Category: Royal Icing and Sugar Cookie Decoration

Royal Icing: Humidity and Royal Icing Storage

Humidity, whether present when you decorate with Royal Icing, when you serve your decorated cookies, or when you store your icing transfers or cookies themselves, will ruin your work.

This article is about how to prevent problems related to humidity, and possibly how to fix damaged icing or cookies due to humidity. The good thing about decorating with Royal Icing, however, if all goes wrong, you can always eat your work.

For starters, here is a list of never do-es:

  • If your environment is not air conditioned, avoid decorating cookies when the humidity is over 70%: High humidity softens sugar cookies and prohibits icing from quickly drying, which leads to mottled colors that run into each other.
  • Even if it is cool out and you must make cookies in high-humidity weather, consider running your air conditioner. Wear a sweater if needed.
  • Never put a plate of beautifully decorated cookies out in a hot, high-humidity atmosphere (like at a lake-side picnic) as they will turn soft.
  • If you transport cookies, do not do it in a hot environment.
  • If you transport cookies by mail, make sure every cookie is completely dry and packaged in some type of air-tight container. Consider placing a silicon “anti-humidity” packets in the container, too.
  • Do not refrigerate or freeze Royal Icing or cookies unless everything is sealed in air-tight containers along with silicon packets.
  • Do not store Royal Icing or cookies if they already start to soften.

The photo below shows what high humidity can do to Royal Icing:

The darker the colors, the more evidence of how moisture condensation from high humidity can be seen. In the above photo, notice the areas where the dark green bled into the pink. The bleeding does not appear as much between compatible pastel colors, but it still exists, as seen below:

Ideally, you’ll protect your work, which is easier to do if it is served for eating within a day or so of completion. If, however, you need to store your cookies and your environmental atmosphere is not perfect, protect them.

If your cookies started to soften (if you can’t tell by touch, eat one), lightly re-bake them in the oven. In general, I warm my oven to 300-degrees (that is my lowest setting), turn the oven off, then insert a cookie sheet of already baked or frosted cookies. Leave them sit in the oven for 5 minutes or so.

I do not own a food dehumidifier, but I suspect if you have one, it would work, too. Most home food dehumidifiers are small, so if space matters, experiment between it and the oven method.

A recent comment exchange on Julia Usher’s Facebook Group discussed the Chefman Food Dehydrator Machine. The woman who highly recommended this machine lives in New Jersey where the wetlands and coastal areas influence the atmosphere, so I’m inclined to believe her.

Store your cookies in a dry, cool area, but not in your refrigerator. Every time you open your refrigerator’s door, atmospheric moisture condenses inside it, coating its contents with light moisture. This, in turn raises the overall humidity inside the refrigerator which lasts a long time.

If, given your environment, your icing and cookies are very dry, store them in any air-tight container, glass or plastic.

For further protection under all conditions, include silicon packets, such as available in this assortment sold on Amazon and other online retailers.

Silicon must not be eaten or mistaken for food, so obviously take care when storing treats if children are around. A product called “Food Safe” silicon packages might answer your need, but still keep all packets out of the hands of kids. If, however, you have taken precautions, but are still concerned, paste a Mr. Yuck or other poison-alert sticker on each one, like seen below:

While air-tight containers and bags exist, if you store icing and cookies that are affected by humidity, these containers simply seal the humidity inside. If humidity is a problem, even at low levels, experiment with “re-baking” a bit, then store your cooled work immediately in an air-tight container, placed in a dark, dry place.

It is easier to ship chewy cookies, than crispy. For general advice, read “5 Mistakes to Avoid When Packing & Shipping Cookies by Maggie Battista,” first published on TheKitchen.com, December 2016.

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


Written for Littleviews-Crafts.com by Karen Little, publisher, on May 12, 2019. All rights reserved, but feel free to re-publish this article after contacting Karen so she knows where to find it.

Royal Icing: Preparing Icing Nails to Make Flowers

While you can easily pipe lines and designs with Royal Icing, making Royal Icing flowers that you can use for transfers requires precision.

If you are both skilled and steady enough, it is possible to pipe flowers directly on your cookies, but if you make a mistake, you need to throw away (or “eat”) the cookie. By making transfers, which means that you make your design, let it harden, then “glue” it onto an iced cookie via a spot of Royal Icing, you save yourself from making mistakes.

