Category: Royal Icing and Sugar Cookie Decoration

Royal Icing Recipes (update 2/17/19)

Cookies frosted with Royal Icing

Royal Icing primarily consists of egg whites and powdered sugar. Different recipes with seemingly the same ingredients, however, do not necessarily behave or taste the same.

To select the right recipe for your project, you need to understand how your end product will taste as well as how easily you can make the patterns you desire. Some of you might want slightly soft icing, while others, icing that is very crunchy.

Experimenting by making, photographing, and testing the results of different recipes is worthwhile, but time consuming. You’ll learn a lot through experimentation, but if you want to skip that process, here is what I discovered and recommend:

Best recipe – includes light corn syrup

In terms of taste, reliability, food safety, and attractiveness, I recommend recipes made with pasteurized egg whites, plus the addition of light corn syrup. Here’s the one I use (and note, for those of you who follow a different recipe, I do not add Cream of Tarter):

2 pounds of sifted fine (**10x) powdered sugar

11 tablespoons (5.5 ounces) of pasteurized egg whites

2 “slight” tablespoons of light corn syrup (add slightly less corn syrup, not more)

2 “slight” teaspoons of flavoring, to taste

Mixing instructions are easy!

In the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, place all the ingredients, lightly “toss” them, then turn your mixer on to a medium or higher speed. Mix until they are blended.

When fully blended, the ingredients become smooth, bright white and resemble a stiff marshmallow topping. Stiffness refers to the icing having a very slow rate of settling into a flat surface, if at all. (Photographic examples to follow in March.)

When to use: This icing is firm but slightly softer than the same recipe without light corn syrup. It is exceptionally fresh tasting when served within 3 days of icing cookies.

I like this because it results in a shiny surface and crisp-but-soft texture. It stays very fresh tasting over 2 to 3 days of its application, but does get harder over time. It can be used for making transfers, which are small Royal Icing “decorative forms” that can be pasted on cookies, cupcakes, or cakes, but it’s possible that the recipe without corn syrup is better for creating transfers.

Second Place – same as above, but without light corn syrup

2 pounds of sifted fine (**10x) powdered sugar

11 tablespoons (5.5 ounces) of pasteurized egg whites

2 teaspoons of flavoring, to taste

Mixing instructions are easy!

In a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, place all the ingredients in its bowl, then turn on your mixer to medium, and mix until they are blended, which will take several minutes. When fully blended, the ingredients become very smooth and bright white, like a marshmallow topping. When lifted out of a bowl, however, stiff points appear.

When to use: This icing dries and becomes very crisp quickly. It might be better to use if your objective is to make finely piped designs. Consider using crispy piping on top of a slightly softer icing flooded as a base.

I like this because it results in a shiny surface and becomes hard/crispy in a short period. It is especially good for applications that need precise formations, such as transfers

Third and forth place – same as above, but with raw egg whites

These are the same recipes as the two above, except instead of using pasteurized egg whites, substitute 6 raw egg whites from large eggs to 8 cups of powdered sugar (or a 2-pound bag of it).

I hesitate to use this because I feel uncomfortable serving raw egg products, especially if iced cookies are not refrigerated or are served in a very humid, warm environment. This recipe, however, is very reliable, and easy to make and handle.

Use of meringue powder instead of pasteurized or raw egg whites

I prefer the texture, taste, and reliability of Royal Icing based on pasteurized egg whites in terms of taste, texture, and its ease of use. Many people, however, use meringue powder, but if this is you, test it against icing made with pasteurized egg whites. Once I did that, I decided to never use meringue powder again.

Below is a basic meringue powder-based recipe. Icing made with meringue powder requires more exacting mixing instructions due to the initial inclusion of water, a slight amount of which can change the consistency. The addition of light corn syrup is not necessary and can be eliminated, but I think it improves the taste.

2 pounds of sifted, fine (**10x) powder sugar

6 tablespoons of meringue powder

Using a third quantity of each, mix together by sifting them into a mixing bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Continue until the powdered sugar and meringue powders are thoroughly mixed.

After the dried ingredients are mixed, add water via a spray bottle, a small spritz at a time, while beating with a a paddle blade. As the dry ingredients become moistened, glossy lumps form that look a bit like large cottage cheese.

