Royal Icing Recipe

Royal Icing Recipe

Working with royal icing can be challenging for a beginner.  There are many bumps in the road when it comes to decorating cookies successfully with royal icing and I am going to go over a few key points that well help you overcome some of the common problems you may face when you are new to cookie decorating.  


What you need to begin

What you will need:

  1. Icing Sugar, Meringue Powder, Flavouring
  2. Stand Mixer
  3. Food Colouring (Optional)

Let's start with some troubleshooting...

If you have never decorated with royal icing before, you may think it looks pretty easy to get that nice, clean, flooded cookie.  Any maybe you will pick up the icing bag and be a natural.  But if you are like most, myself included, this will not be the case.  My first few experiences with cookie decorating are a far cry from what you see on my website and social media today.  There are so many things that can go wrong, and trust me when I tell you, I had them all.  Every single possible problem you could encounter, I experienced it.  And when it happened, it was usually happening on an order that was for someone I didn't know, which made it far more stressful.  So before you begin making your first batch of royal icing, I am going to go over some of the problems you are likely to face in your early decorating days in hopes that you can be spared some of the frustrations that I encountered when I was new.

Something I learned very early on in my decorating career is that icing consistency is KEY.  If you don't have your consistency right, you won't get ideal end results.  So that is the first thing that you are going to want to master.  And it won't happen overnight, it is going to take time to get this part down.  But practice makes perfect, so keep that in mind when you are working through your first few sets of decorated cookies.  

For me, I find that two consistencies is best.  There are many decorators out there that swear by one thicker consistency, but I am not one of those decorators.  I am, and always will be, a two consistency kinda gal.  I find that my work is cleaner and also details and text are always done in a thicker consistency, so if you are adding any details to your cookies, you are likely going to need to make more than one consistency anyways.  Below I have outlined the two consistencies I use on a daily basis.


Pipe Consistency 

Also known as outline consistency, but for some reason, I call it pipe, and that is just the way it is in my kitchen. This consistency is used for outlining, and details like fine lines and text.  It is similar to toothpaste in consistency,  it comes to a soft peak when you pull your spoon out of the icing.  A soft peak is when your icing comes to a peak then it curls over.  The icing should still hold it's shape and have some body to it.  To achieve this consistency, you will colour your icing, then add small amounts of water until you get to a soft peak.  When I say small amounts of water, I mean SMALL.  I would actually recommend using a spray bottle to add the water until you are more familiar with how little it actually takes.  You should continously check your consitency as you go to ensure you don't go too far, but if you do, that's ok, we can fix it.  What is going too far? Well, if find your icing comes to a peak, curls, then starts to melt back into the bowl, this means you have gone too far.  If your icing is too loose, when you pipe your outline or details they are going to spread out which is not ideal.  In order to fix this, you will need to add small amounts of icing sugar back into your icing until you get that soft peak that holds its shape.  Once you have achieved this consistency, you will pull out a small amount, 2-3 tablespoons, and bag it in a tipless piping bag, or piping bag of choice.  The remaining amount will be turned into your flood consistency icing. 


Flood Consistency: 
This is the consistency you will use to fill in your cookie.  You will achieve this consistency by adding small amounts of water to the remaining amount of coloured icing.  Again, I would recommend using spray bottle to regulate the amount of water you are adding.  I use a fairly thin consistency for flooding because I find it takes little manipulation to get the icing to level out on your cookie.  But for a beginner I would recommend starting a little thicker.  My icing is typically aobut a 5 second icing.  What that means is when you run a knife through your icing, it takes approximately 5 seconds for it to level out completely and there is no longer any trace of the knife line.  This consistency is similar to shampoo or honey when it runs off your spoon or spatula.  If you are a newbie, you may want to start with a 10 second icing.  You will likely find that 10 second icing doesn't immediately level out after you flood your cookie, so you may need to shake or tap your cookie to get the icing to level out and leave a smooth finish. You can also use a toothpick or scribe to poke out any imperfections or drag the icing around to fill in any unwanted holes or gaps.  When making flood consistency, it is so very easy to go too far and add way too much water.  So add water VERY slowly, and check your consistency after every addition of water.  This takes practice so please don't be too hard on yourself if you don't get it the first time.


Below, I have added a few notes on some common royal icing issues and some trouble shooting tips to help you combat these unwanted outcomes.


