Category: Royal Icing and Sugar Cookie Decoration

Royal Icing Recipes (update 4/23/19)

Royal Icing primarily consists of egg whites whipped with powdered sugar, plus a little flavoring,. Unfortunately, recipe directions very greatly as do ingredients which can include raw egg whites, pasteurized egg whites, or dry, meringue powder.

I began making Royal Icing in late 2017 and was disappointed with the results. By mid 2018, I began testing a number of recipes and believe that the one I provide here is foolproof.

This recipe contains pasteurized egg whites, fine (10x) powdered sugar, and a touch of flavoring. It dries to a smooth surface, does not bubble under the surface as it dries, does not pit at piping junctures, is easy to flow, and is not dull.

Recipe for Very Firm Royal Icing

Ingredients:

2 pounds of fine (**10x) powdered sugar or 8 rounded cups of powdered sugar

11 tablespoons (5.5 ounces) of pasteurized egg whites (you’ll find this product where eggs are sold)

2 “slight” teaspoons of flavoring, to taste

Instructions:

There is no order for mixing the ingredients. Simply put them all into a bowl at the same time, then turn your heavy-duty mixer on, using an easy-to-clean paddle beater.

Detail: Start on a low speed so that dry ingredients don’t fly about. Increase the speed to high until everything is pure white. Scrape so there is no loose powdered sugar left on the sides of your bowl.

There is no highly exact recipe for making Royal Icing, however, duplicating a successful recipe by measuring weight is more accurate than by using measuring cups and spoons. Below, for example, is a “rounded cup” of powdered sugar. Creating Royal Icing provides a somewhat wide margin of error.

Objectives:

The consistency (thickness) of the resulting icing depends on humidity in your environment and the amount of moisture supplied by the egg whites.

The firmer the initial batch of Royal Icing, the better, as the icing can be thinned for a variety of your needs. A very thick, stiff consistency is used for making structures like Royal Icing flowers, like those seen on the Barefoot Baker’s tutorial.

To identify a stiff consistency, stir the batch with a beater or spoon. When you lift the beater up, peaks form that do not bend or change shape. If the frosting flattens or blends even a little bit, it is not truly “stiff.”

A very thick consistency, however, displays a very minor settling of ingredients and is good for most tasks as it can also be thinned.

To identify a very thick consistency, stir the batch with a beater or spoon. When you lift the beater up, icing peaks form that very, very slowly bend over and eventually sink into a flat surface.

Adjustments are made to portions of the initial batch as your needs dictate.

To increase the stiffness of a portion, add more powdered sugar, a little at a time.

To decrease (moisten) the stiffness of a portion, add water, a little at a time. I recommend you use a glass, food-grade spray bottle to add small amounts of water and not measuring spoons.

Light Corn Syrup:

The addition of light corn syrup to a portion produces a more pliable, elastic mixture that dries to a sheen, like in the photo that follows:

Batches without light corn syrup tend to have a dull surface, like the cookie below:

Light corn syrup is a liquid, so adding it to a portion has almost the same effect as adding water. Blogs by famed pastry implement manufacturer, Wilton, for example, suggest using light corn syrup instead of water to thin Royal Icing. Measurement is a matter of observation based on your consistency needs.

Whether water or a combination of water and light corn syrup, be careful to add it in small amounts because to repair the batch, sometimes a significant amount of powdered sugar is required.

I currently use light corn syrup almost exclusively to moisten a batch, followed as needed with only a “touch” of water. The results create a shiny surface that seem to dry quicker than surfaces without this addition. I have not, however, used it in very stiff consistencies.

Eyeball Measurement:

The most foolproof recipe for Royal Icing is the one posted here. When working with it, however, it is up to you to observe its behavior based on your needs.

Flow consistency should not be so moist that it overflows borders or cookie edges.

Piping consistency should not be so dry that you can’t get it through your piping tip, or when you can get it through your tip, not so dry that the extrusion breaks, bunches up, rides up the side of your piping tip, or hurts your hand from squeezing the piping bag.

