Hey Besties! Ask and you shall receive! I get SO many requests for tutorials and tips on royal icing consistencies. And I get it, learning and mastering the consistencies is the hardest part of cookie decorating. Getting that darn icing to do exactly what you want can be so frustrating sometimes! But I’ve got you. Regardless of your cookie decorating skill level, you can learn this and make beautiful cookies you are proud of! Today we are not only going to cover piping, but we’re pulling together flooding and puffy icing as well! Think of this as your Royal Icing 101 to learn the fundamentals of royal icing consistencies! Let’s jump in!
Cookie Decorating Goals
Now you may be a seasoned cookie decorator with a business or someone just looking to up their Christmas cookie game! You’ve come to the right place. We support, help and celebrate home bakers across the whole spectrum of skills. We’re all playing with royal icing and making pretty cookies that taste as good as they look! So, don’t be intimidated if you’re new to this! And if you are seasoned, I hope you’ll find tips and hacks to further develop your skills!
In this guide, I am going to focus on the fundamental consistencies you’ll use all the time. Flooding and piping skills are essential, and you’ll use them with basically every cookie. But before we get into the decorating, let’s talk about cookies and royal icing!
We can’t decorate without a canvas, right?! If you already have cutout cookie recipes you love, you’ve got this! But if you are looking for a great sugar cookie recipe for cutout cookies, THIS is our vanilla go-to recipe. All of our recipes are no-chill and easy enough for kids to make! But they won’t taste or look like a kid made them! In today’s tutorial, I used our ridiculously delicious chocolate mint cookie recipe. It will always be one of my favorites and remains a top seller with our customers too! But you have MANY flavors to choose from, always free for everyone, HERE.
Royal Icing 101
Because I’m your baking bestie, I’m going to give it to you straight. It never ceases to amaze me the things we can do with sugar and a few other ingredients! Royal icing can be beautiful, delicious and an awesome medium to work with. However, since decorated sugar cookies have soared in popularity over the past several years, working with royal icing has become overcomplicated. All with good intentions, a lot of hacks, shortcuts and just plain bad information has unnecessarily clouded the craft. You don’t need a PhD to successfully make royal icing and decorate cookies. If you stick to the fundamentals and baking science, you’ll be well on your way and avoid many pitfalls.
All of that said, we whip up a fresh batch of icing from start to finish in about 6 minutes and get beautiful, consistent results every time. We never have color bleed, craters or other issues with our icing. The recipe and method of making it is VERY simple, but it is important to follow each step. This is where the science comes in! If you follow the recipe and method, you’ll get consistent results every time.
THIS post walks you through step-by-step, exactly how to make beautiful royal icing. It’s important to know that how you make the icing is arguably even more important than the short list of ingredients you need.
I will also say that the number 1 mistake cookiers make is UNDERMIXING their icing. To make royal icing, it must be fully whipped to a medium/stiff peak consistency. Somewhere along the line cookiers got the idea to only mix to the consistency they wanted. By doing this, the royal icing has not been made, is undermixed and you will be plagued by color bleeding and other issues. Whether you follow my recipe or another, please fully make your royal icing before starting to decorate with it. You’ll save yourself a lot of heartache and frustration!
All of today’s tutorials are using royal icing made from THIS recipe and method. If you already have a recipe you love, keep using it! But if you ever experience issues with your icing, I encourage you to try our recipe and method.
Royal Icing 101: How To Flood Cookies
Let’s get to the fun stuff! You have a couple options to create a beautiful flood base layer to your cookies. The most common and traditional way is using a decorating bag. This is how I flood 95% of my cookies, and I actually love flooding cookies this way. You also have the option to dip your cookies which is a great alternative for those that don’t want or don’t like to use a decorating bag. They are completely different techniques, but once learned, both result in a beautiful flood base layer on your cookies.
There are additional pros and cons to each method which I cover in-depth to help you decide which works best for you! To learn the traditional decorating method, everything you need to know is HERE. If you want to learn more about the dipping method, everything you need to know is HERE! In each of these tutorials, I cover the consistencies you need, the technique, tips and demo videos are included.
In today’s tutorial, you’ll also see me flood our cookies using the traditional method. But for ALL the details, Flooding 101 is your go-to resource! The great news is that regardless of which technique you learn, you hardly need anything in the way of tools to get started! And pretty soon you’ll have beautiful canvases like this!