As soon as lumps start appearing, add 1.75 to 2 tablespoons of light corn syrup to the mix.

Add flavoring to taste, up to 2 teaspoons

Continue mixing until you’ve made a very thick, stiff white mixture

Use a mixing speed that makes sense to you. Start with a low speed so the dry ingredients don’t fly about, and increase the speed as the mixture becomes more moist.

The water you add to this recipe determines your success.  Just tiny amounts of water can change the consistency of your icing from stiff to soft. Your objective, then, is to initially produce a very stiff, bright white icing that, when disturbed by a spoon or mixer paddle, does not quickly flatten. If you add too much water, your icing will quickly settle into a flat surface. You can correct this by adding more sifted powdered sugar to the mix, but in the beginning, err on the side of not adding enough water.

General discussion

The initial batch of Royal Icing is quite thick, demanding a heavy-duty mixer. If you are on a budget, the Hamilton Beach 63325 6-Speed Stand Mixer is a good buy.

A survey of several Royal Icing recipes with meringue powder indicates that approximately 3 tablespoons meringue powder per 4 cups (1 pound) of powdered sugar is common.

A survey of several recipes that use egg whites suggests that 2 to 3 egg whites per 4 cups of powdered sugar is standard, with 3 egg whites per 4 cups of powdered sugar the most popular. Additional egg whites make a stiffer icing. Although some packages of pasteurized egg whites provide different equivalents, 2-tablespoons of liquid egg whites equal the whites of one large egg.

For a very well documented set of information related to the initial batch of Royal Icing, check the beautifully illustrated article by SemiSweet (Mike Tamplin) on SemiSweetDesigns.com.

Drying and storing Royal Icing of any type

  • Freshly decorated cookies taste best, with my preference being within two days of being iced. Icing on stored decorated cookies becomes harder and more crispy as they age.
  • While crispy icing is pretty, pay attention to the quality of your cookie. Cookies exposed to high humidity become limp, with some softness appearing under the icing.
  • Royal Icing can be stored in the refrigerator for several days. Place a plastic covering directly on the icing, then seal the container over that covering with an air-tight lid.
  • Over time, egg white-based frosting can separate, especially if left out at room temperature. In my opinion, if it does, do not use, whether raw or pasteurized.
  • After applying icing to cookies, the best practice calls for drying the icing under a fan. Depending on icing thickness, room humidity, and whether or not the recipe calls for light corn syrup, cookies dry within a few hours to up to 24.
  • To keep cookies crisp, store iced cookies in an air tight container with parchment paper between them or in individual, air-tight bags.
  • Check to make sure there is no condensation in your container or bag when storing iced cookies in the refrigerator.
  • Work in an air conditioned environment. Avoid making Royal Icing or frosting cookies with it when the humidity in your environment is high. Check your atmosphere on a digital humidity monitor. Even heated rooms can suffer from high humidity, especially a kitchen.
  • Under normal to low humidity days, iced cookies can be left out for a few days, during which period the icing becomes harder. On high humidity days, if the cookies are left out, you will lose the crispness of the sugar cookie and possibly destroy your work.

Links

Article series

This article is updated periodically, with its most recent version noted by date.

To see a list of all articles in this series in the order written, CLICK HERE

**Note: 10X refers to a finely milled powder sugar with cornstarch is added to prevent caking.

 

Questions? Comments? Additions? Corrections? Write to Karen Little at karen@Littleviews.com


Written for Littleviews-Crafts.com by Karen Little, publisher. All rights reserved, but feel free to re-publish this article after contacting Karen so she knows where to find it.

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Royal Icing: Pictures of Consistencies (to be updated in February)

Example of Royal Icing flooded cookies

Creating the right consistency of Royal Icing for use in your frosting design projects is similar to creating the right consistency of clay to make pottery. From the initial batch, you either add water to make slip and slurry, or powdered sugar (which is pottery’s equivalent to adding more clay) to make it thicker.

TO BE UPDATED BY MARCH: I now exclusively recommend Royal Icing to be made from pasteurized egg whites, although raw egg whites behave similarly. As my pictures are from various recipe batches, I need to replace them using my recipe of choice.

