Royal icing is used to decorate sugar cookies, gingerbread houses and cakes. This tutorial shows how to prepare piping and flood icing to decorate cookies.
1 lb powdered sugar
3 tbs meringue powder
6 tbs warm water
a squeeze of lemon juice
* 2-1/4 tsp powdered egg whites can be substituted for the meringue powder
Instructions. Place all ingredients in the bowl of the stand mixer. With the paddle attachment, mix on low until ingredients form a paste. Then mix on high for several minutes, until icing has the consistency shown below (between soft and stiff peaks.)
This is the consistency used to pipe borders and details on cookies. Test that the icing isn't too thick or thin by pushing a small amount through the tip with your finger (Wilton #2 tip). The icing is the right consistency if it is easy enough to push out of the tip, but when icing lines are overlapped they do not blend together.
Split icing into two bowls. Set one bowl aside to be used as the piping icing and cover it with a wet towel so that the icing does not dry out. The second bowl of icing will become the flood icing.
The flood icing (used to fill in areas with piped borders) is made by thinning piping-consistency icing with water. Add water, tablespoon-by-tablespoon, to the second bowl of icing. Mix thoroughly after adding each tablespoon. It will take approximately 3 tbs to thin this amount of icing. Icing is the right consistency when it forms a drizzle, but is not watery.
If the consistency isn't quite right, piping or flood icing can be thinned with water or thickened with powdered sugar at any point in the decorating process.
Cover this bowl of icing with a wet towel too while getting piping bags and bottles ready.
Preparing to Decorate. It doesn't take any fancy supplies to decorate sugar cookies but some tools make it a little easier than others.
-Piping bags, standard couplers and Wilton #2 tips: These are needed to pipe borders on cookies with the piping icing. One of each is needed for each color of piping icing.
-Piping bottles: For the flood icing. These ones allow you to change the tip which makes it easier to fill small spaces.
-Toothpicks: Use toothpicks to spread the flood out, create designs, transfer food coloring, and clean piping tips if they get clogged.
-Gel food colors: Only use gel colors for royal icing; the liquid ones will change the icing consistency. I like the spectrum ones because they come in a squeeze bottle, but they work the same as other gel colors.
-Sanding sugar: For decorating. The crystals are smaller than typical sugar sprinkles.
Preparing Piping Bags with Piping Icing. First prepare the bags as shown below.
After dying piping icing with gel colors, spoon icing into piping bags. (Try folding each bag over the top of a drinking glass.) Use a bench scraper to push the icing to the tip of the bag and twist the end.
Preparing Piping Bottles with Flood Icing. Dye flood icing then pour into bottles.
Decorating Process. Decorating cookies typically takes two days. Pipe and flood the first layer one day, let the cookies dry completely overnight, then pipe any extra details the second day.