Consistency Is KEY…Twenty-Second Icing and Beyond

You might as well sit down and get comfortable, because the dreaded icing consistency lecture is finally here.

If you read many cookie blogs, you might have noticed that consistency is a pretty hot topic lately.  That’s because as a cookie decorator, icing consistency is the single most important factor in your success OR failure as a decorator.

Hear what I am saying, this is important stuff.

When I make cookies, I ALWAYS start with my basic royal icing, which you can read about HERE.  This is what it looks like.

From there, I generally use three to four consistencies of icing.  Piping icing, 20-second icing, {which I’ve explained in-depth HERE and HERE} flood icing, and very stiff piping icing for when I make things like THESE ROSES.

Lots of people ask what my favorite consistency is.  Truth is, I don’t really have a favorite.  It really depends on what I am doing that day.

When dreaming up cookie designs, I begin by picturing the steps I will take to create the picture in my mind. I usually do it in my head, but it you’re a beginner, it really helps to sketch or write out the design before you begin.

After I have plan, I decide what consistencies to use.  This is based on a variety of factors including design, how much work time I have, whether or not I am in the mood to make 38 different bags of icing, and whatever else comes up.  I can’t offer a lot of advice on which to what consistency to choose and when, except to say practice makes perfect.  The more cookies you make, the more you’ll learn about what works best for you.

Now to break down the consistencies…

Piping Icing

Piping icing is similar to toothpaste in consistency.  When you squeeze the bag, it should come out in a smooth line without breaking or cracking.  I most often use this consistency for outlining, detail work, and writing.  You can see my video on piping consistency icing HERE.

For tips on outlining cookies, click HERE, or watch my YouTube video HERE.

Twenty-Second Icing

This is the icing consistency I get the most questions about.  First of all, there is no special recipe for twenty-second icing.  It regular royal icing thinned with water .  I most often use this consistency to create dimension, decrease prep and decorating time, and to prevent cratering when filling small spaces.  Here are a few examples.

I made these cookies in a hurry so I used 20-second icing to skip outlining.

For these cookies, I used 20-second icing to create dimension.

For these New Year cookies, I used 20-second icing to reduce cratering when filling small spaces.

Now, I have to say that 20-second icing in not the only way.  I’ve heard it called by many names.  It really boils down to personal preference and how fast you count.  Marian calls it 10-second icing,  Georgeanne prefers 12-second icing, Lisa does the 15-second version.  If you want to get technical, I think my 20-second icing might be a little closer to 17-second icing.  The point is, it has to be thin enough to flow, while remaining thick enough that it doesn’t fall off the side of the cookie.  Tomato, to-mah-to, right?

Anywho, my most favorite thing about 20-second icing is that when I use it to outline and fill it creates a nice “poofy” look.

To see a video about 20-second icing, click HERE.

 Flood Icing

Finally, let’s talk about to flood icing.  Flood icing is probably the easiest icing to make because as long as it has a nice flow you pretty much have it right.

The way flood icing works is pretty simple.  Begin by thinning regular royal icing down to liquid form, being very careful not to make it TOO thin.  My personal preference is a flow that resembles that of shampoo or honey.  After outlining the space you want to fill with a #2 or #3 tip, the liquifies icing is used to “flood” the enclosed area.

I used mostly flood icing to create the cookie above.  Not only did it work well as a base, I also used it to create smooth, even royal icing run-outs, or transfers, to drop onto the flooded cookie.

I love the liquidity of it {I made that word up, I think} because it flows nicely into a smooth flat surface.  This is what it looks like when I flood cookies.

If you’d rather see a video of flood icing consistency click HERE.

Here is a cookie using that eventually featured all four consistencies explained above.   It’s kind of hard to tell from the photo, but after I finished, these cookies became blushing brides.  I ultimately used stiff icing to create ribbon roses for the bouquet.  Can you see where each consistency was used?

Okay, I’m finished. I hope that wasn’t too painful.  I really could go on and on about the importance of mastering icing consistency, but I am going to stop here and leave you with a few tips:

  • First and foremost, do what works best for you.  This is the golden rule of cookie decorating.  Remember that cookies are art, and like any artist, each cookie decorator has their own style.  So, if you’re not down with the 20-second thing, play with it until you find what you like.
  • Try using a spray bottle as Gail suggested HERE for thinning your icing.  It is probably the most useful tip I have ever learned regarding icing consistency.
  • Speaking of coloring and preparing royal icing, I have a helpful little tutorial on that HERE.
  • Sketch and plan.  I’m a little bit of a hypocrite in this department, but it really can prevent some big boo boos save you lots of frustration.

I hope this wasn’t too painful.  Now that we got that over with, we can get back to the business of creating fun cookies.  As I said, mastering icing consistency is the key to successful decorating.  Hopefully this sheds a little light on the subject.

Have a great weekend, I’ll soon be back with more cookie fun!