Royal Icing 101 and My Favorite Recipe

 

Royal Icing 101

Yield: Icing for 9-10 dozen cookies

Royal Icing 101

My favorite royal icing recipe.

Ingredients

  • 4lbs {two bags} confectioner’s sugar
  • 3/4 c. meringue powder
  • 1 1/3-1 1/2 c. warm water
  • 2-4 tbsp. oil-free extract or flavoring

Instructions

  1. Add the dry ingredients first. Use your mixer’s whisk attachment to incorporate the sugar and meringue powder.
  2. Add the extract to the water and slowly add it to the dry ingredients while mixing. At first the icing will be very liquid-like.
  3. Continue to mix it at medium-high speed until it is fluffy and stiff peaks form, about 7-10 minutes. Mixing times are approximate, keep your eye it icing and stop mixing as soon as it becomes stiff. Over mixing and oil-containing extracts can keep the icing from setting up, so keep this in mind as you work.

Notes

Royal icing will keep at least a month. I prefer refrigerating it, but it can also be left at room temperature.

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Have you ever heard the saying, “All roads lead to Rome”?  It basically means that there are many different ways of doing things, but in the end, they all have the same result.

This is the note on which I’d like to begin, and by the end I hope it makes sense.

When I first began making cookies, I didn’t really do a lot of research.  I’d read a magazine article that said I needed meringue powder, SOOOOO, I headed on out to Wal-mart and bought a can of the Wilton stuff.

The first thing you’ll find when you open it up, folded in a tiny square, are the instructions.  That was pretty much my beginning.  No Googling or classes, just me reading those little instructions, interpreting in my head what they meant, and taking a leap.

I have gone back and fourth about posting this for a long time, just because I know, if there is any book, or proper way to make royal icing, I’d probably get a big fat “F”, so, as a little disclaimer before I start, PLEASE don’t turn me into the Royal Icing Police if the way I do things strikes you as a little ODD.  This method works well for me, so I’m sharing it with you.

Anyhow, HERE I GO.  This is how I make royal icing…

When I started, I used with the Wilton recipe.  However, as I got better and better at making royal icing, I got to the point that I didn’t measure anymore.  At this point, I CAN’T, I just look at it and adjust.  To double check “my” recipe, I broke it down .

 I pretty much always make a large batch of RI.  It almost fills my 5 quart mixer, which is way too much for most people, so I’ll post two versions, a large and a small.  If for SOME reason, you hate this recipe, revert back to the Wilton version or another popular favorite, Antonia74′s Royal Icing.

Remember, cookies aren’t rocket science.  The key is to find what works for you and perfect it. Again, ALL ROADS LEAD TO ROME.

 

If you don’t need a whole lot of icing, use this version.

2 lbs {1bag} confectioner’s sugar
1/3 c. plus one tablespoon meringue powder
about 3/4c. water

To begin, I add all of my sugar and meringue powder to the mixer bowl.  I am what you would call a non-sifter.  In my defense, I ALWAYS sift my flour, but I just don’t waste the time with powdered sugar.

Before I add any liquid, I  mix the dry ingredients to make sure they are well incorporated.  It’s here that you may notice one of the first things I do that might be a little out of the ordinary. 
When I make royal icing, I ALWAYS use my whisk attachment.  When I read the original Wilton recipe, it instructed to beat the icing into peaks, which reminded me of meringue, which I’d always associated with whisking, so that’s what I did. I never even thought anything of it until I visited my friend Gina in New Orleans, who was actually very surprised. It was then that I did a little research and realized there are quite a few articles out there that say you should use the paddle attachment.
Maybe it doesn’t matter, but at this point, I am set in my ways.  I tried using the paddle while I was in New Orleans, but I could tell there was a difference, so, I stuck with my whisk.
If for some reason you have an aversion to this, keep the paddle.  They both work, I just like my whisk.
Next, I add water.  A few little notes on this…First of all, I use warm water.  No reason, just seems logical that everything will combine a little better in warm water.  This is also the point at which I add flavoring.
I truly believe that it’s flavoring that makes the difference between the good and bad royal icing.  I’ve heard SOOOO many people say that royal icing tastes bad.  I really think this is because it’s not properly flavored.  Leaving the flavoring out of royal icing is like forgetting to salt your food.  It still cooks, and it might even be pretty, but without it, it just doesn’t taste as good.
I add mine directly to the warm water. You can use whatever strikes your fancy.  I prefer almond and vanilla myself, but there are all kinds of options.  If you like to live life a little on the wild side, I suggest checking out Spices Ect.  They have everyday, run of the mill flavors, plus, other fun selections such as root beer, pistachio, and even pomegranate.  Plus, if you sign up for their newsletter, they OFTEN offer specials such as 20% off.
The only things you need to watch out for is flavorings that contain oil, which is the enemy of royal icing, and also, if you want pure white RI, stay away from extracts with color. 
I don’t have any scientific proof, just experience, but the worst RI disaster I have ever had involved Orange extract, which contained 13% orange oil {I read after the fact}.  So watch out for that!
When I add the water, I just dump it all in there and get to work.  If you look closely, you can see it bubbling up to the surface.
 
After a little mixing, you will end up with this…

Instead of scraping the sides, ever since I read Gail’s life-altering post on ”shpritz bottles” I keep my trusty spray bottle handy.  If a little icing happens to stick, I just spritz the sides until it’s incorporated. {As a matter or fact, I now use my bottle for all sorts of little jobs in the kitchen}

At this point, the icing may look too thin, but believe me, it’s not.  It should be about the consistency of honey {in a warm room} or shampoo. 

A little FYI, a useful piece of info I have learned along the way is this: If for some reason you forget the meringue powder, DO NOT add it into the icing after it has reached this point…if you do, it will be ruined.  If you need to add meringue after the fact, dissolve it into as much water as it needs to become liquefied and then add it.