Stiff or flower development consistency must be dry enough to go through your piping tip that results in a non-settling, distinct shape.

Sifting Powdered Sugar:

I have not found it necessary to sift 10X powdered sugar for the recipe I recommend. Even dried bits of powdered sugar will re-moisturize when stirred back into a batch.

I do not use very fine tips, however, like PME #00, #0, or #1, which can get clogged. If you do, consider straining batches of Royal Icing through a fine metal strainer. To be on the safe side, sifting additional powdered sugar into a batch as needed is a good idea (and easy to do) when using small tips of any type.

Storage:

Store the icing in an air-tight container. Consider placing plastic wrap over the icing before snapping the top on the container. It can be kept for days in a refrigerator, although the mixture must be stirred vigorously before reuse. If a great deal of moisture separation occurs after a long storage period, I recommend throwing it out.

Mixing

The initial batch of Royal Icing is quite thick and demands a heavy-duty mixer. If you are on a budget, the 300 watt, Hamilton Beach 63325 6-Speed Stand Mixer for under $100 is a good buy.

Drying and storing Royal Icing

  • Freshly decorated cookies taste best, with my preference being within three 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.
  • After applying icing to cookies, the best practice calls for drying the icing under a fan. If the icing dents when pressed, it is not completely dry.
  • 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.
  • If possible, work in an air conditioned environment. Avoid making Royal Icing or frosting cookies with it when the humidity in your environment is high or not controlled. 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 cookies’ crispness and possibly destroy your work.

Links

Article series

To see a list of all articles in this series, 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: 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 by May 10, 2019)

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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Royal Icing: Test for Royal Icing Consistency by Using Tiny Piping Cones

If you are following the steps in my Royal Icing tutorial series, this article relates to some of the items I listed in “Royal Icing: Assemble Supplies.

Because you only need a few tablespoons of Royal Icing at a time to test its consistency, use small piping cones (“bags”). Unfortunately, there are no ready-made tiny cones available to buy. Fortunately, making your own small cones is fairly easy.

Making and Using Very Small Piping Cones

The least expensive hand-made piping cones are made out of parchment paper.  Follow any of the tutorials below to learn how to construct one:

{:} Google search on “How to Make Parchment Piping Cones.”

{:} Video of Julia Usher on “How to Make Parchment Piping Cones.”

{:} Print article by Julia Usher on “How to Make Parchment Piping Cones.”

{:} How to Make a Mini Piping Bag

After learning how to make a standard sized cone, simply reduce the size of your  triangle. I use pre-made parchment triangles which you can find on Amizon by searching on the phrase, “Parchment Triangles for Baking.” Cut the standard triangle in half, fold, and secure the long edge with tape.

Use office binder clips to secure the top after the mini-cone is filled with icing, or tape it. Because the cone can be so small, it may be better to firmly secure the top than to roll it over like you would with a bigger cone to avoid frosting spurting out.

Note that you can also attach a metal piping tip to a paper cone, but to make a tight seal, you must tape the tip to the paper, which is not very efficient.

You can also make small bags out of standard disposable plastic pastry bags simply by cutting them down to size. The advantage to using a disposable plastic pastry bag is you can easily attach a tip to it via a coupler. Seal the top of the small bag with a snack bag clip.

If you don’t use a piping tip, clip the tip of the bag to make a small hole.

Another way to create a tiny cone is by using a sandwich or half-quart plastic bag. Remove the top seal, then cut the remaining portion in half, bottom to top. Fill a remaining section with icing, seal with a snack bag or binder clip, snip the tip, and squeeze.  Be careful that you do not squeeze so strongly that the icing comes out of the top!

The cookies below were decorated at a cookie frosting party with tiny parchment piping bags. You might find that tiny piping bags work better than big ones when you want to make a lot of designs from a wide assortment of colors. They are commonly used, in fact, for very delicate work.

Article Series

For Royal Icing recipes, CLICK HERE

For a list of all articles in this series, 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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