The Ultimate Guide to Royal Icing Cookies

Have you ever wondered how to make royal icing? Does the entire process of making cookies and icing seem overwhelming to you? Or maybe you simply want to know how to get started and what you need.

Whatever you have come here searching for today, I’ve got you covered! This ultimate guide to royal icing cookies covers everything from the cookies to the supplies and how-to basics.

reindeer royal icing cookie

Cut Out Sugar Cookies

The cookie is the foundation for royal icing cookie decorating. A good cookie recipe is vital because not every cut out sugar cookie works well with royal icing.

A cut out sugar cookie should be firm when in dough form, but it should hold its shape when baking. The cookie should not be hard or dried out after baking as well. A perfectly done sugar cookie is light in color but cooked all the way through, but it is still soft when eaten.

Instead of scouring the internet for the best sugar cookie recipe, I’ve got you covered with the perfect recipe right here.

This cookie recipe is very in depth and should answer any questions you have about cut out sugar cookies. My recipe is tested, tried, and true. This is the recipe I use in every royal icing class I teach, and students LOVE it!

wreath royal icing Christmas cookie

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Essential Cookie Tools

  • The BEST cookie tool above all others is this J.K. Adams rolling pin. It is 1/4 inch guided rolling pin, which means cookies are always exactly 1/4 inch thick. Say goodbye to uneven cookie dough! This rolling pin will save you so much time, and there is no guess work in figuring out the thickness of your cookie dough.
  • If you prefer thinner cookies, try this 1/8 inch guided rolling pin. Just FYI, thicker cookies hold up better for royal icing decorating because they are not as fragile, so keep that in mind when buying a guided rolling pin.
  • Rimmed half sheet pans are also a must for cookies that need to hold their shape! After trial and error, I can tell you that airbake pans actually encourage the cookies to spread. Stick with rimmed half sheet pans for this recipe, and in general for all cookie recipes!
  • I highly recommend parchment paper over silpat baking mats. Silpat or silicone baking mats cause cookies to brown more on the bottom, which makes them harder and crunchier.
  • Good cookie cutters are, of course, a must! After using many kinds for teaching cookie classes, I recommend sturdy metal cutters or 3D cookie cutters from Etsy. If you choose 3D cutters, make sure they are at least 1/4 inch tall. Half inch deep cutters are better for really large cookies because your hand can grip the cutters easier, but either depth will work just fine for 1/4 inch cookies.
the best royal icing on a whisk

What is Royal Icing?

Royal icing is a combination of egg whites, powdered sugar, flavoring, and water. That’s it! While some people prefer meringue powder instead of egg whites, it doesn’t performs as well as royal icing made with real egg whites. Icing made with meringue powder tends to get a lot of air bubbles, making it difficult to create a smoothly iced cookie.

There is always some risk working with egg whites, but when the royal icing dries completely, I’m not sure how any form of bacteria could survive. Use egg whites at your discretion and know your comfort level. As a trained pastry chef, I am comfortable using raw whites, but I know that we all have different needs and comfort levels with ingredients.

On that note, let’s continue digging deeper into the world of royal icing. Some basic things you should know include:

  • Royal icing needs to be stored in the refrigerator if you are not using it right away. It can be stored for 1 week in the fridge or for 3 months in the freezer.
  • The cookies do not need to be refrigerated once iced because the icing dries out completely in a few hours.
  • Royal icing has 2 basic consistencies that you will want to work with: Piping and flooding. See below to learn more
  • For the best royal icing, try this royal icing recipe. It. Is. Amazing! I use this recipe for every cookie class I teach, and it is the BEST tasting royal icing.

How to Make Piping Icing

Piping icing should be the consistency of toothpaste. It does not hold stiff peaks, but it still has enough form to outline cookies and do detail work.

If your icing is too stiff, the icing will often “break” when outlining a cookie. In other words, the icing will break off as it is coming out of the frosting tip. Then you will have to try to reconnect the line, hoping that no seams show.

Piping icing is often used for detail work on royal icing cookies as well. As you can see on the bull moose, I have used piping icing to make the green branches. If the icing was too thin, then it would run and not hold its shape.

santa royal icing cookie

How to Make Flood Icing

Flood icing is royal icing that has been thinned out with water so that it’s the consistency of honey or shampoo. Flood icing is the beautiful puffy icing that fills the outline of the cookie. Getting the consistency right is sooo important! If it’s too thick, then the icing will not settle and look smooth.

The BEST rule of thumb for testing icing consistency is to dip a spoon in the icing and then let the icing drizzle back into the bowl. The royal icing should completely disappear and meld with the icing in the bowl within 10 seconds. If you can still see icing lines on the surface, then add just a little more water at a time until it is thin enough.

royal icing flood consistency

Tips for Making Flood Icing

  • Use a spray water bottle to thin the icing. It is easier to control how much water is going into the icing, and you won’t accidentally pour too much water in as you might with a measuring cup.
  • Use the 10 second rule to test the icing, as stated above. If the drizzled icing holds any shape at all after 10 seconds in the bowl, then it needs more water.
  • It is easiest to use a tipless bag or squeeze bottle for flood icing. Using a tipped bag is a mess because the icing tends to run everywhere.

The In-Between Consistency

When your skills are more advanced, you will find that sometimes you need an icing consistency for detail work that is between piping and flooding.

This third consistency works well for detail work that doesn’t need crisp lines but still needs to hold some shape. But don’t worry too much about this in-between consistency when you are just starting out.

Royal Icing Tools & Supplies

Here is a complete list of all of the tools and supplies you will need to get started.

  • Tipless bags– a must for easy clean up and for easy flooding. Can be used for piping lines as well.
  • Tipless bag clips to clip the tips of the bags so the icing doesn’t run out when you set the bags of icing on the table.
  • Clips to close the tops of the icing bags
  • Scribe tool for detail work.
  • #1 and #2 tips for piping. Start with a #2 tip if you are a beginner. The #2 tip is a little more forgiving and will not require as much pressure from your hand to get the icing out.
  • Disposable piping bags and couplers
  • Gel food coloring, preferrably Americolor gel
  • A heater fan for drying royal icing
  • A Lazy susan for outlining and filling cookies! This is a must-have!

The art of royal icing cookie decorating is a vast world and there is so much to learn. But no one ever creates a masterpiece without mastering the basics. Head on over to this royal icing recipe so you can get started with a recipe that is designed for success.

 

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