Royal icing is a frosting made of icing sugar and meringue powder, and sometimes flavorings are added. Because it dries hard, it’s a preferred choice for decorative cookies. You’ll use a variety of consistencies of royal icing throughout the book for the various techniques, as well as for decorative floral accents.
Decorates approximately 4 dozen 3-inch (7-and-1/2-centimeter) cookies
Add the meringue powder to a small bowl. Add the water and mix well with a paddle attachment. The texture should be smooth and not grainy.
Sift the powdered sugar before adding it to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a large mixing bowl. Add the meringue mixture. Combine on low speed for one minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Add the vanilla and continue to mix on medium-low speed for five minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed. The icing is ready when it turns bright white, is glossy, and is thick enough to hold a stiff peak. (This is “stiff consistency” icing; see below.)
If you’ve added color to the icing, it will lighten when more icing or powdered sugar is added. To maintain the original shade, add more colorant.
Refer to images in the gallery for a visual reference.
Icing that’s just been mixed has a stiff consistency that holds a peak. It won’t flow out of a piping bag and it’s not ideal for icing the base of a cookie. The look and consistency of this icing is similar to cake frosting.
You cannot count stiff icing in seconds (see tip); it does not settle when you cut through it with a knife. The icing doesn’t settle within itself.
Best for: Making petalled flowers, leaves, ruffles, stenciling, brushed embroidery, and shell borders
This consistency is comparable to that of toothpaste and should flow nicely out of a piping bag. To achieve this consistency, use a spray bottle to spritz some water in a bowl of stiff-consistency icing and mix it in. The icing should create a soft peak once piped, with the peak quickly losing its form once it settles. If the icing snaps or breaks while piping, it’s too thick and more water should be added. If piped lines don’t keep their form, the icing is too thin and will need to be thickened (see below).
Best for: Outlining shapes with sharp edges/corners and piping letters
Icing consistency count: 25 seconds (see tip)
Add more water with a spray bottle to piping-consistency icing to achieve a medium consistency. Always add the water in increments, mix thoroughly, and add more if necessary. The texture should be between flood and piping consistency. This allows you to outline and fill shapes with the same icing, eliminating the separation between them.
Best for: Filling in small sections, preventing dips in the design, royal icing transfers (described in the cookbook), script writing, bead borders, flowers with flat petals, a puffy look
Icing consistency count: 12 to 15 seconds (see tip)
Add enough water to stiff-consistency icing so it’s a little runny but doesn’t lose its shape. When spread on a cookie, it should stay on top, not run off the sides. If it does, the icing is too thin and air bubbles may appear. Add more stiff-consistency icing to the mixture and stir.
Best for: Filling larger cookie surfaces, wet-on-wet technique (described in the cookbook), and flooding large cookies
Icing consistency count: 5 to 10 seconds (see tip)
Consistency Count: One way to tell whether icing is the correct consistency is with a consistency count. Cut a line through the icing in the bowl with a knife. The time in seconds that it takes for the icing to seam back together is a good indication that you have achieved the right consistency. The amount of time is noted in each consistency above.
The simplest way to thin royal icing is to add water using a spray bottle. Spray a small amount of water in a bowl of icing, mix it with a spatula, and repeat until you get the desired consistency.
After years of decorating, I can gauge the consistency by eye, but that didn’t happen overnight—repetition and determination got me there. Don’t get discouraged if you haven’t perfected the technique early in your journey. With time and patience, you will.
At some point, you may have to alter flood-consistency icing back to a stiffer consistency. You may have added too much water or need to convert flood icing back to a medium or piping consistency to create fine lines or small details. To do this, add more stiff-consistency icing to the thinner icing and mix until you reach the desired consistency (this is my preferred method). Or add powdered sugar, one teaspoon at a time, and mix until you have the consistency you want.
Although I prefer using one consistency for both outlining and flooding cookies, I don’t suggest that combination if you’re new to royal icing. Using a medium consistency to outline and a flood consistency to fill will be easier to work with while you’re learning. As you become more familiar and comfortable with the consistencies, you can create a single consistency to use for most designs that’s somewhere between medium and flood.
If you need piping and flood icings in the same color, add the desired amount of royal icing to one mixing bowl. A fresh batch of icing should have a thick consistency. Add a little bit of water and thin it to the thickest piping consistency you need. Add color to the icing. Coloring and mixing the icing is easier to do when the icing is thinner. Transfer the desired amount for another batch of icing to a second bowl to continue to thin it further to a flood consistency .
Text and photographs © 2022 Emma’s Sweets Ltd. from The Beginner’s Guide to Cookie Decorating : Easy Techniques and Expert Tips for Designing and Icing Colorful Treats by Mary Valentino. Published by Quarry Books, an imprint of Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc.
hey is there a substitute for the meringue powder? thx
You can try checking out some of these substitutes but not sure how they would work in this recipe- https://food52.com/blog/26844-best-meringue-powder-substitutes
hey is there a substitute for the meringue powder?