Decorating your sugar cookies will transform them into something beautiful to be enjoyed by everyone who gets to share your baked creations. Whether you opt for a single design or an elaborate masterpiece, royal icing will likely be your icing of choice.
Royal icing can be easily coloured, flavoured, used as a glue, sets hard and can be used in almost any consistency making it incredibly versatile staple in any baker’s kitchen. When icing a cookie, it can be finely worked into the edges of your cookie for a crisp outline, and with the right consistency will level out, or hold its shape for even the most intricate design.
What is royal icing?
Simply, royal icing is an icing consisting of powdered sugar, egg whites or powdered eggs and a hint of flavours such as lemon, almond or vanilla. You may have enjoyed it on sweet treats such as a sugar cookie, Christmas gingerbread house, fruit cake or even a more traditional wedding cake.
How we make royal icing:
There are dozens if not hundreds of recipes available online for royal icing, we have a simple, easy to make recipe for you! Our recipe uses meringue powder as it is safe to eat. Typically, we use White Wings Pavlova Magic as it is readily available in supermarkets across Australia.
Our favourite recipe consists 170 grams of powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon of powdered egg white, 3-4 tablespoons of cold water and a hint of your favourite flavour essence (or lemon juice). Simply add these ingredients to a high sided bowl and mix using electric beaters until you reach a thick consistency where you can see stiff swirls left by the beater in your icing. Then you are ready to divide the icing into smaller bowls and add food colouring to create any colour you desire. This is also the stage where you can add water to thin the icing, or powdered sugar to thicken the icing.
It is also possible to buy a packet mix of icing from most supermarkets which have the icing and meringue power measured out for you. All you need to do is add water, flavouring and mix.
It is imperative to have the correct consistency when using royal icing. When covering large areas of a cookie in icing (also known as flooding) a syrupy like consistency will prevent the icing from slipping over the edge of your cookie while allowing the icing to settle enough to self -level and fill any gaps and give you a perfectly smooth surface. Gently tapping your cookie on the bench will encourage the icing to smooth more quickly. Any air bubbles can be removed by pricking them with a toothpick.
For details such as raised lines, dots or borders around the edge of the cookie a slightly thicker icing is required so that it will hold its shape. This consistency should resemble toothpaste.
Even thicker icing can be used when using more elaborate piping tips for icing details like roses and leaves so that a three-dimensional effect is achieved. A supremely thick consistency is commonly used as the glue to hold together a gingerbread house.
If you are unsure you have the correct consistency, you can always test your icing on a piece of baking paper before you spoil your baked items.
The beauty of royal icing is that it sets hard and smooth, developing a skin within the first hour of application and it fully hardened overnight on your baked goods when kept at room temperature. This fairly quick drying process may also cause a little trouble when you are using multiple colours and piping tips. Dried icing at the end of a piping tip is always finicky to remove, and often if just push up into the liquid icing above. Storing the tips against damp cloth and covering bowls with wet icing with a damp cloth will prevent your icing from drying while you are busy decorating!