Outlining and Filling Cookies with Royal Icing

Hi everyone!  I hope you all had a safe, wonderful, and cookie filled Fourth of July.  Normally, I would chit chat about all of the fun things I did in big ol’ Crane, America, but I have a lot to say today, so I’ll just get down to business.  There is SO much information here that I have actually broken it into two posts.  That said, y’all get comfy and get ready to learn.

If you hang around here long, you will notice I often talk about outline, flood, and twenty-second icing.  With a little bit of cookie experience, this probably makes a lot of sense.  If not, I might as well be speaking Greek.  To help demonstrate what these terms mean, I took pictures and made videos to give y’all a good strong visual example.

To begin, there is only one type of icing that I use, which is ROYAL ICING.  There are other recipes available on this site, but royal icing is my preferred medium, and  is what I always use unless  specifically stated otherwise.  If you would like to try my recipe, click HERE for a printable version.

 The other icing words I use like outlining , piping, flood, fill, and twenty-second icing are used to describe consistency rather than recipes.

 Bottom line is, you are working with one icing and adjusting the consistency  to make it do different things.

 Normally, you begin by using piping icing to outline the cookie.  This creates a border or “dam” to make sure the icing does not flow over the edges.

 Outlines can be very basic or complex, but in MOST cases, they are the “blueprint” of the cookie.


After the cookie is outlined, a thinner version of the same icing is used to fill the outlined area.  This is called FLOOD icing.  It will usually flow until it fills the entire cookie.  If I am in a hurry like I usually am, I use an offset spatula to speed things along.

Now for a few videos.

I would describe the consistency of outlining icing as toothpaste.  Here ‘s what it looks like before and after I put it in a piping bag.


 I hope this helps clarify things a little bit.  It takes a bit of practice, but you will be amazed at how easy piping will become if you get just the right consistency.

Now for flood icing.  It should look more like this.  I actually included a short side-by-side comparison of flood icing and twenty-second icing in this video, however, I’m going to wait until next week to get a little more in depth on that topic.


See?  I would almost say it flows like shampoo.  There is only a subtle difference between it and the twenty-second icing, but there IS a difference.


This video shows how you use the piping and flood icing together in sequence.


 Are any of you getting the lightbulb effect?  That’s how I describe the moment when something is suddenly demystified in my head. I LOVE that feeling!  Yes, I am kind of a dork.

 I would say that mastering consistency is the single most important cookie making skill.  You can have all the talent in the world, but if you don’t have control over your medium, it will affect the final product. 

With a little practice, all of your cookies will begin life as pretty as these.

Just a few more tips before I go:

  • Always use a spray bottle to thin your icing.  I learned this trick from Gail, AKA One Tough Cookie, and include it on my all-time list of best cookie tips I have ever learned.  You can read her “Give it a Shpritz” article HERE.  I highly recommend it.  It literally changed the way I cookie.
  • Play around with the consistencies.  What works for me, may not work as well for you.  The key is to find your groove.  I bet I know over 100 women who make excellent cookies, and not one single one of us does things EXACTLY the same.
  • USE Karen’s bag trick when preparing piping icing.  This isn’t even a request, it’s an order.  When you are at the park with your kids and NOT home washing icing bags, you will thank me.
  • Keep a toothpick, cookie scraper, or even a lobster fork {my friend Lisa SWEARS by hers} handy to pop those pesky bubbles
  • I also have a helpful articles on Coloring and Preparing Royal Icing and a step-by-step pictorial on how I make royal icing that can be viewed by clicking the links.

 Feel free to add any tips you might have, or ask questions.  There is a no-dumb-question clause specifically attached to this post.  Keep your eyes open for my upcoming post demonstrating the difference between flood icing, and the slightly thicker 20-second icing.

Once again, I hope everyone had a long and happy weekend full of food, friends, family and memories!

 Happy “feels like Monday, but it’s Tuesday!”