use the paddle attachment for the mixer and beat on the lowest setting for 3-5 minutes. The icing will be on the thicker side. You can loosen the consistency by adding a tiny bit of water at a time as needed. You don’t want it to be so thick that it will hold a stiff peak or too thin to where it’s liquidy.
12. Transfer half of the icing to an air tight container. Make sure to cover the top with a layer of plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out. You will only need half to decorate all the cookies. I store my icing in the refrigerator until needed.
13. Portion the remaining half of the icing into 7 small bowls. Use food coloring to create red, orange, yellow, green, pink, and black icing. Leave one white. Transfer the colored icings into separate piping bags. Decorate the cookies and enjoy once the icing has dried!