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Royal Icing

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A set of baby blue royal icing sugar cookies
All Rights Reserved @TailorTang/Moment Open/Getty Images
Definition:

Royal icing is a type icing used for desserts such as cookies and cakes which dries to a glossy hard finish. It can be colored pretty much any hue and is pure white when left in its simplest form. This icing is simple to make and extremely versatile for any decorating need. Royal icing can be difficult to pipe if it is too thick so consistency is important and it dries extremely fast so it either needs to be used right away or stored correctly. Some people even cover cakes completely with royal icing in a series of thin layers, allowing each to dry before applying the next layer. This cake covering is not as popular as it was when proper refrigeration was not available.

There are two basic recipes for royal icing because the traditional one uses raw egg white which some people consider unsafe. The traditional recipe has been around for a long time and is very successful but if you prefer to avoid the raw egg white situation you can use the other recipe that utilizes meringue powder.

Royal icing can be used for pretty much anything but popular choices include:

  • Piped flowers, fruit and leaves: You can use a piping bag and different decorating tips to create lovely roses, lilies, daisies and tiny accent flowers. These can be done directly on your cake or on parchment paper to use later. Let the flowers dry completely and then store them in sealed containers in a cool dark place until you need them. The trick is to keep these decorations free of humidity. You can add stamens and wires to these flowers before they dry simply by pushing them into the finished flower or leave while it is still wet.
  • Cookie decoration: The look of dried royal icing is a perfect finish for cookies that is why it is used with such success for gingerbread houses. It lasts and is a great product to glue pieces and cookies together. One of the most popular techniques for royal icing on cookies is called flooding. This is when thinned royal icing is used to fill in a piped outline of thicker royal icing. The result is a smooth glossy perfect cookie.
  • Piped borders, string work and molded accents: One of the best aspects of royal icing is the fact that is created crisp precise lines and texture with very little softening. When you pipe an intricate border of shells, swirls, ropes or strings these design elements hold their shape beautifully. You can even pipe layer upon layer to create gorgeous effects including strings of thin royal icing hanging off the cake without breaking. Take the time to experiment to see what can be done with this wonderful product and how you can utilize it for your designs.

Traditional Royal Icing Recipe

Makes around 4 cups

Ingredients

  • 8 egg whites
  • 8 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
  • 2 tsps. lemon extract or lemon juice

Preparation

  1. In a very clean large bowl beat the egg whites at high speed with a professional grade hand mixer until foamy. If there is a trace of grease on your tools this icing will not be the right consistency.
  2. Sift the icing sugar into the egg whites in half cup measurements until it is completely mixed. It will be very thick. Add lemon extract or lemon juice and beat until it is incorporated.

Royal Icing without Egg Whites

Makes around 4 cups

Ingredients

  • 6 Tsps. meringue powder
  • 8 cups sifted icing sugar
  • 3/4 cup water

Preparation

  1. In a large squeaky clean bowl beat all the ingredients on low speed until the icing forms peaks, approximately 7-10 minutes.
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