Saturday, February 4, 2012

Best Royal Icing Recipe, Step by Step

In order to make fabulous cookies, you have to have fabulous Royal Icing. I've tried countless Royal Icing recipes in the past three months, and this is what I've discovered:

1) Meringue powder really is superior to using egg whites. If you can't find it at a local store like Michaels, order some through the Internet, for example through Amazon. It makes a frosting that is fluffier, puffier, shinier, and stretchier.  Internationally, it may be difficult to get meringue powder: use an egg white recipe instead. Google "egg white royal icing" (many of the egg white Royal Icing recipes include a bit of cream of tartar--if you cannot get cream of tartar, don't worry, it is not absolutely necessary).

2) How you prepare it also makes a difference. Instead of whisking it together by hand, use a mixer. A hand mixer will do, but since you have to whip it for about 10 minutes, a stand mixer is a lifesaver.

The Best Royal Icing Recipe, Ever:

1 bag (2 lbs) of powdered sugar
1/3 cup + 2 tsp meringue powder*
3/4 cup warm water
1-2 tbsp lemon extract

* This is the amount using Wilton meringue powder. For AmeriColor brand, use 1/3 cup + 1 tbsp.
First, sift the powdered sugar into your mixing bowl; it's a pain (and potentially messy), but it does make a difference in the consistency of your icing. Then, fold in the meringue powder. Add the warm water and lemon extract and mix on a low setting (start on 1 until sugar is mixed, then speed up to 2 or even 4) for 8-10 minutes. I recommend using the paddle rather than the whisk attachment. As soon as the frosting is thick as cement and won't fall off the paddle, stop mixing so you don't overdo it. It should look something like this:

Have a few plastic boxes with lids (Tupperware, Ziploc, or cheap grocery brand) ready to go, and divide the icing into 4 or 5 batches. Put plastic wrap directly touching the icing, so as to minimize the amount of air on the icing.

Close the lids immediately, because this icing will harden fast and, if it does, when you go to remix it, you've got useless icing with crusty bits in it, and you have to toss it and start all over.

Color and thin the icings one at a time. Leave one white, because you always need white. I like to use gel based colors, except for true black and true red, for which I like to use powdered colors. Mix in color a few drops at a time, because you can always make a color deeper, but you can't take color out. Be especially careful with light colors like ballerina pink—dip a toothpick into the bottle and then into your icing, rather than letting a whole drop fall in.

Once colored, you want to mix in water a half a teaspoon at a time. First, you want to make PIPING CONSISTENCY icing. This means very thick, thicker than toothpaste, but not as thick as spackle. The icing should fall off the spoon in blobs.

Take out a large piece of Saran wrap or Glad Press-n Seal, and drop about 3-4 tbsp of icing on it.

Wrap it like a tube and twist both ends into points.

You can then plop the "package" directly into a pastry bag and through the coupler. When you snip the end open, you add your piping tip and close the coupler. Use a rubber band to tightly close the end of of the pastry bag.

When you do this trick, and you're ready to toss out the frosting, you have very little mess to wash out of the bag, to reuse the bag. I learned this priceless tip from a video at Karen's Cookies. I reuse each of my "disposable" pastry bags some twenty times.

The remainder of the colored icing is now going to be thinned into FLOODING CONSISTENCY. Flooding consistency will run off your spoon in a ribbon, and be thick, like molasses or better quality wall paint.

A good gauge is that the ribbon, which falls back into your bowl, will disappear into the icing in the bowl in about 8 seconds. I like to put my flooding icing in a plastic squeeze bottle with a bigger tip in the coupler.

Adding water to the icing always causes air to be trapped in it. To avoid having to pop a million little bubbles, let your icing rest at least an hour; if you have the patience to let it rest overnight, you'll be guaranteed much better results and less bubble-popping.

Don't take too much stress over the thickness of your icing—after just a few times of making it in both consistencies, you'll have a good eyeball (& gut) feel as to the thickness of icing that works for you :)

When you're done piping, remove your metal tip and wash and dry it carefully—unless you plan to pipe again within a few hours—this will keep your tips from rusting. To cover the tip of your piping bag, place a piece of Press'n Seal or Saran wrap on the tip, and twist the coupler ring back on.

Some will tell you that Royal Icing lasts a full month in the fridge—I've found that in about 2 weeks, the icing gets grainier, the sugars and liquid start separating, and the flavoring starts turning bitter. At that point, it's time to make a new batch :)

Good luck!



  • Sara says:
    January 1, 2013 at 2:30 PM

    I have been mesmerized by all your creations! Thank you for demystifying the art of creating wonderful confections. I especially loved the Royal Icing tips and procedures, I will be sure to take notes on them. I love your work and more importantly, THANK YOU FOR BEING SO GENEROUS WITH YOUR TIPS! Samsara

  • Anniina says:
    January 5, 2013 at 1:14 PM

    Thanks, Samsara :)

Post a Comment