We are often asked how to make royal icing and the difference between royal icing and sugar paste. Royal icing can be used for icing cakes and for decorations such as run outs and extensions. Royal icing can also be used for piping purposes and out of all icings is the most versatile. However, plenty of practice is recommended in order to master the technique.
How To make Royal Icing
It is vital to make royal icing correctly and to the right consistency in order to obtain a good smooth finish on your cakes. There are a few things you should consider before you start.
Fresh egg whites are generally not used as much today. Pure dried albumen or a substitute such as Meri white are more often used these days.
Pure albumen powder makes a stronger icing and is more suitable for run-out sugar work, extension work and fine piping. Adding glycerine will soften the icing and can be used for other uses. Adding meri white creates a softer and slightly whiter icing for covering cakes.
It is essential that all equipment and utensils used are clean and free from grease. Any spots of grease will result in a heavy icing and will make it much more difficult for you to work with.
The use of good icing sugar should eliminate the need for sieving and will produce a better consistency.
Always keep the royal icing covered with a damp cloth whilst working with it as this will help to prevent drying out. You must however, not keep the cloth over the icing for too long as it will cause the icing to absorb the moisture and change it’s consistency.
By leaving the royal icing in a plastic bag or piping bag to dry out you can then simply grate the icing to achieve a snow effect to add to your cake decorating scene.
If you do not have enough time or inspiration to make your own royal icing you can purchase royal and run out powder. Simply add cooled boiled water to the mix until light and fluffy. The correct consistency is reached when the icing is whiter and will stand in soft peaks. You can purchase the royal and run out icing in our sugar craft and decorating shop.
Royal Icing Recipes
1:- (using pure dried egg white)
15g (1/2oz) dried albumen
90ml (3 fl ozs) water
450g (1 lb) icing sugar
Reconstitute the albumen for 24 hrs ( it will initially form lumps, but these will disappear if whisked slightly or strained through a fine sieve)
Place albumen mixture into clean, grease free bowl and add half the icing sugar. Beat until well mixed, then add the remaining sugar, a small amount at a time and beat until stiff.
If making in a mixer, use slowest speed and take care not to over beat. This could cause air pockets in the icing which will cause problems when trying to coat or pipe.
2:- (using a substitute)
15g Meri white
500g icing sugar
Dissolve meri white in water and gradually add icing sugar, beating on low speed in a mixer (approx 15 mins.) until icing peaks.
Different consistencies of icing are required for different purposes so the icing, once made, will probably need to slightly adjust the mix.
Before use, whether for piping or coating use a palette knife to eliminate all the air bubbles. This achieves a smooth icing suitable for coating cakes.
If a firmer icing is required where it has to hold its shape eg. for piped flowers, you will need to add a little extra icing sugar to the basic mix.
For run outs (letters/numbers etc) paddle to eliminate any air bubbles, and add more water as necessary to achieve a flowing consistency. Do not add glycerine to a run out mix of icing as this will soften it too much. A stronger icing is needed for this type of icing work.
Equipment required for making icing
Much of the equipment used for royal icing can be found amongst your general kitchen items, but there are a few specialist items you will require to make your royal icing a success!
When coating a cake you will find that a turntable is useful especially when icing the sides. You can turn the cake around and achieve a good smooth edge. When icing the top place the cake on your work surface this will prevent the cake from moving as you draw the icing across the top of the cake.
A good strong straight icing ruler is essential for coating the top of the cake.
A stainless steel or plastic side scraper will ensure a smooth side to your cake. You can also purchase various grooved scrapers to place a design onto the side of the cake.
Palette knives are useful – a smaller one for putting the icing onto the sides and a larger palette knife for spreading onto the top.
If you are hand beating the mix.
What to do when coating a cake
Ensure cake has straight, squared off edges.
3-4 thin coats are recommended, making each coat a little softer with extra water as you go.
Paddle the icing on the top first to eliminate air bubbles. Drag the icing ruler across top at a slight angle and remove the excess icing with another knife.
Place the cake on a turntable and paddle the icing onto the side with a palette knife.
Using a side scraper, hold the scrapper at an angle towards you, then pull it around the cake, starting as far back as possible turning the cake with one hand and holding the scraper with the other.
Allow each coat to dry before applying the next. Any roughness can be removed, either shaving with a sharp knife or rubbing with a piece of emery paper.
Always use good quality tubes if possible. These are stainless steel and are seamless and will give the best finish. Any tubes with a seam may distort the piped design.
Practice before applying to cake especially if creating a more intricate design.
Ensure tubes are cleaned well after use and no icing is leftover inside tube.