Saturday 22 February 2014

Iced Gems

Some like to pop these tiny beauties into their mouths whole, some like to break apart the icing and biscuit, eat the biscuit and then followed by the icing, and some just wanna eat the icing :P. Iced gems! Don't they just bring back fond memories of childhood? As kids we love these and I love the ones that Khong Guan produces. My kids love them too and asked me to make them, and so I did!

I was searching the internet for iced gem recipes and to my surprise, I couldn't find many. I took a quick look at the ingredients and I knew that the biscuits will not end up tasting anything like Khong Guan's as they were all butter based. I ended up settling for one that looked all right and started work.

The recipe is adapted from here for the biscuit dough and here for the icing on the biscuits.

200g plain flour
10g corn flour
100g cold butter
90g caster sugar
1 egg
1/2 Tbs golden syrup

Royal icing*
335g royal icing sugar (I used Wilton)
2 Tbs water plus extra as necessary
Gel food coloring

1. Place plain flour and corn flour in a large bowl and cut small pieces of cold butter into the flour using a small butter knife. Using only your finger tips and working quickly, rub in the butter and the flour until the whole mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
2. Mix in the sugar using the butter knife until well combined.
3. Mix in the egg and golden syrup using the butter knife until well combined. Do not use your hands as the dough is very sticky. 
4. Place the dough between 2 baking sheets or cling wrap and roll into a sheet that is about 5-7mm thick. Seal the edges of the dough with the baking sheets/ cling wrap before putting it in the fridge for at least 1 hour to let it harden. 
5. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
6. Use a small round cookie cutter (1-2 cm in diameter, or any other shapes that you like) and cut out the dough into the desired shape. Place the dough on a baking tray lined with baking sheet. You may need to use a chopstick to push the dough out from the cutter and if the dough gets too soft and sticky to handle, place it back into the fridge for another 15-20 minutes. Alternatively, if you have freezer packs with flat surfaces, use them as your work surface and place the dough on top of it as you cut out the circles. This will ensure that the dough stays firm for a longer time. Always roll the dough between 2 sheets of baking sheet or cling wrap as you continue to reshape leftover dough and cut out more circles. If you find that the circles of dough have turned very soft, you may want to put the baking tray in the fridge for 10 minutes before putting it in the oven. 
7. Bake at 180°C for 6-8 minutes or until the cookies are golden brown. Cool completely on a cooling rack before adding the icing sugar. Here's a tray of freshly baked cookies! There's another tray's worth of them.

8. Sift the royal icing sugar into a bowl and add 2 Tbs of water. Use a spatula to mix well until it forms a smooth paste. Add water as necessary, 1/4 tsp at a time and mix well until you get a glossy icing that forms stiff peaks. You may use an electric mixer on low speed to make the icing but the icing was too thick for my handheld mixer to handle so I just worked with a spatula and it turned out fine. 
9. Split the icing between the number of colors that you want. Use a toothpick to add a tiny drop of gel food coloring into each bowl of icing. Mix well using a spoon. Add only a tiny bit of coloring at a time to keep the colors a pastel shade.
10. Prepare a piping bag with a closed star nozzle (mine was not a standard sized nozzle but an 8-pointed star with point-point distance of about 8 mm) and spoon the icing into the bag. To pipe the traditional iced gem ruffle, hold the nozzle directly above the biscuit and apply pressure, allowing the icing to spread sideways as you slowly raise the nozzle upwards. To finish the ruffle, remove pressure from the bag and dip the nozzle down a little before pulling sharply upwards. 
11. Leave the icing to set for a few hours or overnight until completely hard and dry. Store the biscuits in an airtight container**.

Icing the tiny biscuits was sure hard work and tiring for my eyes. This is less than halfway done!

There were so many biscuits that I lost count. I must have made more than a hundred of these. I gave away lots of iced gems to a few neighbors (my kids were happy to share) and they all loved it! They said the biscuits were really pretty and yummy too :). These biscuits don't taste like Khong Guan's but they are good enough for me :).

You may still decide to buy iced gems from Khong Guan but there is a certain satisfaction in laboring, and then watching the fruits of your labor when those who received them enjoy with a smile :).

Update: I have finally found the biscuit recipe that is pretty close to what we grew up with! Please refer to the recipe here for the biscuit base.

With love,
Phay Shing

*I was not comfortable with using raw egg whites to make the royal icing so I used store bought royal icing sugar. As this may not be readily available, you may refer to this link for the recipe to make the royal icing using the traditional method or meringue powder if you are not comfortable with using raw egg whites: 

**My biscuits turned soft, especially the portions in contact with the icing due to moisture absorption from the icing. To rectify this, I placed the biscuits on a baking tray lined with baking sheet and dried them for 30 minutes in the oven preheated to about 110°C. The biscuits became crunchy again and remained so even after a few days :). Temperature and time for drying out the biscuits may vary depending on your oven and humidity when letting the icing set, but generally you should not set the temperature too high to prevent the icing from browning.


  1. I ate these when I lived as a child in the Philippines. Completely forgot about them when I moved back to the US. 15 years later, I stumble upon a picture on Pinterest and found your recipe. It brings back a lot of good memories. I'll be making these for my wedding.

    1. Congratulations! These little treats will look gorgeous for your wedding :). I prefer my updated recipe as it is closer to what I ate as a child. The dough is also easier to handle than what I posted here for my first attempt. Hope my reply is not too late!