01 Mar Tips for Working with Royal Icing
Hello! If you’re coming over here from the Beginner Tips for Creating Instagram Worthy Cookies, welcome back! If you’re just tuning in, this post is going to delve into all things royal icing, the proverbial ink of decorated cookies.
I’m not going to sugar coat it, royal icing takes practice. The name of the game when it comes to decorating cookies is CONSISTENCY. Nothing is going to substitute for repetition and being able to visually see when your icing is right, but there is a hack to testing your royal icing to know if it is the consistency you need it be for whatever technique you are using. We will dive deeper into that below.
The first thing to talk about though is how to manipulate your royal icing. You’ve just whipped up a batch of your favorite recipe in the mixer and it should be at stiff peaks. But you need it thinner to flood the base of your cookie. The tools you will use to change the all too important consistency of your icing are water and powdered sugar. To thin out your icing, you are going to add water; I use an eye dropper to add water a little at a time until it reaches the desired consistency. Some cookiers will also use a spray bottle on a mist setting to slowly add. When you need to go the opposite way and make your icing more stiff, simply add powdered sugar and stir thoroughly so you don’t have any lumps.
So let’s get down to brass tacks; “How do I know what consistency to use?” The hack we are going to use, is simply to count. You have a bowl of thinned out royal icing, now draw or cut a line through the icing and start counting. Stop counting when the
line has disappeared and the royal icing has merged back in on itself. That numberis what we would call the “count” of the icing. Now we can dive into what consistency icing we use for different techniques.
Lets start with icing at its stiff peaks. This consistency doesn’t necessarily have a count associated with it, but it still has its applications. You would use stiff consistency icing for when you need very defined details like piping flowers, ruffles, or when using a stencil. Icing at this consistency will not fold in on itself. I use this application most often when I’m creating royal icing flower transfers, which is where you are piping your florals on a flower pick, letting them dry completely, and then transferring them to your cookie. I like to store my royal icing at stiff consistency, because it has less water in it, so it is less likely to separate the longer it sits.
So now we use our spray bottle and add water in a little at a time until we get to more of a soft peak stage. If we draw a line through this we would say this is anywhere from a 25-30 second count icing. This consistency would be used for creating an outline, detail work, and lettering. It still has some stiffness to it so it is easy to control, but it wont leave peaks and harsh edges. I use this consistency most frequently when writing script on cookies. It is soft enough to where my lines cross over each other they merge together and become clean and smooth.
If we add a little more water ,we get to the oh so important 10-15 second count icing. This is the consistency I use most frequently, because this is what you’re going to use to flood cookies. So if we draw a line through this icing it will take about 15 seconds for it disappear back in on itself. Flooding is one the most important skills for creating beautiful cookies. Too thick of icing and you don’t get that nice smooth glass like surface. Too thin and your icing runs everywhere and probably over the sides of your cookies. This consistency icing takes practice to master but it is oh so satisfying when you get it down and you flood perfectly pristine cookies!
You can go a little thinner than this to a 5 to 8 count icing if you have to flood larger areas, however you would need to pipe an outline and let it set before flooding, otherwise you’ll end up with a literal mess all over your hands!
And that’s that! Once again I cannot stress enough how much practice makes perfect when it comes to royal icing. The more times you use it, the more you’ll be able to really see when the consistency is right. But even if it’s your first time decorating cookies, this information will put you far ahead of where I was when I decorated my first set! Share any of your favorite royal icing tips and tricks with me below!