This post is long. I try my best not to ramble so as to cut the bull crap from this already tedious tutorial, but I wanted to provide a lot of pictures — tutorials with pictures were what really helped me when I was first starting to learn about royal icing and cookies. Without them, I probably would have finger painted a cookie and called it a day.
There are more ways than one to ice a cookie (without outline, using different consistencies for filling, etc) but this is how I like to do it, because it’s the easiest method I’ve come across without compromising neatness.
1lb powdered sugar
5 TBSP Meringue Powder*
1/2 cup water
*Meringue Powder is an egg whites substitute. I haven’t been able to find it at a regular grocery store, so I usually go to a specialty (baking supply) store. You can get them online from Wilton here, or you can use actual egg whites. I’ve never used real egg whites in my icing, so I’m going to recommend using Martha Stewart’s recipe — while I can’t vouch for it since I’ve never tried, in my eyes she can do no wrong and I trust that it would come out well.
1. Dump powdered sugar and meringue powder plus 1/4 cup of water into the mixer. It may seem clumpy but it’s OK. You want to add the water GRADUALLY, just a little bit at a time. It only takes a little bit of water to thin icing, but it takes a LOT of powder sugar to get it to thicken again.
3. Keep adding water, a TBSP at a time, doing the knife test after each addition to see if you’ve reached the right consistency. Knife Test: Drag a butter knife across the surface of the icing, making a streak like the one above. You want this streak to smooth over between 5-10 seconds. If it takes too long or doesn’t close at all, thin the icing with a little more water. If it disappears almost immediately, add more powder sugar.
4. When I have the right consistency, I like to move the icing to a smaller, more manageable bowl, keeping it covered with plastic wrap. Take the original giant mixer bowl, take it to the sink, fill it with water. NOTHING sucks more than having to get dry icing off the sides of the bowl. Nothing.
5. Add color, little at a time. I learned that sometimes it takes about 3-5 minutes for the color to really deepen to its full potential, so don’t be discouraged if your “black” icing looks dark, dark grey. It will eventually turn black.
6. Mix well until you reach a solid color, without those marble streaks you see in the picture above. You’d think it won’t show up, and then there it is, on your precious cookie, and you’re sitting there trying to convince yourself you did it on purpose, to be artsy. No.
7. Prepare your piping bag. This is what I use — disposable plastic bags, a metal tip, and a “coupler” that keeps the tip in place. I also sometimes use a triangular parchment paper, which is great because there are NO clean up required aside from taking it to the trash can. But I like the metal tips because it helps when doing intricate/small details. If you’re piping an Iota, you won’t have any issues with parchment paper piping. But if you’re doing a Psi, I’d suggest you invest in the coupler + tip. You’d have better control and the lines will come out neater.
8. This is the set up I use to fill piping bags, because otherwise the icing escapes from the tip and you’re outlining your kitchen floor.
9. This is myset up for cookie decorating. When you’re outlining a cookie you want to be able to turn the cookie easily — the napkin helps with this so you don’t have to touch the cookie and mess it up. The toothpicks are for filling the cookie and for plugging the tip when you’re not using the bag.
9. Start at a corner and pipe close to the cookie for about 1/2″, then slowly begin to lift your tip away from the cookie while still piping. Let the icing fall onto the cookie, and when you approach the other corner, lower the tip again — this sounds more difficult than it actually is. It’s OK to pipe close to the cookie all the way around if you’re not comfortable with this, but piping from higher gives you better control and gives you a straighter line.
10. Done. Let it dry for 10 mins. Resist the urge to touch!!!
11. Meanwhile, switch your tip to something wider for filling & flooding. I think this is a #5.
12. When filling the cookie, don’t worry about getting every corner. You can fix this with a toothpick later. Just concentrate on moving as quickly (but steadily) as possible.
13. Use the end of a toothpick to move around the icing to places you couldn’t get to with the icing bag. Step 12 & 13 needs to be done swiftly, before the surface of the icing starts to dry. Once done, tap the cookie a bit to smooth out surfaces & to get rid of any air bubbles.
14. At this point, while the icing is still wet, place any decorations – sprinkles, shaped quins, edible pearls, etc. If you have long nails or fingers fatter than a tweezer…you should use a tweezer. I’ve ruined many a cookie by being too lazy to go get one.
I think it’s safe to say that your cookie will be completely dry in 8-12 hours. I let mine dry overnight, so that’s where the approximation comes from. The cookie may appear to be dry in about 3 hours. Do NOT be fooled by the dry surface. Underneath lies a wet layer of icing and the weight of your fingers WILL crush the thin top layer and you WILL be depressed.
I know I said this in my baking tutorial but I feel the need to reiterate that I’m not a professional at all — just a girl with a hobby. If you have any other helpful tips, I would really love to hear them!