Cake Decorating Blog

5 Common Royal Icing Woes You Can Totally Avoid

Decorating sugar cookies with royal icing can be so much fun — but it's easy to make mistakes, especially when you're learning. Don't worry! Read on to discover five of the most common cookie decorating mishaps — plus, how to fix them when then happen and avoid them in the first place.

How to avoid royal icing mistakes with sugar cookies
Royal Icing Decorating Guide

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Use royal icing to create the most stunning sugar cookies around!Download the FREE Guide

How to fix and avoid mistakes when decorating cookies

The problem: Air bubbles

Pesky air bubbles found lurking under the surface of your icing can be a huge pain. If you don't spot them, they can even become "craters" in an otherwise flawless design. You'll mainly find them in the flooded sections of your cookie, but they can also appear in  delicate piping work.

How to avoid it

Once you've flooded your cookies, carefully drop them onto a flat surface from a few inches up, which helps push those bubbles up to the surface. They'll look like shadow-y dots in your icing. Then, pop them with a cocktail stick and smooth the icing over.

To deal with them in piping work, use a slightly dampened cocktail stick to move the icing around into the gap or hole where the bubble appeared.

How to fix it

If you notice an air bubble after your work has set, you can try tweaking your design a little. Patch up the bubble with a dot of edible glue and a few sprinkles, or add a tiny bit of extra royal icing detail in its place.

How to fix and avoid mistakes when decorating sugar cookies

The problem: Unwanted drips on the side of your cookies

There are three main culprits when it comes to royal icing dripping down the sides of your cookies: Icing consistency, too much icing and unevenly baked cookies.

Tiny cookies like the stars above can be harder to flood, too, so they tend to drip if you pipe too much royal icing onto the surface. Work small and keep an eye on your piping!

How to avoid it

First, icing that's too runny will flow over the piped outline. To fix this, you need to get your royal icing consistency perfect. The 15-second consistency is a good mix — it's great for both piping outlines and filling/flooding them. To learn more about the 15-second royal icing consistency check out this post.

Plus, if your cookies don't have a good, flat surface for your royal icing to settle on, then all your work is going to drip off any uneven parts. How can you avoid this? Make sure you roll your cookies neatly and evenly. Always lift and transport the dough onto baking trays with a palette knife or cookie spatula — using your hands can dent the dough. Also, chill your dough for around 30 minutes to an hour before baking.

How to fix it

Sometimes you can fix this, especially if you've piped too much royal icing onto your cookie. Using a cocktail stick, gently wipe the drip away from the side of the cookie. Wait a few minutes and check your design to see if the icing has started to drip again. If not, then decorate away!

Tricks for baking better cookies

The problem: Losing detail in your piping

Generally, any piping work that loses its detail is the result of too-runny royal icing. Runny icing loses its shape and looks sloppy because the moisture causes it too pool on the cookie's surface.

How to avoid it

For perfectly detailed royal icing, make sure that it's the ideal consistency. Our piping consistency for detail work usually peaks off of the base of a spoon but doesn't drip when tested.

How to fix and avoid mistakes when decorating cookies

Another culprit might be that you're using the wrong piping tip. If you're piping messages or other thin line work, you'll want thin, round piping tips (also called writers). If you're not sure if your tip is thin enough, test piping with it on a scrap piece of parchment before adding detail to your cookie.

How to fix mistakes when decorating sugar cookies

The problem: Color bleed

Bleeding colors is pretty common when combining details with contrasting colors and strengths. If you're piping white dots into red icing, then chances are your white dots will begin to absorb the red around it and turn pink.

How to avoid it

One of the best ways to avoid this is to plan ahead and learn how to work with your colors. Also, let darker icing dry fully before piping lighter icing on or around it. Also, look for ways to achieve the same look without icing: For example, instead of piping white dots, you could use white confetti sprinkles or pearls. And finally, try not to go overboard on using bold, saturated colors with pale royal icing.

How to fix it

While there isn't really a perfect fix, you can find clever ways to cover up bleeding royal icing. Pipe detail over the top to hide the mistake, add outlines around the edges of colored sections, add sprinkles or even attach royal icing transfers on top.

Advice for baking better cookies

The problem: Your flooded royal icing is not smooth

Flooded royal icing that has peaks or unsettled sections is likely cause by unsifted powdered sugar or the wrong consistency icing.

How to avoid it

Always sift your powdered sugar so it's free of lumps or larger crystallized pieces. If you skip this step, these unsightly bits could make your iced cookies look bumpy and unprofessional.

Stiffer royal icing also keeps its shape rather then settling or smoothing down like more liquid, flooding-consistency icing. Make sure to test and check your icing before flooding your cookies!

How to fix it

If you see small peaks that aren't smoothing over as the icing settles, you can help these be less prominent. Lightly dampen the tip of a cocktail stick and use it to gently swirl the peaks into the surrounded icing. Don't wet the stick too much, as this can warp the icing color and even create a crater in the design.

What other cookie decorating problems do you have?

Royal Icing Decorating Guide

Learn Essential Royal Icing Techniques

Use royal icing to create the most stunning sugar cookies around!Download the FREE Guide

3 Comments

Carolina

Such a lovely post. I am not a really good cook so this is really helpful. Thanks!!

Carolina 😉

Reply
Julie H

I am having an issue with my flooding icing drying and looking like craters on the moon, what is wrong? If I add less water to the royal icing then it does not flow well for flooding. I have a wedding in 10 days I need cookies for. Panicking!

Reply

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