Category: Royal Icing and Sugar Cookie Decoration

Royal Icing: Planning How to Learn Your Art

OMG OMG, you mean I have to learn all this? That is what almost every online tutorial writer hopes you can avoid.

In the case of making and using Royal Icing there is, in fact, a lot to learn. Unlike butter cream icing, where all you have to do is mix and slather, Royal Icing can be shaped by your hands in numerous ways, with each way demanding different conditions and skills.

It is my hope that I can pinpoint what you need to learn in a way you can easily learn it. Of course, you need to practice. I promise, however, your practice will be easy.

Begin your practice by observing beautifully decorated sugar cookies and do so for several days until you identify the decorating styles and colors you most like. After you’ve identified your creative objectives (you probably will have more than one), you can begin your practice sessions.

Planning all starts with the excitement of envisioning the finished cookies. The following Pinterest links, which I collected over months, highlight my own design interests. Feel free to adopt some as your own:

Royal Icing Cookie Decoration

Wet-on-Wet and Paisley

Cookie Lace and Embroidery (highly complex Royal Icing designs)

Cookies Cute

Cookie Sticks

Illustrations (many of these illustrations can be piped on cookies)

Perhaps now, when you look at the following photo,  you’ll understand where I got my inspiration!

When looking at beautiful examples, note the details and try to figure out how they were made:

  • Design style: Royal Icing can duplicate the ancient art of ebru, where colors sitting in a liquid medium are dragged through one another. Illustration techniques, like line drawing, can also be used, and patterns can include cute images or simple shapes and dots
  • Color: If, for example, you fall in love with designs outlined in black, you’ll require more study on how to achieve it than designs outlined in pastels.
  • Piping style: Do you like very thin, intricate piping strokes like the Cookie Lace examples I linked to above? Or do you like thicker outlines that are easier to achieve?
  • Dots: God, I love dots! They require special skills, however, unrelated to piped lines.
  • Thick or thin: I love very flat, smooth cookie frosting, possibly jazzed up with dots. Other people love thick frosting built up with piping and appliqued Royal Icing objects, like flowers.
  • Design subjects: Do you like cute comical figures? Flowers? Insects? Plants? Seasonal images? Avant garde? Random?
  • Commercial subjects: Want to reproduce commercial logos or representation of real things, such as a can of soda?
  • Paint or Pipe: Do you love smooth Royal Icing under painted images, or do you prefer the somewhat 3-dimensional look of piped icing?

Your design and color choices all demand specific planning which is what you’ll study in this tutorial series.

Details often seem overwhelming to a beginning Royal Icing decorator, especially if that decorator does not have all the equipment and supplies needed. To address that, review the check-list in the second article of this series and stock up: Royal Icing: Assemble Supplies Before Beginning to Learn

Accept that you need planning abilities as well as Royal Icing application skills. Hopefully, this series will help you learn everything. The secret behind my belief? Do not start by baking a lot of sugar cookies for practice because you can never make enough. Instead, follow a suggestion made by Julia Usher. Frost clear plastic sheets that lay over patterns for you to trace. When done, wash the frosting off, or let the frosting harden and eat it like candy.

The images below show Grafix “Clean Craft Plastic” over printed images for tracing. I made the green outline in the photo so you can see the edges of the sheet, otherwise, they are invisible.

I started my own Royal Icing design odyssey by first learning how to flood the frosting base into a smooth, shiny surface. When dry, I proceeded to freehand decorate the hardened base using numerous colors piped with handmade parchment piping cones. Unfortunately, while the finished cookies looked cute, they did not live up to my expectations. Fortunately, friends and family liked to eat them.

The problem that held my skills back was that I was not organized. During every cookie frosting session, I missed critical items and my work area turned into a sticky mess. Yes, I produced cookies, but did so along with frustration. Hopefully, this series of tutorials will help you recognize pitfalls in order to avoid them.

Costs of Becoming a Royal Icing Artist

Unlike cake decorating, sugar cookie decoration is inexpensive. Your most expensive equipment is a heavy-duty stand mixer, such as with an excellent Hamilton Beach model under $100. You can, however, spend much more, making sure that your mixer is powered by at least a 300 watt motor.

