Last week I shared my favorite Christmas sugar cookies, along with a note about my how my favorite childhood memory included decorating cookies for Santa. This week I’m going to share how to use royal icing to decorate cookies because if I can do it, you can too!
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How to Use Royal Icing to Decorate Cookies – The Basics
The first step to flooding cookies with royal icing is to outline the areas you want to fill. You can do this with a stiff royal icing (just add powdered sugar!) or buttercream, but I’ve also used Wilton’s piping gel. It doesn’t dry quite as hard as icing does, but you really just need it to act as a barrier so you don’t have a giant mess when you flood the cookies.
Once you’ve given your outlined cookies time to set, you can make a batch of royal icing. One of the coolest things I learned was that you should flavor royal icing to match the color because people expect things to taste how they look. For example, you could use cherry or strawberry candy flavoring for red icing, lime flavoring for green icing, or even Godiva liqueur for brown icing! (I use gel food coloring to get vibrant, custom colors.
- 1 lb (454g) - 10x confectioner's sugar (10x - 3% cornstarch)
- 3 oz (4.5oz or 128 g) - light corn syrup
- 3 oz - milk (water, soy milk, evaporated milk - whole has better flavor)
- *Flavor options: 1 tsp concentrated extract OR 1tbsp alcohol or liqueur OR 2-3 drops of concentrated candy oils
- In mixing bowl, thoroughly mix the sugar and milk first. The icing should be very soft and have a heavy cream texture before adding the corn syrup.
- Add the corn syrup all at once and mix until just combined.
- Divide icing into several bowls. Flavor each bowl with extracts, alcohols, or candy oils.
- Color each bowl of icing as desired (gel colors work best.) Cover the bowl with plastic wrap to prevent drying.
How to Use Royal Icing to Decorate Cookies – Pro Tips:
Instead of using an icing bag to flood cookies, buy the squeeze bottles used by hair stylists. You can use a funnel to fill the bottles over a covered surface. This allows more control over flooding, which makes a smoother cookie. I MAKE HUGE MESSES trying to use royal icing in traditional icing bags. When I took the class at ICE, I literally had icing all over my hands, clothes, parchment, and my cookies were REALLY ugly. I felt like a 5 year old in a class of professionals. Squirt bottles = heaven.
To completely flood cookies, start from the edge that you outlined and work your way inside to the center. It’s okay if your lines aren’t completely next to each other – the icing will naturally spread as you go. If you need to, you can fill it in when you’re done or use a toothpick to help cover the cookie.
There are all kinds of nifty things you can do with this icing using different colors (seriously, buy the book!), but to learn how to use royal icing to decorate cookies, I think it’s helpful to start with the basics of flooding cookies. I’ll try and put together some more examples soon, too!
You should let the royal icing sit for at least 24 hours before considering the cookies “done”. When they are completely dry, the icing will have a pretty sheen. (You can also use pearl powder to add a pearly sheen to the icing!)