Royal Icing 101: How To Pipe Cookies
Now some people just want a beautiful coat of icing and that is okay (and delicious)! But if you want to take it a step further, let’s talk about how to pipe royal icing. Once again, it all comes down to your consistency to get the results you want. In case you don’t already know, there are not separate recipes for different consistencies. You will simply make your royal icing and then you can thin (with water) or thicken (with powdered sugar) to get the consistency you want.
If you already have experience flooding cookies, you’ll know you use a thinner consistency for that layer. This is what allows for the icing to settle perfectly flat with a smooth finish. But when you’re wanting to pipe details, you’re going to want a thicker consistency so that the icing holds its shape. We don’t want it to settle out smooth, so your thicker consistency works perfectly.
In the image below, my flood consistency is about a 15-second consistency. Which means, if I had my bowl of icing and I ran a knife through it, it would take about 15 seconds to be completely smooth in the bowl again. It’s a timing method for consistencies. Now on the other hand, my piping consistency would probably take closer to 25 seconds to smooth out in a bowl. This difference in consistencies is what allows you to pipe beautiful, intricate designs. You’ll see the exact consistency in the video as well.
When you’re ready to bag your icing, just place your decorating bag inside a large cup/glass and pour your icing in. I use little sewing clips to clamp the end of my bag. When you’re learning, it’s easier to work with a bag with a smaller amount of icing in it. Don’t fill it full or it will be way too hard to manage and learn at the same time.
If you’re using tipless bags, you’ll use a sharp scissors to cut a small hole straight across. Turn the bag so the seam is facing up, flatted the tip and cut straight across. This will give you a clean, round circle. And when you’re learning, start with a smaller hole, which will give you more control over the icing coming out. You can then cut bigger holes as you are comfortable.
When it comes to piping with royal icing, the most common mistake people make is holding their tip too close to the cookie. I’ll admit it, when I first started decorating cookies, I did it too! You’re trying to so hard to control that icing and so it feels natural to hold it to the cookie. But bestie, let me tell you, that just leads to messy piping. The trick is to touch down to start your line and then LIFT your bag and let the icing flow, with hardly any pressure, before touching down to end your line again. That is how you can achieve perfectly straight lines like the ones I’m demonstrating today.
The more your practice, the better you’ll get at controlling your icing while your bag is lifted. You’ll learn how fast or slow to move your bag to get the result you want. I encourage you to start on parchment or wax paper. Just try short lines, gradually making them longer. Then try curvy lines. Seriously, an hour of just playing with icing like this will teach you SO much about how to manipulate the royal icing! I know you’re excited to make pretty cookies, but trust me, learning how to make the royal icing do what you want is your first step!
Cookie Decorating With Training Wheels
Now if you’re just wanting to make basic decorations for holiday cookies, this is probably as much as you need to master! But if you’re interested in really developing your decorating skills, there are a couple ways that make it easier and lower stress. Not everyone wants to be constantly baking cookies just to practice their decorating. And honestly, decorating on actual cookies can feel really intimidating at first.
And because taking the time to learn how to decorate with royal icing will greatly expedite your journey, there are a couple options. First, THIS product gives you an opportunity to practice on a fake cookie that you can use over and over again. Genius! I’ve also seen people use a tile in the same way, as an alternative.
The other option is practicing using royal icing transfers! This method allows you to practice piping, lettering and other designs in a low-stress way and without risking actual cookies. It’s also a great way to practice consistencies. For example, if you’re not sure if your consistency is too thin or thick for a specific detail, try piping it as a transfer first and see how it dries before working directly on a cookie. Because royal icing transfers offer a way to practice and develop your skills without the intimidation or risk, I sometimes call it cookie decorating with training wheels. And many pro cookiers use transfers for design elements regularly! If you’re interest in learning more about transfers, there is a whole tutorial HERE. And everyone always has free access to all of our royal icing transfer sheets HERE.
Royal Icing 101: Demo Video
We’ve covered a lot here! But let’s see it in action! In this decorating video, you’ll see me flood cookies, pipe some different designs and also pop off some royal icing transfer letters! I hope this is helpful for you in whatever cookie decorating stage you are in! I am continually learning every day as well and love to share with you! You can find the decorating video HERE!
While we focused on the fundamentals of flooding and piping today, I also want to point you to THIS post which is all about achieving PUFFY icing! In the cookie decorating world, puffy icing is really coveted and that tutorial breaks it all down for you so you can achieve it too! As you can guess, it all comes down to the right consistency!
Coming up soon, I’ll be sharing a tutorial on florals! You guessed it, another consistency is required, and I’ll show exactly how we make our florals! So stay tuned! They aren’t as hard as you think!
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