As an example, the picture below shows four previously iced cookies and on top of them, I placed previously dried Royal Icing flowers.

As of March 2019, I was new to making Royal Icing flowers so proceeded with nothing but online blogs and tutorials to guide me.  Many recommended that I use frosting nails, like sold in a 6-pack on Amazon, topped with a grid to help control sizes.

At one time, Wilton, the famous baking implement supply company, sold tacky-backed frosting nail grids to paste on their nails, but that product is no longer available. Many copies, however, exist in blogs and on Pinterest, with a very complete article on the subject by The Barefoot Baker.

Many of the original grids are for very specific flowers. In using copies, however, I found that some of the information was confusing, so I made a universal grid that can be used for everything. Pick up a full page copy of it by CLICKING HERE.

To use the grid, print out the PDF file (it fits on an 8.5×11 sheet of paper). It contains nine grids like the one seen above.

Roughly cut each grid out of the printout, and place the cutouts somewhat close together on the sticky side of a self-seal, laminating sheet. Cut the entire group of grids out of the laminating sheet and place them onto the sticky side of another laminating sheet so that they are sealed between the two sheets.

Once sealed, cut out each grid so they appear like in the following picture.

Now glue each grid to a frosting nail. You can use a stick glue or double-sided tape. You will want the grid to hold firmly while in use, but easy to remove as needed.  A glue stick works well, and in the case of a tinted stick glue, the color disappears when dried.

The final nail looks like this:

To use the grid-covered nail, dot the grid with a small amount of Royal Icing, then stick a square piece of parchment (or “waxed”) paper on it.

Pipe your Royal Icing flower onto the paper, using the grid as a guide. Slip the paper off the nail and set it and your newly created flower aside to dry.

Make several grids at the same time, more than you need for a day’s work. While they can be carefully wiped off after use and saved, if you try washing them, water seeps into the edges.

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


Written for Littleviews-Crafts.com by Karen Little, publisher, on May 4, 2019. All rights reserved, but feel free to re-publish this article after contacting Karen so she knows where to find it.

Royal Icing: Making 3 Inch Tile Sugar Cookies

Symmetrical designs are part of everyone’s heritage and have mesmerized me all my life. Symmetrical designing, in fact, is the reason I became interested in Royal Icing because it can produce a glossy surface on sugar cookies, which, in a delicious way, resembles tiles.

If you are unfamiliar with the wide range of symmetrical designs, review posts on Pinterest. There you’ll see many designs, like in the montage below, that can be adapted to cookies via Royal Icing. For examples, click the following links:

Russian Mandala Arts — Mexican Tiles — Polish Paper Cutting Arts — Danish Rosemaling — Doilies

Artists  who specialize in symmetrical designing begin their work on a grid, many of which are available on Pinterest, Etsy, and through Google searches. Based on prototypes, I created the grids below to use for sketching designs that fit within a 3-inch area. Feel free to copy and expand them for your own needs.

I print out several sheets of these grids and doodle designs on them whenever I have the time. For inspiration, I draw to themes, such as flowers, leaves, sunsbirds, fish, Hindu symbols, etc.

While the designs I doodle can be very complex, if I see a pleasing shape, I simplify it, then scan it into Photoshop for further refining. You can also simplify designs by covering them with tracing paper, and redrawing over them. When satisfied with your work, transfer your designs to heavy paper (card stock) and cut them out.

Eventually, I plan on creating silk screens to transfer the outlines to cookies, but for now, I trace the cutouts onto the cookies by hand, using food-grade pens. I then pipe a Royal Icing outline over the tracing, let the outline dry overnight, and fill it in with flowing Royal Icing the next day.

I call these creations “Tile Cookies” and plan on developing designs for 4-and 5-inch square sugar cookies in the future. I love using black Royal Icing for the piping, but if you do, make sure it is absolutely dry before filling the outline with another color as the black can bleed.

Should you try this, mix light corn syrup into your flow-consistency icing to achieve gloss. Adding the light corn syrup should maintain the flow consistency you need, not make it wetter. Add small amounts of powder sugar back to your mix if it does get too wet.

 

 

As I work with larger cookies, the designs will become more complex. Some of the designs seen here, for example, might become the centers of larger structures.

Under all circumstances, tile cookies make joyful gifts and because they are relatively flat, are easy to package. I have a dozen in each of these clear, 4-inch square, food-grade boxes below and could probably could have fit a dozen more.

