Creating gorgeous decorated cookie designs with royal icing always seems like such a terrifying task! We get asked lots about what tips, tricks or words of wisdom we have on taming and controlling the elusive (and, at times, nightmare inducing) royal icing. With this in mind here's our top tips on how to work with royal icing with ease that'll make your life a little easier!
Here are 6 must-know royal icing tips for for decorating perfect cookies!
#1: Plan ahead
The cookie may seem like a small thing, but one cookie or a whole collection of cookies can take as much planning as a three-tier cake. This is one of the first things new cookie decorators get wrong when they try out icing and decorating cookies.
Treat your cookie designs like big wedding cake orders. Sketch, go through ideas and plan what colors or textures will go where. When you've finalized your design, writ everything down — from the colors of royal icing you plan to use to the number of cookies you need to decorate.
Then, you can work backward to figure out a step-by-step approach for creating the cookies. Plus, you can estimate how long it will take to finish decorating, so you can make sure the sweet treats will be ready on time for your event.
It helped us to know the color for the royal icing polka dots and the color of the tiny Marchesa-inspired blossoms placed all over the cookie. Sometimes an idea in your head doesn't translate well in reality, so sketching it and figuring out all of the sections helps reduce stress and time in case it doesn't work.
#2: Keep your design simple
You can find beautifully complex, intricate cookie design ideas — but you don't need lots of bells and whistles to make an impressive cookie.
If you're fairly new to cookie decorating, follow the guideline that "less is more." Try using a simple outline, like in the seashell cookies above. Another idea is to carefully place luxe sprinkles around your cookie. Or, flood your cookie and then pipe a simple border design to give it a sharp finish.
#3: Add pins to your cookie decorating toolkit
One of our favorite, most uncommon tools for decorating cookies is a pin! Royal icing can crust over piping tips very quickly, which can be a big problem when you're busy swapping colors or correcting any slip ups.
We like to stop this pesky little problem by inserting a pin into each piping tip when we're not using it. Then when we need a certain bag of royal icing, we just remove the pin, pipe out some icing to test, wipe the tip and get working! For wider piping tips, try using uncooked spaghetti sticks or even cake pop sticks.
Pins also come in handy for removing unsightly air bubbles in your icing. Once you've flooded your cookie, tap it (gently but purposefully) against your work surface. This will bring hidden air bubbles up to the surface of the icing. Pierce all the bubbles with your pin.
#4: Make your spray bottle your friend
Of course, royal icing consistency is the key to decorating stellar cookies. When you need to create many different colors and consistencies, it can be hard to keep track of what's what.
A little spray bottle helps us regulate how much water we add to each portion of icing. For example, we might find that two extra squirts of water makes the perfect piping consistency, and four squirts makes a great flooding consistency. Then we can use those same numbers with every color.
You can pick up simple spray bottles up from a drug store or grocery store (usually in the cosmetics department or travel department) for around $1. Do make sure that they are empty when bought and ready to fill up with water and use. Also, remember to empty and rinse after every use before filling up with fresh water when you need it again.
#5: Try sketching your design
Piping perfect lines can be tough, even for a seasoned cookie decorator. When you're tired, icing your 300th cookie or piping a super straight lines, a little imperfection is bound to happen.
To keep all your cookies in tip-top shape, try drawing on your cookies with an edible marker and a ruler or stencil. You can even plot out more complex patterns by freehand sketching onto the surface of your cookie (or even onto fully set flooded icing) before you pipe.
Sometimes we even use an edible marker to write color codes onto cookies if we're creating lots of different designs for the same day. It helps if you have to then pass on a half-piped design for someone else to flood ice a different section.
#6: Create efficient processes
Cookie decorating is not for the impatient. You need to take a bit of time with each cookie to get the beautiful results you have in mind. Don't rush the process — if you do, you'll probably end up with messy, unfinished cookies.
When decorating large quantities of cookies or creating lots of different designs, we like to keep our rough design sketches and color charts close by. That way, we never have to second guess our design or color placement.
We also work by color, as we find this to be the most efficient way to finish lots of cookies when under pressure. So, if all the cookies in an order use pink royal icing, then we'll color some royal icing pink and pipe all the pink accents on all the cookies. Then we work to the next most used color and so on.