Tis the season for sugar cookies! I love sugar cookies because they are perfect for any occasion, however, I definitely make more than usual around the Christmas season. I thought I would share some of my tips for decorating with royal icing. I shared my recipe for royal icing in a previous post but I thought today I would take the time to share some more tips for decorating with it. I know it can be super frustrating when the image you have in your head doesn't quite translate into the perfect looking cookie. These are a few things I try to keep in mind when decorating cookies - year round.
Tips for Decorating with Royal Icing
1. Icing consistency is key
Your desired icing consistency will depend on if you are flooding, outlining or adding detail to your cookie. Add additional water slowly (think 1/2 a teaspoon at a time) until your desired consistency is reached. I typically use a 10 second consistency icing to outline and flood my cookie. I will use a slightly thicker consistency when adding detail to my cookies.
2. Keep your icing covered when not in use
Royal icing drys out quickly, be sure to keep it covered either with plastic wrap or a clean damp tea towel. This prevents it from crusting over or drying out.
3. Use gel colours to tint your royal icing
Gel colours will not effect the consistency of the icing. Remember a lot goes a long way. Your icing will also darken over time so you will need even less then you think you do. I add my gel colours to my icing using a clean toothpick. Be sure to use a new clean toothpick each time as you don't want to contaminate your gel colours.
4. Always make more of a colour than you think you'll need
It is really difficult to exactly match a colour that you have previously made. Making more of a colour than you think you will need eliminates the stress of running out of a particular colour of icing and having to try and match it. Save yourself the headache and just make a bit more to begin with.
5. Sketch or write out a game plan
If I am creating multiple different cookies in a set I will often sketch out a rough idea of how I am going to decorate my cookies. This allows me to see how many different colours I will need to make and the number of steps
6. Simplify when possible
Once you create your game plan, look for ways to simplify your design. I always look to see if I can eliminate a colour or step and still achieve the overall results that I am looking for. I try to limit my designs to 3-4 colours. I find this creates a more cohesive set and as a bonus it reduces the amount of colours & piping bags I have to create
7. Give yourself enough time
While you could make and decorate your cookies all in one day, I like to space it out. I work backwards from the number of steps in my game plan to determine how many days I will need to make my cookies without going crazy! Ha. I typically take 3 days to make a set. One day to make the dough and bake the cookies, one day to flood the cookies and another to add the detail. Trying to add details to soon or flood a warm cookie just leads to frustration.
8. Storing your Royal Icing
If you ran out of time, or made more icing than you need. Not to worry. You can store your icing. Royal icing made with meringue powder stores wonderfully, in an air tight container on the counter. I put a layer of plastic wrap directly on top of the icing to keep it from crusting over, and then put my lid on top. It will last for over a week on the counter. The icing will start to separate and probably won't be at a perfect consistency when you go to use it again. Just pop it back in your mixer for a few minutes for it reincorporate and add small amounts of additional water as necessary to get it back to your desired consistency.