I posted my recipe for Royal Iced Sugar Cookies here. Today, I am sharing some tips and techniques for how to decorate with royal icing. Royal iced sugar cookies are fun, unique and impressive. You can make them as simple or as detailed as you want. And the choice of shapes, colors and designs is endless.
I am not a professional cookie baker or decorator. But after making these numerous times over the past few years, I would like to share some tips to help others who might be intimidated by royal icing. Trust me. I have zero artistic ability. If I can do it, you can do it! A little prep work and you will be on your way to baking and decorating beautiful cookies. Try to get a feel for what types of colors and what size decorating tips you will be using and have a plan before you start the process.
I make these over the course of a few days. On day one, I bake the cookies and store them in an airtight container. Day two, I decorate. And on day three, I package them. These cookies will last for up to two weeks stored in an airtight container. I like to package the cookies up individually in small cookie bags. Then you can ship them in a sturdy box.
(1) First, gather your supplies:
- batch of sugar cookies – make sure they are completely cooled
- batch of royal icing
- Icing gel colors
- Small airtight containers for each of the icing colors
- Disposable pastry bags
- Tips (#2 and #3 are my favorite for piping border icing)
- Squeeze bottles
(2) After you have prepared a batch of royal icing with the desired consistency, color your icing with gel coloring. I have the student kit from Americolor as well as a few other colors I purchased when needed. For the cookies, I like to use a softer, pastel color. Add a small amount of gel coloring a little at a time until you reach the desired color. For these cookies, I used the small ornaments as color inspiration.
(3) Using a pastry bag, pipe a border around the edge of the cookies. Let stand a few minutes to let icing set. (When you are not using the icing, let it stand in small amount of water so that the tips don’t harden. I use a pastry bag holder with small bowls of water underneath to rest the tips in.)
(4) After piping the edge of the cookies, mix a small amount of water (a few drops at a time) into the remaining icing to achieve a smoother consistency. The icing should drip of the spoon easily when lifted and should disappear back into the bowl of remaining icing within 10 seconds. Keep adding small amounts of water until the desired consistency is reached. If you get to the point where you think the icing is too thin, just mix in a small amount of powdered sugar to thicken it.
Let the icing stand a few minutes to let any air bubbles settle to the surface. Gently stir the icing to pop any bubbles that form.
(5) Using a spoon, carefully flood the area to fill the cookie within the border. If the icing does not spread to the edges completely on its own, use a toothpick to help smooth it into the edges. Pop any air bubbles that form on the cookies with a toothpick and they will disappear. (You can also fill squeeze bottles with the icing or use a pastry bag to flood the cookies. I prefer the spoon method but do whatever works for you.)
(6) Allow the cookies to set for at least 12 hours uncovered to allow the icing to harden completely. Once they dry, you can add more detail with additional piping, as desired.
A few additional tips:
- Meringue powder: I have used several varieties of meringue powder. I prefer the Ateco brand meringue powder because I notice that it results in a slightly smoother finish. However, the other brands will work fine.
- For me, it took one or two batches before I got a feel for what the consistency should be and the best way to flood the cookies.
- The royal icing will keep for quite some time. I keep it in the fridge and then mix again just prior to using.
- Always keep your icing covered and your pastry bag tips sitting in water. It helps to prevent the icing from drying out.
- Have a plan. The cookies take a little time and it helps to be prepared. Plan when you are going to bake them, frost them and serve them. Also, decide what shapes and colors you are going to use, and what details you will include.
I hope that these tips and techniques help. I know it might look intimidating, but trust me when I say that if I can do it, you can do it! Just go for it and make some delicious and beautiful cookies!
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