The Christmas before last, exhausted from making tons of cookies, after a few minutes of unsuccessful beating I realized I’d forgotten the meringue.  Without a thought, I dumped it right in.  The resulting icing was so clumpy, that after a FRUSTRATING hour of unclogging and changing tips, I finally tossed it out and started over. 

I’m sharing that in the hope of saving others the frustration…

On the other hand, if I  happen to over-thin my initial mixture, adding more powdered sugar to the mix doesn’t seem to effect it at all.  Go figure…

Moving right along…I begin by mixing my icing for 5-6 minutes at medium speed.  Then, as it thickens up, {think pudding}  I hike it up to high.

I let it go on that way for about 3-4 more minutes until it is stiff and fluffy like meringue.  At this point, I can  tell  by the clanking of my mixer that it’s ready…thank goodness for Kitchen Aid’s wonderful warranty!

It should look like this.  See how stiff it is?  The whisk will actually stick there, without moving.
See?  VERY stable.
Even if I move it around, the icing does not budge.
 
It’s from this point, that I work backward to the consistencies I plan on using for each project.
For information on how I store my icing, click {HERE}

For information of coloring and preparing royal icing, click {HERE}

If this is altogether too much for you, and seems like total and utter insanity, click {HERE} to learn more about glaze, or corn syrup icing.
A few more little notes:
  • Royal icing and oil are NOT friends.  make sure all of your utensils are oil free, including your bowls.  wash them well in hot water, and give them a rub with lemon juice or vinegar before using them.
  • Royal icing keeps for a long time.  I have been told by MANY that they leave it covered on the counter for up to a month with no problem.  I refrigerate mine, but that’s just me.
  • If you need to refresh it, you can fluff it up again with the mixer, and it will be like new.
  • If I am expecting humidity, I add a little less meringue powder, and a little cream of tartar.  I didn’t just make that up.  I read somewhere that CofT is a stabilizer and helps when it’s humid.  It seems to work, although humidity has not been a concern of mine for almost a year *GRUMBLING*
  • It’s also alright to add a little bit of corn syrup to your icing.  Every once in a while I do this if I want it to be a little shinier, but I really can’t tell if it helps or if I just think it does =)
  • I don’t really use Wilton Meringue powder anymore, but if you don’t have access to other brands, it works just fine…
If you would like more info on royal icing, you should check out this article by my friend Haniela.  It’s VERY informative and thorough, and includes a pictorial on making Antonia74′s RI.

You can also view an informative and FUNNY vlog, by Gail, AKA, One Tough Cookie {HERE} and another by Bridget, {HERE}, both on University of Cookie. Might I add, I have a thing for throw pillows and I was VERY distracted by Bridget’s =).
 
So, there you have it.  My way of making royal icing.  If it doesn’t work for you, no worries, try another and another, until something does. 
Eventually you will find something you like.
Also, don’t stop here.  Read everything yoU can get your hands on.  There is so much information, it’s IMPOSSIBLE to include it all in one post.
Although there are some basic “rules”, making royal icing is like any other cookie venture.  It’s unique to the baker.  Don’t give up.  Practice makes perfect! And remember despite what you have read and seen, in the case of royal icing, ALL ROADS LEAD TO ROME. You might just come up with the new, coolest way to do it.  As long as it works, it’s good!
This is only the beginning  if you need help coloring and preparing royal icing for use, click HERE.
If you need help with piping and flooding/filling cookies, click HERE.

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Comments

  1. 191
    Carly says:

    Could I use Wilton’s Color Flow Mix instead of Meringue Powder?

  2. 192
    Dawn says:

    Hi I have a quick question, I wrote the recipes down wrong and put that the large batch was 3/4 of a cup of meringue powder plus a tbsp., is that going to ruin the recipe? Should I add more powdered sugar and water? I haven’t touched it, I should have double checked before but it’s been so busy here that I just didn’t and checked after the fact, ugh! Help please :-)

    Merry Christmas,
    Dawn :-)

  3. 193
    AKINTADE ELIZABETH says:

    we need text book and how can this be gotten

  4. 194
    Amber Christianson says:

    Can an almond emulsion be used for flavoring? I’m worried that it will have too much oil in it.

  5. 195
    Danyag says:

    I just made this recipe (the big batch) and OMG! Where has the been all my life? It’s amazing! Te texture of it is amazing…it pipes so much better than how I was making it! I don’t do a ton of cookies…misting cakes….and this works great for piping on them too! Thank you so much for sharing! By the way, your cookies are amazing!

  6. 196
    Omotayo says:

    Hi Sweet Sugar Belle, what steps do you take when using RI in humid conditions and I heard that drying the cookies in a slightly heated oven helps them to dry faster; have you tried this? And can I add the corn syrup after I have made the icing, like for example, the next day?
    Thanks

  7. 197
    Kim says:

    What size/ model mixer do you have? I am interested in pruchasing a larger capacity. My current bowl size is only 4 qt.

  8. 198
    Nicole Beevers says:

    HELP! As with all things that look easy…..it’s not. I can get my RI to the stiff peak, build a house with it stage and it will edge but will not flood. Can I turn this into 20 second icing with more water? I added a little water to my icing bottle and it was flowing well, but the end result was very dull….was this because the water wasn’t mix correctly?
    I’m in the UK and we actually get RI powder so don’t have to add meringue powder to ours but it’s just not playing ball.

  9. 199

    Spectacular —- many thank you very much

  10. 200
    Gina says:

    The spritz bottle has just changed my life! It is perfect for adding water into RI. But my 5 yr old walked in while I was spraying and said, “I don’t think I want any icing on my cookies if you’re spraying cleaner in it” lol! :)

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