Two years ago during the holidays I tried royal icing for the first time. It didn’t go well. I was hoping for cookies like you see above, and instead I got these. Thanks to the innumerable batches of cookies I’ve made since that first attempt, my royal icing skills and decorating speed have improved, and finally I achieved the pretty snowflakes I dreamed about.
I served these for our holiday party this weekend and everyone kept commenting that they were too pretty to eat. But eat them they did, and they were enjoyed by all.
I know a lot of cookie decorators use disco dust to add an extra twinkle to their cookies. It is very pretty, but I don’t feel comfortable consuming or serving anything labeled, “Non-toxic, for decoration only,” so instead I found these sugar pearls and sanding sugars in my pantry and went nuts. I loved the way these cookies turned out and they made me want to throw a whole winter wonderland-themed party. Not sure how much the guys would like that, but I’ll keep it in mind for the future :)
I also made a plateful of these cute little mitten cookies to coordinate with the snowflakes. I had left over cake sparkles and used them to make the cuffs of the mittens look fuzzy.I had such fun making and decorating these cookies, and thought I’d share for anyone needing decoration inspiration. If you are new to royal icing, check out my tutorial to make your first attempt much more successful than my own. For the cookies, I used this recipe. Normally I go with a vanilla bean and lemon zest flavoring, but the almond extract is just better suited for the holidays. These designs were inspired by two totally gorgeous pink and blue winter party concepts I found on Hostess with the Mostess.
How to Decorate with Royal Icing
Let’s start out with a list of what you will need:
A batch of sugar cookies to decorate (this is my favorite recipe)
A batch of royal icing (you may need more than one batch, depending on how many colors you use, and how many cookies you decorated)
Icing gel colors – these are best because they create bright colors without affecting the consistency of the icing (unlike liquid food coloring)
Small airtight containers for each color of icing you plan to use
Disposable pastry bags fitted with small round tips (I like size 2 for most purposes)
Squeeze bottles (not pictured here, but these make the whole process much easier)
Once you have all your supplies together, invert the pastry bags so that they will be ready to be filled with icing.
Divide the batch of royal icing between the various airtight containers and color each as desired.
Transfer the colored icings to the prepared pastry bags. You do not have to use all of the icing you color, only as much as you think you will need for piping. Leave any excess in the container and cover with the airtight lid while the icing is not in use.
Pipe outlines around the edges of your cookies. To keep your lines as smooth as possible and reduce stress on your body, do this seated at a table and keep one elbow or forearm steady against your work surface. Keep the tip of your pastry bag very close to the cookie as you pipe, to avoid the “squiggles”. (The more space between your tip and the cookie, the more room for the icing to move where you do not want it.)
Let the icing outlines set for at least one hour before proceeding.
With any of the piping bags that are not in use, store them upright in a drinking glass with a very small amount of water in the bottom. This prevents the icing in the tip from hardening.
Now that the cookies have been outlined, we will make the thinned icing to flood the centers of the cookies. To do this, use a portion of the thicker icing in its airtight container. Add water, a very small amount at a time (maybe ½-1 tsp.), and stir well until the water is incorporated. Continue this process, thinning the icing until you reach the desired consistency. For the best flooding icing, you want it to run off the back of a spoon…
And be quickly reabsorbed into the icing still in the container. I aim for the icing to disappear back into the icing below in about 5-10 seconds.
Once the icing has been appropriately thinned, let it stand for about 5-10 minutes. This allows bubbles incorporated into the icing during the thinning process to rise to the surface. After the bubbles have risen, give the icing one gentle stir around the surface to pop these bubbles, and transfer the icing to a squeeze bottle.
Fill the center of the outlined cookies with the thinned icing.
Use a toothpick to help the flooding icing reach the edges.
If you notice any air bubbles that have made it into the flooded icing, pop them with the tip of the toothpick.
Repeat this process until all the outlines have been filled.
Let the cookies set for several hours, until the icing has set completely. (I like to let them set overnight.)
Once the icing has set, it will have a matte sheen and a hard surface.
Use remaining thick icing in pastry bags to pipe detailing onto the cookies. Let this icing set at least one hour.
And you’re done! That’s all there is to it.
I also made these little acorn cookies to go along with the maple leaves.
Package them up in little cellophane baggies, tie with ribbons, and you have some very adorable cookies for any occasion!
For all my previous entries on sugar cookies with royal icing, see these posts:
Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing
Andrew’s First Birthday Party
Wedding Sugar Cookies
Home, Sweet Home Cookies
Halloween Sugar Cookies