Royal Icing Consistency Explained
Royal Icing is a popular choice for cookie decoration because it dries hard, with a smooth and shiny finish. It can also be used for multiple other baking applications as it’s totally customizable.
Types of Royal Icing
Stiff Royal Icing is required when making flowers, leaves, ruffles, brush embroidery, and decorations that need to perfectly hold their shape. It can also be used for assembling gingerbread houses. If you cut through the icing with a knife, it will not melt back together. The cut will stay visible. Stiff Royal Icing consistency is like cream cheese.
Piping Royal Icing is used for borders and outlines, decorative details, and lettering. Piping Royal Icing consistency should be similar to toothpaste or soft serve ice cream, and when dropped back onto itself, it should disappear in about 25 seconds.
Medium Royal Icing falls between Piping and Flood. It is most often used when the design is all one base color and you don’t need a border or an edge or when you want a “puffy” look. With Medium Royal Icing you can flood and outline at the same time. Medium Royal Icing consistency should be like ketchup, and it should disappear back into itself in about 15 seconds.
Flood Royal Icing is used for filling in between outlines of cookies. It can also be used for wet-on-wet or marbling decorative details. Flood Royal Icing consistency should be like white Elmer’s glue or honey. You want it to smooth out easily, but not be so thin that it drips off the edges. When dropped back onto itself it should disappear in 6-8 seconds.
View the how-to video here.
Royal Icing Recipe
Imperial Sugar’s Royal Icing recipe is made with meringue powder, which is just dried egg whites. Traditional royal icing recipes call for raw egg whites, but to avoid any chance of salmonella, we recommend using meringue powder. The result is a smooth finish that dries quickly and isn’t too hard to bite through. You can find meringue powder in the baking aisle in most grocery stores, or in craft stores in the baking section, or online.
Start by sifting 4 cups of Imperial Sugar Confectioners Powdered Sugar with 3 tablespoons of meringue powder. Sift well to ensure a smooth Royal Icing consistency. Add 2 teaspoons of lemon juice and 1/2 cup warm water. The warm water helps the dry ingredients fully dissolve.
Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, begin mixing on low to keep the powdered sugar in the bowl. Once the powdered sugar is incorporated, increase the speed to medium-high. Continue to mix on medium-high for 5-6 minutes until the icing has reached a very stiff consistency.
Thinning Royal Icing
Separate the Stiff Royal Icing into individual containers with lids based on the consistency and colors you need. Immediately cover with plastic food wrap. Plastic should be touching the icing to prevent a crust from developing. Then place the lid on the container when not in use.
Then the Stiff Royal Icing starting with 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of water at a time. Royal Icing is very forgiving. If you added too much water was and the icing is too soft, bring it back to the desired consistency by adding powdered sugar one tablespoon at a time. Keep in mind that adding powdered sugar will lighten the color, so you might need to add a bit more tint as well.
Tinting Royal Icing
To tint your Royal Icing, use gel paste food coloring. Gel will not thin out the icing. However, be careful not to use too much as deep hues can bleed into other colors. Add the color and mix with a spatula until color is evenly distributed.
Royal Icing darkens as it dries, so mix your color a bit lighter than what you want the final color to be.
Because different batches can have slightly different hues, mix up extra tinted Royal Icing so that you won’t have color matching issues should you not have enough icing the first time.
Storing Royal Icing
If not using immediately, cover the bowl with plastic food wrap, ensuring the plastic touches the icing to prevent crusting. Royal Icing made with meringue powder is shelf-stable and will keep at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks without refrigeration. If the Royal Icing gets crusty, adding a little warm water will rehydrate it. Royal Icing will also separate if it sits for a while. When you’re ready to use, just stir to reincorporate the water.
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