Introduction: The Baker's Gambit – a 3D Sugar Cookie Chess Set
Looking for cookies fit for a king? Look no further!
In this Instructable, I'll show you how to make a complete 3D chess set out of traditional and chocolate sugar cookies. Victory has never tasted so sweet!
There's a good chance you already have everything you'll need for this recipe at home, so let's get started!
Prep Time: About 2 hours
Bake Time: 7-9 minutes per batch
Yields: 32 Chess piece sugar cookies + bases (16 chocolate and 16 traditional sugar cookies)
Step 1: Gather Supplies
- 1 1/2 cups of butter (softened)
- 2 cups of granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tbsp + 1 tsp of vanilla extract
- 4 3/4 cups of all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup of cocoa powder
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
- 3 teaspoons of baking powder
- Mixing bowls (1-2 large, 1 medium)
- Baking sheet
- Rolling pin
- Parchment paper
- Small paring knife
- Index cards or cardstock
- A cookie cutter that you're willing to part with (or a triangular cookie cutter)
Step 2: Prepare Chess Piece Stencils
In order to make sure your chess pieces are uniform and recognizable, use index cards or cardstock to draw a stencil for each of the six different pieces (pawn, knight, bishop, rook, queen, and king). You can trace the stencil images I've included above if you'd like. Then cut out your stencils.
Note: The more intricate your stencil the longer it will take to cut your cookie dough into the right shape later on in Step 8. You also want to be especially careful about the width of the different features on your stencil. For example, the cross on the top of my king stencil can be quite finicky to cut out and requires extra care when moving the cookie to and from the baking sheet.
Step 3: Create a Stencil or Cookie Cutter for the Bases
Each of the 32 chess pieces we'll be making will need a triangular base to help with balance. Choose one of the options below to prepare either a stencil or cookie cutter to help with the shaping of the bases later on.
Option 1: Create a Stencil for the Base
As in the previous step, draw on cardstock or an index card to create a stencil for the base. Then cut it out. I've provided an example stencil in the photos above. You may need a larger or smaller stencil for your bases depending on the size of the stencils you made in the previous step. See the photos above to gauge the proper scale.
Option 2: Use a Triangular Cookie Cutter
If you happen to have a triangular cookie cutter that's shorter than about half the height of the pawn stencils you created in the previous step, you're in luck! You should be able to use it to make your cookie bases.
If, like me, you don't have a triangular cookie cutter, but you do have another cookie cutter that you're okay with repurposing, you can shape your own triangular cookie cutter.
Caution! Please be careful while working with potentially sharp metal.
- Take the metal cookie cutter, and find the seam where the two ends of the metal come together.
- Pry at that connection. I used a screwdriver for extra leverage.
- Once you've disconnected the two ends of the metal, it should be much easier to bend the metal into an equilateral triangle. Mine is about 1.5 inches tall – tall enough that the cutout it creates can support the chess pieces, but not too tall that it will obscure any of the details of the chess pieces.
- Using a set of pliers, clamp down on any uneven segments in the triangle to smooth them out. No need to worry about smoothing out the excess metal at the ends.
- Wash your newly shaped cookie cutter before use.
Note: While it would be incredibly helpful to have a cookie cutter for all of our shapes, the other shapes are a little too intricate to mold successfully (at least with this method).
Step 4: Combine Wet Ingredients
If you have 2 large mixing bowls and a medium mixing bowl, you can make your traditional sugar cookie dough and chocolate sugar cookie dough simultaneously. That way you can measure out the ingredients that they share at the same time. Using different colored bowls can help you keep track of which dough is which.
In 2 separate large mixing bowls (one for the traditional dough and one for the chocolate dough):
- Add softened unsalted butter. If your butter isn't creamy enough to mix with a fork or wooden spoon, microwave it for 10 to 15 seconds at a time until you're able to mix it.
- Traditional: 1/2 cup
- Chocolate: 1 cup
- Add granulated sugar and mix.
- Both: 1 cup each
- Add eggs.
- Both: 1 large egg each
- Add in vanilla extract and mix until combined.
- Traditional: 1 teaspoon
- Chocolate: 2 tablespoons
From here the recipes diverge. The next two steps will take you through completing each of the doughs.
Step 5: Add the Dry Ingredients to the Chocolate Dough
- Add a 1/2 cup of cocoa powder and mix.
- Add 2 teaspoons of baking powder and mix.
- Slowly add in 2 1/2 cups of flour and mix until all of the flour has been incorporated. The dough will be tougher at this point, so you may need to use your hands to make sure everything gets combined.
That's it for the chocolate dough! Pop it in the fridge to let it chill for a few minutes or until you're ready to cut out your shapes. Chilling the dough will help it hold its shape a bit better in the oven.