Similar to using a starter for yogurt or sour dough bread, create a single “starter” batch of thick Royal Icing from which other consistencies and colors are derived.

Following any of the recipes shared HERE or on the Internet, your first batch will be thick. You can tell that it is thick because when its dropped into a bowl with a spoon or from a beater, thick Royal Icing slowly drapes into mounds, then continues to flatten.

The following pictures show the stages of settling:

The picture below shows this batch completely settled into a flat glossy surface.

“As is,” this batch was too thick to pipe borders (outlines) on sugar cookies through a piping bag and tip, so using a spray bottle, I spritzed a tiny amount of water into it to make it more pliable.

  • Piped borders, like the ones seen below, outline areas into which flood consistency Royal Icing is flowed.
  • How much water is used to change the consistency from thick to flood? Only a tiny amount. As you work with Royal Icing, you’ll discover that it is very easy to add too much water and if you do, you need to thicken the batch again by sifting a small amount of powdered sugar back into it.

Creating Soft (flood) Icing: Flood icing is used to quickly fill in designated areas with smooth surfaces.

To make flood icing in orange and blue for this example, I scooped icing out of my original white batch, then added a tiny amount of water to it so, after thorough mixing, the icing leisurely settled into a flat surface in somewhere between 10 and 15 seconds. When satisfied, I split this batch into two and for this example, tinted the new batches with orange and blue gel food coloring.

Should you make note of how many seconds it takes to flatten? No, because various recipes and the humidity of your work environment affect timing. Most important is that you observe the behavior of your mixture. If the icing runs off a spoon like gravy, it is too wet. If it flows off a spoon in chunks (similar to medium thick icing), it is too dry.

Your consistency is OK if it flows in a fluid manner (like thick, hot pudding) and you can pour it inside a cookie’s Royal Icing border, then nudge it so it meets the inside edges of the border, but doesn’t spill over it.

  • Flood large areas by using a piping bag with a fairly large tip, such as a Wilton Piping Tip size 8, or drop it from a spoon or rubber spatula (among many utensils suitable for the job).
  • Nudging can be accomplished with a tooth pick, a slim pointed object, or even craft sticks.

What if your icing is not OK and you can’t flow or nudge it? Is your icing ruined? No! Simply add a tiny amount of water to your batch, mix and test. If it flows too much and is runny, sift a small amount of powdered sugar into the batch to thicken it, stir, then test.

Creating Very Stiff Royal Icing: This consistency is used for piping detail and does not change shape after being manipulated or extruded through a piping tip. As you can see below, peaks and crevices do not change unless they are manually pushed.

To stiffen a batch of Royal Icing, sift a small amount of powdered sugar into it, stir, and test. I developed the blue flow icing used in this example from the above batch of stiff icing to demonstrate how easy it is to change the consistency of Royal Icing from very stiff, to medium, to flow and back again.

Avoiding Consistency Problems: Adding too much water makes the icing runny. To correct, sift some powdered sugar into the batch, mix thoroughly, and test. Too stiff? Using a spray bottle, spritz a tiny amount of water into the batch, mix and test. A little water goes a long way.

Avoiding Application Problems: I recommend using the egg white or the light corn syrup-added recipes as I had trouble with the meringue-powder-only recipe which tends to pit and dent. For all recipes, however, if you notice bubbles appearing, prick them with a toothpick or pick as soon as noticed, or possibly, gently shake the cookie to encourage the flood frosting to settle down. Move quickly as the skin on the icing sets quickly. If you take too much time, you’ll introduce wrinkles or tracks on the surface.

Karen Little’s Comments

This article is updated periodically, with its most recent version noted by date.

Article Series

To see a list of all articles in this series in the order written, CLICK HERE

Questions? Comments? Additions? Corrections? Write to Karen Little at karen@Littleviews.com


Written for Littleviews-Crafts.com by Karen Little, publisher. All rights reserved, but feel free to re-publish this article after contacting Karen so she knows where to find it.

Royal Icing: How to Keep Sugar Flakes Off Your Work Area (update 1/20/19)

To avoid spoiling our creations from unwanted sugar flakes, we have to keep our Royal Icing decorating area very clean.

