{Bake} Tips for Decorating Cookies with Royal Icing

October 7, 2011 in All Posts, Bake, Play

Fall is undoubtedly my favorite season.  It marks the start of school, four-inch thick fall lookbooks, and the beginning of the holiday season.  It also means pretty fall-inspired cookies just in time for Halloween!  What better time for my first attempt at decorating cookies with royal icing and trying out the proper piping and flooding techniques.

To decorate my cookies, I followed the step-by-step tutorials from cookie master extraordinaire The Sweet Adventures of SugarBelle on Coloring and Preparing Royal Icing and Outlining and Flooding Cookies with Royal Icing and from Brown Eyed Baker on How to Decorate Cookies with Royal Icing.

Experimenting with the sugar cookie recipe, making the frosting and trying out the decorating techniques was pure – exhausting – fun!  Here’s what I learned in the process that will hopefully help you on your first attempt:

1.  The masters are right.

  • You need to know your oven in order to turn out a perfectly baked batch of sugar cookies that are prime for decorating.  It’s only a mere minute or two that makes the biggest difference.  My first batch was left in too long: 

and my second wasn’t left in long enough:

  • Making royal icing takes time.  Lots of time.  Having little urchins wrapped around your ankles all day long doesn’t help.  I’d save this activity for after the kids’ bedtime.
  • The perfect cookie takes practice and patience.  Just look at my amateur attempt at piping and flooding (note the improper use of a baby spoon instead of a toothpick to spread the icing, the uneven piping, and the uneven flooding):

  • Plan out your colors and pre-mix ahead of time.  I ran into the problem of not having enough bags and couplers to use with the piping and flooding consistencies for each color I chose.  Next time, I’m setting up a well thought out assembly line.

2.  Decorating cookies is a mix of straight-laced planning and art.  You have to plan everything out from the beginning to create a smooth decorating process with everything you need at the ready.  A steady hand and an eye for the final design doesn’t hurt either.

3.  Use a spray bottle to change the consistency of your icing.  I learned this from The Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle and she couldn’t be more right.  I can’t tell you how many batches of icing I ruined by dumping in too much water.  You’d think you can stir and stir and it will smooth itself out, but it stays watery and gets clumpy.  No fun.

4.  If your piping doesn’t stick, it’s too dry.

5.  Don’t flood your cookie too close to the edge.  Or you’ll end up taking over the border, like I did!  Use a toothpick, as Brown Eyed Baker suggests, to slowly drag the flood icing to the edges.

6.  Use the proper decorating tip.  Different decorators recommend different tips (many recommend #3), but all that matters is that you use one.  If you’re an expert, I’m sure you can get away with just clipping the end off a bag, but if you’re a newbie, you’ll get flat, wiggly lines (just check out the pictures below!).

Here are some closeups of my rookie mistakes (note where I got tired of piping and flooding and just smeared it on with the baby spoon for the pumpkin and how I bagged the whole tri-colored candy corn idea altogether):

I never got around to the leaf veins or any other detail for the pumpkins and ghosts.  Next time!

Of course, I had to let Jane in on the fun and she made a “ghost cookie” with white icing for Grandpa.

I think hers turned out beautifully!

If you want to see how my fall cookies would have turned out if I actually knew what I was doing, check out The Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle’s “Easy” Autumn Leaves Cookies. Is she fantastic, or what?!

Happy Baking!

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Chrissy – who has written posts on The Outlaw Mom® Blog – Creative Living in a Conventional World.

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