Cash Investment in Practicing: Buy two to three, 2-pound bags of extra-fine (10X) powdered sugar.  In my area, three bags of powdered sugar cost around $10 total. A boxed set of 12 Wilton gel colors runs around $12 and a 1-pound bag of meringue powder, around $17. You should become an expert for under $30.

Time Investment in Practicing: Gradually build your skills. Because you will not be practicing on real cookies and you can schedule short practice sessions using your pre-made Royal Icing, you’ll have time for short practice periods, rather than long ones that include a lot of baking and related cleanup.

The remaining tutorial articles in this series address each skill set. As it develops, I will cross-link information, plus update earlier articles as needed. If you’d like to have a report on the progress of developing the series, drop me an email at Karen@Littleviews.com and I’ll send you updates as well as ask for your opinions and insights.

Article Series

For Royal Icing recipes, CLICK HERE

To see 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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Royal Icing: First Steps in Learning Cookie Decoration

Royal Iced sugar cookies can be miniature works of art. Because cookies tend to be small (maybe 3-inches in diameter), learning how to frost them seems easy.

Want to learn? There are numerous tutorials on the web, including formal tutorials featured on Craftsy.com and on YouTube by pros like Julia Usher, plus informal ones produced by people who simply want to share what they know so you can grow.

I began my quest to learn Royal Icing techniques in late December 2017 by signing up with Stephanie Kappel’s Craftsy course. From there, I sought out all the written and video information I could find. Unfortunately, while I’ve made some pretty cookies, I found that organizing Royal Icing sessions, perfecting techniques, and deciding upon a design style is difficult at home without expert guidance.

The photo above shows one of my early sessions where I practiced mixing different Royal Icing consistencies in hopes that I could produce perfectly round dots. The photo below shows a successful batch, although my skill is not at “pro” level.

I need to learn more and with my husband away on a trip, I can devote 8 days to uninterrupted study, which this series of posts documents. During this time, not one cookie will be produced. Instead, training materials, such as clear acrylic sheets, will be used exclusively. Baking cookies and practicing on them is time consuming, especially when the purpose of learning centers around frosting consistency, piping bags, and area flooding, not the cookies themselves.

The following is an outline of the topics to be shared. Some might be dropped by the end of 8 days, while others added.

  • How to Set Up a Learning Session and How Much Time You Should Spend Doing it: The fun part of starting is acquiring all the supplies. The maybe not so much fun is the time you need to spend learning the craft.
  • Perfect Royal Icing Frosting: There are generally two types, with and without corn syrup. I prefer the corn syrup variety and in this step, I tell you why.
  • Piping Bags for Royal Icing: You can make the bags out of parchment paper, use plastic cones that can be fit with frosting tips, or simple Baggies. I’ll discuss the pros and cons of each.
  • Holding Piping Bags: If you don’t hold the bags correctly, or if your icing is lumpy, squeezing a bag can squish frosting all over the place. I’ll discuss how you can practice until you find a bag-holding style or styles you like.
  • Royal Icing Consistency: Royal Icing is the paint used to decorate cookies. If you do not mix your paint correctly, your decorated cookies will be a mess. I’ll show you how to figure out consistency issues no matter what frosting recipe you use, as well as tell you the differences.
  • Flooding Royal Icing: The technique you learn here (taught by Julia Usher) is the fastest. Forget about piping bags. Spread your frosting with a spoon and a paint brush.
  • Wet-on-Wet Designs: These designs are based on ancient arts, which in Turkey are called Ebru, or Turkish Marbling Art. This type of design produces the thinnest frosting crust, and makes beautiful displays without a lot of extra design training.
  • Piping Outlines and illustrations: This is what most people want to achieve when working with Royal Icing.  Hopefully, by this point, I can show you how it is done.

Article Series

For Royal Icing recipes, CLICK HERE

To see 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.

How to Learn Royal Icing Wet-on-Wet Techniques Without Cookies

I am a relatively new Royal Icing cookie decoration hobbyist who has struggled to figure out how to learn techniques on a limited number of cookies.

Yes, I know that many cookie decoration teachers recommend practicing piping on paper before attempting it on cookies, but it never occurred to me that wet-on-wet techniques, where you create patterns by dragging colors over each other, could also be learned that way.

The picture below shows my “instruction” area after finishing an hour or so of experimentation.  It includes a long sheet of parchment paper (I actually went through several) and three colors of Royal Icing in flow consistency.  It also shows my main tools: tongue depressors purchased at Michael’s, plastic sandwich bags, a scissors, and unseen, wooden toothpicks with sharp points.

