When it comes to decorating sugar cookies, color is key. Unfortunately, it's not always easy to find the perfect shade of royal icing. But coloring your own is easy once you know how! Keep reading to find out how to color royal icing in any shade that you can dream up.
How to color royal icing
Royal icing is a wonderful icing made with powdered sugar, water, egg whites or meringue powder and a little flavoring. The egg whites or meringue powder allow the icing to dry with a hard surface, which helps the icing stay beautiful when packaged or displayed on a platter.
Step 1: Make a batch of regular royal icing
Royal icing isn't like most icings. If you leave it uncovered where the air can touch the surface, the icing will crust over, which will make it lumpy and hard to work with.
For best results, cover it with a damp towel or plastic wrap to protect it from drying out. If you choose to use plastic wrap, you should lay the plastic wrap on the surface of the icing and not just across the top of the bowl. If the icing is exposed to air, it won't stay fresh for very long.
Step 2: Choose your food coloring
There are many different brands and types of food colorings. Soft gel paste food color is best for royal icing because it is thick like, well, a gel.
Some food color is the consistency of water, which will affect the consistency of your royal icing. If you add a soft gel paste food color to your royal icing, you'll be able to mix the color without affecting the consistency of the icing.
Step 3: Add a little color at a time
First, add a little royal icing to a small bowl or container. Next, add a little gel color and stir it until the colors are combined.
If you like the color, good! If you need a darker color, add a little more gel and mix again. If you use too much color, you can always add a little more white icing to make the color softer.
Notice how stiff the icing in the photo is. It would be difficult to decorate with an icing at this consistency. But don't try to thin it yet!
If you add water to thin the royal icing before adding color, the icing might separate. So keep the icing stiff until you're ready to decorate.
Plus, keeping the icing stiff will let you see if it's mixed well. If you see white streaks, mix it until the icing is a solid color.
When the color is where you want it, it's time to worry about the consistency of your icing. You'll need to add a little bit of water to the icing and stir it until it's mixed well. Notice the white icing on the spatula? You need to make sure that icing gets mixed in as well. If not, you may end up with a green and white striped cookie.
At this stage, you want your royal icing to be smooth. I added water with a squirt bottle and mixed until I got the consistency I was looking for. For me, that's a 15 second–consistency icing . If you pull a knife through the royal icing, it will take 15 seconds for the line in the icing to disappear.
The 15-second icing is great royal icing for outlining and flooding. Just outline the area of the cookies and wait a few minutes, then, flood the cookies. One icing for easy cleanup.
How to color gray royal icing
Gray can be particularly tricky to mix, so I wanted to show you my technique for this color.
To make gray royal icing, I add black royal icing to white royal icing instead of adding gel coloring to the white icing. Adding a little icing will help keep the royal icing looking clean instead of making a muddy color.
Mix up a little black royal icing and get it the color you like. The Artisan Accents Midnight Black doesn't have a bitter taste like most black gel colors.
Next, add some white royal icing to a separate bowl.
Add a tiny amount of the black icing to the white royal icing. You can use a toothpick or a turkey lacer to add the black royal icing so you are in total control of how much you add.
Always start with a small amount so you can add more if needed.
After you get the perfect shade of pale gray, you can thin the royal icing.