Royal Icing

14 Nov

cookieOh Royal Icing, how do I love thee? This stuff is absolutely fantastic for cookies – it sets hard, and any colour you add to it becomes almost jewel like. When its still wet, you can decorate it with sparkles or sugar or dragees or any other edible lovely you can think of. Its also good as a glaze for a pound cake or a bundt cake – it goes on slick and if its quite liquid, it adds just a thin glaze, that will thicken and harden and protect your cake from drying out. You can flavour it (my preference is vanilla, but go crazy – chocolate, almond, lemon, whatever your passion), and its quick and easy to make… IF you have the correct tools.

I only make royal icing with meringue powder. Its traditionally made with egg whites, but even when using organic eggs, I am never quite happy serving raw egg to children, people with compromised immune systems or pregnant women. The risk of salmonella is just too high. Meringue powder is basically egg whites that have been pasturised and freeze dried, mixed with small amounts of sugar, edible gums, alum, salt, vanillin and calcium lactate. It can be used in just about any recipe that calls for egg white, but to be honest, in most recipes fresh egg white tastes better! But in royal icing, I believe it is essential, and I love love love it! You can find it in speciality baking shops, or online, and I always try and have a jar of it around. Baking is just that much easier with it.

That said, you need to be super organised, otherwise the icing will definitely get the best of you. It hardens pretty quickly, so make sure that you work with only what you need at any given time, and cover the rest (or store in an airtight container). This recipe will give you about 3 cups of royal icing – more than enough to ice about 100 – 150 small cookies. I would highly recommend the use of IndiaTree natural food colouring to tint the icing, and a palette knife to spread the icing on the cookie. If you have them, pastry bags, fitted with small-ish tips are incredibly useful for applying the icing to the cookie surface (and if you want to get really fancy, try using tiny tips and decorating the icing with a contrasting colour!).

Gingersnaps!Have a large work surface, arrange all your cookies on a flat sheet, and work about 10 cookies at a time – icing, and then decorating if you wish with hearts, sparkles, etc. Let the cookies air dry for at least 2 hours before packing away. I divided my icing up into 4 equal portions, placed it in plastic take away containers with lids, and dyed it blue, purple, green and pink. I then covered what I didnt need, and placed what I would use in a pastry bag. I clipped the bags top and bottom, to ensure the icing stayed a good creamy consistency as I worked. When I moved on to the next colour, I whisked the icing before I used it to make sure it was creamy and smooth.

Its all a bit complex, but you will soon find your own rhythm and natural feel for it. Practice – even on strips of wax paper, and see how it spreads, how it comes out of the pastry bag, how it moves about when smoothed with a palette knife. Once you play with royal icing, you will look for reasons to play once more!

Makes about 3 cups

  • 1/4 cup meringue powder
  • 1/2 cup warm water and flavouring (I usually put about a tablespoon or two of vanilla in a measuring cup, and then make it up to 1/2 cup with warm water)
  • 4 cups icing sugar
  • 3 tbsp corn syrup (for smoothness and liquidity – not the monetary kind!)

In a stand mixing bowl (or large bowl if you are using handheld mixers), combine the meringue powder with the warm water and flavouring. If you dont want to use vanilla, use whatever flavour strikes your fancy.

Whisk on medium speed until the meringue powder has dissolved into the water, and begins to whip up – it will look just like whipped egg whites, and will have the same glossy, creamy consistency. This should take about 1 – 2 minutes.

Add the icing sugar and corn syrup, and beat for about 5 minutes on medium speed. Add additional warm water, a teaspoon at a time, if the consistency is too thick for your liking.

Colour with natural food colouring, and use immediately.

One Response to “Royal Icing”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Pretty Gingersnap Cookies « delectable - November 14, 2010

    […] used Royal Icing for the cookies, and it set hard, and gorgeous. And because it was a children’s party, I used […]

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