Testing Royal Icing Frosting on Parchment Paper

I used the corn syrup-based Royal Icing recipe (see HERE on Julia Usher’s site), but you can use any with the knowledge that the corn syrup recipe requires you to work faster.

I prepared all three colors using the same flow consistency, allowing the Royal Icing to flood areas. White for the pretend “cookie,” and two other colors which I used to experiment with pattern.

To get started, I created ultra-small piping bags out of disposable, plastic lunch bags. I did this by cutting off the top of a bag, then cutting the remainder in half, leaving a corner on each remaining piece. I could have used standard piping bags with tips or hand-made parchment bags, but my objective was for a quick and easy experiment and these little baggie parts worked.

Mini frosting piping tube made from a sandwich bag

 

Using a Mini frosting piping tube made from a sandwich bag

I filled each little bag with about a tablespoon of frosting, squeeze off the top (I twisted the bag, then clamped it with a small office clip) and when everything was ready, cut a small hole at the point.

To practice, I smeared white Royal Icing cookie frosting on the paper, then proceeded to test wet-on-wet techniques by piping colored frosting on the white and dragging a toothpick through the mixture.

The following are pictures of “the mix” and resulting “drag.” Keep in mind that I am just learning how to do this, so these pictures look honest, but not polished.

Example of Royal Icing wet-on-wet pattern

 

Example of Royal Icing wet-on-wet pattern

 

Example of Royal Icing wet-on-wet pattern

 

Circular wet-on-wet design with Royal Icing

My next articles on this subject will demonstrate how to create wet-on-wet designs based on pulling frosting into and out of circles and pulling frosting in opposite directions on lines.

Don’t wait for my upcoming articles if you need to experiment, however. Frosting parchment paper not only provides an excellent canvas for experimentation, after 24 hours, the dried frosting can be peeled off as candy and the process also teaches you how to make transfers, as discussed on my article, Create Royal Icing Designs Without Cookies.

More information on this subject is posted in Royal Icing Paisley, Mandela, and Wet-on-Wet Design Links, found under my Crafts tab.

Questions? Comments? Please write me at Karen Little at Info@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.

Create Royal Icing Designs Without Cookies

This is an article about a subject, use of Royal Icing pattern material for Royal Icing transfers, that I know nothing about!

I happened on this information by accident when creating this new (as of April 2018) website. It answered a burning question I had about how a Royal Icing cookie artist could make so many exact same designs for an order.

To produce dozens of designs, it seemed to me that a designer would need a lot of pre-made sugar cookies, then hope that in the process of replicating the design,  she or he would not make a mistake.

Littleviews: Example of cookie patterns in use from the Country Kitchen Sweethart siteI’ve read about various ways designs could be copied and transferred to cookies, but all seem very clumsy. After the third cookie, it seems to me that designer would get sick of using them.

Well! It turns out that the Royal Icing recipe is also a recipe for sugar candy. After it is piped, it turns hard and can be lifted off a surface and pasted onto a cookie using an underlay of Royal Icing or other pasting product.

I have yet to try this, but using pattern material seems like a great way to develop skills! I plan on trying one or two patterns sold on the Country Kitchen Sweetart site.

I do not plan on replicating the patterns to paste on cookies, however. I am not a fan of very hard Royal Icing. Still, this technique might be useful with my own corn syrup-based recipe. I won’t know until I try.

I encourage you to visit Country Kitchen Sweetart’s website and rest assured, I have no business arrangement with it. If you just started being a Royal Icing cookie decorator, you’ll find this site’s products quite interesting. The company is in Fort Wayne, Indiana.  If you live nearby, or like to travel, they host classes on pastry-decorating topics that seem to be worth-while attending.

As my own site is new, I do not yet have a forum or discussion area, so if you use these pattern-makers, or something similar, let me know at Info@Littleviews.com (as well as sign up for my once-a-month newsletter).

Should you want to investigate before I add more information, do a web search on the subject of how to use Royal Icing transfer material.

PS: Since writing this, I started the page, Royal Icing Transfer Links. There, I posted videos by Julia Usher that demonstrate the topic, and am starting to gather reference sites, which will be updated periodically.

Contact me, Karen Little, at Info@Littleviews.com