When it comes to decorating roll-out sugar cookies, royal icing trumps all other forms of icing for looks, storage, and ease of use. This recipe doesn't use meringue powder, takes very little time to make, and will be your go-to icing recipe!
Royal icing scares the crap out of many bakers for reasons I'm not entirely sure of. Perhaps because it uses primarily egg whites that aren't cooked (the use of pasteurized egg whites makes this perfectly safe!), or meringue powder. Admittedly, I've never used meringue powder and that DOES make me a bit wary.
Don't freak out! Royal icing is very easy to make, store, and use...try it at least once before you cast judgement on its purpose in your baking.
How long can royal icing be stored?
Royal icing made with egg white (my preferred method) has a much shorter life span then that made with meringue powder. Egg white based can be stored in the fridge about 1 week, meringue powder based can be stored at room temp about 1 month. Both will dry out within a couple of hours if not in airtight containers.
How long does the royal icing last on my cookies?
Once the cookies have been iced, the icing will last as long as the cookies last. A really long time, sometimes.
With royal icing, watch out for:
- Grease. Do not use greasy utensils, bowls, or storage containers. The grease will disintegrate your icing. Note: try to stay away from plastic containers, they tend to hold grease even after washing.
- Air. Royal icing dries air-drys to a beautiful finish with little help. However, the air can also cause the icing to be unworkable if it isn't used quickly enough. Keep your icing tightly sealed when not in use. Try a damp paper towel over the bowls of icing you are using to slow down the drying. Note: try storing your icing in tubes of plastic wrap. Not only will you eliminate air, you will make it easy to pop those tubes into bags, clip the ends, and get right to piping.
- Consistency. The consistency in which you use your royal icing makes all of the difference in how easy it is to use and how great it looks. Take your time getting the consistency right and adjusting it , if needed. Note: always thin or thicken your icing very slowly adding only a tiny bit of water or sugar, at a time.
- Using multiple colors requires you to wait for each color to dry before laying another color on top. In the case of the outline & flooding technique, you can often do multiple colors in one layer, at a time.
- Outline & flooding. You will need two consistencies of icing, one is a thick consistency in which you will outline where you want the flooded color to be. This outline acts as a dam for the color. You then need the same color icing in a much thinner consistency. Pour a bit of the thinner icing into the outline and let it "flood" the shape.
- Pulling. Using a consistency between thick and thin (much like the consistency of liquid foundation), pipe the icing in small batches and use a toothpick or other tool to pull the icing, filling in and manipulating it as you go.
Both techniques take a bit of practice and patience. Give yourself some grace!
easy Royal Icing
- 3 large egg whites
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- On high speed in a stand mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat vanilla and egg whites until frothy and bubbly.
- A little bit at a time, add in the powdered sugar until the sugar is dissolved. To keep the mess down, add a bit of sugar with the mixer on low and beat it just until it pulls it into the egg whites, turn the mixer up and mix it until incorporated. Repeat
- When the sugar is incorporated, turn the mixer on high and beat until stiff peaks form. This takes about 8 minutes in a stand mixer and about 11 minutes with a hand mixer. You are looking for a mountain that doesn't curl. Or, if you flip the beater upside down the egg white doesn't flop over AT ALL.
- Use immediately or store in air-tight containers.
- You can dye this with food coloring.
- Adjust the consistency to what you desire for your icing needs.