ROYAL ICING AND THE ART OF DECORATING COOKIES WITHOUT THE HASSLE CONFUSION AND MESS
Decorating isn’t only for Holiday Cookies, it can be used for ANY cookies.
However, most people are afraid of making cookies with Royal Icing. Too thick, too thin, and a mess in the kitchen.
Don’t fret, we are here to help you get to a comfortable place to make it and use it often.
I don’t like confusion, especially in the kitchen. Decorating cookies is supposed to be a fun filled activity for everyone involved. And let’s face it, no one wants to deal with a mess or dirty dishes and bowls. So here is my trick for a successful decorating party. I also do these steps when making for customers or parties.
- I make my white royal icing base and tick up to 3 days ahead of decorating and place in plastic airtight storage bags and only thin out or color day of decorating so colors don’t change. It’s what works best for me.
- I make my dough two days before rolling and baking. This allows gluten to develop.
- I bake my cookies a day before decorating them so they have ample time to cool.
One of the tricks to making perfect icing is you need to play with it and get the desired consistency. Every baker, novice or professional has to do this when making it every time. It isn’t hard and doesn’t take a long time. The weather plays with humidity and so we have to play with it, mixing and adding a little water at a time, and find what works for you so when you are flooding (flooding is what filling an area is called, so it becomes a smooth surface: see green part of heart cookie above) you should have no lines from outlining the design showing but should instead all blend without flowing off edges so you have a cookie without icing all over the edges or bottom and it doesn’t look sloppy.
To do this, as I said above, we add a little water at a time to get the icing to that point. Your base icing that is thick is perfect if you are making designs with different tips for your pastry bags or just frosting your cookies with an offset spatula, because the food coloring will add moisture to your icing as well. Place the white icing base in a separate bowl before you make the thinned colored icing you will use for outlining and flooding cookies.
After the cookie is outlined and you flood your cookie, you will want to fill any small holes so your flooding covers your intended area. Use a toothpick or needle and make a small circular motion by hole and let icing cover all holes and spread smooth. Another trick is to allow your flooding to dry if you want to add lines or other decorations on the cookie that you want to stand out or be a little higher than your flooding. You are building up your design this way.
Professional pastry chefs often use food hydrators to speed up the drying process. If you are decorating with your family and friends and don’t want to do this step it’s ok. Your cookies will taste great and you will have accomplished your goal: to have fun and eat cookies. Just make sure your cookies are dry before you place something on top of a decorated cookie, so the design isn’t messed up. There is nothing like dealing with a heartbroken child whose cookies got ruined.
I usually make a few extra practice cookies to get my flavors and icing consistency and designs down before doing the real decorating. This allows me to get a cookie or two in my tummy and make sure all the flavors work, especially if I am using a different flavor with a cookie recipe.
If you have a Stand mixer, your life is a lot easier making cookies, especially Royal Icing. But don’t let this discourage you.
It is so simple to make, but will take a little more muscle power holding the hand mixer for around 8 minutes.
Make sure that as you mix your colors, that your base icing and colors are covered by plastic or in bags. You do not want it getting dry. You only want it to dry on the cookies.
Let’s begin the fun of decorating cookies!
SPECIAL TOOLS: pastry bags, wire whisks for mixing, desired decorating tips, toothpicks, needles, clothespins or rubber bands
3 egg whites from pasteurized egg whites
Or enough meringue powder to equal 3 egg whites(follow directions on container)
4 ½ Cups of Powdered sugar
1/2 tsp Cream of Tarter
Pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract, peppermint extract, or favorite flavoring.
Tablespoons of water to get the correct and desired consistency.
Various food colorings to color icing (for later)
Royal Icing con’t.
Add all the ingredients (except food coloring and additional water) in stand mixer.
Start mixer on a low speed to incorporate all powdered sugar so it doesn’t fly all over your kitchen. Once mixed put speed up to highest setting and mix until smooth and fluffy and almost tripled in volume, stopping mixer in between to scrape down sides of bowl to ensure all ingredients are incorporated, and then start up and continue until smooth and fluffy. That’s it! Now you will thin it out to your desired consistency and add color. You have already made the Royal Icing.
Separate your base icing if you need thick icing to decorate into a separate bowl, cover well and place in refrigerator until ready to color and use.
Once you know which colors you are going to use, divide your icing into the bowls, one for each color and add the color to your icing a little at a time. Mix the colorings and icing, and add more coloring if needed. Black and red are the hardest to make and take a lot of coloring. Usually 1 jar is plenty and for most colors you will only use some of it. But for darker colors, get 2 just in case. (Just a side note, Red Velvet cake is just white or chocolate cake dyed with a whole lot of red food coloring and cream cheese frosting.)
You can also make and mix your icing a few hours before your decorating party and place in individual decorating bags. Don’t cut the tip off the bag, and seal it up so it is air free. I will use clothes pins after I twist the bag on top to keep the bag closed, or rubber bands.
When you are ready to decorate, cut the tips off to the desired width so you can pipe or flood your icing on your cookie.
This is part of the “play with it”. If you cut your holes too big, simply squeeze your icing into a new bag.
Start the hole smaller rather than bigger as you get to desired size of flow. I will also seal shut the hole by folding the tip up with a clothes pin. That way if I change colors or bags so it doesn’t dry out.
It should take 15 minutes to an hour for the flooding to dry depending on your humidity and house temperature.
If you are using sprinkles, sugars, or edible candies, place on cookie while icing is wet or use new wet icing as glue if adding to dry flooded cookie.
If you followed these instructions and pre-make your dough, pre-bake your cookies, and pre-make your frosting, you should have a fun filled enjoyable cookie decorating party with the only mess being from decorating instead of flour, sugar, bowls, etc…
Now go decorate and have fun!