Sunday, January 5, 2014

Royal Icing

As part of the Christmas cookie extravaganza, I decided to try a new frosting recipe and technique.  I've heard a lot about royal icing, and I have been intrigued.  It's absolutely gorgeous: so shiny and matte at the same time, and leaves you lots of room for creativity.  But at the same time, I have been scared to try it out.  I am not so good at decorating or making anything look pretty - as you know; but the night that Rachael and Sam decorated my gingerbread cookies with buttercream, I decided to try it out with their help, as well as my mom's.  I mostly was in charge of making the frosting and doling out supplies while they decorated, and that worked perfectly!

So here's the deal with royal icing: it's pretty awesome.  It makes such lovely cookies, and it also keeps them fresh for longer so you can make them pretty far ahead of time.  Right there you have two big reasons to try it out.  Another reason is that it's fun to decorate with.  Mom, Sam, and Rachael decorated all my gingerbread that night and liked doing it so much that I made a new batch of cookies the next day, and this time Susie and Maggie joined my mom in using it all night.

One last reason: it's easy.  It's only 3 ingredients: powdered sugar, meringue powder, and water.  You mix it up and then separate it into however many colors you want.  Pipe the thick-ish icing onto the outside of all the cookies; this ends up being the barrier.  Then add more water to the icing so that it gets really thin, and you flood the cookie with it, using a toothpick to spread it out evenly.  That's it!  We found that sprinkles sometimes sunk in too much, but edible pearls were gorgeous.  We even got creative, using different colors on one cookie, adding spots, etcetera!  And by we, I really mean they, because I was not so good at the decorating, but I did a heck of a job keeping the frosting ready and dyed and doled out to everyone!  It was a pretty fun weekend.  Two batches of cookies, tons of frosting, and lots of holiday spirit :) One more cookie recipe to share with you next time if gingerbread isn't your thing.  Whatever cookie cutter recipe you use, this icing is definitely something to try out.


royal icing
from Annie's Eats

4 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons meringue powder
5 tablespoons water, plus more for thinning


1) Combine the powdered sugar, meringue powder, and water in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Mix on low speed until the sheen has disappeared and the icing has a matte appearance (about 5 minutes).  This will be the stiffest consistency of the icing, and at this point it is still too stiff to use for decorating.  Add water a very small amount at a time, and stir each addition until fully incorporated.  Continue until the icing has reached a consistency appropriate for piping.  If you aren't sure, test out a small amount.  If you have any trouble piping, it is still too thick.  Add a little more liquid and try again.

2) Once you have reached the appropriate piping consistency, tint your icing if desired with gel coloring.  Add the coloring a very small amount at a time - you can add more but you can't take it away!

3) Using a pastry bag, pipe a border around the edges of each cookie.  Let stand so the icing will set.  Make sure to keep any icing not in use covered at all times so that it does not begin to harden.  Any time that a bag of icing is not in use, stand upright, tip down, in a very small amount of water.  this prevents the icing in the tip of the pastry bag from hardening up and clogging the tip.

4) Once the cookies have been edged, transfer some of the remaining icing to a separate bowl or container.  Thin out by incorporating a small amount of water at a time, until the icing drips off the spoon easily when lifted and then smooths in with that still in the bowl.  If you go too far and now the icing is too thin, stir in a bit more powdered sugar to thicken it again.

5) When the icing has been thinned for the desired consistency, let stand about 5 minutes to allow the air incorporated during the thinning process to bubble up to the surface.  Give the icing a gentle stir, popping the bubbles but not incorporating new ones!

6) Transfer the thinned icing to a squeeze bottle or a plastic bag with a hole in one corner, and flood the area surrounded by the piping on each cookie.  If it does not completely spread to the edges on its own, use a toothpick to help it along.  If any small air bubbles arise at this point, you can pop them with a toothpick and they should disappear.  Allow to set at least 8 hours or overnight, uncovered.

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