royal icing… in 3 consistencies
Royal icing is opaque, dries hard, and is versatile. It’s great for everything from gluing together a gingerbread house to creating detailed cookie designs. Royal icing should be piped with a pastry bag. A variety of textures can be achieved depending on consistency.
This image illustrates three different consistencies for using royal icing. The top row is thick royal icing piped through a variety of star tips, or “detail” icing. To make the icing, beat with a stand mixer until thick and glossy, and stiff peaks form. A stiff peak will stand in a point when a spoon is dipped in the icing. Be careful not to over-beat the icing: it’ll lose its glossy sheen and could result in icing that flakes off the cookie when dry. This stiff icing can be used to create detailed piped textures with pastry tips such as star, grass, and leaf. At this stage, icing can be used right away, or stored airtight for a few days. You can divide and color your icing at this step, or thin it slightly first to make the “outline” icing below.
The middle row is “outline” icing – the stiff icing from above, thinned with a little water so that it has the consistency of toothpaste. It holds its shape when piped through the star tip, but the details are softer. This is the icing to use for outlining, writing, and detailing on cookies. Color the icing using gel paste or food color a bit at a time until you achieve the desired shade. Sometimes a small amount of color can make a big difference; it’s MUCH easier to darken a color than to lighten it up. The color will deepen as it sets, especially for dark colors like red, black, or brown.
The bottom row is icing thinned to flooding consistency. It should be about the consistency of thick syrup; imagine cold molasses. Piped through the same star tip, it loses shape but stays in a nice bead. To create “flooding” icing, slowly add water a bit at time to your tinted outline icing, using a silicone spatula. Using a mixer at this stage would add unwanted air bubbles to the icing. Flooding icing should be used within a few hours, or it will start to separate. This icing is used to create a smooth surface on cookies.
See our recipe for Royal Icing
Make quick and easy royal icing with our White Cookie Icing Mix
Experiment to create different marbled patterns.
On the star cookie (above), the toothpick was passed through the icing from the center out. Dots make nice hearts or petals; lines dragged in the same direction make a scalloped pattern like scales; and lines dragged alternately, in opposite directions, make a zigzag design; think knit sweater.