Royal Icing Tutorial

I love Royal Icing! It can be a wonderful medium used to make flowers and appliques that you can use to take your cakes to the next level. The icing I’m making here is different from the Royal Icing you may use to decorate sugar cookies with (which generally has corn syrup in it and won’t get completely hard when it dries). This is the Royal icing you’ll want to make when you want your flowers and decorations to dry completely, so you can transfer them to your treat.

One of the best things about Royal Icing is that you can use it to make decorations several weeks in advance, and once dry, they can be stored until you’re ready to use them.

One of the worst things about Royal Icing is that when you make the icing, it can be a little finicky and sometimes go horribly wrong! So to that end, here is a step-by-step tutorial on how to make your Royal Icing. I hope this will help you in your endeavors!

The first thing you’ll want to do is gather all your ingredients and tools. Make sure all your utensils and containers are completely grease-free. Stainless steel, ceramic, glass, silicone, and hard plastic are all naturally grease-free.

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For a single batch of this recipe, you will need 1 lb. pure cane confectioners’ sugar, 3 level tbsp. meringue powder, and 5-6 tbsp. lukewarm water (depending on the humidity in your house). I use 5 1/2 tbsp. of water pretty much every time I make this icing. I recommend you use a food scale to weigh your confectioners’ sugar. And fluff your meringue powder before you measure it.

I also use a decorating spatula, silicone spatula, and I premeasure the water into a cup and let it sit at room temperature for a bit (just in case it was too hot when I was getting it from the sink).

Today, I doubled the recipe, so if you’re making a single recipe, keep this in mind. Also, don’t forget to make sure you double everything!

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Always use the paddle beater attachment, not the whisk attachment. I use my Kitchen Aid stand mixer, but you can use the mixer you have–just make sure you use the paddle attachment. If you only have a hand mixer, you’ll use the only beaters you have.

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The first step is to mix the meringue powder and confectioners’ sugar together. Some directions will tell you to use your mixer for this, but I prefer to just stir it by hand to keep from having to clean up the “snow fall”.

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Add your water and begin mixing at a low speed for about a minute. You will notice that I mix at the lowest speed (the first “notch”, or “mix”) at this point. This is just to get the water and dry ingredients to mix together. Once they are mixed, I stop my mixer and use the silicone spatula to scrape the bowl and beater so that I can make sure everything is getting mixed together.

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This is what it looks like after that first minute. It is kind of soupy and a little grainy-like in texture.

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Once I’ve scraped the bowl and beater, I set my timer for 8 minutes. Then I turn on my mixer at the #4 speed (the third “notch”) and I usually walk away and do something else when I don’t have pictures to take! By the time 8 minutes is up, for me, my Royal Icing is finished and ready to use. I would suggest you begin with a 7 minute time limit until you know how long it will take you in your house.

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This is what it looks like after about 4 minutes. I hope you can see it, but the texture is smoothing out, but the icing still looks shiny and is not yet holding a stiff peak. Even though this looks like the consistency you may want, royal icing needs to mix for at least 7 minutes to be sure everything is incorporated and the icing won’t break down when you try to use it.

If you want the entire batch of icing to be colored, you may want to add your color at this point.

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At the end of the 8 minutes, you can see the icing has “travelled” up the edges of the bowl. It has also lost the sheen, has a matte finish, and is holding its shape.

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You’ll notice the icing has a smooth texture to it and doesn’t have a lot of air bubbles. (There are actually a few in there because between the pictures and stops and starts, I may have over-mixed by a little bit.)

At this point, you will want to do one of three things with your Royal Icing.
~Begin using it straight away.
~Divide it into portions to color and use right away.
~Place the entire batch into an air-tight container to be used at a later time.

No matter what, remember that Royal Icing dries out easily and quickly, so take the appropriate precautions. If you are just pulling out portions to use out of the bowl you mixed it in, make sure to cover the bowl with a damp towel OR with an air-tight lid–not both! If you divide it to color and use right away, make sure the portions are in an air-tight container.

If you have made your icing in advance and are not going to use it for a couple of days, make sure to remix the icing to restore the texture and consistency you want. The longer it sits, the more it loses the smooth texture (it will usually stay the way you want it for about 24 hours). I find it is easier to keep the batch whole (or in larger portions) and mix it with either my Kitchen Aid or my hand mixer. That way you don’t wear out your arm trying to stir it with a spatula!

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