An ultra-wide selection of food-grade, clear plastic packaging can be purchased from ClearBags.com. Note that I packaged the “display” cookies in small clear envelopes and grouped the remaining cookies in plastic-wrap, then surrounded the grouping with gift-box filler.

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


Written for Littleviews-Crafts.com by Karen Little, publisher, and updated on April 27, 2019. All rights reserved, but feel free to re-publish this article after contacting Karen so she knows where to find it.

Comparing Royal Icing Recipes, With and Without Corn Syrup (updated 4/25/19)

The basic Royal Icing recipe, which I call “stiff,” is made from pasteurized egg whites and powdered sugar. A variation, which I call “firm,” is made from the same two ingredients, but with slightly more moisture. That moisture can be from water, light corn syrup, or a combination of both.

I do not recommend any recipe that uses meringue powder, even though what I’m sharing here also applies to meringue powder-based recipes. If you do use that product, adding light corn syrup to that mix will improve your outcome, which might otherwise be dull, prone to pitting, sunken, or dry “in waves” or dents.

Initial Appearances

Royal Icing made with pasteurized egg whites results in an almost fool-proof product, but the addition of light corn syrup to it produces icings that dry with shiny surfaces.  Depending on the humidity and other factors, however, your initial mixture will be either stiff or firm.

The following photos show a firm mixture that flattens over time to a flat surface.

You can do almost everything with firm-but-not-stiff icing except make 3D structures, like flowers and decorative borders, which must exist without changing shape. To test whether your initial batch is very stiff or just firm, pull a spoon or mixing blade up through the mixture. Stiff peaks do not change shape, while firm peaks do. The speed in which firm peaks flatten depends upon the moisture in the mix.

Observing Consistencies

The measured ingredients of pasteurized egg whites and 10X (highly refined) powdered sugar is not exacting. Depending on the consistencies you need, adjustments are made as you work with Royal Icing by adding (or subtracting) powdered sugar or moisture (water or light corn syrup). Your success depends on your understanding of consistency.

Flood consistency: This mixture will eventually flatten, making a perfect cookie covering, like you see in the photo below. The speed in which it flattens depends on how wet it is. A good flood consistency will not be so wet that it runs off the sides of a cookie or overrides a border (barrier) you made to contain it. To change a firm consistency into a flood consistency, add light corn syrup to the mix and/or very lightly spritz it with water from a food-grade spray bottle.

Note that dots (or “pearls”), like you see in the first image on this page, are made using a consistency that that requires some testing before you commit. With the proper consistency, the tops of the dots settle into a nice rounded shape and their bodies do not spread. If the tops of your dots stand like peaks, the consistency is too dry. If they sink and run, too wet. If you see holes in them, you are probably using meringue powder without light corn syrup.

Firm, piping consistency: This mixture flows out of a piping tip when light pressure is applied to the bag, but does not pour out on its own. If it does, your mixture is too moist. If, however, a piped line appears both thick and thin and its lines ruffle or break as you pipe them, the consistency is too thick for the current task or the piping tip. When you see your icing crawl up the side of your tip, instead of dropping out, your icing is probably a bit too thick for that tip.

A very firm, almost stiff consistency is used for very precise piped lines, the width of which do not spread after being extruded, while the width of piped lines made with a softer, easier to manage consistency will spread slightly.

Stiff consistency: Usually, the initial batch is very stiff, however, many things can cause the initial batch to only be very firm. Firm icing can be used as a “starter” for most of your tasks, but if you do need a true stiff consistency, add more powdered sugar to the batch, a little at a time. Test until you see the batch meets your needs.

Piping tip consistency: Size matters. The smaller the tip, the more you must observe your adjustments. A firm consistency that flows beautifully through a #5 tip might flow too slowly through a smaller #2 and a firm consistency that flows through a #2 might be too stiff for a tiny #1.

Humidity: The best environment in which to make and use Royal Icing is one that is air conditioned. If your indoor humidity is high, it can make your sugar cookies soggy and create conditions where your Royal Icing won’t dry properly. Just because successful Royal Icing makes a hard, smooth surface, it is not stone and it will absorb atmospheric moisture. Keep your finished work packed in a refrigerated, air-tight container until ready to eat or sell. Keep it in a cooler until ready to eat at a picnic on a very hot, humid day by a lake.

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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