Unfortunately, sugar flakes caused by frosting drying on our fingers, piping bags, and other utensils often drop onto our work.

Even wiping up with paper towels can be problematic. Icing quickly dries on these towels, generating even more flakes on our work surface every time we pick one up.

You can, however, defeat sprinkling sugar flakes on your pretty cookies by using the following six inexpensive items:

  1.  Use disposable piping bags in sets of 2
  2.  Ateco 399 piping tip covers
  3.  Pastry tips with couplers
  4.  Snack bag clips
  5.  Cookie turntable
  6.  and many damp microfiber washcloths . . .

Products to Help Keep Your Royal Icing Work Area Clean

You can buy disposable piping bags online from Amazon, Walmart, bakery supply houses, and vendor sites, as well as from local hobby stores (most of which have online presence).

Use disposable piping bags in sets of two. Fill the first one with Royal Icing and use the second bag to cover the first, thereby trapping any icing schemers inside. To make the two bags easier to handle, I recommend that you trim the cover bag two inches shorter than the frosting bag.

Ateco makes piping tip covers that slide over the actual piping tip and the coupler holding the tip to the pastry bag. When joined to the coupler, the cover prevents frosting from leaking out of the tip.

To solve the problem of Royal Icing drying at the tip, stuff a small amount of damp paper towel into the cover so that the tip abuts the towel. Adjust this as needed.

Note that Ateco products relate to one another. If you have non-Ateco couplers, they might fit these covers, but check first. For more selections, do a Google Search on “piping tip covers,” always making sure that the covers you select match the couplers you have.

I recommend using flat snack clips to bind the tops of pastry bags. They are easy to see, use, and wash. If you can’t find them in your local grocery store, check online under the phrase “snack bag clips.” I purchase mine from IKEA.

To avoid getting Royal Icing on your fingers (a sure source of sugar flakes), use a small, round turntable to turn your cookies, instead of turning them with your fingers. This a 3-inch diameter Lazy Susan Turntable by VXB Bearings is the perfect size for most cookies and your budget at around $7. (There is also a clear acrylic version, but it is not commonly in stock.)

If your cookies are small, set them directly on the turntable’s surface. For larger cookies, make a larger surface by cutting a circle from a stiff acrylic sheet, such as sold by Grafix Craft Plastic Sheets, and attaching it to the turntable with Scotch Restickable Tabs. Check your local office supply store for similar products.

Notice – the design of this turntable has changed slightly and as of January 23, 2019, I have not yet tested it. It seems to have smoother rotating properties.

Keep in mind that you clean the turntable by wiping, not dunking in dish water. If you want an extra layer of sanitation, cut a circle from parchment paper and affix it to the top with double sided tape.

Now then, to wipe away frosting as you work, I recommend keeping one or two damp microfiber “smooth” wash cloths at your side, preferably the face cloth size. These cloths are commonly available, however, if a shopping center isn’t nearby, Amazon and Walmart always have a good selection.

Using the Recommended Products

By using two disposable piping bags together, the outer one, which holds the coupler and piping tip, always stays clean and free of frosting flakes. You can even exchange the inner one without having to redo the outer one, something I find handy if I have to change a consistency.

For ease of handling, cut the top of the outer bag about 1.5 to 2-inches shorter than the inner bag which holds the icing.

The photo above shows an outer bag complete with coupler and tip.

The photo below shows a filled inner bag before the tip was cut.

To assemble, snip the tip of the filled bag, then quickly slip it into the coupler as seen in the next picture. The arrow points to the assembly area that, in this case, also includes a piping tip cover.

Note: The cut tip should be a reasonable size, which is smaller than the coupler opening, but not so small that squeezing frosting out of the hole is difficult.

Once assembled, squeeze the top of the bags so frosting doesn’t escape and seal with a snack bag clip.

Note that whether using two or one bags, dried icing can fall from an open bag top.

When your icing bag looks like the picture above, make sure you seal its top completely. Without a seal, if you accidentally brush against the bag, your work area will be showered with frosting flakes. Under this condition, I seal a messy top with a snack bag clip in addition to the clip I attach to the pressure point.

