Hey Besties! Today we’re going dish on some royal icing coloring tips! Sometimes when I go to my local bakery supply store, I just have to smile at all the coloring options we have! Well, if I’m being honest, I’m pretty much smiling the whole time I’m in the store, it’s my happy place. But seriously, so many fun shades of colors, so much inspiration, so many options! So why is it so darn difficult to achieve consistent colors with your royal icing?! You would think it should be as simple as adding a few drops of color and bagging it up! Unfortunately, some colors are REALLY hard to achieve, you don’t want to oversaturate, you don’t want color bleeding, there are many tricky factors! Let’s get into tips and techniques to perfect those stunning colors!
Does Your Icing Recipe Matter?
Before we can get to coloring, let’s talk about making your icing, because, yes, it is important and impacts your colors! Something that many bakers don’t realize is that if you use a low meringue powder to powdered sugar ratio, your icing will be more prone to color bleeding. If you are using less than 5 tbsp of meringue powder per 2 lbs of powdered sugar, you may experience color bleeding. If bleeding has been a problem or concern for you, you may want to consider your recipe. I recommend using 5-6 tbsp of meringue powder. THIS is the royal icing recipe I always use, love and do not have issues with bleeding at all.
Next, when you are making your royal icing, you need to be mixing it enough but not overmixing. I know, I know, this sounds ridiculous! But honestly, you should be mixing your royal icing on medium speed for 4-5 minutes. I turn on my mixer, set my timer for 5 minutes and when it goes off, it’s perfect! If you don’t mix for at least 4 minutes, you haven’t even made royal icing, it will be way too thin. If you overmix, there will be too much air in your icing, and be more prone to color bleed.
I’ve heard beginner bakers say they only mix for a few minutes thinking that is how to get thinner consistencies. This is not the right approach and will not set you up for success. If you want that perfect, puffy icing, you need to mix until your icing is pretty stiff. You’ll thin down to your desired consistencies later on. My last tip when it comes to mixing your icing is to use your paddle attachment, not your whisk.
DO My Cookies Influence Icing Issues?
They certainly can! If you’ve ever had your icing dry blotchy, butter bleed is the culprit. This is basically when the butter from the cookie comes up into the icing and can basically ruin your beautiful cookie! To help avoid butter bleed, cool your cookies on a cooling rack and not on the pan. If they cool on the pan, they are continuing to bathe in the butter with no escape. Also, once your cookies have cooled, it can help to place them on paper towels which will soak up excess butter.
Let’s Start Coloring!
Okay, let’s start playing with colors! I know many cookiers despise the color mixing and bagging process, just wanting to get to the decorating, I get it. Personally, I enjoy the coloring process…maybe it’s the sciency nerd in me! Here are helpful tips for coloring success:
- Adding white coloring to your icing before coloring can help prevent color bleed. I know it seems counterintuitive! But hear me out and give it a try if you’re concerned about potential color bleed.
- Always do all your coloring before thinning (or thickening) to your decorating consistencies. Gel coloring is water-based so it will thin your icing, especially if you’re having to use a lot of coloring (hello, red and black!). So always get to your desired color and THEN thin or thicken to the consistency you need.
- Make more than you think you need. Having to stop decorating because you ran out of a color is super annoying and can be difficult to match. I always err on the side of making more than I think I’ll need of each color. I’d much rather have enough, with icing leftover versus having to go back and color more to match.
- If you’re trying to achieve deep, rich colors, try to color your icing at least a few hours ahead of when you plan to decorate. Some even make all their colors the night before. Deep colors will develop over time and it’s hard to rush that process.
- If you’re looking for muted colors, add a drop of Ivory gel coloring and get ready to fall in love!
- Stop adding color when your icing is 1-2 shades lighter than what you are trying to achieve. For the reason I just stated, colors will continue to develop and darken. I know it’s really tempting to keep adding color. But if you keep adding color until it’s the deep color you want, it’s going to dry even darker, and you may be disappointed. It may even become oversaturated with color and fail to dry well. In this picture, look at the difference in the blue in the bag and how it dried! The difference in the red shades isn’t as obvious in the photo, but it definitely dried darker. This is exactly why you should stop adding color once you’re 1-2 shades away from what you want. Fortunately, this is exactly the colors I was trying to achieve!
Should We Talk About Red and Black?
Every cookier knows what a pain it can be to achieve the perfect red or pitch black, we’ve all been there. As stated earlier, many cookiers make these colors the day before they need them to allow them time to develop. But sometimes you just don’t have the time to wait! I have always had success using the following method to achieve these perfect colors without having to wait. When I’m making red, I color my icing a deep pink first, then add my red coloring. I can quickly achieve my red with less overall gel color when starting with a pink base. I use a similar strategy for black; color a deep brown first, then add my black coloring and can quickly get to jet black.
If you’re looking for a very deep red, you can also try adding a little bit of brown to deepen the red.
I’ve done my own red color study to see if different brands work better. I know, I know, there’s the science nerd in me again. I compared AmeriColor, ChefMaster and Sunny Side Up brands with equal amounts icing and color. Honestly, I was kind of rooting for Sunny Side Up since you can get them for $1 a bottle when they are on sale at Hobby Lobby every other week. Unfortunately, Sunny Side Up didn’t win in the study, but not by much! AmeriColor and ChefMaster basically came out exactly the same, tying for 1st place. ChefMaster coloring is more reasonably priced than AmeriColor so I’ve yet been able to justify the cost of AmeriColor for the same results. THIS is the 12-piece ChefMaster set I have bought over and over again.
I hope this post all about royal icing coloring has offered you some new tips to help nail those perfect shades you’re seeking. I would be remiss if I didn’t also remind you that using a fan or dehydrator to dry your icing will always result in less bleed and more shine! Dottie, my dehydrator, has been a game changer when it comes to perfect icing! If you want to know more about using a dehydrator to quick dry your icing, avoid bleed and prevent cratering, THIS post will give you the scoop.
There is just something about creating stunning, vibrant and rich colors which makes me so happy! Drop a comment if you have other coloring tips or favorites!
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