Step 6: Add the Dry Ingredients to the Traditional Dough
To finish up the traditional dough, combine the following dry ingredients in a separate medium-sized bowl:
- 2 1/4 cups of flour
- 1 teaspoon of baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
Stir the dry ingredients before adding them to the wet ingredients and mix until combined. Again, you may need to use your hands to make sure everything is completely combined.
Once the dough is ready, place it in fridge to chill it until shortly before you're ready to work with it.
Step 7: Roll Out the Dough
Select one of your doughs to work with first. Sprinkle a little bit of flour on your work surface and rolling pin, and roll out the dough until it's about 1/4 inch thick.
Note: Depending on how long the dough was in the fridge, you may need to let it stand outside the fridge for a short while in order for it to warm up enough to be able to roll it out.
Note #2: You will eventually need to repeat Steps 7-11 with your second dough. If you have enough counter space, you can work with both doughs at the same time if you'd like.
Step 8: Shape the Chess Pieces
This is no doubt the most time consuming step, so put on some music or a podcast and settle in!
Note: Your oven will eventually need to be preheated to 350°F (177°C) once you get close to having the first batch of cutouts ready.
- Once you have the dough rolled out, place one of your stencils onto it.
- At this point, I'd recommend cutting out a section of the dough that's just a little bit larger than the first stencil you'd like to trace (see main photo above). This will make it easier to extract your cutout from the rest of the dough in step 4 below.
- Use a small paring knife to cut around your stencil staying as close to the edges as you can.
- Pull away the excess dough taking extra care around any smaller details to avoid accidentally pulling them off.
- Cut a small rectangle out of the bottom of the piece. This will allow the piece to sit on top of one of the bases that we'll make in Step 9.
Voila! You have your first cutout! Repeat this process for each of the 16 chess pieces you need to make out of each dough:
- 8 pawns
- 2 knights
- 2 bishops
- 2 rooks
- 1 queen
- 1 king
Step 9: Prepare the Bases
With the dough left over from the chess piece cutouts, we'll create our triangular bases for the chess pieces to sit in.
If you made a stencil for the bases in Step 3:
As in the last step, place your stencil on the dough and trace it with a paring knife. Pull away the excess dough. Repeat 16 times for each dough (one for each chess piece).
If you made a cookie cutter in Step 3 or already had a triangular cookie cutter:
Use the cookie cutter to cut out 16 triangles (per type of dough) to use as bases. After you have all of your triangles, use your paring knife to cut a rectangular slit out of the top of the base (see photos).
Step 10: Bake!
Cover a baking sheet in parchment paper and transfer a batch of your cutouts to the tray. The cookies don't expand very much, so you can place them fairly close together without worrying about them running into one another. The parchment paper will make it easier to remove the cookies after baking without damaging them in the process.
Both the traditional sugar cookies and the chocolate sugar cookies bake at 350°F (177°C) for 7-9 minutes.
Note: It's helpful to bake the same number of bases and game pieces in each individual batch so that when the batch comes out of the oven you can make any needed adjustments while the bases and game pieces are still slightly warm. As noted above, the cookies don't expand very much, but they do expand a little, so you might need to cut away some cookie in order to fit the pieces into the bases properly (see the following step for more on this).
Step 11: Post-Bake Adjustments
Once the cookies are baked, it's time to make sure they fit together.
Set out some parchment paper or wax paper on a nearby work surface. This will be your assembly and cooling station. Let the cookies sit on the tray for a minute or two then carefully transfer them to your assembly station.
As the cookies are beginning to cool but before they cool completely, try fitting each game piece into a base. If the piece fits and stays balanced, congratulations! You can move on to the next piece. If the piece doesn't fit, you'll need to use a paring knife to cut away part of the base and/or the piece itself (see photo of the bishop above) until the two fit together properly.
Note: The cookies are much more forgiving when they're still slightly warm than they are after they've cooled. They could break if you try to cut them after they've cooled down too much.
Once you know that a piece can fit into a base, you can either allow it to cool standing up if it seems stable enough, or you can remove the piece from its base and set the two next to one another on your parchment paper so that you can keep track of which piece fits into which base.
If you were working with one dough at a time, go back and repeat Steps 7-11 with your other dough to make the other half of your cookies.
Step 12: Assemble Your Chess Set
It's time to set it all up! Fit all of your chess pieces into their corresponding bases. You should now have a full set of chocolate and traditional sugar cookie chess pieces. Perfect for a game, a snack, or both!
Step 13: Enjoy!
Don't forget to store your cookies in an airtight container to avoid a stalemate!
Second Prize in the
Cookies Speed Challenge