Cratering:  

A crater is when your beautiful puffy flooded cookie starts to sink when it drys.  It is common in small cookies, or small sections of a cookie, flooded details and lettering.  Sometimes you will get an actual hole in. your icing.  You can combat this by using a table fan to dry your cookies, or even a dehydrator on the lowest setting.  Both of these methods will also help give your icing a nice even smooth finish.  Be careful with the dehydrator, it can dry out your cookie depending on your climate.  Another way to battle cratering is to use a thicker consistency icing to flood, but I am not a fan of this because I like me icing thin. Another option is you can pipe a squiggle of pipe consistency in the area before you flood it.  This gives the icing some support and structure.


Colour Bleed:  

This is another common problem you may face as a beginner.  It happens often with deep colours like black, reds, deep greens, and browns.  But can occur with any colour really.  Over saturating your icing with colour is one of the main culprits of bleed.  Keep in mind when mixing colours, a little food colouring goes a long way.  Also your colours need time to develop, so stop adding colour when you are a shade or two lighter than your desired colour.  The icing will also dry darker. So when making red's, blacks, any deep colour, stop mixing when it is lighter than the colour you want and let it sit for a few hours or even over night.   


Other ways to combat colour bleed: 

Make sure you are using a quality food colouring,  I find that americolor gels are great, and a little bit goes a really long way.  For really deep colours like red, black or deep greens and blues, I often use concentrated powders from The Sugar Art Master Elite line.  Using quality colours will be a huge help in avoiding bleed.


Adding white food colouring to light colours helps combat the darker colours seeping into your lighter colours.


Allow appropriate dry time before packaging your cookies.  If your cookies are not dry when you package them, you are increasing your risk of colour bleed.  Allow up to 24 hours of dry time depending on cookie size and layers of icing before you package your cookies.  For mini cookies, you are probably safe at 8-12, but for for full sized, I would allow them to dry at least overnight if you finished decorating the previous afternoon.


Climate Control:

Not surprisingly, your climate can play a huge roll in your finished product when it comes to cookie decorating.  If you are in a very humid environment, I would recommend a dehumidifier for your space if you are getting serious about cookie decorating.  It will be a game changer for you, it will help reduce cratering and colour bleed and will help your cookies dry more quickly and evenly.  I use on in the summer months to help with all of these things.  Opposite side of the spectrum, if you are in a dry climate, this can affect the moisture levels in your cookies and result in a hard dry cookie, you may want in invest in a humidifier to help put some moisture back into the air and avoid drying out your cookies.  I use a humidifier in the winter months to avoid drying out my cookies.


Below I have provided a basic sample royal icing recipe that can get you started on your cookie decorating journey.  To learn more about royal icing and cookie decorating please check out my website.  I offer detailed online cookie decorating classes that include the royal icing recipe I use every day in my decorating along with tips and tricks, detailed step by step guides and pre-recorded tutorial videos.  I will soon be adding the royal icing recipe I use every day for stand alone purchase, so if you interested in knowing about that, or any other new classes I have on the way, I would suggest subscribing to my site! I hope this post was helpful in your first batch of royal icing, good luck and hope you enjoy!



Royal Icing Recipe

Royal Icing Recipe:


4 Cups Icing Sugar-Sifted after you measure
1/3 Cup room temp water
3 Tbsp Meringue Powder
Flavouring- a Teaspoon or so in your flavour of choice, just ensure that your flavouring is oil free.


Whisk together water and meringue powder until powder is dissolved and mixture is frothy.  Add flavouring, and icing sugar.  Mix on low setting for about 5 minutes.  Low on my mixer is number 2.  If you find your icing isn't getting fluffy, flip to medium, setting 3-4, for about 30-40 seconds.  When icing is done, it should be matte, thick and fluffy.  Alot of recipes will state to mix on high, but I don't like to mix on high due to the risk of over mixing.  If icing is over mixed, it wil not set.


****This is not the recipe I currently use for my cookies, but it is the recipe I used when I first began decorating cookies.  This recipe will work just fine and is quite good, if you are interested in trying the recipe I use, it is included in all of my classes and with my colour guide.


Colouring your icing:

If you are a beginner, of course use whatever food colouring that is readily available to you, but if you would like to invest in good quality products, I do recommend Americolor Gels.  Lower quality gels tend to bleed so this is one of the things you will need to keep in mind when purchasing your food colouring.  Another thing to keep in mind is a little goes a long way.  Start small, and your colours will deepen with time and also they will dry darker.  Give your colours at least an hour or two to develop, even overnight for deeper shades.  Last tip, for white icing, I always add white colour to get a true white.  This helps with battling colour bleed as well.


Colour your icing straight out of the mixer before making different consistencies.  To mute bold colours, I use browns, ivory, and sometimes a bit of black.  Use these sparingly.  


