Jenean Carlton, Carlton’s Cakes LLC
Decorated cookies are so pretty and delicious yet can be complicated to make because they are typically decorated with royal icing. What is royal icing? Royal icing is made of confectioner’s sugar (10x), meringue powder or egg whites, and water.
Here’s my recipe for royal icing:
Carlton’s Royal Icing Recipe
1 lb confectioner’s sugar
3 Tbsp meringue powder
1/2 cup filtered water
1) Using a hand whisk, blend the meringue powder and water together in a 5 quart mixing bowl. (I use KitchenAid stand mixers for this because I can walk away from the mixer while it is running and work on other projects at the same time. If you don’t have a stand mixer you can use a hand-held mixer for this recipe).
2) Next, gradually add all the confectioner’s sugar to the mixing bowl and combine using low speed. This could get very messy. Using a towel to cover your mixer during this process helps to keep from having sugar everywhere!
3) Whip the mixture on medium speed until the icing is glossy and thick. This will take approximately 5 minutes. Add more water if necessary as the icing thickens.
The meringue powder is the thickening agent in this recipe and it will cause the icing to thicken significantly. Add more water in 1 tsp increments until the icing thins down some and doesn’t cause your mixer to overheat! (I’ve killed mixers with thick icing concoctions, especially with chocolate ganache.) When the icing is finished it will be thick and fluffy; at this stage the icing is at a medium consistency and perfect for piping borders or writing text.
It’s All About the Consistency
The biggest challenge with royal icing is mastering the different consistencies needed to complete cookie or cake projects. When decorating cookies we are usually working with 2 icing consistencies: flood consistency and piping consistency. Flood consistency icing is achieved by adding more water to the icing to thin it a bit, this way the icing will “flood” the cookie but won’t be so thin as to run off the sides of the cookie. It takes practice to get this right but here’s a good rule of thumb- add small amounts of water until the icing reaches a 12 second flow rate. How to do this: Scoop up a large spoonful of the icing with a metal spoon (only use metal or glass when working with royal icing, using plastic utensils and bowls often ruins the icing because these items are porous and hold fats which cause the icing to become granular or crystalize). After scooping up some of the icing, drop it back into the icing bowl using circular motions. How many seconds does it take for the icing swirls to disappear and incorporate with the remaining icing in the bowl? You will need to count seconds to yourself while watching the changes take place. Once the icing swirls settle completely into the rest of the icing in the bowl, and the swirls are no longer able to be seen, stop counting. If the icing has a flow rate of about 12 seconds this is a good consistency for flooding cookies- not too fast and not too slow. If the icing is thinner, and let’s say has a flow rate of 7 seconds, it’s moving very quickly and you will want to thicken this up with some of the original batch from your mixing bowl.
We flood cookies using a flood rate of about 12 seconds and our medium level consistency for piped detail work is about 25 seconds (this is the same thickness achieved when making the icing). We need thicker icing for detail work because we don’t want it to make a puddle. Ribbon edges, pearls and more are created using a medium level icing consistency. Will you ever need a super-thick icing consistency? Yes you will need this if you are making flowers on your cookies or more details that are perpendicular to the cookie surface. Achieving this level of thickness is done by adding more confectioner’s sugar to your icing until it’s very thick and stable.
I hope this information helps you with your cookie projects. I could go on and on about working with royal icing but need to get to work on a wedding cake. Leave me a message if you have some questions and have a lovely day friends!
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