Mistakes Almost Everyone Makes with Royal Icing

For some bakers, this icing is a royal pain in the butt.

You might be the designated pie baker in your family. Or the person who makes everyone's favorite birthday cake. Maybe you've even stolen the show at a few highly competitive cookie exchanges. And yet, you can't decorate cookies with royal icing to save your life.

Don't despair. You're not alone. Royal icing has a way of frustrating the most experienced bakers. In my opinion, people who are good at crafts—particularly tiny, fiddly crafts like painting miniature doll furniture or embroidering tiny pillows—have a way with royal icing. You need a steady hand and an eye for detail to make piped and frosted cookies that don't look like a kindergarten project gone wrong.

That said, if you're ready to conquer this icing, here are a few tips for how to decorate cookies with royal icing:

5-Ingredient Sugar Cookies

Linda Pugliese, Hector Sanchez; Styling: Heather Chadduck Hillegas, Buffy Hargett Miller

1. Perfection is overrated

You're not a bakery. No one will mind if your cookies aren't frosted like a pro. Be kind to yourself and overlook small imperfections—the cookies will still taste good, and that's the most important thing.

2. Consistency is important

Runny icing is much harder to pipe and will spread too easily. When making royal icing, don't add too much water at first. Start with icing that's on the thick side, then gradually add a bit more water until it is a nice piping consistency.

3. Simplicity is highly recommended

If you're new to royal icing, try piping dots and lines for a clean, simple look. Practice on a sheet of parchment if necessary. Once you've gotten the hang of it, you can move on to more advance techniques like flooding. To fill in, or flood, a cookie with a solid color of royal icing, you must first make a border with thicker royal icing. The flood icing should be a bit thinner, so that you can easily spread it and contain it within the border.

4. Drying and setting is necessary

It's tempting to touch and eat your handiwork, but that's how iced cookies get smudged and smeared. Let the icing set completely before touching the cookies. This may take up to a full 24 hours depending on the amount of icing and type of cookie.

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