If you would like to take the guess work out of colour mixing, I have created a guide that is jam packed full of colour mixing formulas using americolor gels for the most part.  If you are interested in this guide, please click here: The Millers Wife Royal Icing Colour Guide


Commonly used consistencies:


Pipe Consistency:  You are looking for a soft peak.  So when you pull your spoon out of the icing, it comes to a peak then curls over.  This is similar to the consistency of toothpaste.  I use this consistency for all outlining, details and text.  To achieve this consistency you will add VERY small amounts of water to your coloured icing.  Once you have reached a soft peak consistency, pull out a small amount, a couple tablespoons, and bag it in a tipless piping bag. More details noted above on this consistency.


Flood Consistency: This is used for filling in the cookie and is similar to shampoo or honey in its consistency.  You will add small amounts of water to achieve this consistency, once your icing runs off your spoon like shampoo, bag it in a tipless piping bag.   Some people use a second method, so when you run a butter knife through your icing, it should take about 8-10 seconds to level out completely.  This is a good place to start for a beginner.  My icing is probably closer to 5 second icing, but using a thinner consistency, you run the risk of icing overflows so I recommend starting at about 10.  More details noted above about this consistency.


If you are a beginner, I would recommend using a spray bottle to add water.  It is very easy to go too far with how much water you add.  If you do go too far, you can add small amounts of icing sugar back into your icing to achieve desired consistency.

Royal Icing Recipe:


4 Cups Icing Sugar-Sifted after you measure
1/3 Cup room temp water
3 Tbsp Meringue Powder
Flavouring- a Teaspoon or so in your flavour of choice, just ensure that your flavouring is oil free.


Whisk together water and meringue powder until powder is dissolved and mixture is frothy.  Add flavouring, and icing sugar.  Mix on low setting for about 5 minutes.  Low on my mixer is number 2.  If you find your icing isn't getting fluffy, flip to medium, setting 3-4, for about 3--40 seconds.  When icing is done, it should be matte, thick and fluffy.  Alot of recipes will state to mix on high, but I don't like to mix on high due to the risk of over mixing.  If icing is over mixed, it wil not set.


****This is not the recipe I currently use for my cookies, but it is the recipe I used when I first began decorating cookies.  This recipe will work just fine and is quite good, if you are interested in trying the recipe I use, it is included in all of my classes and with my colour guide.


Colouring your icing:

If you are a beginner, of course use whatever food colouring that is readily available to you, but if you would like to invest in good quality products, I do recommend Americolor Gels.  Lower quality gels tend to bleed so this is one of the things you will need to keep in mind when purchasing your food colouring.  Another thing to keep in mind is a little goes a long way.  Start small, and your colours will deepen with time and also they will dry darker.  Give your colours at least an hour or two to develop, even overnight for deeper shades.  Last tip, for white icing, I always add white colour to get a true white.  This helps with battling colour bleed as well.


Colour your icing straight out of the mixer before making different consistencies.  To mute bold colours, I use browns, ivory, and sometimes a bit of black.  I also love to add small amounts of blue to my greens, but this is a personal preference. Use these colours very sparingly, use a toothpick to add them eve.  They are just used to soften and/or enhance your end goal colour.  To get your two shades of green, prepare the darker one first, then add some of the dark green icing to some of the base icing out of the mixer.  You will then have two greens that are the same colour, just a different tint.


If you would like to take the guess work out of colour mixing, I have created a guide that is jam packed full of colour mixing formulas using americolor gels for the most part.  If you are interested in this guide, please click here: The Millers Wife Royal Icing Colour Guide


Consistencies Required:


Pipe Consistency:  You are looking for a soft peak.  So when you pull your spoon out of the icing, it comes to a peak then curls over.  This is similar to the consistency of toothpaste.  I use this consistency for all outlining, details and text.  To achieve this consistency you will add VERY small amounts of water to your coloured icing.  Once you have reached a soft peak consistency, pull out a small amount, a couple tablespoons, and bag it in a tipless piping bag. 


Flood Consistency: This is used for filling in the cookie and is similar to shampoo or honey in its consistency.  You will add small amounts of water to achieve this consistency, once your icing runs off your spoon like shampoo, bag it in a tipless piping bag.   Some people use a second method, so when you run a butter knife through your icing, it should take about 8-10 seconds to level out completely.  This is a good place to start for a beginner.  My icing is probably closer to 5 second icing, but using a thinner consistency, you run the risk of icing overflows so I recommend starting at about 10.


If you are a beginner, I would recommend using a spray bottle to add water.  It is very easy to go too far with how much water you add.  If you do go too far, you can add small amounts of icing sugar back into your icing to achieve desired consistency.

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