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Royal Icing

Traditionally, royal icing is made from beating egg whites and confectioner’s sugar together until a thick, smooth, white paste is formed. Lots of royal icing recipes still use fresh egg whites, but we use a dried egg white substitute. It’s available in most supermarkets and is easier and safer to use than fresh egg whites as it removes the risk of salmonella. You can also buy icing mixes, a prepared combination of confectioners’ sugar and dried egg whites that simply needs the right amount of water added to it.

It can take a while to get used to icing cookies. When we first started, sometimes we would be concentrating so hard on what was coming out of the pointed end of the piping bag, we failed to notice what was all spilling out of the top! To this day, for every batch of cookies we decorate, we still manage to make quite a few cookies that don’t turn out just the way they should.  Practice makes perfect. Always aim to make a few more than you need and enjoy the odd imperfect cookie along the way. (We have noticed that the cookies that are misshapen or the ones with the wiggly lines or colorful splotches taste just as good as the perfect ones.) You can also practice icing onto sheets of parchment or wax paper before you commit to decorating your precious handmade cookies. Like a “tracing paper” for cooks, it helps you get a feel for it, and you can get a good idea of the pattern and the shape that you want to make before trying them on your finished cookies. Or perhaps buy a package of cookies–pick ones that are a smooth and level on the top as possible–and practice on these until you are more confident.–Harriet Hastings and Sarah Moore

LC All I Want for Christmas is a Simple Royal Icing Note

And here it is. Just two simple steps–mix and frost. Although should you be inclined to get a little fancy schmancy with your cookie icing, we’ve also included a few extra steps, optional advice imparted by the kind ladies who founded Biscuiteers. They certainly know what the heck they’re doing, as evidenced by the stunning cookies at their British bakery  and in their collection of decorating ideas that we haven’t been able to stop flipping and clicking through since, oh, last July or so. (As to why they named themselves “Biscuiteers,” perhaps you recall, in Britain cookies are known as “biscuits.”) And now, happy, happy decorating…

Raw Egg Reminder Note: Hey, in case you hadn’t noticed, this recipe contains raw egg. Please be mindful if making it for anyone for whom this is a potential no-no.

Royal Icing Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 10 M
  • 10 M
  • Decorates about 2 dozen cookies

Ingredients

  • If using fresh egg whites
  • 4 egg whites
  • 8 cups (1 pound, 3 ounces) confectioners’ sugar, plus more as needed
  • Water, if needed
  • Food coloring or food-color gels or flavorings
  • If using powdered egg whites
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 8 cups (1 pound, 3 ounces) confectioners’ sugar, plus more as needed
  • 1 ounce egg white powder
  • Food coloring or food-color gels or flavorings

Directions

  • Make the basic royal icing recipe
  • 1. Regardless of whether you’re using fresh egg whites or powdered egg whites, combine the egg whites, sugar, and water, if using, in a large bowl, starting with the liquids first. Whisk or beat for about 5 minutes if using an electric beater or whisk, longer if using a wooden spoon. Whisk slowly to start with to avoid clouds of confectioners’ sugar covering you and your kitchen. Continue whisking until the ingredients form a thick, smooth paste that is bright white in color and has the consistency of toothpaste, about 10 minutes if making it by hand. Remember that making icing is not an exact science. Even though we have a tried-and-tested method of making our icing, we often end up adding a little more water or confectioners’ sugar to get the icing to exactly the right consistency.
  • 2. If you are not using the icing immediately, cover the surface of with plastic wrap to stop it from drying out and refrigerate. You really need to use royal icing on the day that it’s made. You can keep it in an airtight container or cover it in the bowl in which it was made for up to a few hours or, if you need, it can be stored in the fridge in piping bags or squeezy bottles for up to 3 days, but the icing tends to separate a little and become less easy to handle on standing for a long time.
  • Make piping and flooding icings (optional)
  • 3. Depending on the type of cookie designs you intend to make, you may need to take your royal icing and make piping and flooding icing.

    Piping icing is smooth and thick, a bit like the texture of toothpaste. This icing is used for adding fine detail and decoration, as on gingerbread cookies, and for piping borders, which form little “walls” around the areas of the cookie that you want to fill with the flooding icing, as on Hanukkah cookies. It has to be just soft enough to squeeze out of the piping bag, but also thick enough to hold its shape perfectly. To make it, you may need to beat just a little extra confectioners’ sugar or a few drops of water into your royal icing to achieve the right consistency for piping icing. If you don’t need to flood your cookies, just use the royal icing as-is or, if you wish to tint it first, go to step 4.

    Flooding icing is glossy and almost pourable. This icing is squeezed onto cookies to flood areas where a shiny, smooth effect is required. It’s well worth investing in a few little squeezy bottles to dispense this icing from; with their screw-on nozzles, they are perfect for directing the flow of flooding icing to exactly where it should be. To make it, gradually add enough water, a few drops at a time, stirring constantly, until you have a smooth, just pourable mixture that has roughly the same consistency, maybe a little thicker, as heavy cream.
  • Tint the icing (optional)
  • 4. We use some fantastic powdered colors that are derived from plants. They come in all sorts of colors and are made from carrots and beets, spinach and red cabbage. The traditional bottles of food coloring in most supermarkets are suitable for most coloring. You cannot achieve intense colors with liquid colors, but they work fine for pastel shades. For a more interesting palette, food-color gels are really useful and are pretty much essential if you want strong colors. Check to see how many colors of icing you need and then divvy up the icing into that number of little bowls, pots, teacups, mugs, etc.

    If using gel colors, use the tip of a toothpick to add a tiny amount of the gel to the icing, stirring it until it is totally mixed in and you see the resulting color. Slowly add more gel, stirring well between additions, until the color has reached the desired shade. Remember, when coloring icing you can always add more color, but you can’t take it away.

    If using liquid food coloring, add the coloring one drop at a time to the icing, stirring it into the icing until it is totally mixed in and you see the resulting color. Slowly add more coloring, one drop at a time, stirring well between additions, until the color has reached the desired shade. Remember, when coloring icing you can always add more color, but you can’t take it away. You may need to beat in a little extra confectioners’ sugar if the liquid color begins to thin down your icing.
  • 5. When you’ve finished, cover the surface of the icing with plastic wrap and chill each bowl as you make it until you have all the colors you need.
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