It’s no secret that I love to bake. I could spend hours whipping up dozens of cookies, cakes, and other concoctions! One thing that I’ve tried to perfect over the years is royal icing. I’ve had some minimal success, but they never end up looking like Pinterest-perfect cookies. On New Year’s Eve, I decided to try to make some royal icing sugar cookies, and it went horribly. A reader Snapchatted me a photo of hers, and I was blown away (and so embarrassed by mine that I dumped them in the trash immediately).
Luckily for me– and now you!– she is from Connecticut and volunteered to teach me her incredible ways. A few things I learned… Colleen is not only creative, she’s super smart; even though she taught me her tricks of the trade, I think she has a natural inclination towards this that I couldn’t compete with; and it’s fun, but it takes a lot of intuition and practice to e.
This is all to say, don’t be discouraged if yours aren’t perfect. I had to keep reminding myself this as I was standing in the kitchen dripping in sweat and holding my breath piping the icing! If you caught the Instagram Live we did, you probably noticed that I was slowly melting from the stress, ha!
Colleen’s Favorite Sugar Cookie Recipe:
– 2 sticks of butter
– 1 and 1/2 cups of powdered sugar
– 1 egg
– 2 tsp. vanilla
– 2 and 3/4 cups flour
– 2 tsp. baking powder
– 1 tsp. salt
Cream together the butter and powdered sugar. Add egg and vanilla and mix until fully combined. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly add the dry ingredients into creamed mixture. The dough should be firm and not too sticky. Add a little bit more flour if it is. You may want to refrigerate before rolling out, but it’s not necessary. Roll and cut shapes. Bake at 400F for 7-9 minutes.
Colleen’s Favorite Royal Icing Recipe:
– 5 tbsp meringue powder
– 3/4 cup of water
– 1 tsp. Cream of tarter
– 2 lbs of powdered sugar
Using the whisk attachment on a stand mixture, mix meringue powder and water for 30 seconds. Add cream of tarter and mix for another 30 seconds. Switch to the paddle attachment and slowly add in the powdered sugar. The icing should be stiff enough to hold a point. Cover immediately– a damp paper towel can do the trick– so it doesn’t harden.
Getting that done is the easy part, and Colleen came over with the cookies already made and the initial icing “base” made. It’s the next steps that were the hard parts. Here are the best tips I learned from Colleen:
1. The consistency of the icing turns out to be the KEY, and you figure it out with experimentation which can make it frustrating for first timers. You’ll end up dividing the icing into separate, smaller batches based on the number of colors and layers you do. The base layer of the icing is called the “flood” and should be a little softer than the original stiff icing. Add the dye (this is what Colleen recommended) and then slowly add water to the icing until it’s a good flood consistency. This is a good video that demonstrates how to get there. For the detail layers (like the words and lines on the envelopes), the icing should be a little stiffer, so it holds its shape.
2. We used these disposable piping bags, these metal tips (#1 for writing, #2 for some flooding/details, and #3 for flooding), and this coupler set. Putting the piping bags together was also a challenge, but easy once I knew how they worked. Here’s a good Youtube video to see how it’s done!
3. To flood the cookies, we started with an outline of the shape and then squeezed the icing all over the cookie. The icing kind of “melts” over the cookie and fills in nicely. You can shake or tap the cookie a little to make sure it ends up evenly over the surface. And if it goes over the edge a little, you can use a toothpick to scrape the edge of the cookie. For the polka dotted cookie (like the one on the far bottom right below), put the dots into the wet icing and it sinks in (called “wet on wet”). Otherwise, wait for the base layer to harden a bit before doing the details on top.
4. Doing the details is hard, but Colleen taught me a great trick. Instead of keeping the tip close to the cookie, you’ll want to hover the tip and kind of “pull” the icing along in the air, so it lands smoothly on the cookie, versus trying to use your free hand to trace. Here’s a blurry, but still a good demonstration of that. You can also rest your forearm against the edge of the table you’re working on to steady your hand a little bit.
I just love how they turned out! Colleen brought two different sized hearts (obsessed with the tiny ones!), squares for envelopes, and scalloped edge squares for the “Valentine” notes. Those were written with an edible marker. I loved adding all the details and having fun with the words. I think it’s pretty obvious which ones Colleen did and which ones I attempted, haha!
A huge thank you to Colleen for coming over and showing me the ropes. I’m so excited to give it a try on my own, but I also think we’re going to do a few more collabs throughout the year!