Use a Lazy Susan to protect the sides of your freshly frosted cookie from being touched by your fingers and keep your fingers free of frosting. This Lazy Susan rotates with a slight hesitation. To relieve that, slip a drop or two of light oil between the bearing’s housings.

Notice – the design of this turntable has changed slightly and as of January 23, 2019, I have not yet tested it. It seems to have smoother rotating properties.

During all phases of your project, regularly wipe surfaces clean with a damp cloth. I prefer using damp microfiber washcloths, and always have two or more by my side. A paper towel is handy, but frosting drys on it, so when you lift it up, sugar flakes often fall off.

To protect the frosting in your piping tip from drying out when being used, use a tip cover or rest it on one half of a damp washcloth, then flip the other half over the tip.

Links

Article Series

For Royal Icing recipes, CLICK HERE.

For a list of all articles in this series in the order written, CLICK HERE

Questions? Comments? Additions? Corrections? Write to Karen Little at karen@Littleviews.com


Written for Littleviews-Crafts.com by Karen Little, publisher. All rights reserved, but feel free to re-publish this article after contacting Karen so she knows where to find it.

 

 

 

 

 

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How to Test Royal Icing for Consistency (to be updated in February)

Consistency describes the behavior of Royal Icing required to achieve your objectives. The right consistency is based upon:

<+> Recipe: The behavior and outcome of differing Royal Icing recipes can be very dissimilar, especially when corn syrup is added.

<+> Timing: This measures the period it takes to transform its shape after being manipulated from mounded to flat.

<+> Piping Tips: The ease of extrusion from a very small tip and a large one is different. When you test, test with the tip or tips you plan on using. One consistency might not be good for all. Possibly you’ll need to strain the icing to eliminate any imperfection in order to work with tiny tips.

<+> Humidity: Some Royal Icing is more affected by humidity than others. Knowing this ahead of time can prevent a presentation failure at an outdoor event.

<+> Tooth: Some designs require very hard icing that results in crunchy chewing, and others, medium hard icing that is softer to bite. Select the recipe that meets your needs.

Click HERE to review recipes posted on this site. Decide whether you want hard or medium hard texture, as well as whether it should have a glossy or dull exterior. Choose your recipe accordingly.

To Be Updated: After performing many tests to determine what Royal Icing recipe produced the best and most consistent results, I now exclusively recommend recipes using pasteurized egg whites. The fails shown here were all the result of recipes using meringue powder, with or without the addition of light corn syrup. None of these appeared when using recipes based on pasteurized or raw egg whites, however, I specifically recommend pasteurized egg whites for sanitation reasons.

Examples of Iced Cookies

Here are a few examples of Royal Icing art I collected on Pinterest.

When you plan your icing project, be aware that every distinct section of a Royal Icing decorated cookie requires a unique batch of Royal Icing. Each unique batch is defined by consistency (use), its color and possibly the tip sized used to pipe it, with all batches being subsets of the initial batch.

A single cookie design, like the green hearts below, can easily be made up of multiple batches. The green hearts below might require 4 to 6 batches, each with its own piping bag, and the same for the smiling faces.

Many designs require a smooth base layer, others might need a lot of semi-stiff outlines first. Pay attention to your batch consistencies and the order in which you will use them.

In the example to the left, below, a pink semi-stiff outline was applied first, then a white flood icing filled in the space. To the right, a purple outline was applied first, then a white flood icing, and then a purple flood icing was piped into the white icing, making a smooth top. Below is an example of icing adjusted to make pearls (or dots). Note they have rounded tops without any points.

If you do not test all of your design’s batches for consistency prior to using them, sections of your design might fail, rendering overall disappointing results.

Consistency Testing Benchmarks

Every batch is similar in use to a pan of paint in a watercolor set, or a tube of acrylic paint. The difference is that you can buy individual paints, but you usually cannot buy the royal icing consistency and color that you need. You must mix your icing so it can be used in stages, as follows:

  • Flood: Used to fill large areas with icing as well as for wet-on-wet designs. Settles from lumpy to flat in approximately 8 to 12 seconds.
  • Slightly stiff: Used to pipe dots or pearls. Settles from lumpy to flat in approximately 10 to 12 seconds.
  • Flexible: Used for piping borders that keep flooded frosting from spreading uncontrollably. Settles from lumpy to flat in approximately 15 seconds.
  • Stiff: Used to make crisp piped lines that hold their shapes.  Settles from lumpy to flat in approximately 20 or far more seconds. When you pipe stiff icing, its extracted shape when pushed out of the tip does not spread.

