Decorated cookies look so pretty and are really simple to do. You just need to get the right consistency of royal icing for your design, and this can take some trial and error. If you’ve made the perfect royal icing recipe and are wondering what consistency of icing you need to decorate your cookies, read on! Here’s how to decorate cookies with royal icing.
How to Decorate Cookies Like a Pro
There are three consistencies of royal icing to use when you’re icing sugar cookies. Here we’ll go through the main differences between each one, and what you can use it for.
To change the consistency of icing, you can use the counting or “seconds” test. When you make the royal icing and begin to add water to thin it out, stir it in fully and then run your spoon (or a knife) down the centre of the bowl. Count how long it takes for the icing to fully come together, and you’ll be able to work out the consistency of your royal icing and see if it is where you need it to be.
Thick icing will hold a “soft peak.” The tip will slowly fall back down but the rest of the peak remains. This is
considered a 18-20 second icing (as in it will take 18-20 seconds for the icing to come back together after you cut it with a knife). Use this for the outlines of shapes on your cookies, such as the edges, as it will be pretty sturdy.
A medium consistency, or “flood” consistency, icing has a peak that falls over right away and folds back into
itself. This may leave a small mound that you can shake out. This is a 15 second icing, in that it will take 15 seconds for the icing to come back together if you run a knife through it. Use this to quickly fill in areas of your design – it will flow and flood the space you give it.
A thin icing doesn’t have peaks. It falls back down as soon as it’s lifted. This is anything under a 10 second icing.
If you are a newbie stay away from this as it doesn’t give much room for error!
A 12-15 second icing is great for experienced cookie decorators.
For new cookie decorators we recommend 15-20 seconds, just so you have a bit more control over the icing.
To thin down your icing, add a little water at a time and mix in until you get the correct consistency. Using a spray bottle can help you control the amount of water, and avoid adding in too much!
How to Colour Royal Icing
To create beautiful cookie designs you’ll probably want to add some colour to the royal icing. It’s best to use gel colours so you don’t adjust the consistency of the icing before decorating! Usually 1-2 drops of gel colour is all you’ll need to create all your colours, and if you use a separate piping bag per colour you’ll have everything ready to decorate your cookies.
How to Get Dark Colours of Royal Icing
It can be really hard to get darker or strong colours of royal icing without having to throw in a ton of food colouring. To make red royal icing (rather than a weird pink!) first add 2 drops of pink and mix fully. Then add the red colour and mix together. Just adding red to the white will result in pink.
To make black royal icing, first add 2 drops of brown food colouring and mix thoroughly. Then add 2-3 drops of black food colouring. Just adding black to the white will result in a grey.
Decorating Cookies With Royal Icing FAQ
Help! My icing has melted, or the colour has separated in the piping bag!
You have hot hands. Run your hands under cold water to bring down your body temperature. Use gloves. Pop
the icing in the fridge 4-5 minutes to cool it down.
Help! Why is the icing running off my cookie?
It’s too thin. To sort this out, add some more of the stiff royal icing to thicken it up. Don’t just add more icing sugar to the mix as it could leave clumps in your icings and cause your bag to burst (think of the mess!).
Why won’t my icing lay flat?
It’s too thick! Thin the icing out a little by adding more water to the mix. Add a tiny bit of water at a time so you don’t end up with it being too thin.
How can I add water without adding too much?
Use a spray bottle to add water a little at a time. This way you can control the amount of water you’re adding, and not end adding too much.
Have a practice with the different consistencies of royal icing, and you’ll soon be able to decorate cookies with royal icing like a pro!