Adding pretty accents to your cookies is an art in itself and the first step to decorating stunning sugar cookies is the making royal icing for piping cookies with! Getting the right consistency is essential and even the most experienced pastry chefs get this wrong at times. The fantastic thing is that it’s oh so easily adjustable in case you do slip up! What to learn more? Just keep on reading!
How to make royal icing for piping cookies!
Photos via Juniper Cakery
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) egg whites
- 14 ounces (400 g) sifted confectioner’s sugar
- 3 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice
- Extra lemon juice
- Extra sifted confectioner’s sugar to thicken if needed
- A clean spray bottled filled with water to thin your icing if needed
- Gel food color (optional)
- A pair of clean and unused pantyhose (optional)
- A large metal or glass bowl
To help avoid any clumps or future blockages in your piping tips it’s best to sift your confectioner’s sugar further. This step involves a handy trick that a lot of cake decorators use… unused pantyhose!
Take your pantyhose and cut a section from the sealed toe to around the knee off. Stretch over a large glass or metal (plastic tends to hold in greasy or fatty residue which could hinder your royal icing) bowl and sift your confectioner’s sugar once or twice if necessary.
Note: This step is optional. We often skip this part of making royal icing, however, if you are going to be piping very tiny and delicate lines then this step will help sift your powdered sugar even more!
Clean your mixing bowl with lemon juice. This helps to really make sure any left over grease from previously made buttercream or batter is gone.
Now whisk your egg whites using a whisk attachment on your stand-up mixer (the whisk needs cleaning with a little lemon juice too). Your egg whites need to nice and frothy – like cappuccino foam.
Now add your confectioner’s sugar into the bowl with your egg whites. You don’t need to rather gingerly sprinkle them in. We simply ‘dump’ the whole measurement of extra sifted confectioner’s sugar in.
Now begin to whisk your sugar and egg whites together on the slowest setting possible. Right now you want to incorporate them and not have the sugar spewing out everywhere! Once mixed in set your mixer to high speed.
When your royal icing looks glossy and can form soft peaks it’s time to add your teaspoons of lemon juice as well as some gel food color (if you like). Adding lemon juice adds a little acidity to the royal icing which helps make it a little more pliable. We also find that when whipping up white royal icing adding the lemon juice seems to make it look a little brighter.
Now you need to check your consistency.
Adjusting your royal icing consistency is simple. Use a little sifted confectioner’s sugar at a time to help stiffen it. To thin the icing down use a handy spray bottle filled with water to add a spritz or water at a time. For a quick and visual guide on what your icing should look like (and even feel like) see our photo above and compare with our hints below!
The piped icing to the left (first two lines) is way to dry and thick. It breaks and streaks when trying to be piped. Also, if you’ve larger clumps of powdered sugar blocking your tip this can lead to your icing breaking and stopping mid-pipe. Try adding a little water to soften up your icing. If you find pieces of sugar blocking up your piping tips you may need to whisk up another batch of royal icing!
The third line of piped royal icing is perfect. It forms a uniform and consistent line with no breaks, air bubbles or thicker sections.
The line at the very end is far too watery and thin. This means that when you pipe your royal icing is sloppy and has no structure. Try adding a little sifted powdered sugar to thicken it up!
Now you’re ready to get creating some incredible cookie designs! You can also use the 15-sec or mid royal icing to add piped detail to cakes such as dainty swiss dots or pretty brush embroidery work.
Do remember, however, that this is our go-to recipe that never fails us when it comes to cookie decorating or adding small detail to cakes. Lots of different variants can make a difference such as the quality of ingredients you use, how accurate your cups or scales are, what brands you use (and any added ingredients they incorporate) and even your working environment! Always brace yourself for a recipe to fail just incase and be super ready to experiment and adjust it to your taste.