Tools to Test Your Batches

My article, Royal Icing: Test for Royal Icing Consistency by Using Tiny Piping Cones, describes disposable “mini-tools” for use in consistency testing.

When you decide that a batch is perfect, cover it with plastic wrap or other material that makes an air-tight seal, or immediately fill your piping bag.

Cookie Substitutions

Ideally, you can test your batches on cookies, scraping the icing off your samples so you can reuse the cookies. Instead of wasting cookies, however, pipe your samples onto small pieces of heavy paper or plastic. I recommend using twelve-by-twelve inch Grafix Craft Plastic Sheets. Cut the large sheets into smaller sections, then use the sections for test surfaces. The sheets are reusable.

Note that I do not remove their backing which would render them crystal clear in order to make them easier to see on my work surface.

To Time or To Observe?

As of January 28, this section will be completely updated and will be finished on or before  the end February.

. . . you need to pay attention to your icing’s behavior. Initially, I described this behavior in terms of how many seconds the icing takes to change after manipulation, but after extensive testing, have not found that advice to be particularly accurate.

The following is a brief description of consistencies you need to aim for. The photos in my article, “Royal Icing: Pictures of Consistencies,” might be more helpful.

  • Flood: Settles from disturbed to flat somewhat quickly, but not like liquid
  • Slightly stiff: Settles from disturbed to flat not as quickly, although flood and slightly stiff, are sometimes the same.
  • Flexible: Settles from disturbed to flat not as quickly as the other two.
  • Stiff: Does not settle from disturbed to flat, however, if it is too stiff, the frosting will catch on a piping tip and begin to curl up against the tip instead of dropping out of it. The stiffness is dependent on the size tip you use, with very small tips needing a softer, more flexible consistency than bigger tips. If you cannot extrude the icing at all, or have to apply a lot of pressure to do so, it is too stiff and needs a tiny bit of water to soften it up.

When you are satisfied with your batch’s consistency, pipe a small amount onto thick paper or plastic, and watch it dry. Within a short time, flaws may appear and if so, make adjustments to your batch and re-test.

If your batch is perfect, seal its container, or load it into a piping bag. You are now ready to start decorating.

Speed Up Drying Your Royal Icing

A well-tested recommendation is that you dry your iced cookies under a fan or next to a small space heater with a fan (or even both). The photo below shows cookies being dried next to a small space heater.

Storing Your Cookies

Keep in mind that your recipe dictates whether your iced cookies will have an exceptionally hard surface or just a very firm surface. A very firm surface will be more susceptible to humidity than a hard surface, but it provides a softer bite.

Humidity also affects the physical cookie. The more humidity present, the softer a once-crisp butter cookie gets.

Your job is to protect the icing and the cookie, even though a hard icing probably can withstand the general atmosphere.

Should you stack your cookies in a single container, layer them on parchment so that they don’t sit directly on one another.

If your cookies are exceptionally important, such as being made for an event to take place in five days, consider wrapping each cookie in an air-tight bag.

For general storage, consider investing in vacuum storage containers such as sold on Amazon, Walmart, and Bed Bath and Beyond.

Planning Your Royal Icing-making Tasks

To simplify your planning, roughly sketch out your needs. In my sketches, I note the approximate consistency required by seconds, volume, color, and tip required. I show volume by drawing a “piping bag” relative in size to the other bags being used, from large to medium to small.

Article Series

For Royal Icing recipes, CLICK HERE.

For a list of all articles in this series in the order written, CLICK HERE

Questions? Comments? Additions? Corrections? Write to Karen Little at karen@Littleviews.com


Written for Littleviews-Crafts.com by Karen Little, publisher. All rights reserved, but feel free to re-publish this article after contacting Karen so she knows where to find it.

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